Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. What’s the first thing that pops into your head? For me, it’s chocolate. My mind starts swirling, trying to figure out which “healthified” delicious chocolate treats I’m going to whip up for hubby and the boys.
It should be it’s own food group!
Actually, dark chocolate can be quite good for you, provided you keep the portion size reasonable (note, that means less than 1.5 oz per day). That way you don’t consume too many calories.
Dark chocolate is rich in flavanols (an antioxidant), which have a blood-thinning effect, benefitting cardiovascular health, and it may also boost the immune system by reducing inflammation. There is some research that suggests cocoa may help lower blood pressure. It appears that a compound in cocoa, called epicatechin, boosts nitric oxide, a substance that has been shown to be crucial to healthy blood vessels. Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels to improve blood flow (to certain areas important to Valentine’s Day – hint, hint!). Be sure to choose dark chocolate, ideally one that’s 70 percent cocoa solids; milk chocolate lacks significant levels of epicatechin. Also, the darker the chocolate, the lower the sugar content. I find that chocolate in the 70-76% range has the right balance of deep chocolate and mild sweetness. Above that it gets too bitter.
Enjoy some yummy chocolate recipes for the upcoming Valentine’s Day or anytime you nees a rockin’ dessert! Let me know what you think.
CHOCOLATE CHERRY CHUNK MERINGUES
- 4 large egg whites
- ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- ½ tsp. almond extract
- ½ cup dried cherries, chopped
- 3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
- Preheat oven to 200 F.
- Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place egg whites and cream of tartar in a large glass mixing bowl or in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high, and gradually add granulated sugar and then add powdered sugar, 1 tbs. at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Add extract, beat until blended. Add cherries and chocolate and fold gently until combined.
- Use a tablespoon to drop mounds of meringue onto parchment paper. Place in oven and bake at 200 F for 2 hours. Turn off oven and cool meringues in closed oven at least 2 more hours (best to leave them overnight) to dry out. Carefully remove from parchment paper.
Makes 35 cookies: 45 calories each
FALLEN CHOCOLATE ALMOND SOUFFLE CAKE
- 1/3 c. whole raw, unsalted almonds
- 3 tbs. whole-wheat pastry flour
- 2 ½ oz. dark chocolate, chopped fine
- 1/3 c. unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
- 1 cup turbinado sugar
- 1/3 c boiling water
- 1 egg yolk
- ¼ tsp. almond extract
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 egg whites
- ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Position rack in lower third of oven. Spray an 8-inch round springform pan with cooking spray.
- Process almonds with flour until fine. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine chocolate, cocoa, and ¾ cup sugar. Add boiling water and whisk until smooth. Add egg yolk and extracts. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, beat whites with cream of tartar at medium speed to form soft peaks. Sprinkle in remaining ¼ cup sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form. Quickly whisk almond mixture into chocolate. Fold in ¼ of whites to lighten the chocolate mixture. The fold in remaining whites. Scrape into pan and smooth the surface. Bake 25-30 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool in pan on a rack. Cake will sink and crack as it cools.
- Release springform pan and transfer to serving platter.
Makes 10 servings: 165 calories, 5.3 g fat, 3.8 g protein, 28 g carb
THICK HOT CHOCOLATE
- 2 1/4 cups nonfat milk
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Combine milk, cocoa, sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking often, until steaming. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until it comes to a boil, then remove from the heat.
Per serving: 98 calories; 2 g fat ; 19 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein