20 Apr If this is Easter, there must be chocolate
All the world is chocolate, as soon as you give it up for Lent. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been confronted with that now-forbidden favorite flavor since my brilliant Ash Wednesday Lenten decision to make a significant sacrifice and forgo all things chocolate.
The custom of giving chocolate eggs as Easter gifts originated in Europe in the 19th century and quickly spread all over the world. Those Europeans had the right idea back then, giving these small dark chocolate treats, which imparted important health benefits of chocolate to their recipients.
Dark chocolate provides the body with powerful antioxidants and might lower blood pressure and cholesterol as well as reduce the risk of diabetes. Containing caffeine, this superfood serves as a mild stimulant and promotes the production of feel-good endorphins. It’s no wonder I keep missing it.
If you’re thinking of adding a chocolate treat to your diet for the added health benefits, the best kind is dark chocolate because of the higher flavonoid content. A small serving, about 100 grams or 3.5 ounces a day, is all you really need, especially because many chocolate products contain added fat and sugar.
A quick trip down the candy aisle of most localgrocery stores or drug stores will offer you a good selection of tempting treats. Look for smaller-sized dark, bittersweet or semisweet chocolates. Dove Dark Chocolate Promises are smooth-textured bite-sized chocolates wrapped in foil wrappers with messages inside.
Hershey’s Special Dark Miniatures and Hershey’s Special Dark kisses in the purple wrappers are other ways to enjoy the benefits of dark chocolate without going overboard.
Buying bittersweet chocolate chips in the baking aisle is another way to enjoy a darker healthier variety of chocolate than the more standard semisweet or milk chocolate. They can be combined with walnuts and dried cherries to make a quick portable snack mix.
Studies have shown that milk might interfere with the absorption of antioxidants, so you’ll want to avoid washing down that dark chocolate with a glass of milk.
As for me, I’m excitedly awaiting Easter. And when it finally rolls around on April 24, you can bet I’ll be having something good and chocolaty to celebrate.
I give you my Special of the Day: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: A Chocolate- Covered Easter. The lineup includes Pot de Creme au Chocolat, Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries and Chocolate Grand Marnier Ganache.
POT DE CREME AU CHOCOLAT» 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped » 2 tbsp. granulated sugar » ¾ cup heavy cream » 2 egg yolks, beaten » 1 tsp. almond extract » Dash of salt » ¼ cup toasted almonds » ¼ cup sweetened whipped cream, for garnish » Chocolate curls, for garnish
Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Add sugar and cream and whisk until smooth. Add a small amount of the chocolate mixture to the beaten eggs and whisk thoroughly.
Slowly add the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture in the double boiler and whisk until thoroughly combined.
Continue cooking and whisking for an additional 10 minutes.
Stir in almond extract and salt.
Pour into small dessert dishes, cover and refrigerate until set.
Garnish with dollops of whipped cream, chocolate curls and toasted almonds.
Makes six small servings.
Serve this delectable sauce over ice cream or as the dipping chocolate for fondue with cream puffs or cake cubes.
In a medium heavy saucepan over medium high heat, heat cream to a simmer.
Remove from heat and add chocolate. Allow to melt briefly. Whisk until smooth.
Whisk in Grand Marnier.
Pour into jars, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Can be reheated briefly in the microwave.
CHOCOLATE-DIPPED STRAWBERRIES» 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped » 15 strawberries, washed dried and chilled
Heat chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave for 45 seconds.
Remove from microwave and stir until smooth.
Stick the sharp end of a wooden skewer onto a strawberry and dip into melted chocolate, swirling to cover evenly.
At this point, chocolate dipped strawberries can be rolled in finely chopped nuts, mini chocolate chips or white chocolate curls, if desired.
Place chocolate-dipped strawberry on waxed paper to cool.
Repeat with remaining strawberries.
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