It's hard to imagine Valentine's Day without chocolate. For many of us, a gift of chocolate is the ultimate taste of love. In addition to its incomparable flavor, chocolate delivers a delicious boost to our health. And what better way to say "I love you" than with a mouthwatering gift that just happens to be healthy too? Here's how chocolate and a few other star ingredients make for doubly scrumptious treats:
In addition to great pleasure, one of our favorite flavors also helps protect us from heart disease and some cancers while boosting our immune system, too. This is due to a widely studied plant chemical called flavonoids. Of course, pouring sugar and heavy cream into a gooey chocolate batter negates a lot of these healthy benefits. But knowing the right kind and portions of other ingredients to add makes chocolate shine with luscious flavor plus the added dose of great health.
Ounce for ounce, cocoa powder also contains the highest concentration of antioxidants compared to other foods. This vitamin-type substance helps slow the aging process. Be sure to reach for natural or non-alkalized when buying cocoa powder. That's because the alkali added to Dutch-style powders neutralizes or inactivates many of the antioxidants that make cocoa so healthy in the first place.
Who knew that strawberries stand toe-to-toe with oranges in terms of their vitamin C content? They also contain a concentrated source of ellagic acid, a powerful antioxidant. These vitamins promote wound healing and fight heart disease and some types of cancer. Vitamin C also helps build collagen, a protein that gives our skin structure and integrity. Celebrate strawberries with an easy recipe that works well any time of year.
Here are two scrumptious ways to share the ultimate gift of love: good health!
Ricotta Strawberry Parfait
Yield: 4 servings
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced (or raspberries)
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon agave or dark honey, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 tablespoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons grated orange peel, divided
1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
Toasted nuts (optional)
1. Combine berries, juice and 1 teaspoon of the orange peel in a small mixing bowl. Stir in allspice and set aside.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine ricotta with yogurt, remaining honey, and vanilla.
3. Divide half of the berry mixture into each of four champagne flute glasses. Divide half of the cream between the glasses. Repeat. Garnish with fresh mint, remaining orange zest, and nuts if desired.
Fat Calories: 0
Total Fat: 0g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Total Carbs: 18g
Chocolate Nut Biscotti
Servings: Makes about 36 cookies
1-1/4 cups lightly toasted chopped nuts (walnuts, pistachios, almonds or pecans)
1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1 large egg
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat a 15x10-inch baking sheet with cooking oil spray.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, cocoa, baking power, salt, and 3/4 cup of nuts. Process until nuts are finely ground and incorporated with the dry ingredients. Transfer to mixing bowl.
3. In small mixing bowl, combine syrup, egg, and vanilla. Make a well in dry ingredients and pour in the syrup mixture. Stir just until a dough forms. Mix in remaining chopped nuts until incorporated. Dough will be stiff.
4. Form into two rolls, about 10 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Press on rolls with palm to flatten to a 1-inch thickness.
5. Place biscotti rolls on prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes.
6. While the biscotti rolls are still warm, slice each of them diagonally with a serrated knife into about 18 1/2-inch slices (for a total of about 36 slices).
7. Place biscotti on a clean 15x10-inch baking sheet and return to oven to bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.
Note: To toast nuts in the oven, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the nuts on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, or until fragrant. Stir nuts a few times during baking to ensure even browning. To toast on the stovetop, place the nuts in a small saute pan over medium heat. Toast nuts, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and very lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Fat calories: 25
Total Fat: 3g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Total Carbs: 7g
Chef Cheryl Forberg RD is a James Beard award-winning chef and the nutritionist for NBC's The Biggest Loser. For more cooking tips and nutrition information visit her web site at www.cherylforberg.com or follow her on Twitter @CherylForbergRD and www.facebook.com/cherylforbergrd