Eat more chocolate--it's good for you.
It sounds like a mandate straight from the mouth of Willy Wonka.
The good news for chocoholics everywhere is that it's not fiction. Clinical research over the past decade increasingly indicates that consumption of antioxidant-rich chocolate and cocoa is associated with health benefits from improved cardiovascular function to reduced bad cholesterol levels to increased alertness.
Alas, don't hold your breath for prescriptions of chocolate ganache cake or daily swims in Mr. Wonka's river of chocolate anytime soon. That's because of one bittersweet barrier in the case for the health benefits of chocolate: it is high in fat and calories. Consider the average chocolate bar: one 1.5-ounce bar alone has about 240 calories and 13 to 14 grams of fat (about half of which are the saturated, heart-clogging kind). This holds true for many favorite chocolate treats, too: one cup of premium chocolate ice cream, for example has 540 calories and 36 grams of fat, 22 of which are saturated.
But a solution to the chocolate fat and calorie quandary exists. Within the pages of Enlightened Chocolate you'll find more than 200 recipes that let you have your chocolate in an "enlightened" manner, namely with less fat, fewer calories, and maximum chocolate flavor. Chocolate cake, chocolate cookies, chocolate snacks, even chocolate for breakfast and dinner--the recipes are all here, and they're all scrumptious.
Before saying anything further, though, it's important to emphasize what this book is, as well as what it isn't.
It is, first and foremost, a cookbook, one filled with luscious, inviting chocolate recipes. All are straightforward and rely on easy-to-find ingredients. Nothing will daunt, not even the chocolate soufflé with raspberry sauce or chocolate crème brulee. It's an ideal collection for any chocolate fanatic who loves to cook with and eat chocolate without overloading on fat and calories.
Enlightened Chocolate isn't a diet or health-food book. The new way of looking at chocolate and cocoa as beneficial ingredients served as inspiration for new ways to use and appreciate them in cooking and baking. The recipes are lighter in fat and calories, have lots of fresh ingredients, and include the chocolate products with the highest antioxidant levels, dark chocolate and natural cocoa powder. The recipes will inspire you to use more chocolate and cocoa, and thus enjoy more of their many healthful benefits. But in the end, the driving force behind the book was and is flavor--the very best chocolate flavor.
Chocolate as a dessert or sweet treat is beloved and familiar, and this collection has plenty of options. With one chapter each devoted to Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Cookies and Other Chocolate Desserts, the possibilities for satisfying a chocolate sweet tooth are vast. From double chocolate chunk cookies to peanut-butter-swirled brownies to chocolate-Grand Marnier soufflé cake, there's no shortage of decadent chocolate options. Just as enticing, the desserts incorporate fresh, light and healthful ingredients whenever possible and follow fundamental, widely recognized guidelines for healthy eating: no more than 10 grams of fat per serving with an emphasis on keeping saturated fat particularly low.
But why stop at chocolate as a confection? That very question led to the development of the two remaining chapters in the book: Chocolate, Morning to Noon, and Savory Chocolate.
As for chocolate for breakfast or a mid-morning pick-me-up--could there be a better reason to rise and shine? For busy weekdays, think chocolate yogurt with fresh berries, a ginger-chocolate scone on the go, or perhaps a favorite morning mocha, smoothie, or spicy hot chocolate. For midmorning snacks, cashew-chocolate kashi bars, chocolate fruit chews, and salty-sweet chocolate popcorn will tide you over until lunchtime, deliciously. On the weekend, the chocolate ricotta muffins and bittersweet chocolate waffles can't be missed--they're perfect pajama-lounging, paper-reading fare.
The final chapter on savory chocolate may sound unusual, but think again. The complex flavors of both dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder lend themselves exquisitely to savory recipes, bringing new dimensions to main dishes, sides and snacks. Rather than imparting an identifiable "chocolate" flavor, dark chocolate and cocoa powder enhance, deepen and bind the flavors of many savory foods, much in the same manner as other multi-use seasonings, such as soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar.
Chocolate and cocoa are particularly well-suited to hot and spicy foods--a classic example is Mexican mole, a dark, intense sauce made with chiles, spices and chocolate. Savory chocolate and cocoa can also play a subtle, complementary role to chicken and lamb, even fish, especially when paired with bright, fresh ingredients or lightly sweet flavors, such as honey or tart cherries.
So which recipe to try first? Oh, that's a hard one. Among some favorites...Spanish hot chocolate with orange, espresso & spice...strawberries & cream chocolate layer cake ...mudslide cookies...chocolate, caramel & rum flan... beef & beer chili with lime crema...and, of course, very best brownies. Perhaps make them all. Each and every option is proof positive that you can have your chocolate and eat it, too.