Sweet Somethings

Make your Valentine's Day a little sweeter with guilt-free (and romantic) chocolate-dipped fruit
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So knowing this is February and that this recipe features dark chocolate, you could be forgiven for thinking I'm going to lead with all the wonderful things dark chocolate does for you. Well, think again! First, I'd like to talk about the one ingredient here that might raise an eyebrow or two-palm oil.

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Because palm oil is largely made of saturated fat, it has an undeserved reputation as "bad," but it's anything but that. I'm a huge fan of palm oil, particularly Malaysian palm oil. It stands up to heat. It's packed with antioxidants. And it's also a good source of tocotrienols, members of the vitamin E family that help prevent brain cell death after a stroke, among other things. And I like Malaysian palm oil specifically because it's sustainable. In fact, The Malaysian Palm Oil Council is one of the most environmentally conscientious organizations out there. So when you see palm oil in an ingredient list, don't panic-it's a great food.

Now on to the chocolate. Dark chocolate is one of the world's healthiest foods. I even gave it a "star" in my book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, because it's a standout even among other supremely healthy foods. High cocoa chocolate contains flavanols that have been found to lower blood pressure and protect the heart and brain. Cocoa is so good for you that it's even sold in a few supplement forms now, including capsules.

In short, dark chocolate plus fruit equals a ton of antioxidants and health-protecting nutrients, making this recipe a truly guiltless indulgence!

Dark Chocolate Fruit
Makes about 25 pieces*

For an even more decadent treat, substitute dried for fresh fruit. Dried apricot, banana, mango, and ginger work especially well.

4 oz. high-quality dark chocolate, chopped (with at least 70% cocoa)

2 tsp. palm shortening (non-hydrogenated)

Fresh fruit, chopped or sliced (try orange segments, strawberries, cherries, apple slices, and/or kiwi slices)*

  1. Combine chocolate and shortening in double boiler, and melt together over medium heat, stirring frequently to mix. Remove from heat, and pour into 1-cup measuring cup.
  2. Line small cookie sheet with wax paper. Working carefully, dip each piece of fruit into chocolate to coat about two thirds of the way up its length. Allow excess chocolate to drip back into cup. Place fruit carefully on wax paper in close rows.
  3. Place cookie sheet in refrigerator, and chill until chocolate is solid, at least 30 minutes. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

*Note: ½ cup liquefied chocolate coats approximately 3 whole pieces of fruit, sliced, such as 1 medium apple, 1 medium orange, and 1 small pear.

per piece: 38 cal; <1g pro; 2g total fat (1g sat fat); 4g carb; <1mg chol; 1mg sod; 1g fiber; 2.5g sugars

Notes from: Chef Jeannette
Chocolate with winter fruits such as apples and pears taste great with an added pinch of fancy salt (try Himalayan pink crystals). The salt complements the flavors of the fruit and heightens the sweetness of the chocolate. Sprinkle a few crystals over the chocolate after dipping and before chilling. If you're using fruits that oxidize when cut, including apples and pears, toss them with a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice before dipping to slow browning.
If you don't have a double boiler, you can use a metal bowl set on top of the rim of a small saucepan of simmering water, or microwave the chocolate and palm shortening in a glass bowl in 20-second increments, stirring between each heating session.

Jeannette Bessinger, CHHC, is a certified holistic health counselor and recipe developer. Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, is a nationally known health, nutrition, and weight-loss expert. Bessinger and Bowden have collaborated on numerous cookbooks, including The 150 Healthiest Slow Cooker Recipes. Visit them online at thecleanfoodcoach.com and jonnybowden.com.

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