I was in a bit of an energy slump, which is not the place to be when it’s 45 degrees in Minneapolis in January. Just as the coming weather pattern stuffed a chunk of warm air overhead, and sunshine streamed through the windows, I felt more like napping than walking. The walking paths around my house were suddenly brimming with smiling walkers.
Yes, there were people in shorts.
Luckily, I had a stash of cacao nibs that I had been playing around with. Cacao nibs are the raw bean that is ground to make chocolate and cocoa, simply cracked and dried. All the chocolate flavor, minus the added sugar and cocoa butter that make chocolate so sweet and rich.
Chocolate and peanut butter, two great tastes, wildly appealing. That would have to be the best thing to do with my cacao.
In practice, cacao nibs remind me more of coffee beans. Deep, dark and slightly bitter, they also pack a trace of caffeine, and the energizing alkaloids theobromine and theophylline along with that chocolate taste. So, instead of a coffee, I made myself a smoothie with cacao, and made it more of a meal by adding peanut butter, an apple, a banana, almond milk and a shot of vanilla.
Cacao is famous for containing chemicals that trigger feelings of bliss, or even love. It’s fun on Valentine’s Day, so why not put the beans into a tasty smoothie to share with my sweetheart?
It worked, and after we split this smoothie recipe, we hiked out in the unseasonable sunshine for a couple of hours. This was much tastier than a coffee, and we were properly fueled with real food.
Our Cacao Bean and Peanut Butter Smoothie was both a good pre-exercise snack, and a less-caffeinated, antioxidant rich alternative to tea or coffee.
Cacao is actually a superfood. All the qualities that you hear about in dark chocolate come from the cacao beans. They are really high in magnesium, and the whole nibs have lots of fiber. They even have some iron and vitamin C.
But their true claim to fame is their antioxidants. Pure cacao is higher in antioxidants than tea, coffee, or red wine, even blueberries and the other fruits we consume looking for antioxidants. Rich in flavonoids, cacao protects the heart, and helps to prevent cancer.
All that, and it tastes like CHOCOLATE?
As always, real food comes to the rescue, with all the great flavors of foods that are actually good for you.
Cacao Nib and Peanut Butter Smoothie
3 tablespoons cacao nibs
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 banana, frozen is best
1 small apple, unpeeled
1 cup vanilla almond milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla 4 ice cubes
Combine the ingredients in a blender and puree. Serve immediately.