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Chocolate — and healthy — Valentine’s Day treats


 

Is chocolate a guilty treat or a great-tasting, heart-healthy indulgence? Do you use chocolate to boost your mood, or reserve it for special celebrations? Chocolate has been considered an aphrodisiac food since the time of Aztecs. It’s said to contain a substance that inflames desire and makes the beloved one more open to romance.

Whatever your reason for choosing chocolate, emerging research shows there may be some health benefits to consuming certain types of chocolate. This is wonderful news for chocolate lovers and for anyone who enjoys celebrating Valentine’s Day!

Unsweetened cocoa and dark chocolate appear to be healthier choices than other kinds of chocolate. Dark chocolate also is a delicious, heart-healthy choice for Valentine’s Day. Blood pressure, cardiovascular health and insulin sensitivity have all been shown to improve from the flavonoids in the cocoa bean.

Not all chocolate is created equal: The higher the cocoa content, the greater the health benefits from flavonoids, which help protect against aging and some chronic diseases. Following unsweetened cocoa powder on the list for highest percentage of cocoa is unsweetened baking chocolate and dark chocolate.

Studies suggest that eating dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa improves cardiovascular health. Semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate are lower in cocoa content.

My recipe for Dark Chocolate Delights are bonbons that are simple to make and the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for the health and happiness of the ones you love. Dates are a sweet and “delightful” ingredient in these dark chocolate bonbons. Dates are rich in calcium, sulfur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper and magnesium, which are all advantageous for health. Have a happy (and heart-healthy) Valentine’s Day!

DARK CHOCOLATE DELIGHTS

1 cup peanut butter, smooth
or chunky
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 cup stevia powdered sugar
(see recipe below)

1 cup dates, chopped
( not the prepackaged,
chopped type)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter,
softened, divided
1 1/2 cups semisweet
chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup dark chocolate
chips
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut, optional

To make sugar- free powdered sugar:

1 cup stevia (like Truvia Baking Blend or Whole Earth Baking Blend)

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Combine the stevia and cornstarch in a blender or food processor. Combine the ingredients on high until it creates the look and consistency of traditional powdered sugar. Use in the recipe as directed. Makes 1 cup.

To make the BonBons:

1. Using a large bowl, combine peanut butter, pecans, stevia powdered sugar, dates and 1 tablespoon butter, and mix well. Form mixture into 1-inch balls. Set aside in refrigerator to harden, about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, melt the semisweet chips in a large glass measuring cup or medium bowl in the microwave on medium power (or on defrost setting), about 2 minutes, stirring once after 1 minute, until melted and smooth.

3. Stir in remaining dark chocolate chips and stir constantly until smooth (this cools and tempers the chocolate, setting up crystals so it will harden). Stir in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter to bring the chocolate to a glossy finish.

4. Dip each bonbon ball into the melted chocolate mixture and set the bonbons on wax paper or parchment paper. Sprinkle with shredded coconut, if desired. Let stand until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Store tightly covered at room temperature. Makes about 32 bonbons.

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Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is www.divapro.com.

©Angela Shelf Medearis

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