Candy! The one sugary concoction that seems to take the world by storm around the holidays. It is literally everywhere, in every form, shape, size, color, and flavor imaginable. Funny thing is, they are all essentially made with the same ingredients, or at least derived from the same sources; GMO corn, soy, and gluten. Yum. Growing up I never really had taste buds for candy.
Because my mother has been feeding us real, organic/local food since we were little, I could easily tell how artificial "food" made me feel cruddy (i.e headache, sore throat, and toothaches).
Despite the fact that processed, high sugar confections are literally toxic to the human body (in that they dump a huge load of glucose into our bloodstream), I don't believe treating yourself has to include the same detrimental effects. In today's recipe, I use bit of maple sugar to give the candy the sweetness it needs, without leaving you feeling as though you just guzzled an entire bottle of corn syrup. I would not advise trying to make it "healthier" by substituting with a sugar free alternative, as it is important to realize that when trying to cut back on sugar as a way to lose weight, or simply be healthier, substitutes are the last thing our bodies want. Not only are these alternatives abused, but they always seem to have a "catch" that is more harmful to our bodies than real, unprocessed versions like raw honey, pure maple syrup, or organic molasses.
One prime example of this would be xylitol, a common sugar substitute used in baked goods due to its lack of aftertaste. Though thought of as safe, this ingredient is actually classified as a dense "acellular" carbohydrate source. This means unlike "cellular" carbohydrates that are naturally sweet in their whole form like sweet potatoes or blueberries, xylitol's cellular wall is already broken down before ingestion. When eaten, our bodies do not know how to handle this foreign food, because it is in a sense pre-digested, thus not allowing our gut to break down the cell wall to access the glucose, and therefore overwhelming the gut. Instead of benefiting our bodies, acellular carbohydrates mess with gut flora balance and impair metabolism, both of which cause a rise in overall inflammation. Other examples of these acellular carbohydrates are other processed sweeteners (fructose, HFCS, agave, dextrose, malitol, etc.), grain based flours, PUFA oils and fat (shortening & margarine). Raw honey or maple syrup on the other hand, are not as foreign to the body. Yes, they are sugar, but they come from real, minimally processed sources, and are much more easily recognized by our bodies. Many people see alternatives as their "out," or a way to continue satisfying their uncontrollable sweet tooth without actually trying or changing their lifestyle. Not only is this unhealthy for the body, but also from a psychological standpoint. Sugar substitutes have a time and a place, especially for people who cannot have sugar of any type due to serious medical reasons (like me), however, that doesn't give one the right to over-do them. Eliminating processed sugar (and substitutes) allows one's tastebuds to adjust, recognize the abundance of flavor present in real food, and ultimately enjoy eating on a whole new level. I can tell you from personal experience that, it is truly crazy how sweet fresh fruit and even vegetables can taste on there own.
As few notes on today's recipe, you can form these candies into little logs or rectangle, or simply layer them in a lined loaf pan, either way works. Though the recipe calls for macadamia nut butter (which I made by blending 2 cups of macadamia nuts in a food processor until smooth), you can essentially use any nut butter that you have on hand such as almond butter. If wanting to eliminate even small amounts of cane sugar, I have included my quick and easy recipe for homemade "raw" chocolate, which hardens in the freezer due to the saturated nature of coconut oil. Either way is equally delicious, and I am sure you and your guests will enjoy these confections just as much as my friends and family!
Chocolate Caramel Nougat Bites
- 1/3 cup enjoy life chocolate chips (or) homemade raw chocolate *recipe below
- 1/2 batch of homemade caramel
- 1/2 cup almond, pecan, cashew, or macadamia nut butter
- 1-2 tbsp sweet potato flour
- 2 tbsp maple sugar
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- Combine nut butter with sweet potato flour and maple sugar until fully mixed.
- Using your hands, form nougat into logs and flatten to desired thickness in a parchment lined baking dish.
- Once done, place dish into freezer until hardened. (10-20 minutes depending on thickness)
- While the nougat is hardening, make 1/2 of my caramel recipe in a medium sized pan, as directed.
- Once finished quickly pour the hot caramel into a heat proof dish *This ensures it does not burn to the bottom of your pan.
- Spoon equal amounts (about 1 tbsp) over each peace of hardened nougat, and spread into an even layer.
- Place in freezer and allow to completely harden. (10-20 minutes)
- To make the chocolate shell, simply melt chocolate chips with one tsp of coconut oil over very low heat until fully melted, stirring every now and then to prevent burning. *Alternatively you can do this on a double broiler or stick the mixture in a heat proof bowl and into a warm oven.
- Once caramel layer has hardened, spoon about 1 tbsp of the melted chocolate over the caramel layer, and smooth out with the back of your spoon.
- Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and place candies into the freezer for 1 hour (or until chocolate has fully hardened)
- If making homemade chocolate, combine 1/3 cup of melted coconut oil with 1/3 cup of cocoa in a medium sized mixing bowl until fully combined.
- Mix in 2-3 tbsp of maple sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and a pinch of sea salt.
- Allow to cool slightly until the caramel mixture has hardened over your candies.
- Once ready, spoon 1 tbsp of homemade raw chocolate over the caramel covered nougat.
- Sprinkle with salt if desired, and place back in freezer for 1 hour.
- Remove candies when ready to serve. *Be aware that the coconut oil will soften at room temperature, so make sure to always store candies in the freezer and serve immediately after removing.
2 Corinthians 4:18 "We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."