Have you ever justified eating chocolate by saying, “Hey, at least it’s good for me”? Great news, chocolate lovers: Turns out cacao, from which the delectable is derived, really is a superfood, with an impressive array of health benefits. Bennett Coffey and Kyleen Keenan, the dynamic duo who founded Martha’s Vineyard’s own Not Your Sugar Mamas, let you know right in the title of their newly published cookbook, “Chocolate Every Day: 85+ Plant-Based Recipes for Cacao Treats that Support Your Health and Well-Being.”
Their scrumptious recipes are not poor, low-calorie substitutes for the nutrition-deprived, processed, commercial chocolate products that flood the market. The recipes call for cacao, the purest form of chocolate, which in the simplest terms means it is raw and far less processed than cocoa powder, which has been heated to such a degree that it has lost its nutritional benefits. In contrast, cacao is chock-full of superb benefits. It contains antioxidants that fight free radicals, magnesium that, among other things, helps balance our brain chemistry and promotes a healthy heart, and elements that make chocolate nature’s antidepressant. Its flavonoids have been found to contain antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties. And if that’s not enough, its phenylethylamine is the substance created in our brain and released when we are in love. And indeed, there is a definitely a sense of euphoria when eating any of the delights from this book.
Many who frequent Not Your Sugar Mamas plant-based café and market in Vineyard Haven might not know that the company started out just selling the easily recognizable chocolate bars you see in many stores throughout the Island. Coffey explains how the germ of the idea came to be: “Ky moved in with me the fall of 2010, wanting to test out the Vineyard in the off-season before figuring out her next career step. At the time, I was making a chocolate sauce, and after Ky tasted it, she excitedly said, ‘I want to help you sell this!’ From there, I morphed it into making three chocolate bars. It probably took a week or so to come up with the initial recipes, since I had a base recipe I was working with.”
Keenan adds, “When I tried the superfood raw chocolate Bennett was making, I really felt a difference in my health. I thought there was potential for a business because at the time, raw chocolate was not readily available, and more than anything, we wanted to share how incredible we felt after eating it. We chose to work with chocolate as a product versus a store, because we started the business with very little money, and selling chocolate bars to stores wholesale was what we could afford at the time. It wasn’t until we had quite a lot of demand that we got the commercial kitchen and a retail front. For the cookbook, we had a plethora of recipes because of our retail store, so it was easy for us to go in-depth about chocolate.”
“Chocolate Every Day” is indeed thorough, but its friendly tone, appealing layout, and streamlined text never leave you feeling overwhelmed. It starts off with fascinating and useful information about cacao, both in itself and the essentials of working with it. The book also groups the recipes into useful categories: drinks and elixirs; morning snacks; candies and treats; and raw, baked, and frozen desserts. Keenan and Coffey keep the recipes manageable as well; many contain just a handful of ingredients. The Favorite Freezer Chocolate Bar is made with just three ingredients, and takes under an hour to be ready to eat. The Chocolate Magic Shell you pour over ice cream or sorbet, that cracks when you hit it with a spoon, also only has three ingredients and two steps. Coffey likes the immediate gratification of “the smoothies, because it’s such an easy way to incorporate raw cacao into your diet without having to cook anything. Just blend and enjoy!” One of Keenan’s quick, easy-to-make favorites is the Peanut Butter and Strawberry Ice Cube Tray Chocolates. “To me, this is how simple it is to make chocolate — fresh fruit and our easy freezer chocolate recipe. You can have fresh raw chocolate in less than 30 minutes.” Some of the recipes have more ingredients and steps, but are still straightforward to make.
Forget the recipes — the photographs themselves can make it hard to know where to start. Should it be the Mexican Chocolate Cashew Milk with cardamom and a hint of cayenne pepper, the Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies, or Truffle Pudding with a chocolate walnut base and alternating dark and light truffle layers, to name just a few?
Having attended Coffey and Keenan’s talk and tasting at Bunch of Grapes, I can personally attest to the sumptuousness of the sea-salt-topped Peanut Butter Chocolate Tart, as well as the dense Chocolate-Glazed Doughnut Holes, on both of which I went for seconds, and the tasty bite-size pieces of the Dark Chocolate Fudge and Pomegranate Bark.
When asked how they came up with the name Not Your Sugar Mamas, Coffey explains, “It was just a funny line that we came up with as a play on using no artificial sweeteners. Our approach to food is very nonjudgmental — there is no one way of eating that fits everybody.” What she most wants readers to know is to “take a relaxed approach when trying out our recipes, and don’t be intimidated. We made it very user-friendly on purpose, so that making chocolate is accessible for everyone. And enjoy every bite, knowing you chose the best ingredients to nourish your sweet tooth.” So, go ahead and enjoy your raw cacao every day — gloriously free of any guilt.
“Chocolate Every Day” by Bennett Coffey and Kyleen Keenan, Avery 2018, 223 pages. Available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven for $28.69, and online.