We aren't usually thinking of the health benefits of dark chocolate when we make delicious gifts to give to our friends on Christmas, Valentines Day, Mothers Day, or any day, or even just to munch on ourselves. These health benefits should be considered though, as they are so important.
We did think about it enough to come up with a second page of healthy chocolate information - click here on "Healthy Chocolate" to view that page.
As you know, scientific research has proven that dark chocolate, taken in moderate amounts, is really good for you. A few important facts to keep in mind are:
One of the really big health benefits of dark chocolate is that it can help keep our heart strong by preventing clogged arteries and, according to a study done in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, even improve insulin sensitivity.
It can provide protection against heart disease and high blood pressure.
It can reduce the risk of blood clots thereby helping to prevent strokes.
Dark chocolate increasers endurance and even improves skin quality (and we were always told that chocolate causes zits!)
Another of the health benefits of dark chocolate is that it also contains essential trace elements of iron, calcium and potassium, as well as vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E!
Yet another of the health benefits of dark chocolate is that it can improve your cholesterol levels - lowering the LDL (bad) cholesterol and raising the HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Amount and Type.
If you eat 1-2 ounces (50 grams) - unfortunately that's not very much - you can enjoy these benefits.
Note: In all this healthy excitement, however, don't miss the part about only eating 1 to 2 ounces, and also that it has to be dark chocolate, not white chocolate or milk chocolate. Otherwise, you are just feeding the fat cells as you enjoy that delicious milk chocolate candy bar. The higher the chocolate content the healthier the chocolate.
Well, enough of that, let's get on with some fun chocolate gift ideas.
I have a couple of recipes that are fun and fast to make and that meet all the good criteria needed to make chocolate healthy - except maybe not being able to stop at one or two ounces.
My grandmother use to make this recipe of chocolate covered pecans for special occasions - AND she even used semi-sweet chocolate chips. Good for her! Do you think she knew, even then, what the health benefits of dark chocolate are?
Chocolate Covered Pecans
3 cups semi-sweet or bitter sweet chocolate chips, melted
2 cups pecans or you can use your favorite nut (every nut is healthy, some have more fat than others, but they are all good for you) Plus more to sprinkle over the top if you want.
All you do is line a baking sheet with foil. Get it all smooth so your chocolate will dry flat.
Melt the chocolate. Grandma used a double boiler on the stove, and that works great, or you can do it in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave it for one minute, then stir, then continue to microwave it at 20 second intervals, stirring each time, until melted.
Add the nuts to the chocolate and stir well.
Pour the mixture onto the foil, scraping the bowl well and spread it out evenly. Top it with the extra (finely chopped) nuts.
Let it cool and harden. You can put it in the refrigerator to hasten the process.
When it is ready, cut it into squares.
Put it in an airtight container and label it, listing the ingredients and noting that it will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks. - Like it will really last that long!!!
This next recipe I'm going to suggest is so good. I could gobble the whole thing down in nothing flat. And I am not just eating it for the health benefits of dark chocolate -or the fact that blueberries are full of antioxidants -and pecans are packed with nutrients like potassium, vitamin E, phytosterols, beta-sitosterol, and fiber and coconut is a super food - but rather because it is down right delicious.
8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 c. finely shredded unsweetened coconut, divided
3/4 c. finely chopped toasted pecan pieces, divided
1/2 c. dried cherries or blueberries, chopped (dried cherries would also be delicious)
Once again, line your baking sheet with foil.
Finely chop 1/4 c. of pecans and add 1/4 c. coconut to it. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate until it is smooth. Remove from heat. Add 3/4 c. coconut, 1/2 c. pecans, and cherries or blueberries.
Using a spoon, quickly drop rounded tablespoon sized drops onto the foil. Sprinkle with the remaining pecans and coconut. Allow to cool until firm, about 1 hour. Store in the refrigerator.
This next recipe came off the bag of flour many decades ago. It has always been one of my family's favorites.
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies makes 6 dozen cookies
2 cups granulated sugar (I cutthis to 1 1/2 c. and use raw sugar)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use half oil and half applesauce)
2 t. vanilla
4 squares (1 oz. each unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
4 eggs (you can use just the egg whites)
2 cups unbleached flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Mix granulated sugar, oil, vanilla and melted chocolate in large bowl.
Beat in eggs, one at a time.
Stir in flour, baking powder and salt.
Heat oven to 350. Grease cookie sheet (I use parchment paper).
Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls; roll in powdered sugar.
Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake 10 - 12 minutes.
These are super cute if you sprinkle them with crushed candy cane before baking, then add a few candy canes to the plate of cookies.
Now go check out the next page on Healthy Chocolate.
Now we are out of space, go to my next page on healthy chocolate recipes which will include some really fast and fun recipes to whip up for gifts, or to use for the family or company.
There is a delicious dark chocolate recipe that is easy and fun and fast to make and can be decorated up for gift giving, it is a healthier version of a Peanut Butter Cup, as well as a recipe for homemade hot chocolate, and more.