Now that I live in Ohio again, it’s about time I start embracing my inner Buckeye.  We never made buckeyes in my family, but I’ve always loved them, seeing as peanut butter is my absolute favorite food. So for all the peanut butter and chocolate lovers out there, let me just say, these Buckeye Cups do not disappoint.  We are doing heavy appetizers and desserts for my family’s Christmas Eve celebration this year, but I don’t think these are going to make it to the weekend….Seriously, someone please come take these out of my freezer before I eat the entire batch!

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These Buckeye Cups are my attempt to recreate chocolate peanut butter squares I had at a potluck in Montreal when I was there for yoga teacher training.  One of my favorite parts about Modo yoga teacher training was how holistic their approach to teaching yoga is- meaning yoga is not just about the postures, but about your lifestyle too.  As such, for the entire month of training, they request (*require*) you to eat vegetarian, be caffeine-free, and abstain from alcohol. This wasn’t a struggle for me since I was already vegan (or 90% as I like to call myself) and I’d been off of caffeine for a couple months prior to restore my adrenal glands.  However, I was THRILLED to finally be surrounded by like minded people, sharing recipes and getting new food-spiration from my experiences.buckeyes, buckeye cups, chocolate peanut butter cups, peanut butter cups, vegan peanut butter cups

The fundamental ingredient in my Buckeye Cups is Cacao.  Cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can consume, different from the cocoa you probably buy at the store, because cocoa powder undergoes high heat processing, whereas cacao is raw.  Additionally, cacao is one of the highest antioxidant foods, rating in the top 10 in the ORAC system. The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale measures the effectiveness of antioxidants to absorb cell and tissue damaging free radicals in the body. The higher the ORAC score, the higher the level of antioxidants present in the food.

Additionally, this powder is naturally vegan, gluten-free and a provides a full spectrum of nutrients including manganese, copper, potassium, zinc, iron, selenium and magnesium.  Cacao is actually the highest food source of magnesium, the mineral that helps create feelings of calm, relaxes muscles, aids in recovery, creates strong bones, improves digestion, and countless other benefits to the body.  Hundreds of reactions in your body are dependent on this mineral, so be sure you’re getting an adequate intake.  (As if you needed another reason to eat more chocolate, right?!?)

Ancient Aztec and Maya cultures cherished cacao for its energy-boosting properties because it contains the compounds theobromine and phenylethylamine.  Theobromine (what gives dark chocolate its bitter taste) has stimulant properties like caffeine, however, it does NOT stimulate the central nervous system.  Phenylethylamine is the compound in cacao that makes chocolate a mood boosting and aphrodisiac food.  Phenylethylamine an adrenal-related chemical that stimulates dopamine, not only making you happier, but also increasing focus, motivation and productivity.

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Halfway through making these Buckeye Cups I decided to toss a little sea salt on a few of them.  I chose to add the salt since it blunts the bitter receptors on your tongue (from the cacao) and makes food taste sweeter.  Plus, I’m obsessed with all foods sweet + salty. Also, since I use really course Maldon salt,  I just love how it looks like snow on top of the chocolate, making these desserts even more festive for the holiday!

buckeyes, buckeye cups, chocolate peanut butter cups, peanut butter cups, vegan peanut butter cups

One thing to note about these buckeyes that many will probably question is the use of honey in a “vegan” recipe.  While strict vegans do not consume honey since it is made by bees, I have talked to many nutritionists, researchers, and chefs who do consider honey vegan since the bees are not harmed in the production, and bees must make honey as part of their existence.  Plus, when honey is raw (unfiltered) and local, it is rich in minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, and enzymes, resulting in numerous medicinal benefits for the body, including hindering the effects of allergies.

Before you judge me too hard, let me just say, I don’t eat much honey. It’s not daily, not weekly, and I probably go some months without eating it at all. Which is why making a big effort to give up honey isn’t worth it for me.  At some point a line must be drawn between minimizing detriment on the world, and the amount of ill the stress from those efforts would cause me as the individual. When I have a raw, local option available to me, yes, I’m going to eat it.

Secondly, in the chocolate peanut butter bars I had in Montreal, it was the hint of honey flavor that truly made these unique and stand out to my tastebuds.  That’s probably mostly because honey is a compliment flavor to chocolate, and in my opinion, peanut butter +honey is HANDS DOWN the BEST flavor combination ever! (Yes, even more so than chocolate and peanut butter).  But, if you are a strict vegan and don’t want to stick-your-hand-in-this-honey-jar, simply swap it out with more pure maple syrup or agave.

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Ok, I’m done talking now so you can hurry hurry hurry and make these for this weekend! It’s likely you have all the ingredients in your pantry. (Yes, you could use regular cocoa powder instead of cacao, I just recommend the later for all the amazing health benefits!) These are simply amazing, and I’ll probably be making them for every occasion from here on out, simply swapping out the papers for each holiday.  I can’t wait to hear what you think!

buckeye cups

Buckeye Cups
Makes 42-48 mini cups

Layer One:
3/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup Cacao powder
Layer Two:
3/4-1 cup all natural peanut butter (I used salted)
Layer Three:
3/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey (preferably raw and local)
1/4 cup all natural peanut butter
½ cup cacao powder

Optional: Course sea salt to sprinkle on top to make these Salted Buckeye Cups and blunt the bitterness of the cacao

Also Needed: Mini Muffin Tins and Mini Muffin Papers

1) Melt the coconut oil for layer one and stir in the maple syrup and cocoa powder until smooth. Spoon about a teaspoon of the chocolate into paper lined mini muffin cups. Slightly swirl the chocolate around in the cups so it runs of the sides of the papers, if you want the cups to have a “closed off” look instead of showing the layers. Pop in the freezer about 10 minutes to allow to harden.
2) While the bottom layer is freezing, you can place your peanut butter in there as well, if it’s super liquidy (this will help keep the peanut butter from spreading across the entire bottom, again, if you want the chocolate to entirely enclose the middle layer in the final product. If you don’t mind the layers showing from the side, no need to take this step). Then, once the bottom layer is frozen, spoon about 1/2 tsp of peanut butter into the middle of each cup. You can place in the fridge or freezer after this step, but I find it unnecessary.
3) Finally, mel the coconut oil, honey and peanut butter together for the top layer, then stir in the cacao powder until smooth. Spoon on top of the peanut butter until it is entirely covered. Sprinkle with sea salt if you’re using. Place back in the freezer, at least 10-15 minutes, or until ready to serve.  Before eating, allow to sit on the counter 5-10 minutes before biting in to, so the chocolate isn’t to hard. Note: These MUST be stored in the fridge or freezer, as coconut oil melts at anything above room temperature.


*For this recipe, I chose to use this cacao