Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Chocolate!

This post has been a long time coming – while chocolate has been included in several Healthy Ingredient of the Week recipes, it has never been the star of the show. Chocolate can certainly be a part of a healthy, balanced diet, as the cocoa beans from which it is made are high in flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that can help protect our bodies against free radical damage. Flavanols, the specific type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate, have also been shown in research studies to improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and increasing circulation.

Not all chocolate is created equal, however; the more that chocolate has been processed, the fewer flavanols it contains. So, unsweetened cocoa powder is “healthier” than a chocolate bar. Although chocolate bars still contain flavanols, they can be full of less healthier ingredients like sugar. When choosing chocolate, aim for the high-quality dark kind (the greater the percentage of cocoa, or cacao, it contains, the better), as it’s likely to have gone through less processing than a cheap bar of milk chocolate. The recipes below call for chocolate in one of its least-processed forms, cocoa powder, which is a great pantry staple to have on hand for any time you’d like to add some antioxidant (and chocolate) power to sweet – or savory – dishes.

Chocolate Mole Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 chipotle pepper with 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can (or more to taste), chopped
1 cup raisins
2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons smooth, natural peanut butter
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Place a pot over medium heat and coat with the oil. Add the onion and garlic, stirring to soften for 5 minutes.
2. Add the chipotle with adobo, raisins, and tomatoes, stirring to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
3. Carefully pour the mixture into a blender. Add the peanut butter, stock, chili powder, and cinnamon. Puree the mixture until smooth. Season with pepper, to taste.
4. Return the mixture to the pot over medium heat. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Serve over your shredded chicken and tortillas or your favorite enchilada recipe.

Recipe adapted from Food Network 

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup 1% milk or non-dairy milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups shredded zucchini, patted dry
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9” x 5” loaf pan with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, oil, agave, and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients.
4. Fold in chocolate chips and zucchini.
5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes.
6. Cool 10 minutes in pan before removing and cooling on rack. Makes 10 slices.

Recipe adapted from Whole Foods Market Magazine, North Atlantic Region, Spring 2013.

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