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Recipes From Outside the Box: Secret Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins September 15, 2009

FTLogoThe story behind conventional chocolate is truly dark and bitter -a tale riddled with evil players and injustice.  In response to disparate free trade practices, an alternative – fair trade – has taken hold to bring artisan crafts, coffee, bananas, and of course, chocolate, to the United States without devastating the regions that produce them.  While not without its own problems, this form of trading goods improves the environment, the social welfare, and the relationships between producers and consumers around the globe.

The chocolate chocolate chip muffin recipe below uses fair trade chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and sugar.  Instead of hiding abuse and colonialism, these muffins hide a different blood-red secret that’s good for you: beets!  By also replacing much of the sugar from a typical muffin recipe with agave nectar, and most of the oil with pureed apples, these muffins are a sweet treat you can feel good about.

INGREDIENTS

3 medium beets

2 medium apples, cored and chopped

2 eggs

1/2 c. fair trade evaporated cane juice (or fair trade granulated sugar)

1/2 c. agave nectar

1/4 c. (or 4 tbsp.) melted butter

1 tbsp. vanilla

1/4 c. water

1 c. sifted unbleached unenriched all purpose flour

3/4 c. sifted whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 c. fair trade cocoa powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking soda

1/3 c. fair trade chocolate chips

PROCEDURE

Prepare the fruits and veggies: boil the unpeeled beets whole (cutting off the greens if still attached first) in a saucpan until easily pierced by a fork, about thirty to forty minutes.  Put into a food processor or blender with the chopped apples and puree until smooth.

Prepare the wet mixture:  Beat the 2 eggs with the sugar until frothy (about 3-5 minutes on high).  Mix in the agave nectar, melted butter, vanilla, beet/apple mixture, and water.  Mix just until well combined.

Prepare the dry mixture: Stir the sifted flours, cocoa, salt, and baking soda until well mixed.  Gradually add the flour ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.  Stir in 1/3 c. chocolate chips.

Fill greased and floured muffin tins 2/3 full with batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, once a toothpick comes out clean.  Recipe makes 18 muffins.

Ooey Gooey (Beety) and Tasty!

Ooey Gooey (Beety) and Tasty!

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Recipes From a Box: The Secret in Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins September 14, 2009

Credit: media.photobucket.com

Credit: media.photobucket.com

Chocolate Chocolate Chip :  A pre-fix that sounds magical all on its own,  even without the usual endings – cake, cookies, and my personal favorite, the muffins.  I mean, compared to regular old chocolate chip, it’s like, twice as good – right?  It’s simple mathematics, really – although I’d argue that twice the chocolate could even make them exponentially better, not just a basic doubling.  But really, that’s neither here nor there – the chocolate is good, twice the chocolate is even better – and since it’s mostly produced in other countries by people working for little more than slave wages, it’s not too expensive either.

The truth of the matter is, chocolate may taste delicious, but the industry that turns raw cacoa beans grown oceans away from the United States into the rich, butter chocolate bars we buy – and bake into muffins with chips – is little more than colonialism through trade policies, AKA: neoliberal free trade markets.  Countries with emerging economies that produce raw cocoa have been exploited for their products for centuries, while the colonizing Europeans made money hand over fist selling the finished chocolate products.  Unfortunately, as globalization has increased, these policies have only continued these economic disparities.
The muffin recipe below is loaded with chocolate (and unhealthy fats and calories to boot) brought to us through this unfair trade system:
INGREDIENTS: Sugar, Enriched Bleached Flour (Bleached Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Eggs, Soybean Oil, Water, Chocolate Chips (Sugar, Unsweetened Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Dextrose, Soy Lecithin [an emulsifier], Vanilla), Food Starch – Modified. Contains 2% or less of the following: Leavening (Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Soy Flour, Whey, Salt, Potassium Sorbate as a preservative, Propylene Glycol Monostearate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Xanthan Gum, Calcium Sulfate, Lecithin.
PROCEDURE:
1. Find a cacoa plantation. Cacao (or cocoa) plants are typically grown in large plantations, often displacing swaths of rain forests and smaller, traditional fields.  Soil erosion, nutrient loss, and rapid rates of deforestation are just a few side effects of the large scale cocoa production supported by conventional chocolate consumption.

2. Find labor. While in ‘developed’ countries kids commonly pull chocolate treats out of their lunchboxes, in ‘developing’ countries young children are often slaves in the cocoa fields – not that their parents or adults make much better wages.  Few cocoa farmers still own the land or plants they harvest, the industry is reliant on the industrial – and often foreign – management of large plantations worked by locals for very small wages picking the raw cacao beans.

Credit: treehugger.com

Credit: treehugger.com

3. Take the raw cacao oh so cheaply to process and sell. When transnational corporations purchase the raw cocoa beans, they pay incredibly low prices.  The price we pay for chocolate is hardly seen by the producers; instead, it is the food processors and packagers – often multibillion dollar corporations, including Nestle and Hershey’s – are pulling in the big bucks.

4. Bake into muffins with other gross stuff. While the secret story behind the creation of chocolate is tragic enough, this muffin recipe calls for a little more awful – with ingredients like modified food starch, enriched bleached flour, and a handful of artificial flavors.
EAT OUTSIDE THE BOX: Make your own secret chocolate chocolate chip muffins with half the fat and calories (shh! there are vegetables in them….). Plus, by using chocolate from fair trade cooperatives, you can avoid supporting neoliberal trade policies and your sweet tooth with one tasty treat.