The Magical Cocoa Bean

Get to know cocoa beans better.


By Veronica De Lira, Nutritionists

According to, cocoa beans comes from the Amazon where they grow best, as the beans need a warm climate with plenty of shade making Africa, Asia, Central and South America prime locations for growth.1 According to, there are “1.5 million cocoa farms in West Africa” which explains its popularity. 2

The popularity is nothing new as cocoa beans are the key ingredient to making one of our favorite treats, chocolate. According to, cocoa beans were even used as currency between the Mayans and Aztecs. At one time, rumor has it that Montezuma actually had raw cocoa beans hidden away rather than jewels or gold.


And, we must appreciate our farmers who grow cocoa beans. 3 The growing process actually takes a while to perfect, as farmers want the best quality of seed.


Health Benefits of Cocoa Beans


Besides being an ingredient in delicious dishes, Cocoa beans also boast a number of health benefits. According to, here are a few: 1


  • Antioxidant
  • Antidepressant
  • Promotes Cardiovascular Health
  • Energy booster
  • May help aid in weight loss
  • Good source of vitamins and minerals


How can I cook with cocoa beans?


According to, when cooking with whole beans all you have to do is crush them and remove the peel which can be done with your hands, they are also pretty versatile as you can use them whole or ground. 4 Cocoa bean may also be called cacao beans.


And, you may discover you like roasted better than unroasted. Cocoa beans actually come in a variety of forms such as


  • Roasted
  • Unroasted
  • Cacao bean nibs (roasted form)
  • Powder


What can I use Cocoa beans for?


Cocoa beans can be used to add sweetness to a lot of favorite recipes and be used to create some great dishes such as:


  • Tea
  • Smoothies
  • Desserts
  • Raw food
  • Cake
  • You can make your own chocolate
  • Hot chocolate


Here’s a Recipe to Try


Here is a recipe from Cocoa bean brownies that is perfect for that sweet tooth of ours. 5


Cocoa Bean Brownies


  • 3 

cup canola oil or 1⁄3 cup olive oil

  • 15 
ounces garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 
tablespoons soymilk or 3 tablespoons milk

cup cocoa, unsweetened

  • 1 
cup sugar

teaspoon baking powder

1 -2 
teaspoon peppermint or 1 -2 teaspoon orange extract




  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Put eggs and oil in the blender and mix for 10 seconds.
  • Add remaining ingredients into the blender and process until smooth.
  • Spray 8 x 8 inch pan with cooking spray. Pour batter into pan and bake for about 35 minutes*, or until brownies are just pulling away from edges of the pan.
  • Cool, cut and serve.
  • Keep an eye on them after 30 minutes as oven temps can vary.
  • I refrigerate the brownies and find them even better when they have cooled. Very chocolaty, very yummy.
  • Because they are made with beans, it is advised not to eat too much at once.



Don’t forget to check our Fill Your Plate’s recipe section. In the dessert section of Fill Your Plate, you’ll find a variety of chocolate recipes.





1.”Cocoa Beans Benefits & Information.” Herbwisdom. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.


  1. “Beans.” – The Story of Chocolate. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.


  1. Harry, Uncle. “Uncle Harry’s Product Library.” Cacao Beans: A Real Superfood. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.


  1. “What Can I Do with RAW Cacao Beans or Nibs?” BEST SUPERFOODS. 5 Nov. 2008. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.


  1. “Cocoa Bean Brownies Recipe –” Cocoa Bean Brownies Recipe – Web. 6 Oct. 2015.













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Sweet Treats for Valentine’s Day!

By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern


Are you looking for some tasty treats to celebrate Valentine’s Day with? Look no further! Whether you are sending the kids off to school with Krispy treats or waking your significant other up to heart-shaped pancakes, Valentine’s Day presents itself as a wonderful opportunity to make cooking and baking fun! There are tons of different (and cute) recipes you can make to show those you love how much you care.

Some recipes are easily doubled or tripled to make enough for your student’s Valentine’s Day party at school, too! Even if you aren’t a person who usually like sweet stuff, give it a try this Valentine’s Day, one of the big components of the holiday is candy after all!

clothesline with a red heart, hung on green background

  1. Chocolate Covered Strawberries – Nothing is better than serving your honey tangy strawberries covered in sweet milk chocolate to show them how much you love them! (You can also make a bunch of these to give friends and coworkers as gifts!)


  1. Heart of the Batter – Who doesn’t love cupcakes? These cupcakes with little strawberry hearts in the middle are perfect to make with the kids, and perfect to send to class as treats!


  1. Valentine’s Krispy Treats – These sticky sweet treats are perfect to send to school with your child for their class Valentine’s Day party!


  1. Molten Lava Cakes – These explosive cakes are perfect as dessert after Valentine’s Dinner, or even just as a fun project to make as a family!


  1. Quick Valentine’s Candies – Need candies for Valentine’s Day on the fly? Try these 10 minute white chocolates!


  1. White Chocolate Raspberry Parfaits – Another great dessert, these pink and white parfaits embody everything that Valentine’s Day is!


  1. Valentine’s Night Strawberries – I hope you like strawberries, because here’s another tasty recipe including them! These easy-to-make stuffed strawberries will be a family hit!


  1. Chocolate Heart Cookies – The perfect treat for the chocolate lover in your family or group of friends!


  1. Brownie Tart – This is the perfect dessert for a Valentine’s party or gathering. It serves 8, so if you are hosting more than that just make two! Yum!


  1. Valentine Bark – Another perfect recipe for something that can be distributed at school by your child, or at work by you!


Valentine’s Day is a special day where you and yours can express the love you have for each other by chowing down on some sweet and tasty treats! Enjoy!


Remember to go to Fill Your Plate for other dessert ideas. Our online searchable recipes sections is full of sweet treats.

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Are There Truly Benefits of Dark Chocolate, or are We Just Dreaming?

Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern

So you’re on a health kick. Maybe you’re trying to lose some weight or maybe you’re just trying to get healthy. You’ve cut out carbs, soda, and most importantly you’ve cut out sweets; but what happens when you get that craving that you just can’t shake? You want to reach for a cupcake, but instead take the ‘high road’ and go for an apple. Then you remember the dark chocolate in your pantry.


We’ve all heard about dark chocolate at some point. ‘It’s healthier than milk chocolate’, ‘it’s nutritious’, ‘it has all kinds of health benefits’; but does it really? Is anything that we’ve heard about the sweet stuff true?

Well, in truth, dark chocolate IS considered to be way more nutritious for you than other sweet treats if eaten in moderation. It is packed full of antioxidants, fiber and minerals, and also contains iron, copper, magnesium and manganese.

Dark chocolate has been found to help with all kinds of health problems including lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, increasing blood flow, and lowering blood pressure. There have been studies done on the benefits of dark chocolate against all three of these health problems that have proved true, but there are also some that have proved the chocolate had no effect at all.

A study done by The Journal of the American Medical Association found that dark chocolate has the potential to help lower blood pressure in some people, while another study by Mayo Clinic found that consuming dark chocolate had no effect on blood pressure at all.

In another example, The BMJ did a similar study on dark chocolate, but they took a look at its effects on heart health instead of blood pressure. What they found looks very encouraging for dark chocolate lovers! Their study showed that adults who ate certain amounts of dark chocolate were less likely to have a heart attack or a stroke compared to adults who ate no dark chocolate at all.

So it looks like research is leaning toward dark chocolate being healthier than other types of chocolate, but until studies can prove anything more, I don’t think it’s going to hurt us to continue to eat this tasty treat; and remember, check out for some awesome recipes and more fun food information!


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Homemade Spinach, Cheese, and Black Bean Enchiladas

By Nicole Johnson, Nutritionist

One of my most requested recipes is for my enchiladas. Years back when I lived in Flagstaff, one of my friends made something very similar, and ever since then I have been perfecting my own version of the famous red or green enchilada.


Being an Arizona native brings a love — a passion — for Mexican food, and nothing compares to homemade. The best thing I love about cooking at home is that I am always challenging myself to make it better next time. So for the enchiladas, they are consistently changing. Always- every time I use the basics as a blueprint, and then go from there incorporating everything I can that needs to be used from the fridge. This is an easy and fast meal that everyone loves, and it is super versatile to meet any personal preferences or dietary needs. My biggest challenge would be making them vegan, because I have yet to find a good vegan shredded cheese substitute. These are my homemade spinach and cheese (vegetarian) enchiladas, that I also have adapted a new red enchilada sauce (recipe to come) for, since my son cannot tolerate much heat.


Remember you can use this or the basics of it for a base and adjust from there. If you prefer meat, add some shredded chicken, and to save time you can use canned sauces. I am still working on perfecting a green homemade sauce, as that is my absolute favorite!




3-4 cups of spinach chopped*  *based on preference so you can always use less or more

3-4 cups of cheese shredded * (I use white sharp cheddar)

2 cloves of garlic minced (I use a garlic press)

1 medium onion

1 can of hatch green chilies

1 can of black beans drained (you could always use homemade here too)

1 big can of enchilada sauce green or red (or you can use my mild red version here)

10-12 tortillas  (I typically use the smaller burrito size but any size will work)

1 lime (start with half the juice then add more if you like)

¼ cup cilantro chopped




Using an 11×13 baking dish (or whatever you can find to put about 10 enchiladas in- depending on your choice of tortillas) pour some of the sauce into the bottom just enough to lightly cover.

Heat the oven to 350.

Mix all the ingredients into a bowl and use your preference to how much cheese and spinach to add. You can use less spinach and more cheese; just remember the spinach cooks down and shrinks half it size just like meat does.

Use the mixture as the filling and put about ¾ cup onto each tortilla, roll them, and set them face down in the pan.


Pour the rest of the sauce on to cover them and top with any leftover cheese down the center.


Cover with foil and place in the oven for 25 minutes. They should be done, and if not you can always uncover for an additional 5 minutes to brown the top.


Serve up this deliciousness with your favorite toppings. We use avocado, greek yogurt (for sour cream substitute), chips and salsa. No need for beans since they are already in this filling meal. I promise with the versatility you will love these!



The Red Enchilada Sause without the Heat

I don’t know about you, but I despise canned red enchilada sauce. My son is super sensitive to ANY-thing spicy (even pepper) and almost every single canned red enchilada sauce, even though it says mild, is always too spicy. So I decided to make my own. After calling my friend and asking how she made hers along with flipping through Pinterest (I have to set a 10-minute timer or I get lost in there), I felt confident enough to try it myself. I had no idea how easy it really was, and recently went to dinner at someone’s house where they made a guest run out for canned enchilada sauce.


Note: Got to give credit where credit is due! I have adapted this recipe from my friends, which the main difference in her’s is to start sautéing with fresh garlic and onions, then add the liquid and spices and puree.






2 cans 14.5 oz diced tomatoes (I use fire roasted muir glen)

1 ½ cups vegetable broth (I use homemade, but you can also use water)

1 ¼ tablespoon chili powder (we prefer it mild)

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 ½ teaspoon onion powder

¾ teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

2 teaspoons of arrowroot (optional thickener if the sauce is too thin)





Put together all of the ingredients into a medium sauce pot and mix until thoroughly combined.

On medium heat, once everything is combined and warming up, increase the heat to medium-high until it boils

to medium-high heat until it starts boiling.

Use a whisk to make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated, and turn down the heat to low.

Let it cook down for about 5-10 minutes, whisk again and take it off to cool.


Note: Any leftover you can freeze for later. I prefer to make a big batch of this just for that reason. I sometimes use it for breakfast inspirations.


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The Waffle, Our Breakfast Comfort Food

By Nicole Johnson, ASU Nutrition Student


Today I woke up on the wrong side of the bed craving my favorite breakfast comfort food: Waffles, because who doesn’t love waffles. One of my good friends has a great spin on a familiar saying, “When life gives you lemons make waffles.” So I got up and braved the kitchen to turn my frown upside down.


My absolute favorite meal of the day has always been breakfast even when it was something simple like cereal. Since I am a texture eater, I tend to prefer the crunchier foods like waffles. Pancakes are great with nuts and blueberries, but that’s just me. Ironically, when I was younger, my grandmother used to make me blueberry pancakes, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I hated blueberries. So I would pick them out and hide them either in my pocket or throw them away in a trash can later where she couldn’t see them. Sometime over the years my disgust for blueberries turned into a love of them for breakfast. My son loves them with lots of syrup on his waffles, and I love my waffles with Greek yogurt and blueberries. No matter how you prefer your waffles, there is no doubt a vastness of combinations to suit anyone’s desires.


Regarding the waffles, this recipe comes from my early journey to eating whole foods. I struggled trying to find a recipe for waffles that actually tasted good and was good for you, but this was also before Pinterest and the boom of the bloggers. So I called my best friend for help, and she had this recipe that she developed while baking for the ski resort in upstate New York. I know at first the ingredients can be overwhelming, but I promise it gets easier with practice just like riding a bike. All the nutrient-dense ingredients in this recipe will help to help keep you feeling full all morning long.






1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 ¼ cup spelt flour

½ cup flax meal ground

¼ cup wheat germ

1 tablespoon coconut sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder (try to use an aluminum free brand here)

¼ teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon cinnamon (you can omit this or cut it to ½ tbsp)



2 eggs

¼ cup applesauce or yogurt (either one you have on hand, I prefer yogurt)

¾ cup of milk (or any alternative – I use unsweetended coconut)

1 cup of water (**add up to ½ cup more depending on desired consistency)

2 tablespoons of coconut oil (I buy the Costco bulk one)

1 teaspoon of vanilla



Mix the wet and dry ingredients into separate bowls. Then slowly combine the wet into the dry and whisk until everything is mixed. The batter should be pretty thick, but well incorporated. You need to use pan spray to coat the waffle iron so the batter does not stick, and I put mine on the highest setting to get the golden brown color on the waffles. It would be wise to do a little test run first and see what will be the best temperature.

Use ½ cup of the batter and spread it out to help it cook evenly (remember I prefer mine thick, but you can always adjust to your preference). Close the lid and wait for the light to turn off, then check it. Flip it over if needed for extra crispiness. Repeat until the batter is gone and you have a happy plate full of waffles. Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.



Note: You can double this recipe to make a big batch and then freeze the leftovers between freezer papers for those mornings when you need a fast breakfast. Just remember if you do this you will need a very large bowl when you combine the ingredients.











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