The un-sweet Life: Everything you never knew you should about unsweetened chocolate
Every child has experienced that moment at the supermarket checkout counter where time stands still as you browse the lineup of chocolate bars, salivating and hoping that whomever you are with will allow you to pick just one. You look up at your parent or caregiver and get “the look. ”We all know “the look” and what it means. It either means you go home with the disappointment of not satisfying your tastebuds or you get the pick of the litter! Little do you know as an innocent child that what you were putting into your body is not necessarily what it needs or wants but what you are accustomed to as a “treat” to enjoy every now and again.
If you feed your body sugar, it’s going to want more. Those chocolate bars we were almost programmed to think were delicious as children are LOADED with sugar and unnecessary junk your body actually doesn’t need while enjoying a piece of chocolate. If I had to guess, most of the bars being grabbed are made with low quality chocolate filled with additives and flavors that actually take away from the pure taste of chocolate. Most people probably don’t even know what 100% chocolate actually tastes like or even what to look for on a label that will educate you on what you’re consuming.
Over the years I have searched far and wide for good quality chocolate; and I, just like everyone else, am guilty of just grabbing what I can at the grocery store to check off an ingredient on my list because it’s quick, easy, and to be perfectly frank, in stock!I am sure we have all heard that chocolate is good for your health, but all chocolate is NOT created equal. That’s where my love for all things Santa Barbara Chocolate comes into play.
Many other companies selling these candy chocolate bars or baking bars that we grab on the run for ourselves and our loved ones is not exactly the epitome of healthy chocolate. Much of it is actually the complete opposite of the spectrum. So that brings us to the question, what chocolate IS good for our health? The answer is simple, unsweetened chocolate. Unsweetened chocolate that is made from pure cacao. This chocolate has NO added sweeteners, emulsifiers, milk extra cocoa butter, fillers, ash or flavors. Santa Barbara Chocolate pure cacao organic dark unsweetened chocolate is the cleanest chocolate I have found containing all the health benefits without compromising flavor. The ingredient label is short, sweet, and to the point: organic unsweetened chocolate (cocoa beans ground up); you can’t get much cleaner than that. It’s simply pure ground cacao, 100% pure cocoa solids transformed into small, smooth discs designed to satisfy your chocolate fix!
What does it taste like, you ask? Well, most wouldn’t even give it a second thought to try because the typical unsweetened “baking chocolate” you grab at the store is usually very bitter and has a chalky, dry texture. Santa Barbara Chocolate’s unsweetened version is quite the opposite. It has a robust, slightly bitter flavor that has subtle floral notes and a dark earthy flavor with an exotic organic cacao taste which is actually creamy. My educational background has given me plenty of experience with Speech and Language therapy, but few know that it also involves feeding therapy. I don’t want to sidetrack and speak about what feeding therapy is but to sum it up it’s taught me that exposing your palate to a new taste, texture or even temperature of food a single time is not enough to know if you actually like what you are tasting. Relating this to chocolate in a way that most will understand is that for the umpteenth thousandth time you have tasted chocolate, be it a bar or in a baking recipe, your palate is used to sugary-sweet chocolate that is not 100 percent chocolate. Before you go on judging the unsweetened version, keep an open mind. I have learned that it takes a minimum of 12 times, NOT 12 bites, 12 separate occasions of trying, to acquire a taste for a new food. So feel free to spit it out once, but I guarantee you at some point you will be wanting more and more.
How do you pick the right unsweetened chocolate? Well, that’s easy. Santa Barbara Chocolate’s unsweetened chocolate is high quality and by far the best I have tasted, hands down! The ingredients are sourced from reputable farmer co-ops that carefully regulate all aspects of the cacao tree process, such as, good hygiene and care of the organic cacao, including sustainability. The end result you receive is an organic chocolate that is ethically traded and held to the highest standards so you feel confident bringing it into your home, consuming, and sharing with others.
I know what you’re thinking, why would anyone want to have unsweetened chocolate when there is plenty of other low quality, sugar loaded, preservative laden chocolate products to choose from?!? I too was initially hesitant because I have baked with and tried enough unsweetened and no sugar added chocolate to know I didn’t enjoy it. I found them all to be down right nasty; bitter and dry to the point where I could not swallow it even if I followed it with a spoonful of sugar! In my opinion, and if you ask my husband, I’m always right (kidding but not), Santa Barbara’s chips were love at first bite! I literally eat these pure pieces of heaven straight from the bag. Yes, they are THAT good. Everything in moderation, of course; however, because of the realness of the flavor in just one chip of this chocolate, you will consume less and feel more satisfied.
I am health conscious and workout 5/6 days a week, and let me tell you, I eat these with zero worry or concern about how my grazing will affect me. Now I’m not saying to go eat pounds of this chocolate, although I would like to, but in moderation, like anything else, can be beneficial to your health. Unsweetened chocolate actually has scientifically proven studies that show eating pure chocolate can have a positive impact on your health. For one, it’s an antioxidant powerhouse that is loaded with polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins. One study showed it has more polyphenols and flavanols than blueberries and acai berries! In addition, consuming it has been linked to several benefits: improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure; helping with LDL (bad) cholesterol; reducing heart disease; protecting against sun damage, and improving blood flow to the skin which can increase the skin’s density and hydration. Lastly, improving brain function, and as a mom of 5 I could use all the brain functioning help I could get! So essentially, I will take my chance and continue consuming moderate amounts of Santa Barbara Chocolate’s 100% dark unsweetened chocolate throughout my day. Let’s not forget to mention that this chocolate is ideal for those who need to monitor their sugar intake for health/dietary purposes. I am no doctor, so if you plan on adding this to your diet in a healthy and safe way, I highly recommend you consult with your primary care physician.
All of this talk about how does unsweetened chocolate taste and what is it good for, segues for me to now talk about how can one use it if you’re not consuming it primarily for the health benefits. Well, this is actually the most versatile chocolate you may ever bring into your kitchen. So, how can you enjoy it? The possibilities are endless, but I’ll share some of my favorite ways. First, if you’re counting or need to know for dietary purposes, each chip is approximates one calorie and one tablespoon is around 70 chips or 70 calories. As a busy mom it’s most important for me to start my day with a nutrient packed meal, my coffee! I add about one tablespoon of pure unsweetened chocolate to my bulletproof coffee on a daily basis.It adds to the health benefits of the coffee and gives it a layer of chocolate deliciousness! In addition to drinking it with coffee, it’s lovely with some milk of choice heated on the stovetop or in a blender for a healthified hot cocoa on a cold winter day. Heck, its so healthy who needs to wait for the cold winter weather? Not me! Because this chocolate is so pure it melts so smoothly atop all warmed baked goods. I personally enjoy popping these small chips on top of warm oatmeal, a slice of toast accompanied by some peanut butter, banana, and with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a muffin, cookie, bread… the list goes on and on. The versatility of Santa Barbara’s chocolate doesn’t end at what it can be used in, once melted you have the opportunity to add your sweetener of choice, for instance, coconut, cane, or date sugar, agave or maple syrup. You can have your sweet tooth satisfied with having the ability to control the amount of sugar desired and with all the added health benefits of pure chocolate. Can you bake with it? Absolutely. Santa Barbara Chocolate’s pure dark unsweetened chocolate will bake up fabulous in cookies, frostings, cakes, brownies, breads and much more! It can also be melted down and drizzled as a topping for baked goods, as a coating for candies, truffles, or my favorite, collagen protein balls. Another personal favorite is simply popping it in the microwave quick (a tiny amount of coconut oil can be added to it) transforms it into a healthy version of that hard shell for ice cream. Yum! Another way chocolate can be served but it often overlooked is on a cheese plate! After all it is more savory, like cheese, and can be balanced out on the platter with something more sweet like fruit preserves, or a sweet wine. Speaking of alcoholic beverages, it can also pair perfect with a strong whiskey or dark rum! With so many ways to use it, you’re bound to find at least one you love.
My best advice to you, try it, you’ll love it. Santa Barbara Chocolate’s pure chocolate is the gourmet baking chips you never knew you always needed in your life. Add this chocolate into your pantry and experiment. The possibilities are endless, grab a bag, enjoy and get all the benefits the un-sweet life has to offer!
About the Author Kristin Panagiotopoulos:
Hi, it is a pleasure to virtually meet you! I’m Kristin Panagiotopoulos. I live in New York’s picturesque Hudson Valley with my husband and our five young children. I was originally born in Brooklyn, NY and moved to Staten Island, NY at the age of five. I grew up in a fairly traditional Italian household considering that my mother has Russian-Polish roots. My Italian grandmother resided with us and her cooking and baking influenced our everyday life. Our home was always filled with great meals, customary Sunday dinners, and plenty of baking.
It wasn’t until I took a baking class in middle school that my love for it really began to blossom. I played with recipes all the time in my kitchen, Holiday time was the highlight of my baking extravaganza featuring chocolate chip cookies, double chocolate chip cookies, struffoli, butter cookies, crescent cookies, traditional cannoli’s, dark chocolate dipped cannoli’s, and my favorite, rainbow cookies! Yum!
Although I was extremely passionate about all things baking and chocolate, I did not think it would be part of my financial future. I ultimately focused on furthering my education after high school and went on to college to achieve a Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Language Communication and Master of Arts in Speech and Language Pathology. Shortly after graduation I tapped into my entrepreneurial spirit and opened a private practice helping children with special needs. After a decade of building my business I met my soulmate.We planned on growing our family but we were told by doctors that it would be difficult because of my body chemistry. Needless to say, my world and dreams came crumbling down. Defeating the odds, here we stand with five incredible miracles proving their predictions wrong. After our first child I decided being a stay at home mom was my new career.
One of the many hats I now wear at home is private chef! Creating many meals and baking throughout the year for our family, just like my grandma used to do. Health and fitness was always on the forefront of my daily life as well. So I developed a passion and created a strategy to merge baking and health together. Technology plays a roll in everyone’s life nowadays and mine is no different.It allows me to find new recipes and brainstorm to make them with my own healthy twist.Social media has been another outlet that allows me to find better quality products. After all, your recipes are only as good as the products you use to create them. Santa Barbara Chocolate is the perfect partner which helps me whip up the most incredible treats for my family using top quality ingredients. If I’m not homeschooling my children, you can find me in the kitchen; usually melting down some Santa Barbara Chocolate chips or popping the into a batter for all to enjoy!