Vie de Cacao — Cacao

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Cacao Nib Spread

Cacao Nib Spread 0

Cacao nibs add texture and bitterness while agave lends some sweetness to creamy goat cheese.  Orange zest offers additional depth to this spread.

 

Ingredients
1 8-oz log of goat cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup cacao nibs
2 1/2 teaspoons blue agave nectar
1 orange
Crackers or baguette

 

For more about cacao nibs, read my post here on what nibs are and a variety of ways to use them.  In a large bowl, use a spatula to combine goat cheese, cacao nibs, and agave.  If serving on a baguette, slice and toast. 

 

Spread a generous amount of goat cheese mixture onto crackers or baguette slices.  Over each cracker or baguette slice, zest a small amount of an orange using a microplane.

 

Enjoy!

Spinach Apple Walnut Salad Featuring Cacao Nib Vinaigrette

Spinach Apple Walnut Salad Featuring Cacao Nib Vinaigrette 0

Makes 2 servings

 

Dressing
1 rounded teaspoon cacao nibs, coarsely ground
1 1/3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Salad
3 oz spinach leaves
1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese
Handful of coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

 

The cacao nibs subtly balance the sweet and tart flavors of the cranberries and apple, and they also boost the nutrient value of this salad.

Remove long stems from spinach leaves, then rinse under cold water, and pat dry. Place spinach in a large bowl.  Add apple slices and cranberries to bowl.

For dressing, stir salt, pepper, nibs, and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk olive oil into balsamic vinegar mixture, then pour enough vinaigrette over salad until lightly coated.  Toss as necessary to distribute dressing.

 

Divide salad between two plates, and sprinkle goat cheese and walnuts over each salad.

 

Store any remaining vinaigrette at room temperature.

 

To make a substantial salad, I add grilled chicken and serve with a few toasted baguette slices.

 

Bon appétit.

Antioxidant-packed Berry Smoothie feat. Raw Cacao Powder 0

Serves 1

 

Ingredients


8 oz nondairy chocolate milk ( I prefer almond milk usually)
1-2 handfuls of baby spinach (the amount depends on your taste buds)
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric (or 1/4 teaspoon if you don’t mind the taste)
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
4 oz, by weight, frozen mixed berries
Protein powder (1 scoop, optional, if you’re looking for protein)
Cacao nibs for garnish (optional)

 

I’m always looking for ways to increase my daily servings of fruits and vegetables.  While ideally I eat them rather than blend and drink them, in the mornings, it’s easiest to blend them and pack in as much as possible in a glass.

 

There are several superstar ingredients in this smoothie.  In addition to being packed with antioxidants, the following ingredients are quality sources of nutrients, including:

  • Spinach: Vitamins such as A, B6, C, and K; folate; and fiber.

  • Flaxseeds: omega-3s and fiber.

  • Raw cacao powder: magnesium and iron. Cacao beans are treated at low temperatures to reduce damage to the nutrients and the cocoa butter is then removed to reveal raw cacao powder.  It can be purchased at most health-conscious stores.

  • Mixed berries: Vitamin C, iron, and fiber.

  • Turmeric: antioxidant properties greater than Vitamins C and E and is a good source of iron.

  • Cacao nibs, optional: read more about cacao nibs here

 

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Garnish with cacao nibs (optional).  Enjoy immediately!

My Journey Through Southern Belize: The Less-Explored Toledo District (Part 3)

My Journey Through Southern Belize: The Less-Explored Toledo District (Part 3) 0

My earlier posts (Part 1 & Part 2) about Belize have been about cacao, but I want to share the stunning landscape and culture of southern Belize that I experienced.

I stayed in the southernmost district, which is also the least visited, in Belize—the Toledo District—for a week where a majority of the population is Mayan.  Toledo is apparently the least developed district in Belize, and perhaps as a result, still has many breathtaking natural sights.

Once I flew into Belize City’s international airport, I boarded a puddle jumper to fly two hundred miles south to Punta Gorda, the capital of the Toledo District, or “P.G.” as it’s known to locals.

After arriving in P.G., I was driven fifteen miles to the lodge where I’d be staying.  This short trip took about forty-five minutes because some of that drive is on a paved road but some of it isn’t.

 

 

The further you get from P.G. and head west, the less developed the district is and the more natural beauty you see, including green rain forests in the distance.  There are also Mayan villages scattered along the way to the lodge.

 

I stayed at Cotton Tree Lodge, an eco-lodge, which sits on the Moho River and in the jungle.  I fell asleep each night to the sound of crickets; occasionally was awakened in the middle of the night by troops of competing howler monkeys, which emit sounds you’d expect from a T-Rex; and awoke each morning to chirping birds and the sun rays slowly flooding my room.  I highly recommend staying at Cotton Tree.

 

 

And while I should have expected visitors of the insect kind in my room given that we were in the jungle, it was nonetheless a surprise when I actually did see them in my room!  The notable visitors were two scorpions (one about six inches long) and one large, tarantula-esque spider during my week stay.  For these fellas, I sprinted to the front office from the cabana furthest from the office to call security to capture them—which meant praying that in the time I was gone, the insect wouldn’t disappear.

 

 

Nonetheless, if you’re not squeamish, the lodge is an ideal place for a true jungle experience.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, during part of my stay in Belize, I spent time with Mayan families, such as Eladio and his family.  While I knew that English was the official language of Belize, I didn’t know whether it would be widely spoken in the villages but it was with the families I visited.  In addition to English, either Mopan or Kekchi Maya was spoken.  And I was told that throughout Belize, several languages are commonly spoken, but Belizean Creole or “Kriol” serves as the main spoken tongue.

I also visited places of Mayan significance, such as the ruins at Nim Li Punit.  Settlement activity at Nim Li Punit began possibly as early as 400 AD, and it is now a site with royal tombs, a ball court, and stelae.  Stelae are carved stone monuments that commemorate important political events and were erected at the direction of Mayan rulers.  There are several stelae at Nim Li Punit, and some of the rituals depicted on the stelae are those of bloodletting or offering rituals for the gods.

 

 

 

The Mayans also played a game with a large rubber ball at Nim Li Punit.  The exact rules of the game aren’t known, but it’s believed that the game was one of life and death; the players had to hit the ball to each other without using their hands; and in some of the games, the “winner” was put to death as a sacrifice to the gods.  (Yikes, perhaps that’s one game you don’t want to win!)

 

 

Because Nim Li Punit has only been partially excavated, much remains to be discovered.

Punta Gorda or P.G.

I also spent part of my time in P.G., which is a small town with a handful of main streets that sits on the west coast of the Caribbean Sea and is part of the Gulf of Honduras.  There are no beaches in P.G., but there are docks to jump off of for a dip in the Gulf.  And in the distance, you see the mountains of Guatemala to the south.

 

Don’t let the sunny pictures fool you.  It rained about one-third or so of the time I was in Belize, and the locals told me that the rainy season had started early this year.

P.G. is home to several ethnicities, including Maya, Kriol, Garifuna (descendants of Carib Indians and West Africans), East Indians, and Chinese.  The diversity was apparent just walking the streets of P.G., particularly on Market Day.  P.G. hosts Market Day several times a week along Front Street, where fishermen bring in their catch for sale, farmers offer their produce, and Mayan women sell their handicrafts.

 

 

 

I was in P.G. during the annual cacao festival, renamed the Chocolate Festival, which has been held in P.G. for several years.  During one of the days of the festival, chocolate-makers and chocolatiers from around Belize showcase their confections.

 

Local restaurants also offered cacao- or chocolate-inspired food and drink, and locally-made arts and crafts were available.

 

 

* * *

While I have more observations about southern Belize that I could share, I wanted to convey the most significant, and I hope that if you have the opportunity to visit Belize, you decide to spend some time in the Toledo District.

 

Since this is my final post about my journey around southern Belize, I want to thank those who supported this dream and in particular those who helped make it a reality.  I received an outpouring of support, and I will be forever grateful for it.