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How to Be … Crazy for cacao!

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a bonafide chocoholic. This chocoholic habit, though, doesn’t match well with my recent attempts to cut back — way back — on my sugar consumption. (I mean, how’s a girl gonna be present when she’s riding sugar highs all over town?). Given that chocolate has a bunch of sugar in it, I’ve been faced with a wee bit of a problem.

In an earlier attempt to trick my tongue into eating something that looked like chocolate, but had a healthier profile, I tried carob. Blech!

"No wonder they use this stuff on those gourmet dog treats!" I thought as I reached for anything to replace the carob-induced horror in my mouth. "My dog finds sticks delectable, too!"

After this run-in, you can imagine my extreme skepticism when it came to trying yet another healthier chocolate “replacement.” This one, my friends, was cacao. (Pronounced, according to this Merriam-Webster audio guide, as “ka-kay-o.” And who knew that Merriam-Webster had an audio pronunciation guide? Flash-forward to four hours later and me still listening to pronunciations!)

Anyway, given that cacao is actually raw chocolate as opposed to just a chocolate impersonator (Ahem, carob!), I was willing to give it a shot. I bought an on-sale bag of cacao nibs at Whole Foods this weekend, and wished for the best.

Upon opening the bag of this “Mayan superfood,” I was pleasantly surprised by what smelled like a very chocolatey aroma. So far, so good. Upon popping one of the tiny nibs into my mouth, though, it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but, it would do. Not has horrible as the uber disappointing time I first eagerly gobbled up some of my mom’s Baker’s Chocolate as a kid (the horror!), but not as delicious as my Ghirardelli Twilight Delight 72 Percent Cacao. (Ahh, so that’s why it’s not 100 percent.)

Given that I didn’t gag, I decided to press on, and go ahead and add a quarter cup of these nibs to the batter of my delicious On the Go Basic Oatmeal Squares, courtesy of the healthy baking-genius Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows.

What happened next, folks, was healthy snack-bar madness! The bars were amazingly delicious with the cacao nibs, and gave me the feeling and taste of having a chocolate chip bar, minus the sugar-laden chocolate chips! Success!

What’s better? I just checked out the nutrition facts on these nibs, and one ounce has 4 grams of protein and 9 — yes, 9! — grams of fiber! Zero grams of sugar. What?! Chocolate morsels could never do that.

And given that the store-bought bars are filled with sugary chocolate and then more sugar, I use the miracle that is Glad Press ‘N’ Seal to individually wrap these bad-boys so I’ve got a healthy snack to grab and go whenever I need. It works like a charm. A little too good, according to my husband: “Those bars are really hard to open.” Just what I was going for.

So, here I sit, chipping away at my sugar addiction, one crazy cacao bar at a time. Coo coo for Cocoa Puffs? That’s so something a chocoholic would say …

Photos by M. Renee Buckley