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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Healthy Halloween Treats: Chocolate Nut Clusters


These Chocolate Nut Clusters taste so good, people may not even notice they're good for you too.

A simple combination of dark chocolate and nuts, they are quick and easy to assemble. And they're free of added sugar, emulsifiers, stabilizers and preservatives.

Look for a good quality chocolate with a high cocoa content, 70% or more. It’s the cocoa powder that contains healthy compounds shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and cancer.

I used cashews, walnuts and coconut. Other nuts would be good too, like pecans, pistachios, macadamia nuts or almonds. Or make mixed nut clusters.

If you're avoiding nuts (nuts are among the top ten most common food allergies), you can substitute unsweetened dried fruit, like tart cherries, blueberries, apricots, or chunks of fig.

I made these clusters in a silicone mini-muffin pan. Silicone molds of other shapes and sizes would work well too.

This recipe makes about 20 clusters: 8 coconut, 6 cashew and 6 walnut.

8 oz 70% dark chocolate
18 raw cashews
1/4 cup walnut pieces
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Warm the chocolate in a glass or stainless steel bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, covered, until just melted.

While the chocolate melts, divide the nuts into the mini-muffin cups, 3 whole cashews or a few walnut pieces per cup.

Once the chocolate is just melted, remove it from the heat and stir it until smooth. Drop a spoonful of the melted chocolate into each cup, over the nuts.

Transfer the cups to the fridge to set, about 10 minutes.

Stir the unsweetened coconut flakes into the remaining chocolate. The coconut should be generously coated with chocolate. Set the bowl aside to allow the coconut to soften while the nut clusters set.

Once the chocolate nut clusters have set, transfer them to a serving platter or an air-tight storage container.

Drop spoonfuls of the chocolate-coconut mixture into the cups.

 Transfer them to the fridge to set. Once set, transfer to a serving dish or an air-tight storage container.

These nut clusters are best served at room temperature. If you're making them ahead, plan to take them out of the fridge half an hour before you serve them.

You can package the dark chocolate nut clusters for trick-or-treaters, offer them as a hostess gift, or serve them as a healthy dessert.

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