The Ingredient: Cocoa

The Ingredient: Cocoa

Chef Jo Lusted filled our set with the lovely scent of chocolate! She visits regularly to teach us about specific ingredients and this time around it was all about cocoa. In its purest form, cocoa is a powerful superfood full of antioxidants and nutrients. In its sweetest form, cocoa is a decadent treat...especially the Hazelnut Fondue recipe that Jo made for us!




Cacao is a small evergreen tree that is native to tropical Mexico, but now cultivated throughout the tropics. Its seeds are used to make cocoa and chocolate.

Cacao, in its raw form, has three times the antioxidant levels of green tea and SIX times the antioxidant levels of blueberries. No other natural food comes close!  

#1 source of magnesium of any food! Magnesium helps relax nerves and muscles.  

High content of the "beauty" mineral: sulfur. Sulfur helps build strong nails, hair and promotes healthy and beautiful skin.


Nibs are peeled, crushed cacao beans
  • Sprinkle on ice cream
  • Grind with coffee beans
  • Add to oatmeal, cereal or trail mixes
  • Mix in with smoothie
  • Blend into herbal teas


Made from the pressed oil of the cacao bean. Used to flavour and make chocolate, desserts, lotions and cosmetics. One of the most stable, natural fats known and melts at body temperature (chocolate melts in your mouth!). Absorbs easily into the skin. Contains serotonin and endorphin that are known to boost mood significantly. Cocoa butter is extensively used in aromatherapy massages to trigger a feeling of bliss and relaxation.

Cocoa Butter & Olive Oil Lotion Bars
By Chef Jo Lusted

These bars feel luxurious, silky, and smell good enough to eat! Best of all, they contain no chemicals or unpronounceable ingredients.

  • 3 oz pure cosmetic grade cocoa butter (or food grade, available at natural foods stores), cut into small chunks
  • 3 oz pure beeswax pellets or bars cut into small chunks
  • 3 oz olive oil 
  • 10 drops of your favourite essential oil (I used Sweet Orange)

Melt cocoa butter and beeswax over a double boiler of barely simmering water. Whisk in olive oil and essential oil. Quickly and carefully pour mixture into ice cube tray, filling each about ¾ and being careful not to allow each cube to overflow. Cover and refrigerate overnight until hardened completely. (Option: Pour mixture into an 8x8" non-stick baking pan, cover and refrigerate until hardened, and break into small bars.)

Store in a cool, dark place.

To use, simply rub room temperature bar onto skin and massage in until absorbed.

Wipe out waxy residue from your measuring tools with a paper towel before you wash them. Make sure to use hot water when washing so things come out clean.


Dutch-process VS Natural

Dutch-process cocoa powder is made from cacao beans that have been washed with a potassium solution to neutralize their acidity. Cocoa in its natural state is slightly acidic pH value of around 5.4. By soaking cocoa nibs in a potassium solution, a Dutch scientist found he could raise the pH to 7 (neutral) or even higher.

Dutching cocoa powder makes it darker and mellows the flavour of the beans.

Natural cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that are simply roasted, then pulverized into a fine powder.  

Because natural cocoa powder hasn't had its acidity tempered, it's generally paired with baking soda (which is alkali) in recipes.

Dutch-process cocoa is frequently used in recipes with baking powder, as it doesn't react to baking soda like natural cocoa does.


Chocolate is the product of a long, complicated refining process that begins with the cacao bean.  

The bad: This food is high in saturated fat, and a large portion of the calories come from sugars.

The good: This food is low in cholesterol, and very low in sodium. Chocolate stimulates the secretion of endorphins, producing a pleasurable sensation similar to the "runner's high" a jogger feels after running several miles.

A serving of dark chocolate is equal in antioxidant powers to a serving of red wine.

Dark chocolate must contain more than 70 percent cacao to be truly considered dark.

One of the lowest glycemic indexes of sweet foods and can help placate sweet cravings quickly due to its richness.

Chocolate Hazelnut Fondue
By Chef Jo Lusted


  • 1 cup chopped dark chocolate (70% cocoa minimum), chopped
  • 1 cup fat free (skim) evaporated milk
  • ½ cup hazelnut butter
  • 2 tbsp liquid honey
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Heat chocolate over simmering water in a double boiler. Whisk in evaporated milk, hazelnut butter, honey, and vanilla until smooth. Transfer to a fondue pot over low heat and serve with stuff for dipping...especially popcorn balls!
Stuff for Dipping

Whole strawberries
Banana chunks
Apple slices
Whole grain walnut raisin baguette, cut into chunks

Popcorn Balls


  • 8 cups prepared air-popped popcorn
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 3 tbsp salted butter
  • pinch of sea salt
Melt marshmallows and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until combined, stirring constantly. Spray a spatula or wooden spoon and your hands with non stick cooking spray. Pour liquid marshmallow over popcorn in a large bowl and stir well to combine. Do not touch with hands because mixture will be very hot!

When cool enough to handle, form into 1/4 cup balls using hands, spraying hands with non-stick cooking spray as needed to prevent marshmallows from sticking to hands.  Sprinkle with salt and allow cool completely. Store in a sealed container and refrigerated until ready to use, up to 2 days.