Whole Hearts

shachar blog2

My memory is full of holes:
Intermittent and fleeting,
Its ‎imprints wanting and lonely.

From time to time, I remember sporadic details, fragmented events, ‎pieces, always pieces: the puzzle is incomplete. It is a challenging task ‎to piece the memories together and retrieve a reliable narrative. ‎For example, I remember a fashion taboo which dictated “thou shalt ‎not wear” one patterned clothing article with another, likewise, ‎absolutely do not wear a dress or skirt with leggings or pants:

‎‎‎The ‎never never land of fashion fiasco.‎

‎It was 1976 when I visited Israel for my very first time. My journey ‎began about the time that Air France flight #139 from Paris to Tel Aviv ‎was hijacked. As our airplane touched down in Zurich (enroute ‎stopover), we were whisked away into an isolated warehouse where ‎every last inch of our luggage was picked apart and put back together ‎again. I can recall, but a few days later, after the Israeli Air Force ‎rescued the hostages, walking the streets of Tel Aviv amidst all of the ‎celebrations and t-shirts’ everywhere proclaiming:

‎‎‎‎ “Kol Hakavod ‎L’Tzahal” or “Well Done IDF”.

This was, without a doubt, a memory that left ‎its mark ‎‎‎‎ deep in me.

At that time the trip from Lod (now Ben Gurion Airport) to the ‎northern border was long and tiresome. When we finally reached our ‎designated kibbutz, in the midst of the dark and unfamiliar place, there ‎awaited an even more unfamiliar snack. That was the first time that I ‎was acquainted with one of the Israeli national snacks: chocolate ‎spread sandwiches!‎


The idea filled me with disgust: a chocolate sandwich?

Reflecting now, I believe that my husband had a quite similar reaction ‎when he was introduced to two of my favorite sandwiches at the ‎time: peanut butter and jam and bagel, lox and cream cheese: in a ‎word,


After a while, during my second and longer visit to Israel, I developed ‎an affinity for this strange snack, especially on long hikes, trips to the ‎Sinai Desert and late night milking’s in the dairy. ‎‎‎Despite all this, the ‎snack remains in my mind to be sugar laden and any resemblance to ‎chocolate is purely coincidental.‎

Chocolate, theobroma cacao, food of the Gods, has been known to ‎man for some 2000-4000 years. The Mayans and the Aztecs believed ‎that chocolate was a superfood endowed by the Gods and blessed with ‎magical and divine properties. A dark and bitter chocolate drink was ‎used in religious ceremonies as well as for medicinal purposes. So ‎valued was the cocoa bean that at times it was used as a form of ‎currency.‎

It is said that chocolate made its way to The Continent during the ‎sixteenth century AD with the conquest of the Aztec empire by Hernán Cortés and his ‎Spanish compatriots. Cortés’s first reaction of the ‎dark and bitter drink was memorable to say the least:

‎‎‎“A drink fit for ‎pigs!”

Once the chocolate drink was sweetened it became very ‎popular amongst the conquering Europeans. The heavenly chocolate ‎was a treat for the privileged for many years to come. It was out of ‎reach to the common people for hundreds of years.‎

Today chocolate is beloved by all. Statistics from 2012 reveal that the ‎chocolate eating record is held by the Swiss. In 2012 on average each ‎Swiss person ate a whopping 11.9 kilograms of chocolate or about ‎‎240, 40 gram, bars of chocolate. By comparison, the average American ‎at that time ate “only” 5.5 kilograms annually.‎

Chocolate is delicious:
Who will say otherwise?
‎‎‎But is chocolate ‎healthy?

‎‎‎Let’s discover the magical properties of chocolate:

‎♦ Powerful antioxidants 21x more potent than blueberries
‎♦ Improves cardiovascular health
‎♦ Lowers blood pressure
‎♦ Strong antidepressant
‎♦ Improves mood

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day, what is all the fuss about?

‎There are many compelling reasons from the magnesium that ‎increases our joy, to the phenethylamine which sparks love, to the ‎anandamide a source of pleasure, along to the tryptophan which ‎releases serotonin which boosts our mood.

Usually the processing of cocoa includes fermentation in the fields, ‎roasting beans at temperatures ranging from 100-150 degrees ‎Celsius and an addition of chemicals to enhance their flavor. ‎

Roasting the beans enhances their flavor and color, sterilizes ‎as well as eases the process of husking the shells. Potassium ‎carbonate also aids in enhancing the taste and color of the beans.‎

‎‎‎Both the heat and the chemicals partially destroy and damage some of ‎chocolate’s superfood godlike properties. ‎

Raw cacao beans, cacao nibs ‎‎(broken beans) and cacao powder can be purchased. The raw cacao ‎products have been fermented and dried but not roasted in high ‎temperatures nor chemically treated. These products can be found at ‎any health food store.‎

Chocolate spread sandwiches, I can’t say that I am fond of them. I try ‎to avoid gluten as much as possible. Chocolate spread?, why not ‎simply spread some sugar on a piece of bread?!‎

May I challenge you to a simple culinary mission?

Every time that you ‎realize that you are attracted to an unhealthy food, merely make an ‎effort improve the quality of your choice. Choose to upgrade. We ‎Israelis are very proficient at finding the best of the best.

I am not asking you to stop spreading chocolate on your bread.

Start ‎by simply leaving the white bread at the store. Replace it with a whole ‎grain bread, perhaps one which comes from a boutique bakery. For the ‎crème de la crème, may I present you with a recipe for a simple and ‎quick chocolate spread? What about the taste you ask: why heavenly, of ‎course! Forget about preparing sandwiches for your children. For this ‎Valentine’s Day prepare a gourmet and unforgettable spread! ‎

The Spread

The Ingredients:

‎2 T Coconut oil‎
‎4 T Raw cacao powder‎
‎4 T Pure maple syrup
‎1 t Pure vanilla extract‎
Pinch of Himalayan salt (pink for Valentine’s Day…)‎

Another part of your mission, important none the less, is to visit your ‎neighborhood health food store and get to know these foreign ‎products…‎

In cooler temperatures the coconut oil will be solid. Start by placing ‎the jar in a bowl of boiling water. In just a few moments you will have ‎enough liquid to use.‎

Add all of the ingredients, with the exception of the cacao powder, ‎and whip by hand. Once the mixture is thoroughly blended, fold the ‎cacao powder in three equal portions while whipping in between until ‎a smooth cream like texture is obtained.‎

‎I welcome you to tinker with the flavor. For example add in grated ‎lemon or orange zest or even cayenne pepper!

If you are looking for treats to take along to athletic activities, try ‎dipping almonds or other nuts in the spread and then stuffing dried ‎dates with them. Yummy!‎

The spread is ready!
Congratulations: mission accomplished!‎