Last weekend, my husband and I shared a special dinner with friends at Elm Restaurant, where chef Brian Lewis showcases inventive and seasonally inspired cuisine. His menu changes each week depending on what’s fresh and in season, and he and his kitchen staff are meticulous in their preparation and presentation of each and every dish, down to the smallest details.
I’m a foodie at heart, so I love it when I get to sit back, relax and enjoy a delicious and beautifully prepared meal – what a treat! Sorry boys, I do love to cook for you, but Mom needs a break every once in a while ;).
At the end of our meal, we were presented with small dishes of cocoa dusted almonds (we were all too full to order dessert). What surprised me was that these little tidbits were not sweet – in fact, they had just a touch of salt. What a great idea I thought – who says chocolate covered almonds have to be sweet anyway.
This week, a group of bloggers is featuring Almonds as a Power Food. This weekly food blogging group features a different Power Food each week based on the book Power Foods: 150 delicious recipes with 38 Healthiest Ingredients from the editors of Martha Stewart’s Whole Living Magazine. Power Foods are foods that are outstanding in the amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, fiber and more, that help fight disease and promote good health.
These little tidbits of dark chocolate, cocoa, and almonds combined together are actually a heart healthy snack or treat when eaten in moderation (nuts and chocolate are high in fat, so keep portion sizes in check). Cocoa and dark chocolate (the darker the better; look for >70% cacao) contain flavonoids (procyanidins and epicatechins), and can improve heart health, reduce LDL cholesterol, reduce the risk of blood clots, increase blood flow in arteries, the heart and to the brain, and may lower high blood pressure. It may also improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, reducing diabetes risk.
And Almonds, our Power Food of the week, are good for heart health, support the immune system and may reduce cancer risk. So, what makes Almonds a Power Food?
- Almonds contain monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E that help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Almonds help fight inflammation and reduces the blood’s ability to clot, decreasing the risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease.
- Almonds are high in manganese, which helps the body form connective tissue, bones, blood clotting factors, and sex hormones. It also plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation, and is necessary for normal brain and nerve function.
- The skins of almonds contain flavonoids (anthocyanin and quercein) that may help prevent stroke and urinary tract infections, fight inflammation and reduce cancer risk.
- Almonds are high in protein and fiber.
- Almonds contain bone-strengthening magnesium and calcium, and blood-supporting iron.
- Almonds appear to decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar.
I love the last point – a few of these Cocoa Dusted Dark Chocolate Coated Almonds after dinner can actually help decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar.
Today, I’m sharing my version of Cocoa Dusted Dark Chocolate Coated Almonds, coated first with dark chocolate, before being tossed with unsweetened cocoa (I used Scharffen Berger cocoa that I found at Home Goods) and fleur de sel (for a little salty crunch). These are not sweet, but if you prefer a little sweetness, add a bit of coconut palm sugar (I made half a batch with a little coconut palm sugar to make these nuts more kid-friendly for my boys).
Check out what these other bloggers have cooked up for this week’s Power Foods post: (If you’re interested in joining our group, contact Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits.)
- 3.5 ounces organic dark chocolate (I used Trader Joe's 73% cacao super dark)
- 1½ cups dry roasted, unsalted almonds
- ½ cup sifted high quality unsweetened cocoa (I used Scharffen Berger purchased from Home Goods, a discount store)
- fleur de sel, optional
- organic coconut palm sugar, optional
- Break dark chocolate into pieces and place in a small bowl. Heat for one minute on high in the microwave. Stir. Heat another minute and stir. Chocolate should be just melted. Alternatively, melt in double boiler.
- Toss almonds with melted chocolate until evenly coated.
- Place cocoa in a small bowl. If desired, add a pinch of fleur de sel and coconut palm sugar to taste. Add a large spoonful of almonds to the bowl of cocoa and toss gently with a dry spoon, being sure to separate almonds so each almond is coated with cocoa. Remove to a plate and let chocolate dry. Repeat until all almonds are dusted with cocoa.
Power Foods: 150 delicious recipes with 38 Healthiest Ingredients
The World’s Healthiest Foods: Almonds
University of Maryland Medical Center: Manganese
University of Michigan Integrative Medicine: Healing Foods Pyramid – Dark Chocolate
WebMD: Chocolate’s Dark Secret
This post has been linked up to Beyond the Peel’s Keep It Real Thursdays.