Have you been following our Valentine’s Day Contest and Giveaway with Mountain Rose Herbs? Does the Chocolate Nectar from Diviana Alchemy have you drooling? We caught up Julia for an in depth exploration of the superfoods and power herbs that make her recipes so special. She even shares her own recipe for Super Chocolate Fudge!
When I think of superfoods, I think of complex flavor profiles, wild foods, heirloom foods, and a rainbow of colors. Superfoods are the foundation of my dessert creations and have been the inspiration for Diviana Alchemy, my superfood herbal sweets company. I start with the best ingredients on the planet to create products that are nutritionally dense, delicious and sustainable.
“Superfoods” are foods that have sustained a thriving life, with nutrition that is beyond the common fruit or vegetable. They are often indigenous foods that grown in regions where they are held in high regard and their cultivation is respected. This makes them truly “whole foods” because their natural properties have remained preserved. Their vitamin and mineral content is astronomical! And unfortunately, those nutrients can be lacking in standard food supply today. So, “superfoods” can be super beneficial! Here’s my list of favorites:
Raw Heirloom Chocolate – Arriba Nacional Cacao
The raw cacao I use to make Diviana Chocolate is from Ecuadorian cacao beans, specifically the Arriba Nacional heirloom variety. These beans are harvested by hand from high in the mountains and sun dried to perfection. The form of cacao used in many of my recipes is the paste or liquor, the stone-ground and peeled beans, which creates a liquid chocolate when melted down. Raw cacao contains “the bliss chemical” anandamide, which is present in our brains when we are feeling great, elevating our mood and lowering depression. Raw cacao is extremely rich in nutrients with over 300 compounds such as fiber, iron, zinc, protein, magnesium, calcium and copper, giving it the highest amount of antioxidants of any food on the planet. What an amazing superfood cacao is!
This is a root from Peru, that grows at high elevations in the Andes mountains. It looks somewhat like a turnip, and has a malty flavor that is slightly sweet and slightly bitter. It is a great compliment to chocolate! The compounds in Maca give this root adaptogenic qualities, that can assist in balancing hormones and stress. Rich in B vitamins, calcium, potassium and amino acids, maca is a great brain tonic as well. There are many varieties of maca, the most commonly found is the white maca root. There is also red maca and black maca available on the market. The white or cream colored maca has the best flavor, and most sweetness of the varieties, so is favored for production. Black maca is known as the strongest in energy and stamina promoting properties. Red maca is slightly higher in antioxidants with a more spicy in flavor. Lucuma Fruit
This is my favorite superfood! It is so unique and delicious, with flavors of maple and caramel sweetness that is actually low-glycemic. Also from Peru, This yellow fleshed fruit is high in niacin, iron, beta-carotene and is fiber-rich. It was called it the “Gold of the Incas” by the indigenous cultures and represented in their art. I love using lucuma fruit powder in cookies, pies and raw desserts of all kinds.
Mesquite grows in South America and even in the Southern US, where it has been a staple food for its high protein content and rich mineral profile. The flavor is similar to carob, but less sweet with more rich molasses like flavors. Mesquite can be used as a raw powder in cookies or frostings or baked into breads and pastries, a very versatile superfood. This is a great addition to chocolate desserts with cinnamon.
Eat your Herbs!
I also love using herbs in my sweet dessert creations. The sweetness of the dessert actually assists the herbs to penetrate deeper into the cells in your body, which is awesome! I have a way of adding herbs into a recipe to enhance all the flavors and herbs go especially wonderfully with chocolate. Some of my favorite herbal additions to the sweet treats I make are ashwagandha, shilajit, reishi mushroom, he shou wu, and mucuna. These flavors merry well, as the bitterness of the herbs is complex in flavor and adds almost coffee-like tones to what you make. Not to mention, they are adaptogenic, mineralizing, immune boosting, rejuvenating, and energizing! Ashwagandha
“Ahhh-sh-wah-gan-da” is an ayurvedic herb, used as an adaptogen and great for thyroid health, also known as Indian ginseng. It is also anti-inflammatory, memory enhancing, and can stabilize blood-sugar.
“Sil-i-jeet” is also ayurvedic, and is a mineral pitch that comes out of the Himalayan mountains, containing all 84 trace minerals along with fulvic acid, a compound that helps to drive nutrients into your system, a potentiator. A great general use herb.
Reishi mushroom is an ancient herb used for boosting immunity with its high content of polysaccharides. It has a very bitter flavor, but goes nicely with chocolate and other rich foods. The hot water extraction method is what brings out the polysaccharides.
1 cup cacao paste (or ¾ cup cacao powder and ½ cup cacao butter)
1/3 cup almond butter or other nut butter
¼ cup raw honey or other sweetener (you can add more if you like)
1-2 T maca root powder
2-3 T lucuma fruit powder
1 T mesquite pod powder
1 tsp ashwagandha extract powder
1 tsp reishi extract powder
1 tsp vanilla bean powder or ½ vanilla bean, deseeded
¼ tsp cinnamon powder
pinch sea salt or Himalayan salt
All steps lead to sweet!
-Melted over a double boiler, so set up a pot with about 1-2 inches of water in it over low heat, then place a glass bowl over the opening where it fits inside but does not touch the water.
-Chop the cacao paste or butter into small pieces and make sure no water comes in contact with the chocolate.
-Place the cacao into the glass bowl and let sit until it begins to melt, then start to stir until the mixture is fully melted.
-Take the bowl off the heat now, and mix in all the other ingredients except your sweetener and the nut butter.
-Then mix in your sweetener and nut butter.
- Pour the mixture into a parchment lined glass brownie pan, or you can make a thin chocolate on a large baking sheet.
-Chill in the fridge or freezer for an hour or so.
-Voila! You have fudge!
A note on sweetners: If you are using honey, use a liquid honey, which will mix in more easily (but use raw honey!). A dry sweetener like organic cane sugar would work really great too, and it will give the chocolate a slight texture.
Herbal ingredients. Experiment! There are so many wonderful herbs that you can bring into your chocolate. But remember, the flavors of the herbs will come out, so choose those that taste good to you, or go for those with rich coffee~like flavors. Chopped nuts or sprinkle cacao nibs add texture. This is YOUR recipe, so be creative and make it your way!
Remember! Choosing the ingredients that you begin with will determine the quality of your final product or recipe. For me, I always use the best ingredients I can possibly find. Often this means: organic, wildcrafted foods that are grown in healthy soils with pure water. Sourcing from smaller farmers or harvested with awareness are the guidelines will tend to insure that they have been handled with greater care.
Make sure to follow Julia and Diviana Alchemy on facebook for great tips of super foods and a totally inspiring gallery of her incredible recipes.
Click Here to see the delicious selection of Julia’s amazing creations and recipe books available on Poppy Swap! Our favorite is the Diviana Chocolate. Kiki finds a 1/4 tsp a day is enough to keep her motor running!