Ingredient SpotLight

Every year, couple everywhere give, receive and share chocolate as part of their Valentine's Day celebrations. This year will be no different and while there are ways that chocolate has been maligned:
  • Chocolate is not laced with caffeine. The average serving of chocolate contains between five and ten milligrams of caffeine. Compare that with a cup of coffee, which has about 150!
  • Chocolate is in no way physically addictive.

It is also getting a great reputation as an antioxidant super star. Chocoholics may unite in celebration, for the news is good: dark chocolate possesses the highest antioxidant content of any food. Chocolates contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and, in milk chocolate, calcium. But it is the antioxidants and the flavonoids which boost good HDL cholesterol levels that has us dancing in pagan delight. The flavonoids in chocolate work in a similar manner to a very low dose of aspirin to prevent blood platelets from clumping together to form a blood clot. The flavonoids are in the cocoa. None are present in white chocolate, and milk chocolate is diluted by sugar and milk. Dark, bittersweet chocolate is better, and simple cocoa (with even less fat than unsweetened chocolate) is best.

Some studies indicate that dark chocolate may decrease blood pressure and insulin resistance. These are not conclusive studies and have been done only on healthy subjects, but the indications are positive.

Green tea, black tea, red wine, and blueberries all contain flavonoids, but none are as high as chocolate. One ounce a day is enough - chocolate has calories and more is not better. In honor of Valentine's Day, healthy hearts and happy tummies, here are a couple of my favorite chocolate recipes.

Chocolate Almond Mousse

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons slivered almonds

In a medium saucepan, stir together the milk, eggs and sugar until thoroughly blended. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat a metal spoon with a thin film and reaches at least 160°F. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the chocolate and flavorings until the chocolate is melted.

Spoon into 8 pot de creme cups or 1/4 cup dessert dishes. Sprinkle with almonds. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time

Marbled Mocha Tart

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sifted Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces chopped white chocolate
  • 6 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

In food processor, combine butter, sugar and vanilla and process until smooth. Add cocoa powder and process to blend. Add flour and pulse until mixture begins to hold together. Press mixture onto bottom and sides of 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Pierce bottom all over with fork. Place in freezer 10 minutes. Bake 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Place the white and semisweet chocolate in separate bowls. In saucepan bring cream to gentle boil. Stir in espresso powder. Pour half of hot espresso cream into each bowl. Stir until smooth.

Fill tart shell with the semisweet chocolate mixture. On top of the dark chocolate filling, pour five separate pools of white chocolate mixture. Pull tip of knife through fillings to marbleize. Refrigerate until set.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes, plus chilling time