Easy superfood dark chocolate bark. (5 minutes!)

chocolate bark vegan pomegranate superfood

I have been making a batch of this chocolate bark every week and keeping it in the fridge, enjoying a few pieces each night as an after dinner treat.  Silky and rich, with tons of different flavor nuances just like a good wine.  With lots of polyphenols and antioxidants, dark chocolate is a healthy treat.  Just make sure you’re eating 70% or higher cacao content to ensure that you’re reaping all the healthy benefits chocolate has to offer.  Cacao has a specific antioxidant, epicatechin, that lowers the risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.  Some researchers even consider epicatechin an essential vitamin.  It reduces inflammation, improves blood flow, and elevates nitric oxide in the blood ( this is what Viagra does- no wonder chocolate is considered a love food) .

This bark is infinitely customizable and only takes about 5 minutes to put together. The one I made today was sesame seed (gives a savory quality to it, almost like chocolate covered pretzels), coconut flake, hemp seeds, pomegranate arils, flaky sea salt, and almonds.  Almonds are my favorite nut to use because they give the biggest crunch payoff.  Get a pretty tin to put it in and it makes a wonderful last minute gift, too.

IMG_2315

Superfood Dark Chocolate Bark.

8 ounces or so (2-3 bars) dark chocolate, preferably 70% or above and organic (I prefer Scharffenbergers (not organic but no-gmo soy lecithin) or Green&Blacks)

Any or all of these healthy toppings:

hemp seeds

coconut flakes (toasted or not)

sesame seeds

almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or cashews

pomegranate arils, freeze dried raspberries or strawberries, dried cherries, goji berries, etc.

flaky sea salt (like Maldon)

Rig a double boiler: fill up a large saucepan halfway with water, then place a heatproof mixing bowl over the pot.  Make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Start the water boiling and chop up your chocolate.  It doesnt have to be super tiny pieces, just a rough chop will do fine.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat (aka the best invention ever) or parchment paper.  Now put all your chocolate in the bowl of your double boiler.  Stir with a rubber spatula until thoroughly melted.  Pour your chocolate onto your lined pan.  Spread the chocolate out with your spatula until it is the thickness you desire.  I like it thin so I spread it out a lot.  Sprinkle all your desired toppings over.  Pop in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden up.  Peel the chocolate carefully off of the silpat/parchment and break into coarse pieces.  Store in the fridge or freezer for a snappier chocolate, or keep at room temperature (no hotter!) in an airtight container.  If you give it as a gift it would be a good idea to seperate the pieces with parchment paper so they dont stick together.

My personal favorite: Scharffenberger 70% cacao.  Their 85% is AMAZING too.  Rich, nuanced chocolatey flavor with NO acrid/bitter flavors that I taste in many dark chocalates from other brands.  Green & Blacks is my second choice, organic, and more widely available.

scharffenberger bittersweet

Enjoy!

Love,

A.

Homemade Snickers and salted caramels (raw, vegan, gluten free)

date caramel healthy dessert

I love caramel.  Like, really love it.  My favorite candies used to include Snickers, Rolos, and Twix.  The gooey, toothsome texture and deep flavor of it are just so good.  Unfortunately traditional caramel is loaded with disgusting and unhealthy ingredients…cream, white sugar, butter, and other such gut bombs.  So what’s a girl to do when a hard candy craving hits?  The very term “healthy candy” seems like an oxymoron.

Enter…dates.  They’re super sweet, soft, and naturally caramelly-tasting.  They are also loaded with nutrients: fiber, potassium, copper, manganese, magnesium, vitamins B and K.  They have been found to be high in antioxidant phenols which protect the body from free radicals.  Basically, they are like little vitamins disguised as candies.  Kind of like those Flinstone chewable gummy vitamins weird pediatricians want you to give your kids.  Wait, what?  No thanks.

Anyways, when dates are blended with vanilla and almond butter…they taste like HEAVEN.  They form a thick, caramel paste that becomes chewy when frozen.  Yes please.

A word on varieties…there are A LOT of different types of dates.  I only have experience with two varieties because that’s what is readily available to me: Deglet Noor and Medjool.  I find Deglet Noors to be hard, tough, fibrous and generally undesirable compared to Medjools.  Medjools are soft, gooey, large, and delicious.  They are easy to blend in recipes.  They are also sold at Costco…8 dollars for 2 pounds, which is very reasonable.

*A note:  I find the combination of sweet and salty and chocolate especially irresistible.  If you don’t, feel free to omit the salt! (although I will be judging you from the background.  ha!)

Date Caramel

12 Medjool dates

1T peanut or almond butter

1/2t vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until a smooth, thick paste forms.  I just let mine run until it looks fully combined.  You might need to pause it to scrape down the sides a few times.  Scoop it into a bowl and place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes so that it is a little easier to handle.  Sometimes I make a double batch just so I can eat some straight, with a spoon.  YUM

Salted Caramel “Snickers”*

1 recipe date caramel, above

1c bittersweet vegan chocolate chips, melted

1/2c peanuts or almonds, roughly chopped

pinch of flaky sea salt for sprinkling

loaf pan

Line your loaf pan with parchment paper.  Pour half of your melted chocolate in the loaf pan and place in the freezer until fully hardened.  Take it out and place your date paste in the pan, squishing the paste over the layer of chocolate until you have an even layer.  If your hands get sticky, get a little water on them to make the paste easier to handle.  Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the caramel.  Pour the rest of chocolate over and sprinkle with sea salt. Return to freezer for 30 minutes to an hour, until fully set.  Cut into squares with a sharp knife and serve! *recipe adapted from the gorgeous One Hungry Mami who is amazing in every way.

IMG_3404

 Salted Caramels

1 recipe date caramel, above

1/2c bittersweet vegan chocolate chips, melted

pinch of flaky sea salt for sprinkling

wax or parchment paper

Shape date paste into small bite size balls and dip into chocolate, rolling to coat evenly.  Place balls on parchment and sprinkle each with a little salt.  Place bites in freezer at least 10 minutes.  They have the best texture straight from the freezer!

IMG_2503

See how thick and caramelly it is?  *Drools*  Craving satisfied.