Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Healthy Chocolate Coconut Squares

There are times when you just need a hit of chocolate.

Of course I could grab a chocolate bar at the grocery store but honestly, most of them don't taste good (and have you looked at the ingredient lists lately?) and are full of sugar.

I've been trying to reduce the amount of sugar in our diets- this can be chalked up to several factors that are starting to hit me in middle age. (Yes, I think this is middle age?)

I am wary of being another statistic in a family with a history of diabetes. Then there are new articles that are coming out that have linked many of the "Western ailments" we often suffer from to high sugar consumption and not to fat consumption as we initially thought in the 80's. There are many articles about this but one of the most interesting is this National Geographic article.

There is also more local research being done about some of the potential links between sugar consumption and cancer (you can read more about that research here from the BC Cancer Foundation).

And this doesn't even touch upon the fact that most non-organic sugar is now GMO and we don't yet know the ramifications of that.

This is giving me pause for thought.

I am trying not to be a crazy maniac about this, but being aware means that when I make baked goods for the family, I am reducing the amount of sugar I add (generally you can reduce by at least 1/4-1/2 the amount with good results in most baked goods). I am trying to use unrefined, natural sweeteners more often (honey, maple syrup, unsweetened applesauce and bananas) and using stevia in my coffee and tea. I am trying to slowly but surely wean us off the level of sweetness that we are accustomed to with white sugar. Yes, I still use organic sugar but I am trying to be a bit more judicious in its use.

But I still have chocolate cravings- and I love all the cutesy raw and refined sugar-free desserts on Pinterest- but not only are they sometimes time consuming (shaping them into cute little balls or wafers!), they can require the use of food processors, blenders and other tools that not everyone has. And when I want chocolate, I want chocolate now (or 10 minutes ago!)

This is a super easy recipe that can be made in just a few minutes, with hardly any utensils used and can be ready to consume in 15 minutes.

Healthy Chocolate Coconut Squares
These were inspired by the recipe for Raw Chocolate Macaroons from a friend. I wanted something quicker, easier and with a touch of oats for a satisfying bite. These need to be kept in the fridge as the coconut oil base is really dependant on surrounding temperatures and can melt. They are the perfect hit of chocolate with a touch of natural sweetness.

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa (dutch-processed or dark cocoa)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flaked unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup rolled oats

1. If needed, slightly warm the coconut oil until liquid (do this in a medium
sized saucepan on low heat or in microwave). Whisk in cocoa, maple syrup and vanilla.
2. Stir in coconut and oats.
3. Pour into 8"X 8" pan lined with wax paper or parchment paper that is larger than the pan. Fold over edges of paper and press down firmly until smooth. Place in fridge or freezer until hardened. Cut into 16 squares for small bites and store in covered container in fridge.