If you're like me, every year you have a real struggle finding the perfect Valentine for all the sweethearts in your life that are cute and sweet, yet not full of all that junk. This year toss that store bought heart-shaped box of chocolates aside and give them something really special like these homemade chocolates. You can control the ingredients in them so they can be as healthy or as indulgent as you like. To help you out I am giving you step by step instructions for three of my favorite do-it-yourself chocolate ideas...they're easy I promise!
All three of these treats are something that you can really feel good about giving. They are made with dark chocolate (try to use one that has at least 70% cocoa content) containing heart healthy flavanols which may help lower blood pressure and increase blood flow. They also have a bunch of antioxidant-rich Superfoods in them, like berries and ginger, to further promote a healthy heart and immune system too. They can be made even better by adding some nuts, containing unsaturated fats (those are the good ones) which may help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
So there you have it...Why not give your loved ones (and maybe yourself too) a gift that's truly from the heart, for the heart.
Let's get started!
**Each recipe begins with melted dark chocolate. There's two ways you can do this, either with a double-boiler or the microwave method. The double boiler is simple enough if you have one, just place the chocolate in the top section, with water gently simmering in the bottom, and stir it until the chocolate is smooth. I prefer the microwave method myself, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring between each one, until all the chocolate is melted.
To make Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries:
- Carefully wash the strawberries and lay them out on a towel to dry completely before dipping.
- Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with waxed paper.
- Holding the strawberries by the stem, dip them down into the melted chocolate.
- Pull them out and let the excess chocolate run back off.
- Lay them on the baking sheet.
- Allow to sit at room temperature until the chocolate is set.
- Warning: if you store them in the refrigerator the chocolate will sweat and be less than appetizing.
To make Pomegranate Orange & Ginger Bark:
- Prepare the pomegranate by separating the arils, zest the orange and finely chop the crystallized ginger.
- Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.
- Pour the melted dark chocolate onto the pan and let it spread out into a thin layer.
- Sprinkle the melted chocolate with the prepared pomegranate arils, orange zest, and crystallized ginger.
- Allow to cool and harden completely.
- Break up into small pieces.
- Can be stored for 2-3 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
To make Dark Chocolate Trail Mix Lollipops:
- Line a couple baking sheets with waxed paper.
- Gather any ingredients you may like for decorations and set in bowls so they are readily available.
- Suggestions: craisins, raisins, goji berries, other dried fruits, assorted nuts, or shredded coconut.
- Drop spoonfuls of the melted chocolate onto the baking sheets.
- Insert a lollipop stick about halfway into each "puddle" and twist slightly to coat it in chocolate.
- While still melted, sprinkle the lollipops with your desired toppings.
- Allow to cool and harden completely.
- Can be packaged and stored at room temperature.
Nutrition Information Resources:
The Greatist Team. (2012). The ultimate guide to nuts. Retrieved from http://greatist.com/health/types-of-nut-infographic
Healthy Eater. (2014). Dark chocolate: The best and worst brands. Retrieved from http://healthyeater.com/dark-chocolate-best-and-worst
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