After bonding with the cacao plant while in Panama and Costa Rica last Winter, I have a new respect for this plant. I write about it a good bit in my blog on a savory mole sauce. Of what I understand, in this area of the world, cacao was reserved for ceremony, not necessarily everyday life. For example, when young women reached menarche, they had their first drink of cacao. You can find out a lot about the uses and context of this plant while reading about the Bribri people in southern Costa Rica.
The recipe I’m about to share involves a good bit of raw cacao. I like to give background on this plant when I can because it is largely misunderstood — as its use in the US is so out of context. The onslaught of chocolate milk and Hershey’s kisses has really belittled the majesty and spirit of this plant. When I can, I try to use only pure, raw cacao. I *do* have some fair-trade, semi-sweet morsels in my pantry, as well as cocoa powder… But, I lean into the beans more than anything; nourishment comes from the plant closest to its original form.
To share just a sample of the magic of the tree, here’s a picture of the beautiful, delicate flower that gets pollinated (mostly by bats) to become the enormous pod-like fruit bearing cacao seeds/beans. It extends directly from the trunk of the tree:
I was given this recipe while living in Southern Appalachia. A friend of mine was going grain-free for good bit of time as she healed her gut. Like I tend to do, I have definitely altered this recipe and made it my own. This recipe is also safe for those on the GAPS diet. However, you would need to be on the full GAPS diet for a few months before introducing this (at least, that is my suggestion).
Raw Cacao Almond Bars
2 cups almond meal
1/4 cup ground flax seed (or chia, pumpkin seeds, whole hemp seeds, etc)
1/4 cup raisins or currants
1/4 cup bee pollen (optional)
1/4 cup cacao nibs (optional)
1/2 cup sunflower butter, almond butter, or peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
1 Tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup coconut oil
2 Tablespoons cacao powder
coconut sugar (to taste, I personally use very little)
Line a bread pan with parchment paper (or you can use a more square pan and your snack bar will just be thinner) and place it aside.
In a mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients in the first list (including dried fruit). In a small skillet or pan melt the coconut oil. Add the nut butter toward the end of melting. Turn off heat and stir in the Tablespoon of sweetener and add the vanilla.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir well. Scoop this into the bread pan. Using the parchment paper, press the ingredients firmly down until it forms evenly in the pan. The base layer should look shiny and moist when you place it in the bread pan. If it is too crumbly, add more coconut oil and/or honey. Place in fridge for 30 min to an hour to harden.
Top coat: Melt the coconut oil. Then, add the ground cacao and sweetener. Mix well.
Take bread pan out of fridge and add this layer on top. With a spatula, evenly spread ingredients on top. Put back in fridge. Wait 30 min to an hour. Take out and cut into slices or cut as you need it! Enjoy!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Considering that the hardened coconut oil is what really holds this thing together…this is really a snack at home kind of snack. If the snack bar is out too long in warm conditions, it will get really gooey. I have taken it on trips and put it on top of the ice pack before. You’ll just need to enjoy the snack bar before the ice pack thaws.