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Deep Dark Chocolate: Black Bean Brownies & Vegan Truffles

heartbrownies200Photo©Tia K.Dark Chocolate: What’s Not To Love?

Aphrodisiac? Anti-inflammatory antioxidant? Antidote to Alzheimers?

Modest amounts of dark chocolate—if you believe all the studies—can reduce risk of cancer, heart disease and bad cholesterol while also improving memory and mood.

But you can't eat just any ol' chocolate. And be careful about sabotaging chocolate’s healthy effects by using it in recipes that also have gobs of butter, scoops of sugar and loads of refined flour. 

(Keep reading for two yummy -- and healthy -- Valentine’s Day recipes.

Many of the health benefits of cacao beans come from plant nutrients called flavonoids which help plants repair damage and protect themselves. Flavonoids function as antioxidants when we eat them, neutralizing damage caused by normal stresses such as breathing as well as environmental contaminants including air pollution.

Flavanols, the type of flavonoid in chocolate, also seem to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and heart. This is the mechanism at the core of a recent Harvard study demonstrating that two cups of cocoa a day improved the memory of elderly patients (who already had impaired blood flow to their brains) by 30 percent. Wow! Here’s the full study in Neurology.  

A few caveats and chocolate tips:

- Darker chocolate has less added sugar and fat as well as more flavonoids than milk chocolate. For greatest health benefit, choose chocolate with a cacao content 70 percent or greater. 

- Choose chocolate or cocoa powder that has NOT been alkalized or Dutch processed. The alkalization (Dutch) process removes the health-giving flavonoids.

- Portion control: Ideally, about an ounce of dark chocolate a day. Dark chocolate is good, but too much of even a good thing can be a bad thing. Pigging out on chocolate can make you fat and/or jittery, the latter because theobromine in the chocolate acts as a stimulant.

- Avoid using chocolate as a vehicle (or garnish) for foods that are bad for you. Chocolate is often paired with refined sugars, flours and unhealthy trans fats. Before you buy, read the label on packaged chocolate chip cookies, for example. (Better yet, try the recipes below!)

- For the most health benefit, avoid drinking milk when you eat chocolate because the proteins in milk bind with some of the antioxidants in chocolate, making them hard for your body to absorb. Instead of brownies and milk. How ‘bout brownies and green tea?

- Science has yet to prove chocolate’s effect as an aphrodisiac, but if it tastes good, improves health, blood flow and mood, that can only help a relationship, yes?

Share the love with these recipes! 

Black Bean Brownies (gluten-free, vegan, low-sweetener)

1 1/2 C black beans (1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed very well) 
3 - 4  T cocoa powder
1/2 C quick-cooking or regular oats
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C pure maple syrup
1/4 C coconut oil (melted) or olive oil
2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 C to 2/3 C chocolate chips (Don't omit!) Use 72 percent cacao or higher for deepest, darkest flavor and most health benefit. 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine dry ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor and process to the consistency of flour. Add the wet ingredients and process again until well blended. Stir in the chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 pan.

Bake the 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. Makes 9-12 brownies. For Valentine's Day twist, cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. 

Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie: The Healthy Dessert Blog.

Deep Chocolate Vegan Truffles

1/2 cup really good unsweetened cocoa
1/3 or 1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and lightly toasted
A few drops of vanilla
pinch of salt
 
Mix everything except the nuts. Add the warm nuts. Spread batter in a silicon ice cube tray and refrigerate until firm. Or spread, as if making fudge, in an 8 x 8 pan, refrigerate until firm, then cut into cubes.  Dust with cocoa. 
 
These must be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Best eaten chilled. 
 
Note: You can make this without the nuts, but make sure your oil is nice and warm so the mixture is liquid enough to pour. If the mixture gets too firm to work with, just place over a bowl of hot water until it melts.
 
See how easy it is to make vegan truffles, aka Miracle Fudge, in
#t=337">this video

 

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Guest Saturday, 25 October 2014