No-Bake Valentine’s Treats

buckeyesSaying “I Love You” with a special home-made treat doesn’t mean you have to slave away at the oven for hours! In fact, you can whip up one of these easy no-bake treats using good quality ingredients like dark chocolate, unsweetened coco powder, berries, nuts and seeds. These ingredients are ideal for your sweetheart since they taste amazing and also happen to be good for your heart!

Chocolate for the Heart

Apparently, dark chocolate can work like a potent anti-imflammatory — which is great news for choco-holics. Due to its high concentration of flavonoids it may help the body ward off a host of illnesses, but there is a caveat:

Chocolate can be high in sugar (that causes a lot of inflammation), so be sure to look for low-sugar brands that also contain 70% real cocoa since that’s where all the benefits lie (it’s the plant-based cocoa beans that contain the special compounds).

Chocolate may also have a positive effect on blood pressure according to a preliminary trial from Germany​. People aged 56-74 (who ate 6.3 g of dark chocolate for 18 weeks) dropped their systolic blood pressure nearly 3 mm Hg more than those who didn’t include it. Studies also point at dark chocolate to help increase the flow of blood platelets which is a boon for your heart.

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Dark Chocolate Buckeyes

Traditional buckeye recipes call for an additional cup of sugar. This version skims back on sugar and adds in fiber-rich flax. Most chocolate chips don’t contain 70% cocoa — so shop for chocolate that comes in bars and chop it.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen

3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, preferably grassfed, room temperature
1/4 cup finely ground yellow flax
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups chopped 70% dark chocolate

Beat the peanut butter, butter, flax, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar. The dough will look dry. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on a waxpaper-lined cookie sheet.

Press a toothpick into the top of each ball (to be used later as the handle for dipping) and chill in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.

Melt the chopped chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until smooth.

Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate holding onto the toothpick. Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top to make them look like Buckeyes. Put back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate until serving.

Nutritional Stats (1 buckeye): 112 calories, 1 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat (2 g saturated), 8 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 32 mg sodium

Berries

Berries are bountiful when it comes to compounds that may protect the heart, like flavonoids and anthocyanin which may improving blood flow and countering the build-up of plaque. A new study led by Harvard School of Public Health and the University of East Anglia finds that women who eat three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries each week may lower their risk of having a heart attack. Berries, especially raspberries, contain plenty of fiber that can also help lower cholesterol. Fiber has benefits beyond heart health though — including digestion, weight control, and to keep immunity boosting gut flora well fed.

Raspberry Nut Parfait

parfait-raspberryMakes 4 parfaits

4 cups 2% plain Greek Yogurt
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons stevia
1 pint fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons cranberry juice or grenadine
4 tablespoons chopped pecans

Place the yogurt, heavy cream if using, vanilla extract, and stevia in a large bowl, whisk well. Set aside.

Place half the raspberries in a medium bowl with the cranberry juice or grenadine and crush them with the back of a fork. Divide the mixture between four parfait glasses. Spoon over a few tablespoons of the yogurt mixture and sprinkle with nuts. Finish with remaining yogurt mixture and top with remaining raspberries. Chill covered at least 30 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Stats (serving 2 cups): 254 calories, 21 g protein, 18 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat (5 g saturated), 25 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 69 mg sodium

Nuts

It’s not entirely clear why, but it’s thought that the “good” fats in nuts — both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — lower bad cholesterol levels. Many nuts are also rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids — healthy form of fatty acids that seem to help your heart by, among other things, reducing systemic inflammation that affects the health of blood vessels. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in many kinds of fish but nuts are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids and easy to store in bulk, any time you want to whip up a treat. Store nuts in the fridge or freezer to keep delicate fats from going rancid.

Peanut Butter Crunch Bars

peanut-butter-crunchersMakes 14 bars

1 stick butter
1 cup peanut butter, smooth
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups brown rice crispies
1/2 cup chopped almonds or peanuts
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups chocolate chips and a tad of oil to help melt the chips

Place the butter and peanut butter in a small saucepan and place over low heat. Cook 1 to 2 minutes until the mixture melts, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and add in the vanilla. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the rice crispies, nuts, and powdered sugar. Stir in the peanut butter mixture. Spray or line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper. Spread the peanut butter mixture evenly into the pan.

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl for 2 minutes on medium power, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted. Pour the chocolate over the peanut butter layer. Cover the pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until they are set.

Nutritional Stats (serving 1 bar): 251 calories, 6 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 18 g fat (7 g saturated), 17 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 137 mg sodium

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Seeds

Seeds, like nuts, are high in mineral content which can help soothe your heart and they add good quality fats to your diet along with a pleasant crunch. All seeds contain minerals in different amounts and combinations… depending on the seed you’ll find good levels of copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and selenium. Seeds are easy to sprinkle into desserts and stick well to melted chocolate coatings.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Chia Seeds

choc-covered-strawberriesMakes 1 dozen

2 tablespoons white or black chia seeds
1/2 cups chopped 70% dark chocolate
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 dozen large strawberries with the stem on

Place the chia seeds on a small plate. Set aside. Place the chocolate in a heavy saucepan along with the cream. Place over very low heat and cook 1 minutes, stirring continually until the chocolate is smooth and completely melted. Turn the heat off. Dip the strawberries into the chocolate then into the chia seeds. Transfer to a plate. For fudge strawberries serve at room temperature or for a firm coating chill 30 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Stats (serving 1 strawberry): 57 calories, 1 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat (1 g saturated), 1 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 1 mg sodium

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