Valentine’s Day. You have come and gone, and per usual, with all the usual hype. Showering our true loves (or being showered) with cards, flowers, champagne, jewelry, lingerie, fancy dinners out (or in), carriage rides, those message hearts (is it me. or am I the only one who has never liked these cute little hard candies? I mean, I like the message vehicle, but the taste and texture? Ah, I knew it. Not. The. Only. One. Oh wow, big digression.) and of course, chocolates. And typically, not any old chocolates, but all fancied-up, in the form of a truffle or beautiful bite-sized-filled shape, and adorned in a beautiful heart-shaped box.
Not that there is anything wrong with this ritual (yeah, so not one to turn down a beautiful box of Voges, just sayin, and no, not a hint at all), but why should chocolates only be enjoyed on special occassions? I am all for chocolate for every season, and for everyday of the year. Of course this is nothing new, been working on this for years. And why not? Chocolate is good for you! How happy was I a few years (or so) back when studies came out showing that dark chocolate (yep, huge fan. milk chocolate? Not so much) is jam-packed full of antioxidants, making it not only heart-healthy, but helping to improve blood flow and memory (need all the help I can get in both those areas), and helping skin keep it’s youthful appearance. All for that.
Now I have managed to seek out quite a number of chocolatiers, both local (recall post from last year for a few examples) and from afar but I don’t necessarily have the budget to keep myself in fancy, $2 a pc and up, pieces of chocolates everyday so I have simple DIY solution: dark chocolate fruit and nut clusters. Kind of a ‘gourmet’ Chunky Bar (pausing for a nostalgic moment). What could be harder than melting down some dark chocolate, mixing in some dried fruit and nuts, spooning onto a cookie sheet, and letting set. Ok maybe unwrapping a chocolate bar, but these just seem more virtuous – chocolate, fruit and nuts? Antioxidant triple play.
Dark Chocolate Fruit & Nut Clusters
12 oz. dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa), broken in pcs
2 cups nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, whatever yer fancy), rough chopped
1 cup dried fruit(cherries, cranberries, apricots, raisins, again yer fancy), rough chopped
Melt chocolate in a double-boiler, or in a metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Once completely melted, remove from stove. Stir in the fruit and nuts. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and spoon heaping tablespoons of the chocolate onto the baking sheet about an inch apart. Place in fridge for about 25 minutes to cool. Store at room temperature, if you actually have the will power to ‘store’.