A Perfect Chocolate Meal | Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!  The quintessential valentine’s day gift is a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolate.  This classic combination has been presented, at some point, in every relationship…ever!  While it is cliché how many of us don’t love it?  Man or woman chocolate is one of those decadent treats that scream romance.

As one of the world’s favorite treats chocolate receives a lot of attention in research.  We all want chocolate to be healthy; it’s just too yummy J  So what’s the deal?  Is it actually good for us?  Or is it one of those things that we want so badly that we are willing to create “false news” about.  (sorry I had to)

True Health Benefits of The Cocoa Plant

Yes chocolate IS good for you!  BUT  and this is big; manufactured, processed, with additives is not.  Cocoa in its raw form contains antioxidants and flavonoids.  In depth scientific research has shown these compounds to be useful in the fight against heart disease.  The cardiovascular effects are due to the fact that particular compounds (epicatechin and theobromine) improve blood flow throughout the body.

Some of these same compounds also contribute to keeping cancer at bay, helping to stabilize cholesterol levels and improve brain function.  This truly is one mighty bean!

The bad news is that these properties are only available in the raw form; processing destroys all that is good in the cocoa bean.  Organic, fair trade chocolate bars (often low in sugar and without milk) retain some of the health promoting properties as processing is limited.

Cacao Versus Cocoa

We see the words and wonder “what’s the difference”?  In reality the different spellings of cacao all come from the same root word: cacahuatl shortened to cacao.  Now we use the two different spellings to separate the natural from the manufactured.  Cacao refers to products made from the raw bean.  The beans are dried and fermented; this preserves all the healthy compounds.  Cocoa is the product of cacao beans that has been roasted; roasting changes the molecular structure of the bean.  Many of the healthy compounds are destroyed by the high heat.

No matter the spelling on packaging look for “cold pressed”; this lets you know the healthy compounds of the cacao bean are intact.

Valentine’s Day Menu

In honor of Valentine’s Day here is a meal that offers up all the good that cacao has to offer.

Salad: Fig and Goat Cheese Salad with Cacao Nib Praline

This salad is a great accompaniment to any meal but it pairs perfectly with the spicy eggplant.

Main: Spicy Sautéed Eggplant

While dish doesn’t look pretty it makes up for it in yum factor.  Anyone who likes eggplant will surely love this dish.

Dessert: Mexican Chocolate Torte

The perfect follow-up to any meal; this super rich torte is especially awesome after the above lighter meal.  Like things a bit spicey?  Add in a tad more chili.  My favorite is a dusting of cinnamon right before serving!

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