It’s not really news these days that dark chocolate, especially that which is high in cocoa, has quite a few health benefits. After years of being told that every guilty pleasure that we enjoy is slowly killing us, it is a relief to know that small amounts of some our favorite treats, such as chocolate and red wine, can provide us with some healthful advantage. While these chocolate truffles should still be considered a treat, due to their sugar and fat content, just a small amount can be a healthy addition to the diet. A small amount of cocoa contains a high level of antioxidants that studies have shown to have heart-healthy effects, such as lower oxidation levels of bad LDL cholesterol and higher levels of HDL cholesterol. Other studies have also shown that cocoa in dark chocolate may reduce blood clotting, stabilize arterial plaque, and keep arteries more flexible, while increasing blood flow, which can have a positive effect on blood pressure and help reduce risk of heart attack and stroke.
Prepare these chocolate truffles as a treat for your Valentine and find comfort in the fact that you may be doing something for nice for their health as well.
- 8 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (high quality, 62% or higher cacao) chopped into small pieces
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 teaspoons Amaretto (optional)
- 1 tablespoon almond extract (optional)
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- ½ cup chopped almonds (optional)
- In a small, heavy saucepan bring the heavy whipping cream to a simmer.
- Place the chocolate in a separate bowl. Pour the cream over the chocolate, add the vanilla, Amaretto or almond extract, and allow to stand for a few minutes. Then stir until smooth. You have now prepared the chocolate base referred to as ganache.
- Allow to cool and then place in the refrigerator for two hours. Remove from refrigerator and with a tablespoon roll out balls of the ganache. Roll in your hands quickly, so not to melt, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place back in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours.
- Roll in cocoa powder or chopped nuts and serve. Keep refrigerated.
Saturated Fat: 2g
This month’s recipe is a little something different. These Caribbean cakes take quite a bit of prep, but they are fairly easy to assemble, and their unique, tropical flavor is worth every minute of work. They work great as a vegetarian entrée, but they are light enough to accompany a protein at mealtime. They can also make for the perfect appetizer. The fact that they consist of mostly vegetables high in antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory properties is an added bonus. The recipe serves 12.
- 3 pounds carrots, shredded
- 2 pounds mashed butternut squash or sweet potato
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ½ cup toasted coconut
- ¾ cup chopped toasted almonds
- ½ cup curry powder
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Peel and dice butternut squash or sweet potato, toss in olive oil and roast in a 400 degree oven until soft in the middle. About 20 minutes. Mash in a bowl with a potato masher.
- Lay coconut and chopped almonds separately on greased sheet pans. Put into a 400 degree oven until lightly toasted. About 3 minutes for the coconut and 5 minutes for the almonds.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients into the bowl with the butternut squash/sweet potato and mix thoroughly by hand (this can be done in a mixing bowl with the paddle attachment).
- Form into cakes about 2 inches in diameter. Either bake in a sheet pan at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown (cooking time will vary depending on your oven) or fry in a skillet in 2 tablespoons of olive oil at medium-high heat until golden brown on each side.
Saturated Fat: 1g