Chocolate, let us count the ways we love thee!
And, lucky for us, studies still tell us that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is still on the okay list to love. In fact, eating dark chocolate has been shown to buffer your body’s reaction to the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine according to recent research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Dark chocolate is rich in epicatechin phenols, which have strong antioxidant properties. Researchers on the study believe that these may thwart cortisol production so that after you eat dark chocolate you have less of it in your system.
Need more to indulge? Chocolate is rich in flavonoids, too—known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Because of this, chocolate is also thought to help keep the heart healthy by minimizing inflammation, increasing blood-vessel dilation to help blood flow, and having an aspirin-like effect on blood platelets, decreasing the likelihood for blood clots. Chocolate is also thought to be a source of iron, which is needed for the brain to create the neuro-hormone dopamine that helps us focus.
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, how best to indulge in chocolate? Consider these easy tips and recipes:
Just the chocolate, please:
There are so many wonderful varieties of chocolate available these days, simply buy a few different kinds, break them up and serve (to yourself, friends or guests). For that matter, a few different kinds of chocolate bars make for a great gift. Think dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds, milk chocolate with peanut butter or toffee chips, raspberries and cherries in dark chocolate, and you get the idea.
Host a chocolate tasting:
Just like a wine tasting, why not try doing a chocolate taste test with friends. Try chocolate with different percentages of cacao to see what the difference is in taste. Think low percentages for sweet milk chocolate all the way up to 70-99% for the more bitter dark chocolates. Of course, you could always combine this with a wine tasting to help wash down anything too bitter.
Melt and dip:
Want a quick dessert that tastes and looks great? Try dipping strawberries in melted chocolate. It’s as easy as it sounds. Melt dark chocolate. Dip strawberries. Place on a plate or cookie sheet with parchment paper and place in the fridge until the chocolate cools and hardens. Or, to make them extra pretty, melt some white chocolate, too, and drizzle it like zebra stripes across the dark chocolate. Enjoy!
Need something even more indulgent?
Dark, Fudgy, Rich Brownies
6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unbleached flour
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a pan (large enough to hold all ingredients) over low heat, melt chocolate with butter. When the chocolate is almost completely melted, remove the pan from heat and let the mixture cool until it is lukewarm. Stir in the sugar, vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Stir in the salt and flour, stirring only until the mixture is just combined. Pour batter into a prepared 9×13-inch baking pan. Place brownies in the middle of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Use a toothpick to determine if brownies are done. When stuck in the middle it should come out with just a few crumbs stuck to it. Let brownies cool and dig in!