By Edith Morgan
February is Heart Month, too, besides being the month for Valentine’s Day.
And while, for most of us, Valentine’s Day means lots of sweets (many very sugary), big boxes of chocolates, candies of all sorts, cakes and cookies and cupcakes, I would like to suggest a few treats using healthy foods that nevertheless satisfy the sweet and living theme of this holiday:
Chocolate is always at the top of the list of emotionally satisfying treats, but nowadays we have at our disposal a number of varieties. Chocolate comes in many shades now, and the darker they are, the healthier they are. So we can buy those chocolates that have at least 70% cacao and use them to create better treats. You can recognize them by their deeper brown color, and usually their packaging identifies the percentage of cacao in them. Combined with healthy fruits, fresh or dried, makes them a delicious yet healthy choice.
You can buy dark-chocolate covered pomegranates, berries of all kinds, dried fruits, nuts – and put them into creative packages of your own invention. Or you can buy fresh berries (large strawberries, for example) and dip the tips into melted chocolate and display them around your Valentine cake.
If you feel very creative, dip different fruits into melted chocolate, mount them on a shish-ke-bab skewer and create a “bouquet” of colorful fruits. Of course, they must be eaten fairly soon after you have put them together – but they make a stunning centerpiece for your Valentine’s Day brunch.
A word of warning about melting chocolate: Whether you use dark chocolate chips or break up chocolate bars or try any other form of cooking chocolate, it is easy to try to melt it too fast, and to end up with hard lumps. Chocolate requires patience: If you are not using an old-fashioned double boiler but are using your microwave, as most of us do nowadays, it is important to melt your chocolate gradually – no more than 30 seconds at a time. Check and stir frequently, until the chocolate is smooth and creamy. And then work fast, before it solidifies again.
Lay the dipped fruits on a wax sheet to cool, poke the skewers through (if you are creating a bouquet) and enjoy!
Other fruits are also very decorative, if cut right. Of course, star fruit (carambola) always look good; but oranges and apples, if cut across, also have interesting designs formed by the seeds at their center.
And if you MUST have cupcakes and cakes, try the many new recipes using whole wheat flour, nuts, bran and other healthy foods – and throw in dried berries and nuts to your favorite recipe and make them more heart-healthy … so you can have a delicious, guilt-free holiday.
I wish you all a happy and tasty Valentine’s Day!