A Guilt-Free Valentine's Treat

Although Valentine’s Day isn’t my favorite holiday, I do love the idea of showering gifts on my loved ones.  Whether you celebrate on the 14th or before hand, as we do, the big day is coming up soon.  So, in honor of all things yummy and sweet, I thought I’d share a guilt-free treat for you to make for your sweetheart (or even yourself). Flowers, balloons and candy are the usual gifts on the “sweetest” day of the year, and I’m sure for some, the sweets take over and you may see your new year’s healthy goals sabotaged.  But being healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up sweets entirely, it just means you need to choose them wisely. 

The philosophy of Eating Clean incorporates the use of seasonal, local produce as well as foods that are minimally processed.  Hmm… how to combine those two things and still have a yummy treat?  Here’s one way to answer that question: Dark Chocolate Dipped Pears. I know strawberries are the old standby for dipping in chocolate, but pears deserve some time in the spotlight, too.

And this is the season for pears… Bosc, Asian, Red and Green Anjou, Comice and Bartlett, just to name a few. Pears are a good source of fiber and contain vitamins B2, C, E and potassium. They help lower cholesterol and give you a dose of antioxidants. And there is nothing quite so good as bite of a fresh, ripe pear.  Especially when dipped in dark chocolate!

It’s probably not news to you that dark chocolate can be good for your heart (how appropriate for Valentine’s Day), but not just any old chocolate bar qualifies.  High quality and carefully picked ingredients are key to a healthier bar.  Good quality dark chocolate contains potassium, copper, magnesium and iron as well as flavanoids, which help lower blood pressure. The method used to process the raw cacao affects the flavonoids.  You do not want to choose one that says processed with alkali (also called “dutching”).  This process breaks down the antioxidants and reduces the flavanoids and nutritional benefit. The higher the percentage of cacao, the greater the flavonoids - and the more bittersweet it gets.  Higher than 80% may be too bitter for some.

What to look for? 70% or more cacao content, fair trade, 100% organic and “not processed with alkali”. Brands like Green&Blacks, Lindt, and Endangered Species are good to put in your grocery cart (Hershey’s, Dove, Nestle and Cadbury don’t make the grade – pass on these).

Once you’ve selected your pears and your chocolate, the rest is easy. I used 2 red Anjou pears for this recipe, but you can use your favorite (note: a firmer variety will hold up better in the warm chocolate). I also used one 3.5 oz. bar of Green&Blacks Organic Dark Chocolate (70% cacao content).

Chocolate Dipped Pears

2 ripe pears

1 3.5 oz. bar of 70% dark chocolate

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of boiling water. Stir occasionally as it melts and then remove from heat to cool slightly. Wash and slice your pears then dip one end of each slice into the warm chocolate.  Set dipped slices onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes to set the chocolate.  That’s all – they are ready to serve!

Hope your Valentine’s Day is sweet and full of (dark) chocolate surprises!