Conscious Cook: Sweeten your days with a bite of dark chocolate

“Chocolate is happiness that you can eat.” — Ursula Kohaupt

Love is in the air and with Valentine’s Day approaching, chocolate is the premier ingredient for February. Dark chocolate, particularly, will provide lovers with a sensuous and satisfying taste sensation that offers many health benefits.

Dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is a chemical your brain releases when you fall in love. How natural then to share a bit of dark chocolate with your amour!

Superb dark chocolate can be found at many supermarkets, health food stores and specialty markets. For value and flavor, I particularly like the choices offered at Trader Joe’s.

For a simple yet super sexy Valentine dessert, assemble a tasting plate featuring squares of dark chocolate with increasingly high cacao content. Pretty up the plate with a handful of fresh raspberries and a mint leaf or two.

Take one small piece of each dark chocolate at a time, and let that miniature marvelousness melt slowly in your mouth. Close your eyes and relax into the experience as the tongue warms and reveals the unique nuances of each chocolate.

Eating dark chocolate, a supreme mood enhancer, will surely guarantee an evening of pure happiness.

A delightful date night delicacy is warm dark chocolate fondue accompanied by zesty citrus fruits, sweet apple slices, perfectly ripe bananas and light, lovely angel food cake.

Or, if your palate prefers, prepare a chocolate bark studded with pomegranate seeds and pistachios, or tiny bits of ginger and dried raspberries.

Silky smooth chocolate mousse or crispy chocolate-coated cornflake cookies are easy yet exquisite recipes that will capture the heart.

While dark chocolate may capture the heart, there is some evidence it may also protect the heart. The copper and potassium found in dark chocolate may have some impact on lowering the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease and reducing blood pressure levels.

Dark chocolate has a high magnesium content, so consuming more dark chocolate could possibly lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Surprisingly rich in iron, dark chocolate may boost one’s resistance to anemia and iron deficiency. Dark chocolate may have some influence on strengthening teeth and preventing cavities, due to the alkaloid theobromine, derived from cacao.

There is caffeine in dark chocolate, which if tolerated well, acts as a mild stimulant that can boost energy levels, providing the necessary verve for amorous pursuits.

Prepare a delicious life with dark chocolate this month and savor the joy of true love!

Chocolate happiness

5-6 cups cornflakes

1 bar of Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Dark Chocolate

1/2 cup dried cherries or finely chopped dried apricots or Medjool dates

1 teaspoon flaked sea salt (Maldon is perfect)

Chop or break chocolate into small pieces. Melt in a double boiler, or melt in a microwave by cooking on medium-high power at 30-second intervals. Stir with a rubber spatula each time.

Continue until chocolate is melted and stir until very smooth.

Place the cornflakes and dried fruit in a large bowl. Add the melted chocolate and stir gently until cereal and fruit are well coated.

Using a tablespoon, scoop mixture to form individual cookies and place each onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle each cookie lightly with sea salt. Let cool in the refrigerator.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.