Updated: Thursday, 14 Feb 2013, 9:13 AM EST
Published : Wednesday, 13 Feb 2013, 11:20 AM EST
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Chocolate and Valentine’s Day are a match made in heaven! Numerous published studies say that chocolate and cocoa products contain naturally-occurring compounds that are linked to heart health. Cocoa is rich in flavanols, a class of dietary flavonoids. Flavonoids are a broad class of beneficial plant compounds that are commonly present in tea, coffee, berries and grapes.
Many studies show that people who regularly enjoy chocolate and cocoa are less likely to develop heart disease, strokes and hypertension. Cocoa flavanols are known to help relax blood vessels, with in turn can lower blood pressure, improve blood clotting and reduce inflammation.
Some creative chocolate inspired Valentine’s Day gifts include:
• Fuzzy socks with a chocolate bar
• Heart shaped picture frame with a chocolate bar
• Aromatic candle with chocolates
• Fresh seasonal fruit with chocolates
• Valentine plate of homemade Valentine cupcakes (recipe below)
• Homemade chocolate covered strawberries (recipe below)
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
4 oz. white chocolate
4 oz. dark chocolate
12 dipping strawberries with long stems
Place parchment or wax paper on a baking pan.
In separate bowls, melt each chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir; then let melt for another 15 to 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Dip clean and dry strawberries in chocolate(s), using decorative design or drizzle patterns, as desired.
Carefully set coated berries on the prepared pan. Refrigerate a few minutes until hard. Store berries in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
Heart Healthy Substitutions: These vanilla-infused cupcakes are made with applesauce as a fat-replacer for butter. Greek yogurt is used for the yummy frosting.
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup low-fat evaporated milk, divided
1/2 cup Chobani Low-Fat Greek Yogurt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sprinkles for decoration
1. To prepare cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups with paper liners.
2. Whisk whole-wheat flour, cake flour, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.
3. Beat granulated sugar and oil in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Scrape the black paste out of the vanilla bean into the sugar mixture. Add applesauce, egg, egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. With the mixer on low, alternately mix in the dry ingredients and 1/2 cup evaporated milk, starting and ending with dry ingredients and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared cups (they will be full).
4. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
5. To prepare frosting: Measure yogurt and let come to room temperature. Melt chocolate in double boiler or in microwave. Cool chocolate to room temperature. Fold in yogurt, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Frost cupcakes and enjoy!