Ask Siri, the iPhone assistant, what is the meaning of life, and one of its more poignant answers is “All evidence to date suggests it is chocolate.” So what do you do if you love chocolate, but it doesn’t love you back? What do you do if every time you eat chocolate you come down with a migraine? What is the meaning of life then?
For me, this is not a rhetorical question. It is real, it is urgent. Which is why I felt so utterly alive the day I re-discovered carob. The deliciously creamy “chocolate” smoothie above, for instance, is made with carob, not cacao.
Many people do not like carob. They feel it pales in comparison to the real thing (chocolate), and just leaves you wanting more.
I was one of them. I had tried carob chips in cookies years ago, and swore I would never, ever eat carob again. Nasty and dry, and simply incomparable to real chocolate, which I dearly, dearly loved.
So when, years ago, I realized that chocolate was one of my migraine triggers and I needed to eliminate it completely from my diet, I wept for days (OK, maybe not for days, but a long while) and reluctantly resigned myself to a life without its sweet, dark, roasted, and creamy taste. It was a heartbreaking loss for me, and I missed it almost daily.
Then something wonderful happened.
This past December, my brother George (yes, him again) brought me to The Stand, this great vegan place in Norwalk, CT that makes his daily vegetable juices as well as many of his meals (my brother is so healthy, you see, he makes me look like a junk food addict, I’m not even kidding).
But that’s not the interesting bit. The interesting bit, is that the Stand also makes my brother’s weekly “treat”, the No.2. The No.2 is a “chocolate” banana smoothie made with carob instead of cacao.
I know. No.2 is an unfortunate menu name for something that looks brown. We need to tell them.
But that’s beside the point.
Here’s the thing about the No.2: if you run into me in a few years, and I have gained 100 lbs of pure happiness, it will be the No. 2′s fault.
I swear, I could drink that stuff ALL day, and since I discovered it, there are days when I have. What can I say? It is so incredibly good, after years of not being able to have chocolate, I had a lot of catching up to do.
I know carob is not chocolate. I know that if I could, indeed, have the real thing, I certainly would. But this drink makes me feel like I am having chocolate again, real chocolate, yet because it doesn’t contain theobromine or caffeine, I remain blissfully migraine-free. This could be one of the few real “have your cake and eat it too” food possibilities!
Carob comes from the pods of the tropical carob tree. The pulp and seeds of the pods are dried, roasted and powdered to give foods and drinks the flavor of chocolate. The pods can also be turned into a syrup, and the seeds into a gum (called tragasol) that is used to thicken baked goods.
In terms of nutrition, carob supports digestive health and is high in anti-oxidants. It is also a natural antiseptic, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and support heart health by lowering cholesterol.
But, wait, there’s more! It is also believed to help prevent certain forms of cancer and can be used to treat diarrhea and help prevent osteoporosis.
That’s a long list of health benefits.
Anyway, as soon as I came back to California, I started working on a recipe to recreate the No.2. I knew what ingredients the Stand uses (carob, almond butter, banana, dates, almond milk), and although I’m sure they would have gladly shared their exact proportions with me (they are the nicest people, really, if you’re ever in Norwalk, stop by and say Hi), I figured I could manage to create my own version.
So, here it is.
Made with homemade almond or hazelnut milk , almond butter, dates, bananas and carob powder, this smoothie does not use any refined sugars, is packed with protein and energy boosting ingredients, and tastes absolutely divine as well.
If, like me, you haven’t had chocolate for a long while and are missing it, be ready to taste it and weep.
Love and health!
“Chocolate” (Carob) Banana Smoothie
- 2 cups almond or hazelnut milk preferably homemade
- 1-2 dates pitted
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
- 2 tablespoons carob powder
- 1 large banana
- 1 cup ice
- Add all the ingredients to a high-speed blender. Process on high until completely smooth, about 1 minute.
- Serve immediately, or store in a glass container in the refrigerator.