Ah, Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and to moi, that means a bit of indulgence and, of course, chocolate.
The good news: Yes, there has been a growing body of credible scientific evidence that chocolate contains a host of heart-healthy and mood-enhancing phytochemicals (women know the mood-enhancing part). Cocoa beans are rich in flavanols, natural compounds with antioxidant properties found in red wine, purple grape juice, green tea, cinnamon and dark bittersweet chocolate (to name a few).
However, the more a cocoa bean is processed, the less of these potent flavanols are present. There is a lot of chocolate out there, but the best bang for the nutrition buck is dark chocolate with at least 60 to 70 per cent cocoa.
The not-so-good news: It’s an indulgence, yes, but chocolate still has calories and size does matter. Savour and enjoy small quantities of really good quality, delicious chocolate.
Heart Healthier Fudgy Brownies
February is also Heart Month, so in that vein, here is a recipe that satisfies the chocolate-calling voice and is lower in fat and calories. Low fat unsweetened cocoa powder adds a depth of chocolate flavour and ripe banana provides moistness and texture with just a hint of banana flavour.
• 1 oz (30 g) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 2 tbsp (30 ml) butter
• 1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup (125 ml) mashed ripe banana (1 large banana)
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla
• 1/2 cup (125 ml) all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup (60 ml) unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1/2 tsp (2 ml) baking powder
• 1/4 tsp (1 ml) salt
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray sides of an 8-inch (20 cm) square baking pan. Line bottom and two sides with parchment paper (to make a parchment paper sling for easy removal).
Combine chocolate and butter in medium glass bowl. Microwave at Medium for 1 minute or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar, then mashed banana until blended. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth.
In a smaller bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; stir into chocolate mixture until dry ingredients are completely moistened. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.
Cool pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Run spatula around edges, carefully lift parchment paper sling of brownies to wire rack to cool completely. Cut into 16 squares.
Nutritional information per square: Calories: 106; Fat: 2.8 g; Carbohydrate: 20 g; Protein: 1.25 g; Fibre: 1 g.
– Barb Holland is a professional home economist and food writer who believes in shopping locally and in season.