Valentine’s Day is coming up. Are you prepared? Have you done your shopping and found a special gift for that someone special (or as a treat for yourself, since you’re someone special)? If not, never fear. With a few days to spare, Fuel Right’s here for you. And with just 5-6 ingredients, and less than 20 minutes in the kitchen, you can give a gift straight from your heart. As in, the most delicious wonderfully chocolate truffle gift ever. I know what you’re thinking. What does this dietitian know about a good truffle? Well, I happen to enjoy one truffle every night…and I think these just might top my favorite commercial brands. Either way, I do enjoy just one. Keep reading, and I’ll show you how to enjoy just one sweet treat (just one) every day as well. And, as a bonus, this year’s Valentine’s gift is one that’s good for the recipient: performance, cellular health, and heart.
Recipe of the Week: Easy, Dark Chocolatey, Valentine’s Truffles
- 1/3 cup canned coconut milk or organic heavy cream
- 10 oz. dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa, divided
- 2 tablespoons organic coconut oil OR organic unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp organic honey, optional
- Pinch sea salt, optional
- 2 tsp pure peppermint extract
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
- 2 Tbsp dried chopped berries, chopped dried cranberries, or finely chopped orange or lemon peel
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- 3 Tbsp cocoa nibs
- 4 Tbsp finely chopped nuts or 2 Tbsp nut butter
- 2 scoops protein powder (=~40 grams)
- 3 Tbsp chia seeds (couldn’t resist – use these 1 hour out at pre-training fuel)
1. Bring coconut milk or cream just to a boil in a heavy pan on stove top, or use glass bowl in microwave for 60 seconds on high.
2. Remove from the heat. Stir in 6 oz. of the chocolate (~3/4 cup, or 171 gm), until melted and smooth. If using microwave, place back in microwave and cook for 15-20 seconds at a time, stirring in between cooking, until melted and smooth.
3. If desired, stir in one of the optional add-ins.
4. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or freeze for about 20-30 minutes, until firm but not solid.
5. Meanwhile place spoon or melon baller in freezer for 15 minutes.
6. Once chocolate/cream mixture is firm, use spoon/melon baller to create the roundish truffles.
7. Combine remaining chocolate, coconut oil/butter, and optional honey in saucepan or glass bowl. I like the extra honey b/c it provide 2 different chocolate tastes – one less sweet and one more. Heat and melt mixture over medium heat on stove top, or microwave on high for 15-20 seconds and stir between each cooking interval until melted.
8. Line a baking sheet with a piece of waxed paper. Dip truffles into the melted chocolate mixture using a fork or toothpick. Place onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with pinch of sea salt, if desired, and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours to harden. Enjoy!
9. If you want to get fancy, and I’m sure you do, make several varieties of the truffles like you’d find in boxed chocolates. After making cream/chocolate mixture, pour into oiled muffin pan circles, and add different “optional add-ins” into each, being careful to reduce add-in amount according to percentage of mixture in each. Label the mixtures. I’ve tried most all of them, and lemon peel, followed by fresh ginger and chili, are my faves. Once finished, either identify each variety with a toothpick flag, a sprinkling of the add-in on top of the truffle, or let the recipient find out which is which on his or her own.
Makes about 20-24 truffles.
We all know that chocolate’s a woman’s 2nd best friend. Right behind…a new wheel set or backcountry set-up (who need diamonds when you could have new wheel set?). No matter who receives these truffles, he or she will enjoy a wonderfully sweet treat, but not too sweet, loaded with antioxidants, phytochemicals, anti-inflammatories, and more. These truffles truly say love. And, in all honesty and excluding the chilling time, this recipe took me about 15 minutes to complete. It’s much easier than it looks.
And, in case you’ve forgotten, here’s how cocoa loves an athlete:
Dark chocolate (60%+ cocoa, and optimally 70%+) contains dietary polyphenols. These antioxidants reduce inflammation and make cells more sensitive to insulin. Both of these factors are super-important to the endurance athlete.
First, inflammation is an issue for cellular health, whole body health, and recovery. When you think of inflamed cells, think of angry, out-of-control, destructive cells that simply do not function right. When we eat foods and nutrients that are anti-inflammatory, they can calm these cells and create a balance in our bodies that responds better to all the chemical reactions and toxins we throw at it. As hard-breathing athletes, we throw a lot of chemical reactions at our cells. What’s more, by reducing cellular inflammation you may reduce fat storage, sluggish metabolisms, fatigue, chronic disease, and slow recovery.
Then, there’s the whole insulin-sensitivity issue. The more sensitive cells are to insulin, the healthier they are and less likely to store fat. They “use” carbs better, when you need energy, and replenish glycogen stores more efficiently for that upcoming ride…yes, I’ll take more energy please. When cells are resistant to insulin, they don’t respond well to blood sugar. This promotes a whole host of problems, including out-of-control blood sugars, disease, fat storage and more insulin resistance.
Due to reduced inflammation and improved insulin-sensitivity, high polyphenol foods can improve Cardiovascular Markers such as LDL cholesterol, blood sugars, chronic inflammatory conditions, and even Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. And, in addition to polyphenols, these high cocoa truffles have other great nutrients to offer. Organic coconut oil, ginger, chili pepper flakes, chia seeds and more add fuel to the fire of anti-inflammatory health.
When choosing dark chocolate, make sure you see a percentage stated at 60% cocoa or higher. If it’s not on the label, it’s likely much lower. The names “dark chocolate” and “semi-sweet” chocolate only indicate a minimum cocoa level of 35%. So, shop around and look for the percentage.
Still, don’t go overboard. Dark chocolate calories can still add up – keep it to 1-2 truffles for a once-a-day treat. If you’re trying to keep a lean athletic weight, you have both choose healthy foods and practice portion control (at least most of the time). Here’s how:
Bonus: 5 Top Tips for Controlling Portions of Sweets
1. Treat it as a bank account. You’ve only got so much to spend and in this case, it’s 150 calories. NO MATTER how much you’ve trained. You recover from training with real, nourishing, protein + carb foods…not extra dessert. It’s about forming this habit of portion control.
2. Change your taste buds to less sugary treats. Notice, this one’s made with dark chocolate (70%+) and coconut oil…not milk chocolate and butter. The less rich, usually the more satisfying and less addictive.
3. Eat your dessert slowly. Enjoy it. Savor it. And then look forward to another one…tomorrow.
4. Put the rest away – don’t leave desserts out on the counter. In this case take one truffle out of the fridge, and then put the rest back in.
5. Practice your Jedi mind tricks. Feel satisfied after just one or two you will. Feel sick to your stomach after three you will. Form new limits of what’s an acceptable amount of sugar in your own mind, you must. Feel especially proud of yourself for practicing self-control, you can. Someday write an entire post in the voice of Yoda, I’ll try.
When you love someone, you give them chocolate. When you love someone a lot, you give them chocolate AND a sweet new cycling jersey or trail shoes. Shop and bake accordingly.
Fuel Your Adventure. Nourish Your Body.