I do love chocolate, although I'm finding I'm less and less addicted to it lately. It could be because I've been snacking on naturally sweetened carob chips instead!
Carob is different from chocolate in many ways, and doesn't really taste that much like chocolate, but for people who have adapted their palette to be receptive to the delightful subtle flavours natural foods have to offer, this is one treat easy to fall in love with.
Carob comes from carob tree (locust bean) and is actually a legume that is native to the eastern Mediterranean. Female trees bear numerous, long and flattened, dark brown pods, each of which can contains up to 15 brown seeds embedded in pulp. So far not unlike the cacao tree. The differences include that carob contains no stimulants, caffeine or theobromine, is virtually fat-free, is a source of protein and calcium, and is soothing to the digestive tract. Since it's naturally sweet and not bitter like cocoa, it's easy to use in treats and baking without needing lots of milk, cream or sugar. Also, agriculturally speaking, a carob tree produces upto 1 ton of beans each harvest, where cacaos bear around 1 kg (dried) and require spraying with pesticides and fungicides.
Carob pods are coarsely ground to first remove the seeds and are then roasted and ground to produce carob powder. The seeds can also be processed, being used mainly to produce locust bean gum, which is used as a gelling agent, stabiliser or emulsifier in products such as ice cream.
Here are some yummy-looking carob recipes I've found online for you to try while experimenting with carob powder and carob chips:
Coconut Carob and Almond Pudding
Various carob recipes on Cooks.com
Carob Nut Clusters
Hazel's Carob Cheesecake
Carob Rice Pudding
Carob Peanut Butter Meringues
Carob Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Carob Balls with nuts and coconut
Do a search of your own and see what great stuff comes up!