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.

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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.

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Black rice and roasted squash salad.

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I saw this recipe in the January issue of Bon Appetit and I had to try it!  It looked so bright and colorful.  Grain salads are so satisfying and keep well in the fridge.  I loved how this turned out, it’s definitely a keeper.  I served this with a quick coconut milk-miso-lime butternut squash soup (made from the other half of the squash from the recipe), and my chili roasted brussels.

microgreen black rice salad pomegranate butternut squash honey

Black rice and roasted squash salad. (adapted from Bon Appetit’s January 2014 issue)

2 cups black rice

½ medium butternut squash (or kabocha, or acorn) peeled, seeds removed, cut into bite size pieces

1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons oil for roasting squash

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey (maple syrup would also work here)

2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1 cup pomegranate seeds

1 cup microgreens or sprouts (I used some overgrown spicy microgreens, roughly chopped)

½ cup pistachios, chopped (pepitas or hazelnuts would also go well here)

Preheat the oven to 450.  In a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot, add rice and 2.5c stock or water.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook for 45 minutes.  Remove pot from heat, take off lid.  Place kitchen towel (folded in half to fit) over open pot.  Replace lid and let sit for at least 5 minutes.  (This step ensures fluffy, perfect and NOT SOGGY rice every time without a rice cooker.)  Allow rice to cool a little before assembling salad- warm rice is fine, just not hot as it will wilt the fresh produce.

Meanwhile, toss squash with a few tablespoons of oil, and a little salt and pepper.  Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment (for easy cleanup and no sticking) and bake for 30-45 minutes, until squash is  soft, golden and browned around the edges.  Allow squash to cool for 10 minutes before proceeding.

While squash is cooling, mix the oil, honey, and vinegar in a small bowl.

Place rice and squash in a large bowl.  Add pistachios, scallions and pom seeds.  Mix thoroughly.  Add the microgreens and vinaigrette; toss gently.  Serve!

Note:  If you will have leftovers, keep the microgreens separate  otherwise they will go soggy in the fridge which is no fun.