CHOCOLATE COFFEE BOWL
I haven't had so much as a sip of coffee since 2010. At that time I was in grad school at Yale, and powered mostly by McDonald's fried fish sandwiches with an occasional sprinkle of Taco Bell. I simply needed that black magic liquid to pull those all-nighters during final critiques. I've always LOVED the taste of coffee, but I've also always been very sensitive to caffeine and find even just one cup can make me feel sick and suffer nightmares of microwaved gremlins. The same is true of raw cacao, heavenly chocolate that, like coffee, has wonderful antioxidant powers and health benefits, but also contains natural chemical stimulants that have proven too strong for me personally, even in small amounts. Unlike coffee, cacao contains only a tiny bit of caffeine. But cacao offers the same jolt as coffee due to large amounts of another naturally occurring chemical: theobromine. Theobromine stimulates the nervous system, and when over consumed can lead to jitters, trouble sleeping and upset stomach. You can easily find studies that prove coffee and cacao to be super health foods, and others that give evidence that both are a dangerous addictive drug. Here's an article from Harvard that weighs some of the pros and cons of coffee in particular. It seems there isn't a simple consensus in the science or health food world as to whether coffee or cacao are good or bad, and new studies are always surfacing. Lots of athletes drink coffee to boost their energy before a long distance race, intense workout or competition with great success, and organic raw vegan cafes serve up raw cacao pies to the utmost health conscious consumers and food allergic types. I opt to listen to my body, have cacao in limited teeny tiny amounts on rare occasion (theobromine bothers me less than caffeinated coffee) and I substitute regular cocoa most often. In my recipes on the blog, you'll find both cacao and cocoa listed here and there- use whichever feels best to you- the taste is similar enough. I continue to live life sans regular coffee. Without daily consumption of caffeine, I feel most in tune with my body's energy levels, and I can rest when I truly need to, and push myself when I'm feeling capable- it's a truly personal choice and I believe that how our bodies process and react to these naturally occurring chemicals is highly individual and nuanced.
Now, on to the fun part of this post... Having gone 7 years without a sip of coffee due to my personal sensitivity (gremlins etc), I visited my brother last week, a true coffee connoisseur very knowledgable about home brewing, blends and varieties, origin etc. He told me something that completely blew my mind: He had been putting whole coffee beans in his smoothies. Whole beans! Chocolate smoothies! Chocolate coffee smoothies!!! I couldn't think of anything more delicious, exciting and easy! I was dying to try it but afraid of the caffeine, so he whipped one up for me special with decaf beans. GENIUS. And now I can't stop- I'm totally addicted to the flavor alone! When I got back home, I ran out and purchased an organic dark French roast at his suggestion to recreate his masterpiece- but of course you can use whatever coffee you like best, and choose for yourself whether you want caffeinated or decaf. Another great option is to add protein powder if you're having this as a pre or post workout meal! For this post I amped up the quantity of frozen banana in my brother's recipe and added toppings to make a deluxe Chocolate Coffee Smoothie Bowl. Whip one of these up for yourself, chew over your own thoughts about caffeine, and do what works best for you. Caffeinated or decaf, serve this in a coffee cup to make your day extra awesome. Enjoy!
CHOCOLATE COFFEE BOWL
Large handful spinach
2 frozen bananas
1/2 cup nut milk (almond, walnut, cashew etc)
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (no alcohol)
25 coffee beans
1 pitted medjool date
1-2 scoops Vital Proteins Marine Collage powder (optional)
raw cacao nibs
fresh banana slices
chopped raw unsalted cashews
sprinkle of cinnamon
Blend all smoothie ingredients in a high speed blender until fully combined. If you have a Vitamix, use your tamper to facilitate blending. If you have another type of blender, use the pulse setting, stop and scrape down the sides with a spatula to break up any air bubbles until you've fully blended the ingredients into a smooth, thick and creamy texture. Pour in a coffee cup, add toppings and enjoy!
*NOTE: Homemade nut milk adds undeniably rich flavor to any smoothie or smoothie bowl. Make a big batch of nut milk and store it in the fridge to use throughout the week, recipe here.