Beneficial Wonders of Dark Chocolate.

Welcome to the dark side of chocolate! It’s National Dark Chocolate Day today! Is dark chocolate something you like or are you more of a milk chocolate fan? I enjoy both, but I have to be in a “mood” for either one! I have learned, however, that there are benefits to enjoying dark chocolate. Dark chocolate meaning “a 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa” (Source: HealthLine.com). Keep in mind, as I share the information of dark chocolate, while it is beneficial to your health, I (and the experts) are not telling you to eat dark chocolate in high quantities – after all, 100 grams of chocolate would be 3.5 ounces. While there may be many nutrients and benefits to dark chocolate, there are also 600 or so calories and don’t forget, there is sugar in most brands. Consuming 600 calories of chocolate on a regular basis is not good for anyone (Source: HealthLine.com)!

In a previous time in my life, I enjoyed working for a healthcare system in my area and I was part of a healthy heart program for women. I would assist in setting up community events that featured cardiologists and other physicians, and they too, had similar information to share about eating dark chocolate!

So let’s continue. There is a powerhouse of nutrients in dark chocolate:

  • 11 grams of fiber
  • Packed with: potassium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium
  • Check out these RDA’s (Recommended Dietary Allowances) for the following:
    • 67% Iron
    • 58% Magnesium
    • 89% Copper
    • 98% Manganese
      (Source: HealthLine.com).

Let’s talk about antioxidants. There are a lot of organic compounds in dark chocolate that are “biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include: polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others (Source: HealthLine.com).” So what does this actually mean? What are antioxidants?

Definition from MedlinePlus:

Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage. Antioxidants are found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables. They are also available as dietary supplements.

Eating foods that are high in antioxidants have been known to help you stay healthy and also may lower the risk of certain diseases.

Consuming dark chocolate may also help lower your blood pressure and also help reduce your risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that eating dark chocolate increased HDL (good cholesterol) and lower total LDL (bad cholesterol) in men that had elevated cholesterol levels (Source: HealthLine.com).

It also appears that chomping on some of the dark chocolate can help improve blood flow through the body, so much so, that researchers are looking into how dark chocolate can improve brain function. Cocoa contains caffeine and theobromine, known stimulants, which may be why cocoa can improve brain function for short-term periods (Source: HealthLine.com).

So there you have it. Go enjoy SOME, not LOTS, of dark chocolate! Do you have a favorite? If so, share with us! Keep checking out the blog all through February, I’ll be sharing more heart healthy info, recipes and products!

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Winter Time Cookie Craving.

Winter time cookie craving in full effect! You may be seeing and reading a lot about different cookies and biscuits in the next days and weeks… it’s winter time and I just want to grab something quick and tasty to nibble on. It’s not candy or anything super sweet that I am craving, it is a tasty cookie that I am looking to curb my cravings. I guess you could say it’s a cookie time of year. After all the gingerbread and other holiday sweets, I kind of just want to get back to regular cookie mode. (But yes, I am still finding leftover holiday cookies and treats in my cupboards, it’s time to clean the cupboards out!)

This time of year is always so blah. Some days there is snow on the ground, some days it melts and then some days you get it all in one day. I can’t believe February is almost here, but yet, this winter and past fall seem like they have just been dragging us along. I’m ready for warmer days and longer daylight. Winter blues can go away!

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So while out and about today, I decided to pick up these Biscovalo shortbread cookies made by Ambrosiana. I’ve highlighted cookies from Ambrosiana before, this was one of the cookies I haven’t tried yet! These cookies are thin and have a hazelnut flavor. The bottom has a nice chocolate glaze that melts right in your hand!

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Just the right size and just the right amount of crispy cookie crunch needed on a gloomy, winter day! The weather here in Michigan is being quite finicky as usual: yesterday warm and thunderstorms, today cold and snowy. But while the weather is finicky, I can be happy knowing that I am enjoying a cookie delight that is GMO free. Made in Italy, Ambrosiana cookies are delicately made with wholesome ingredients.

I love the simple, yet elegant packaging of these cookies. And what you see on the box is what you get inside the box. No tricks or gimmicks! So go grab your favorite warm or hot beverage and sit down with a book or a good movie. Open up a box of these Biscovalo cookies and enjoy your day and take your stresses away!

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Take the Bitter with the Sweet.

Yes, go for it! Go ahead and be bitter! Today you can be! Today is National Bittersweet Chocolate Day! Start indulging in your favorite chocolate until the bitter end! Am I getting a little carried away here? I’m sorry! I don’t mean to be obnoxious, but there are just to many perfect ways to express today’s bittersweet day! And just because it’s a day for bittersweet chocolate, it doesn’t mean you have to forget about your milk chocolate. Because we’ve got them all covered today to celebrate Hachez all the way from Germany.

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Let’s first explore what makes chocolate bittersweet:

  • Legally, at least 35 percent pure chocolate with some small amount of sugar added.
  • Also known as: dark chocolate, when it is a European brand.
  • Characteristics: Usually darker and less sweet than semisweet.
  • No legal specifications for the term so not always darker and less sweet.
  • Semisweet and bittersweet can be used in baking interchangeably, depending on personal preferences.
  • Specific sweetness and color intensity varies by manufacturer’s recipes and cacao bean sources.
  • Uses: Baking and eating.

Source: Better Homes & Gardens (Chocolate Types, Selection & Storage)

So, let’s get this (tasty) bitterness out of the way, shall we? Let’s start with these two bittersweet chocolates made by Hachez. The Ecuador green package is a 58% cocoa and the São Tomé blue package is 73% cocoa. How bitter do you like to go?! Missing from our group would be the Madagascar in blue-violet package at 75% cocoa.

Hachez can impress even the best dark chocolate connoisseur. I thought I was a dark chocolate expert until I had some of the darkest Hachez chocolate (I believe 88% is my favorite) and I was blown away! It’s not overly bitter, it’s not “dry” or tastes chalky, it’s just a smooth, chocolatey taste that is very enjoyable! I tried both of these below and they are very good!

 

Back in 1890 Joseph E. Hachez refined superior cocoa from South America according to a simple recipe. The secret to perfect chocolate quality involves roasting the cocoa bean batch, meticulous conching and use of natural ingredients. We still adhere to this recipe today. Enjoy our chocolate compositions handcrafted with love and painstaking care.

Source: Hachez (Product Packaging)

Even though it’s “bittersweet” day, below I thought I would share a photo of some of the Hachez superior milk chocolate, influenced by Venezuela at 43% cocoa and in a yellow package. Silky, smooth milk chocolate, very dreamy and delicious!

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We will be exploring Hachez chocolates some more in the future, so expect to see more delicious chocolate from them coming to the blog! We will also be exploring Hachez’s Taste Navigator in a future post, so look out for that, soon!

To end the post for today, I had to share one of my favorite songs from back in the day, “Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Enjoy!

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A Little Cookie Nostalgia.

When these cookies landed on my desk, I immediately was taken back to my childhood. Bahlsen Hit sandwich cookies could be found on the table at my grandparents house when I would go visit. And I’m not that young, so these cookies have been around a long time! They still taste as good as they did when I was a kid! I love cookies, so much so, that was my nickname, “Cookie” or “Cook”. I think my children have gotten my cookie loving genes!

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These cookies come in a fun shaped tube package that got the attention of my youngest. “Mom, have you taken pictures of those cookies yet?” he would ask me. I think I accidentally tortured the poor little guy for maybe a week or more before I could get around to write this post! Every time he walked by the computer, he saw the cookies sitting there, staring at him, waiting to be opened. So before heading out to his brother’s hockey game, he was able to enjoy some cookies that he had so long been waiting to try!

And he loves them! “Mom! These are the best cookies ever! Where did you get them?” I am sure he says this about every cookie he eats, but it was really cute watching him finally enjoy a cookie, or two… maybe three! These cookies are pretty big sized vanilla cookies with a pack of cocoa crème filling in-between. Bahlsen suggests on their website that “dunking in milk completes the experience”. The vanilla cookies are light and crunchy and paired with the cocoa crème, it’s a tasty treat!

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Even though my grandparents have passed before they could meet their great-grandchildren, a little piece of them has been passed down to them with this cookie. I told my sons that I grew up with this cookie and I remember eating them when I was their age. I am thinking that these cookies would be good around a nice fall campfire. Toast a marshmallow and place it on top! That would be delicious!

For over 125 years, the Bahlsen family has been creating these crispy biscuits and cookies. Bahlsen also supports sustainable cocoa cultivation and uses UTZ Certified Cocoa.

In one of the Mayan languages the word “UTZ” means “good”.
UTZ Certified is a program and a quality seal for the sustainable cultivation of coffee, cocoa and tea. Sustainable agriculture supports farmers, workers and their families in reaching their objectives and at the same time contributes to the protection of our natural resources – now and in the future.

For the cultivation of sustainable, certified cocoa, the cocoa farmers are trained by UTZ Certified in the areas of business administration, social working conditions and environmental management. This then helps them to work more successfully, attain higher yields, and increase the standard of living for the whole family.

Source: Bahlsen

Get yourself a package of Bahlsen Hit cookies and enjoy! There’s plenty in the package to share – or uh, nibble, nibble upon!