Few weeks ago, I gave a class at the Washtenaw Community College about chocolate. The students liked that though we discussed plenty of ideas of how to cook and eat chocolate; it was not a cooking but a wellness class. That is however the point and an important part of the concept, food is a wonderful tool to manage your wellness. Eating good food does not mean that one have to starve and eat few shoots of celery all day, as the common perception is. You can eat fun and delicious food, rich with tastes and aroma, and enjoy meals. Moreover, you can include chocolate in your food as chocolate is not the body’s enemy, on the contrary, cocoa – the material used to produce chocolate – is very nourishing substance, rich with antioxidants and minerals. Chocolate is also a food that gives us pleasure, and by now science confirms that pleasure contributes to our wellness. It is a win – win situation: you enjoy chocolate and the pleasure takes care of your wellbeing! However, you have to pay attention to the quality of chocolate you eat. Like with every other food, one of the basic principles is, always prefer quality to quantity. Choose chocolate that is rich with cocoa content, low with sugar, and does not contain unnecessary additive. Make sure that the sugar is natural and not corn syrups or a sweetener. Cocoa is naturally rich with fat- the coco butter- but chocolate factories add more of the butter to create smoother chocolate. You have to try to find what you like and do not contain additives and added fats.
If you use natural cocoa powder, for cooking and baking, you get less of the fat. To produce the powder the manufacturers separate the fat from the cocoa solids. Cocoa powders that are loaded with antioxidant add rich tastes to any dish that you cook, sweet, or savory. Yes, I mean it! Somehow, we are stuck with the habit to use cocoa for baking and making desserts. However, cocoa is a great addition to savory dishes. Cocoa adds to food rich, smoothing, aromatic flavor, and it plays a role in thickening and adding body to sauces. The Mexicans used cocoa along history to prepare savory dishes and sauces. They cooked meats and poultry with cocoa, as well as beans and corn porridge.
In her book “The New Taste of Chocolate” (2001, 10 Speed Press, Berkeley, Ca.) Dr. Presilla explains that the famous Mexican Mole that we all recognize as a Mexican savory chocolate sauce, is named after the ancient tribe Moles combined with Molli – the word for sauce in Aztec language. Dr. Presilla explains that except for the use of chili, there is no common ingredient that is used for making mole, and unlike what people outside Mexico think, it did not always contain cocoa. However, you can take the idea of the cocoa mole to enrich the taste of any dish: use only natural unsweetened cocoa powder to turn any beans or root vegetables dish into a celebration, where you get a dipper taste and the benefit of additional antioxidants. You can add cocoa powder to any recipe of stew that you have done until now without it, combining for example tomato sauce with cocoa. You can even add cocoa powder to readymade products like canned beans, or premade soups or chili, to upgrade their taste.
Think for an example, about the approaching holiday – Thanksgiving. You can add cocoa to almost any of the traditional dishes of the holiday: from the marinade for the turkey, to the gravy, and the cranberry sauce, they can all use some cocoa. Here is one example:
Warm butternuts Squash –Cocoa Thanksgiving Salad
This dish takes some of Thanksgiving traditional ingredients and gives them a cocoa twist. The dish can be served as a side over any whole grain to your liking, or over mashed roots vegetables blend.
1 Tbs Olive oil
1 Onion, red, chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 shoots Celery, clean and chopped
1 pack butternut squash, frozen squares
1 cup Cranberries
½ cup Dates for baking, pitted, cut into squares
1 Lemon, squeeze the juice
1 Tbs Cocoa, unsweetened
1 Tbs Ginger root, ground
¼ tsp Chili powder, ground
1 tsp Cardamom, ground
½ cup Coconut milk
¼ cup Water
1. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a big nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion and sauté two minutes.
3. Add garlic and sauté one more minute.
4. Add celery and sauté two more minutes, stirring the mixture.
5. Add butternut squash squares, cranberries, dates, and mix well.
6. Pour lemon juice and stir the salad.
7. Add cocoa powder and spices and mix well.
8. Add coconut milk and water, and stir well. Adjust tastes and serve.