Cuckoo for Cacao

Ever wondered what’s the difference between cacao and cocoa? Up until about a year ago, I had only heard of and used cocoa powder but as I’ve gotten more into experimenting with raw foods, I learned about cacao and it’s many health benefits.

First, both products come from the cacao bean, grown in South American, and where we get chocolate from. Cocoa is usually ground up, sometimes dutch-processed and can include a bit of cacao butter in it to enhance the flavor. Cacao, on the other hand, is completely raw, sugar free and full of antioxidants.

When I used to use cocoa powder, I’d always buy the Hershey’s Special Dark variety, since it was fuller in flavor than the regular version. But it was made from a mix of dutched and naturals cocoas, so it wasn’t quite as unprocessed as it could be, plus it wasn’t raw.

I discovered truly raw cacao powder after I had started making raw desserts. I’m obviously not 100% raw, so often my raw desserts aren’t completely raw, but I figured that switching to raw cacao would be beneficial. And I ended up liking the taste more. It was richer, more complex and actually sweeter, despite having no added sugar. It worked just as well in raw recipes, so I decided to switch to just using that, despite the slightly higher price tag (and I also was having a hard time finding the dark cocoa powder), because it has more iron and antioxidants than plain cocoa.

Cacao nibs are also a favorite of mine. I love the Navitas Naturals brand (I get the cacao sweet nibs which are lightly sweetened with organic cane juice) because they’re fairly inexpensive and are a healthier alternative to dark chocolate chips. I eat them straight-up, in nut butter stuffed dates and use them in raw recipes.

If you need a chocolate or granola fix, but are looking for something that fits into your clean eating or raw diet, I’ve got the perfect option for you…Crunchy Cacao Buckwheat Rawnola. It’s easy to make (you don’t even need a dehydrator if you don’t own one), has only 4 simple and healthy ingredients and is perfect for those chocolate and cereal cravings. Buckwheat is another superfood, and is actually not related to wheat at all. It’s gluten free, and not really a grain but a seed (like quinoa) so it has a higher protein and fiber content than many other grains. 1/4 cup of raw buckwheat groats has 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, which makes it a great option for vegetarians and vegans who want to bump up their protein content. The best part about this rawnola is that it’s oil-free and only has a bit of added sugar in the form of maple syrup, which is a lot better than most granola brands on the market. And you make it yourself, so you get to control what goes in it. So you can definitely change up the flavor profile, but having the raw cacao powder in there means more antioxidants and who doesn’t love chocolate?

cacao buckwheat rawnola

Crunchy Cacao Buckwheat Rawnola (vegan, gluten free, grain free, raw)

1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats, soaked overnight 

1-2 tbsp raw cacao powder

1-2 tsp maple syrup (for raw option, use raw honey or agave)

stevia, to taste

Drain water off groats and dry with a towel. Place soaked groats in a bowl and stir in remaining ingredients. The groats should be wet enough to soak in the cacao powder. Spoon cacao groats onto dehydrator trays (alternatively, you can put them in the oven on the lowest heat setting with the door open for a few hours) and let dehydrate at 115 degrees overnight, or at least 6 hours. Enjoy the rawnola with almond milk, over fruit or just plain. Makes 2 servings. 

What is your favorite ‘superfood’? Have you ever made granola with something other than oats?

Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Friday #44 and Raw Food Thursdays.

College Vegan on a Budget: Bulk Bonanza

Part of an ongoing series of my adventures in learning how to grocery shop on a budget, almost exclusively at health food type stores.

I’m back with another budgeting post after a weekend grocery haul and I can proudly say that I spent a lot less than last time. Like, I spent less than half the amount I did last time! This girl is definitely learning how to budget. Or maybe it’s just because I was extremely limited in funds this time around, with just over $50 to spend. Luckily I didn’t have to make any major purchases since my lovely mom was nice enough to buy me some much-needed items last weekend so this was mostly a fill-in type trip for things I am about to run out of or needed for recipes.

This week, I happened to do a lot of bulk buying. This is a great thing for budgets–you can just stock up on what you need, and generally things in bulk cost less ounce for ounce than things that are prepackaged. The bulk bins at Whole Foods and Sprouts have saved me a ton of money on must-try items like coconut flour, flavored nuts and nutritional yeast. Now let’s check out the goods!

Check out all the bulk bin bags!

Sprouts

I just stopped in for a few items I was hoping they’d have for less than Whole Foods, and they delivered. Well, kinda. The unsweetened coconut shreds I bought actually turned out to be a bit cheaper at WF, which kinda made me mad but I’ll know next time!

What I Got: Let’s Do Organic reduced fat unsweetened coconut shreds, So Delicious Greek-style vanilla coconut yogurt (finally they had this flavor!)

What It Cost Me: $4.99 (I paid with a 5 dollar bill, woo for having cash for little purchases)

Verdict: If only every shopping trip could be this cheap!

Whole Foods

I whittled down my original list to just a handful of must-have items and I did really well with sticking with my budget. I actually ended up with just under $10 left, which is awesome. I got 15 items here pretty cheaply, because I bought a bunch of bulk stuff and did some price comparisons for similar items.

What I Got: bulk almond flour, bulk raw macadamia nuts (I only bought about 1/8 of a pound, so they were super cheap), bulk nooch, bulk spelt flour (I was going to buy packaged buckwheat flour but it was $5 and this was just $2 per pound and pretty comparable, nutrition wise), vegan semisweet chocolate chips, Navitas Naturals raw cacao powder (a splurge at $10, but worth it), 2 Justin’s vanilla almond butter squeeze packs, 2 Vega One protein powder samples (running low on protein powder but didn’t have enough money to buy a full container), Hail Merry raw vanilla almonds (super cheap at just $3 for a raw product!), bulk loose spinach, Hannah yams (these look like regular potatoes but they’re apparently sweet potato-like), vegan cookie from bakery area, black figs (on sale for $3.99/pound, I got half a pound!). 

What I Spent: $36.87 (under budget…yay!)

Verdict: I was really smart about my Whole Foods trip this time around. I bought in bulk to save some money, weighed my bulk items to estimate how much they’d cost me and didn’t buy anything not on the list. Yes, there were some things I took note of that I wanted to buy another time–like, ahem, raw macaroons!–but I didn’t feel like I needed to get them since I know they’ll be there when I have more money to spend. 

I am definitely getting better at this budgeting thing. It feels fun to me now, instead of like a chore. I love doing comparison shopping and balancing out my purchases so they don’t end up surprising me at the register. And I’m learning the difference between splurges and staples, which is something that used to get me all the time. Some weeks, there’ll be more room for splurges and other times I’ve gotta stick with the list. And I feel like this week, I struck the perfect balance between getting the basics that I need and getting to try new-to-me items, like the almond flour and yams and almonds.

Do you like to buy things from the bulk section? What tips do you have for budget shopping?