Making seasonal chocolates is one of my favorite parts of owning a chocolate business. Six months out of the year from Halloween to Father’s Day, I get to mix up the routine and craft some special concoctions that are only available for a short season. Since I make chocolates around the clock on a daily basis, the holidays give me some room to stretch my creativity muscles.
Spring is my favorite season. I was born in the Spring, which I guess adds to my particularly passionate affinity for the bright colors, the perfumes of freshly bloomed flowers, and the singing of the birds. As a child and especially now as a mother, Spring and Easter are some of my favorite times to celebrate seasonal cycles and the beauty of our natural world. The word Easter is derived from the name of the goddess Eostre, whose abundance and natural fertility were symbolized in the eggs and baby bunnies that we now associate with Easter. Dying eggs, Easter egg hunts, making special goodies, enjoying the miracle of baby animals in the wild, the surge of physical energy as life begins anew after the winter hibernation, and celebrating the goddess of mother nature in her abundant forms is an important annual rite for myself, my family and friends.
Every year I look forward to making chocolate eggs for kids and adults to have healthy chocolate alternatives for this special holiday. Already this year I have had some heartfelt thank yous from parents whose children have milk allergies, and it feels so rewarding to bring a high quality craft product to the table. They are tricky to make with a filling, and I just love the elegant patterns of flowers on these molds. Since 2012 I have made these each year filled with peanut butter or raw almond butter. This year I wanted to do something different and classic with almond. Presenting marzipan-filled Easter eggs! These extra dark cacao eggs are filled with a raw vegan marzipan! The marzipan is made of organic almond flour with a hint of organic maple. A simple and wholesome tribute to my Italian heritage.
In addition to the marzipan filled eggs, I have the traditional peanut butter. Peanut butter and dark chocolate…nom. I cannot help myself, as this divine combination is one of those truly magical flavor pairings that is too delicious to pass up.
Lastly, rounding it out with three flavors this year was the solution to really letting myself have some fun. The third flavor is my vegan coconut milk caramel, and this year it has some extra pop. Pictured above in a trifecta with the PB and marzipan, can you guess which is which? I added a legit plant-based food dye made from turmeric by India Tree to the caramel so it has a vivid yellow “yolk” like center! Any opportunity to add some whimsy with clean, non-processed ingredients is an invitation for me to have fun with my business. If you want natural food coloring, try these from India Tree, available here on Amazon.
These gorgeous eggs are simple, elegant and free from gluten, soy, GMOS, refined sugars, or any other fillers. Delight your palate and celebrate Spring with pure indulgence made by hand with love. Such mindfully clean ingredients there needn’t be anything but joy, as nature intended. Enjoy this gorgeous season. Step outside, take in the flowers and birdsong. Plant in some dirt if you can, or if you live in an urban environment think about a kitchen container herb garden. Slowing down is the key to longevity. Nature truly provides a feast for the senses and countless miracles when we stop and allow ourselves the chance to perceive it.
Happy Spring! May you have great health and happiness. May all of your dreams, prayers, projects and goals be fruitful, high vibe and joyous.
The Mighty Maple -Why a whole food, whole chemistry sugar is a different experience
Ahh the maple tree. Such a gorgeous and generous tree being with palmate leaves similar to our own hands! A magical sap rich with bourbon flavors and sultry vanilla undertones at one of its darkest and most alluring grades for foodies; that of Dark A Robust (formerly known as the previous FDA grading scale grade of B leading to C). I would have to say that the most magical part of maple syrup is that these magnanimous flavors, when truly nature made and non-processed, taste as such because of their genetic makeup. Under that deep palate flavor profile lies a hidden treasure trove of trace minerals and vital nutrients.
Just a forewarning, I am going to get on my nerdy, passionate-foodie-longevity expert soapbox here now. I also have to preface this piece with some serious science-backed passion: Not all sugars are the same! Ya gotta know this -that we cannot write off a means of categorizing a nutrient, i.e acid, fat, sugar, salt etc, as just that. Each type of nutrient is a rabbit hole unto itself when we examine the source. These categories of chemical identities are not just simple black and white, good and bad food choices. Not all sugar is the same. Just like not all fats are the same. Our bodies break everything down into either a protein which eventually becomes a sugar, a fat which eventually becomes a sugar, or a sugar. The skin, organs, and our entire metabolic processes are based upon our receiving adequate levels of the right kinds of fats. If we break down all foods and their chemistry into sources of energy, we can start to see the parallels between real nutrition that are sources of energy versus empty calories.
I am the ultimate skeptic; I will research every available cache of medical articles or scientific journals both online and in musty dusty tangible print (my preference) until there is nothing new to learn on any given topic. How do you think I came up with these formulas? 🙂 My cacao formulas are the summation of the last 12 years of studying biochemistry, food chemistry, all in conjunction with physical fitness, our general metabolic processes at all stages of life, plus my getting into health at a young age due to near fatal auto-immune disorders. By young age, I mean 9 years old. With these genuine life experiences and legit hard-knock certifications I identify as an independent researcher and an alchemical food scientist. I claim it wholeheartedly and unabashedly. When you come to my site and see the flavors we have, you are getting glimpses of my life’s work presented in recipes.
Some call me a mad foodie genius or the female Willie Wonka. Would that be Winifred Wonka? Wilhemina Wonka? Hmmm. Back to the post. What is the most important to me in business and life is that the foundation of any endeavor is integrity, empowerment, authenticity, and transparency. I am the pickiest person when it comes to how I formulate my products, which is the whole basis of why I make my chocolate the way that I do. When we use ingredients that are whole and complete, and not stripped away or processed of vital nutrients, they are absorbed entirely differently by our bodies on a cellular level. This is why we are Integrity Cacao. We humbly and lovingly offer you the best nature has to offer, mixed up alchemically with precision and more love, delivered to you gorgeous, unadulterated and nutrient dense.
Maple syrup compared to white sugar
Pure maple syrup is unprocessed compared to the extensive factory operations for white or brown sugar. Sugar maple trees are tapped for their sap, the sap is boiled down as a decoction which transforms the maple from a liquid to a syrup. The darker the grade from the old scale, like B, C, or D, means less filtration, means darker color, means more trace minerals and other vital elements.
Sugar can be made from sugar cane or sugar beets (mostly GMO beets now bc it is cheap for producers) and requires a large amount of processing. The cane or beets are made into a slurry with hot water, then boiled and smashed to create a pulp. Various chemicals may be used at different stages of the refining processing including lime, diatomaceous earth, or phosphoric acid. The potion is then filtered, separated, and bleached using carbon, bone char or an ion exchange system. The sugar crystals are the final result of this process once the water has been evaporated.
Minerals in Maple versus minerals in sugar
There are no vitamins or minerals remaining in sugar once the extensive refining process has been completed. Maple syrup contains a variety of percentages of trace minerals, listed more comprehensively below. Dark maple syrup contains small amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. These minerals play essential roles in your body, including cell formation, immune support, maintaining healthy red blood cells, keeping bones and teeth strong, regulating muscle contractions and balancing fluids.
Other sweeteners on the market and why we do not use them
When you start digging around you see that there are not a ton of options for sweeteners; they all seem to have a compromise somewhere along the line. Stevia was my first choice but it is tough to work with for the chocolate, we have tried it when we tried to formulate some sugar free versions for the immune compromised. We also tried non-gmo xylitol from Birch trees, but it can cause a laxative effect, which was more than we wanted to give to our beloved customers. Unless raw, agave nectar is just as toxic to the system as standard corn syrup. Coconut sugar is still a concentrated sugar and thus high glycemic, as is fruit juice. Honey is high glycemic and we want to be mindful of the bees and their hard work, keeping it vegan.
Let’s get into the pith of maple syrup, the real juicy chemistry of why it is different. You know me, the pun is always intended. A little more science for inquiring and open minds. For this next bit, I am going to actually step aside and let the experts handle the chemistry of maple syrup. Take it away, Bascom Farms, fabulous organic farms in New Hampshire and my hand-picked maple syrup supplier:
Sugars are an important source of energy. The main sugar in pure maple syrup is sucrose, which is the sole sugar in the Grade A Light Amber grade syrups. The darker grades of syrup contain a small and variable amount of fructose and glucose. In order of sweetness, sucrose is less sweet than fructose, but sweeter than glucose.
Maple syrup caloric value is 52 calories per tablespoon, molasses 40, corn syrup 60 and honey is 45.
Minerals have specific and nonspecific nutritional functions in the body metabolism. In pure filtered maple syrup the main minerals present are: potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, iron, and selenium.
Per 60 ml (1/4 cup), in % DV
Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) Value Of Maple Syrup
ORAC Value per 100g
1 medium (118 g)
½ cup (46 g)
1 (72 g)
¼ cup (60 ml/80 g)
1 medium (123 g)
½ cup (85 g)
½ cup (37 g)
*Percent Daily Value (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet:
Based on an average intake of 130 g/day refined sugars and the antioxidant activity measured in typical diets, substituting alternative sweeteners could increase antioxidant intake an average of 2.6 mmol/day, similar to the amount found in a serving of berries or nuts. (1)
So, what ‘s the bottom line here? The final important aspect of this article, and nutrition in general, is how an ingredient or a food affects the body. How are we absorbing it? What happens to our body when we break it down? Does it add to our cellular structure and thus keep us vibrant and healthy (antioxidants), or detract from our health, leeching vital elements from our bodies and speeding up aging (processed food)?
MAPLE syrup is a minimally processed sap from a tree that is a balanced sugar. Maple syrup is a complete sugar, meaning it is not just empty calorie sugar. All of the minerals listed above are a part of this sugar at a chemistry level. It actually has fiber like a whole fruit does, so it is assimilated more slowly at a cellular level and thus there is no spiking in blood sugar levels.
This research comes from a childhood fraught with illness, which launched me onto the path to wellness and eventually led me to be my own independent researcher. This in turn is how I became creative enough as a food alchemist to make my chocolate formulas.
*Disclaimer: This post is a result of personal observation, research, and opinion. None of this information should be taken as medical advice, nor is it intended to be so. At the end of the day, each person is responsible for their own health. Do your research, find what resonates with you, and takes into account your individual needs.