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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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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