March is National Nutrition Month!
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly the American Dietetic Association, rang the NASDAQ opening bell yesterday. While I think we all should continually learning and practicing healthy eating, I couldn’t resist celebrating.
Ok, that’s a lie. It was a mere excuse to indulge my sweet tooth. But watch as I work my wonders rationalizing my way through this (surprisingly guilt-free) treat.
Dark chocolate bark with toasted nuts and coconut.
I was inspired by this beautiful blog… and a very persistent craving for dark chocolate. This was the perfect solution to my battling mind – staying true to my healthy ways and the evil, nagging, weakening cravings.
We all know that dark chocolate is the better option when walking down the candy isle. High in antioxidants, flavanoids, trace minerals, not to mention the bliss factor… I found an amazing local chocolate, made right here in Escazú, that is so smooth and creamy, y sin leche! I unfortunately do not know the cacao percentage, and judging by how it melts in your mouth way to well, it is probably around 60%. Good enough for me.
Walnuts: Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which I am a big fan of. They are a big player in reducing inflammation; cardiovascular and arthritic, specifically, with plenty of other benefits. While there is insufficient data to yet make general claims, a recent report reviewed by the New York Times has concluded that brain deterioration, or aging, is linked to low omega-3 intake. While not all research can derive claims, it is certain that there are few negatives with omega-3’s. I could talk for hours about this amazing polyunsaturated fatty acid.
Almonds: Like walnuts, almonds are sodium free and rich in trace minerals. These guys are also high in Vitamin E, a nutrient I always include in my polyunsaturated fat discussion. My oatmeal post touches on the subject, too, but basically it is all a matter of chemistry. The nature of the polyunsaturated fats, having multiple double bonds, lends itself to free radical damage, cellular damage that has been linked to cancer. Antioxidants, such as vitamin A, C, and E, may help prevent this cellular damage. I like to pair vitamin E with my fatty acids because it is a fat soluble vitamin (fat+fat soluble=happy body). Not to mention, vitamin E is just plain good for you.
Coconut: I can’t talk up the coconut that much. It is high in fiber, cholesterol free, and the coconut water (coconut milk is different) is a great source of electrolytes but it is pretty high in fat. We’re going to focus on the fiber content…
- 1/2c Coconut, unsweetened, shredded
- 1/2c Walnuts, whole, raw, unsalted
- 1/2c Almonds, whole, raw, unsalted
- 300g Dark Chocolate, coarsely chopped
- Coarse Sea Salt or Kosher Salt (optional if you want to keep it heart healthy)
I highly encourage choosing toppings you like. If I was in the states I would be picking up different nuts, maybe some dried fruit, and definitely my stash of pink sea salt from my aunt. Peppercorns anyone? Bacon? Ok, we’ll stick to the nutrition post…
I began by coarsely chopping chopping the nuts and placing each ingredient in a separate bowl. You could leave everything raw and throw them on the chocolate as is but because I knew I wasn’t going to be adding salt to enhance the flavor, I decided toasting would be a great idea. First I toasted the coconut. Over a low flame, put the shredded coconut in the pan and constantly move, more so toward the end, when you start to smell something tropical. Once it starts to brown, turn off the heat and don’t stop moving it.
Cool the coconut in it’s own bowl and use a dry rag to wipe out any bits left over. Return the pan to the stove, this time over a low-medium flame and toast the walnuts and almonds, separately. They will take a bit longer to toast, make sure the pieces are relatively the same size, and continue to move them about. Do not walk away. Don’t do it, trust me.
I melt my chocolate via double-boiler. The double boiler method is a glass bowl resting over top a pot of boiling water, so the heat from the steam is melting the chocolate. Don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the boiling water and do not let any water get into your chocolate or it will seize. Coarsely chop the chocolate while you wait for water to boil then add to the bowl. It shouldn’t take long to melt, leave it alone for a minute, then stir with a spatula. You can overcook chocolate so once most of the solids are melted, remove it from the heat, let sit for a moment, then stir to reveal velvety liquid gold. Prepare a baking pan lined with parchment, a pizza pan in my case, and gently pour the chocolate, smoothing to your desired thickness. Then the fun happens! Sprinkle you toppings however you want. Sprinkles would be cute, too, add that to the list. Once you’re done playing Willy-Wonka, put it in a safe place to set in the refrigerator. I left mine for about an hour then put it in the freezer for five minutes until I was ready to break it. It was much easier to shatter after freezing.
I immediately stored it in containers, in the freezer. It’s safer that way. The coconut with walnut was by far the unanimous favorite around the house. Eat it, love it, and feel good about it. – Jes