The holidays are often synonymous with stress, exhaustion, and over-indulgence. How can we find a happy balance between enjoying the festivities, treating ourselves, and staying grounded? This month, we’re sharing our favorite guilt-free indulgences with you, so you can create time and space for yourself.

Today, we speak with the founder of raw chocolate company FINE & RAW, Daniel Sklaar, about why we should treat ourselves to chocolate and agonize over it.

Splendid Spoon: Hi Daniel! Tell us about your journey to creating FINE & RAW.

Daniel Sklaar: I grew up in South Africa and came to NYC after college and a year of backpacking in India. When I first arrived in NYC I got a job as a financial analyst. After a bit of time I left that job to pursue my chocolate-filled dreams.

SS: What led you to make raw chocolate? And how do you create it?

DS: I’ve always followed the path of chocolate — I’m chocolate obsessed! Back in 2006, after leaving the finance world, I was a raw food chef and raw chocolate hit the raw scene [Raw chocolate is made without heating it over 140 degrees F. — Ed]. There was so much excitement in this community as raw chocolate opened up a whole new world of possible flavors and experiences. I wanted to throw chocolate into every dish, so I simplified and started to make exclusively chocolate. Back then we were making raw chocolate in Vitamixes. Now we do it in big stone grinders.

SS: We’ve all heard the rumors…Is raw chocolate actually good for you?

DS: In a word, yes, the rumors are true. It’s one of the highest antioxidant foods around — it contains 40 times as much antioxidants as in blueberries. There’s a ton of research out there about how good dark chocolate is for you, and raw chocolate takes all the benefits of dark chocolate to the next level. It’s a superfood! [Keep sipping that antioxidant-filled Cacao Almond Smoothie, Spoon Crew! — Ed.]

SS: You have such amazing flavors and creations: how do you decide what to make next?

DS: I follow my gut instincts and am experimental with the food I eat. I’m a total food tourist too and get a lot of ideas from being out in the world and discovering new tastes.

SS: How can we better, and more mindfully, appreciate the flavors and nuances of chocolate?

DS: One of the best ways to be more mindful and experience heightened flavors is to let chocolate melt in your mouth, without chewing it. Use your tongue to push the chocolate around the upper part of your palette and take deep, comfortable breaths. It’s amazing what you can experience!

SS: Do you follow a raw diet or are you only raw when it comes to chocolate?

DS: I used to be a super hardcore raw foodist. I’m much more flexible these days with my diet and focus more on moderation. Of course I don’t think moderation is a good idea with raw chocolate ;).

SS: Excluding chocolate, what are you guilt-free indulgences?

DS: Great question. Let’s see, staying up late and sleeping in on the weekends is definitely high on that list. I love getting bodywork/massages and indulging in frothy matcha lattes blended with FINE & RAW dulce de leche [Need this now! — Ed.]