Eat More Chocolate

Give yourself a break and have some chocolate. Many studies have shown that there is antioxidants in the cocoa bean that are known to help lower blood pressure and keep arteries clean. Here are a few helpful hints:

1. Choose dark chocolate. The darker chocolates are less processed and contain more disease fighting flavanols than chocolate that is processed. In general the higher the percent of cocoa the better. Look at the ingredient list before purchasing because some manufacturers list sugar as the first ingredient. The better chocolate will list cocoa first.

2. Always check for sugar content. If sugar is down the list at number three or more, than it is a good bet this is a dark chocolate. The chocolates to search for usually have cocoa as number one and a fruit or nut as number two.

3. Practice portion control. It is hard when everything on the shelf is actually more than one serving. To reap the benefits associated with chocolate limit yourself to 1-2 ounces or roughly 150-250 calories per day.

The list of choices is enormous. Some of the best dark chocolates come from Europe, though some US producers are getting into the game. Alter Eco, Chocolove, Dagoba, Lindt and Endangered Species are all in the growing trend of treats. You can find these brands in just about any grocery store and even at some convenience stores around the nation.

Fruit fondues, trail mix, chocolate smoothies. So many choices, so little time. The next time you have a craving reach for the dark chocolate. It is satisfying and delicious.

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Milk Chocolate And Cranberry

Have you ever thought to use the cranberry beyond the holiday season? The cranberry thrives best during the fall and winter months , but many grocers carry the frozen berry all year round. The cranberry is grown in the bogs of  Southeastern Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. With a tart flavor, ruby-red color and named a “superfruit” due to their nutrient content and antioxidant qualities, why not give them a try.

When using the cranberry in a recipe, think of it as the shy sister of the raspberry and blueberry. Now you can imagine why it is so versatile beyond the usual sauce! You may have seen “Craisins” in the grocery store. These are dried cranberries and can be used in many of your dessert recipes. However, this humble whole fruit deserves the spotlight at your next gathering, no matter if it is dried or not.

Milk Chocolate Cranberry Bark

12 ounces milk chocolate, chopped (look for high quality such as Lindt or Ghiradellighiradellimilkchocolate

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) dried cranberries

1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) pistachios, lightly toasted

1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) candied orange zest, finely diced

Melt chocolates, separately, in a double boiler until smooth. Fold the cranberries and pistachios into the milk chocolate. Fold the candied zest into the dark chocolate. Pour the milk chocolate mixture into a large baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper, spreading into an even layer with a spatula. Allow to set for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, continue to stir the dark chocolate to prevent it from setting. Pour the dark chocolate over the milk chocolate, making sure to pour all over to minimize the need for additional spreading, making sure to cover the first layer completely. Let set at room temperature for at least 1 hour before attempting to cut. DO NOT cover or refrigerate because any condensation could make the bark grainy. To servecranberrybark break into pieces, storing any leftovers in an airtight container.

Other ideas are a Cranberry Chocolate Pie, Cranberry Stuffed Baked Apples, Cranberry Mousse, Dark Chocolate Cranberry Souffle and a Spiked Cranberry Granita.

Happy Baking!

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The Question is The Answer

Do you ever have questions about chocolate, but were too afraid to ask? Here are some answers to some of those questions:

The Toblerone bar includes: A) Honey, B) Malt extract, C) Molasses, or D) Rum? The answer is A) Honey! This iconic chocolate bar, created by Theodor Tobler in the early 1900’s originally contained milk chocolate, nougat, and honey. Today, this bar is also made with dark chocolate and white chocolate.  Anyway way you buy it, the taste is amazing.

Eating dark chocolate can cause: A) Acne, B) Cavities, C) Migraines, or D) None of the above? The answer is D) None of the above. So true based upon several studies that chocolate cannot be blamed for any of these ill effects. yeah! In fact, the antioxidants contained in chocolate may have healthy benefits. As with everything else you do in life, moderation is the key.

Which of the following is not a classic pairing with dark chocolate: A) Brandy, B) 12-tear old Scotch, C) Port, or D) Chardonnay? The answer is D) Chardonnay. Many people have debated chocolate pairings, none of which include Chardonnay. Most suggestions are aged Scotch, Armagnac or Bourbon, while others include a Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon. Be adventurous and try them all.

On Valentine’s Day (which is coming up!) in Japan, who traditionally gives out the chocolate: A) Women, B) Men, C) Parents, or D) Children? The answer is A) Women! On Valentine’s Day, Japanese women dole out two types of chocolate. This first is giri choco to their bosses and co-workers and the second is honmei choco for their sweethearts. Try it this year and see what happens.

Chocolate is amazing. So not matter where you are or what you are doing take some time to indulge.

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Can Chocolate Be That Good?

Healthy chocolate sounds like a dream come true, but is it really that healthy for you? Chocolate’s reputation is on the rise, as a growing number of studies suggest that it can be a heart-healthy choice.

 

Chocolate and its main ingredient, cocoa, appear to reduce risk factors for heart disease. Flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease. Flavanols, found more prevalent in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate or white chocolate, also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function. Believe it or not, some research has linked chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Remember, everything in moderation.

 

Most commercial chocolate has ingredients that add fat, sugar and calories. Too much can contribute to weight gain, a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Choose dark chocolate with cocoa content of 65 percent or higher. Look at brands that are made from European companies, such as Lindt, where chocolate is the main ingredient. Limit yourself to around 3 ounces (85 grams) a day. However, this amount may add up to 450 calories to your daily intake so you may want to cut calories in other areas or step up the exercise to compensate.

Curbing those sweet cravings with a dose of good chocolate can actually help. Read the ingredient list before purchasing and then sit back and enjoy!

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Become A Convert

Most people have an aversion to dark chocolate. Personally, I prefer the dark chocolate over milk chocolate on any given day. In doing some research there are a few reasons you should convert to dark chocolate. It can be quite scientific, but it may help change your mind:

Dark chocolate contains higher amounts of a phytochemical called flavonols. Flavonol is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in various types of plants, in particularly, the cocoa plant.  The two most prominent flavonols are called catechins (a type of natural phenol and antioxidant) and epicatechins (a nutrient in cocoa).  A 2008 study with 5000 people who ate 2 squares of dark chocolate per day had a lower C-reactive protein, used mainly as a marker of inflammation.  In addition, flavonols can actually relax your blood vessels, which lower blood pressure and, in turn, lower your risk of a heart attack.

Dark chocolate has much less sugar than milk and contains more cocoa butter, which comes naturally from the cacao bean, and is mostly monounsaturated (healthy) fat.  The higher the percent of cacao the better. Eating 2 squares of dark chocolate will raise your blood sugar less than a potato or a slice of bread! This is a treat the body can easily accommodate.

Transitioning to dark chocolate can take time, especially since you are used to the “sweet” threshold.  Each dark chocolate bar has a different taste and feel, much like coffee, so experiment with different brands and bars, especially those made in Europe.

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Pairing Your Chocolate

With dark chocolate making news as a decent source of antioxidants (in moderation!), what flavor combinations can you put together for your next party? A sophisticated sweet tooth is looking for new and unique combinations. Here are some suggestions:

Find a pure, 72% dark chocolate, such as the Ghirardelli Twilight Delight, and pair it with cognac, a dry red wine or a Cabernet. If you need additional flavor add warm toasted almonds, dried cherries, raisins or figs.

A dark chocolate, at least 72 % cocoa, with espresso beans such as Endangered Species Fair Trade, that is full-bodied in flavor. Pair with a Ruby Port, mug of steamed milk, Cabernet or hot chocolate. For additional pairings melt on a brioche or croissant, French toast, biscotti, or s’more.

Try an intense dark chocolate with mint, such as the Ghirardelli Mint Bliss bar. With 60% cocoa and fresh mint leads to a crisp and clean contrast to the smooth dark chocolate. Pair with Bailey’s Irish Cream, brandy, cognac, warm herbal tea or a traditional glass of ice cold milk. For more snack options use this bar in a brownie, in cheesecake, melted with salty pretzels or a handful of macadamia nuts.

Dark chocolate and orange is a combination hard to resist. A Lindt Intense Orange Excellence Bar will pair perfectly with a sweet dessert wine such as a Gewurtztraminer, or Grand Marnier, hot cup of coffee, espresso or cappuccino, or a jasmine tea. If you need more flavor have a slice of Chevre cheese with a square of the chocolate, dried apricots, toasted almond, or mixed into a bowl of cottage cheese.

Finally, for those who need it a bit sweeter, try an Amy’s Crunchy Organic Candy Bar that includes English toffee, almonds and dark chocolate. have a bite or two with a late-harvest Riesling or Zinfandel, a Muscat, a warm cup of chai, a glass of cream Sherry or a shot of Drambuie. This bar will even pair with salt and vinegar chips, a mix of salty nuts, and even a handful of popcorn!

So whether you are a dark chocolate fan or not. These pairings are delicious enough to create your own flavor party.

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Mother’s Day And Chocolate

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12th. Are you still procrastinating on what to get her? Here are a few tips that match your mom’s personality:

She Does it All: She is  Supermom. Mom has a successful career, is able to spend quality time with her kids, AND makes home cooked meals every night! How does she do it?  No one really knows. Thank your Mom with a nice gift basket such as the Deluxe Sampler from Lindt. Deluxe Sampler Gift Basket

Is Mom a Traditionalist? Just a modern day June Cleaver who has time to bake homemade cookies, volunteer at the school, coaches sports and insist on family at dinner.  Truffles will provide her with plenty of classic flavors to enjoy in Dark, Milk or White.

Don’t expect Mom to share her chocolate if she is a Caramel Queen:  She knows what she wants and you better not deprive her.  Mom enjoys getting her nails done, going to the gym or having a glass of wine at 4 pm on the back patio. This mom will not let anything or anyone- get in her way.  Make sure to buy her exactly what she wants and only that.  Nothing assorted, just straight up milk and dark chocolate caramels.LINDOR Truffle Caramel

Does your Mom respond to your question on what to get her with “Oh, Just Get Me A Little Something”? She is always thinking of others and never comfortable with too much attention and is happiest with a homemade or thoughtful card.  Give her something a little extra special with and assortment of summer chocolates or an elegant box of  truffles. Just enough of a decadent treat without her thinking you “over did it again” and she will probably share with you if you ask!

So, whatever type of personality your Mom has there is a chocolate waiting for her this Mother’s Day. You just have to go out there and find it. (Just an FYI: mine favorite is mint chocolate!)

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