Expressions of love and friendship are what Valentine’s Day is all about. It is the designated day of the year to let others know you care about them. A romantic dinner, a cuddly teddy bear and of course, fresh flowers are wonderful ways to celebrate. But research shows chocolate is second only to greeting cards as the most popular gift on this day when love is spread around the world. Love begins in our hearts, so having a healthy heart goes hand in hand – or perhaps, heart to heart.

Instead of buying sugar-filled milk chocolate candies this year, impress your special someone by hand-rolling dark chocolate truffles. It’s easier than you may realize and dark chocolate is proven to promote a healthier heart. Most of the heart health in dark chocolate comes from the flavanols, which improve blood flow to the brain and heart, help lower blood pressure and possess antioxidant qualities.

Look for dark chocolate that is between 70 and 85 percent cocoa with little or no sugar added and made from quality producers who use minimal processing techniques. Valrhona and ScharffenBerger are good examples and are widely available but by no means are the only brands producing quality low-sugar dark chocolate bars. Read labels and try a few different producers to discover your favorite and then get on with rolling those truffles.

This recipe follows the diet of the NBA Los Angeles Lakers by using heavy cream and butter. LA Lakers’ Chef Sandra Padilla stands by her “healthy” ingredients by using cream and butter exclusively from grass-fed cows, which she says promotes lubricated joints and is overall positive in promoting good health. Remember, however, professional athletes have a rigorous training schedule so consume wisely.

Brandied Orange Chocolate Truffles*1390249449-truffles
(Makes about 35 truffles)

10 oz. 70+ percent cocoa bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (organic preferred)
½ cup heavy cream (organic preferred)
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 pinch cayenne pepper (not too big of a pinch)
Fine zest of ¼ orange
¼ cup brandy
½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder

1. Place the 10 ounces of chocolate and butter in medium glass mixing bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, and repeat this process one more time. Set aside.
2. Heat the heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat and pour mixture over melted chocolate mixture. Let stand for 2 minutes.
3. Using a rubber spatula, stir gently until all chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy, adding in cayenne pepper and orange zest. Gently stir in brandy. Do not over stir or the butter will separate from the chocolate.
4. Pour mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish and place in the refrigerator for one hour.
5. Use a melon baller to scoop rough chocolate balls onto a sheet pan lined with wax or parchment paper. Return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
6. Place cocoa powder in a bowl or pan such as a pie pan.
7. Remove truffles from the refrigerator and shape into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. Use powder-free gloves, if desired, but not preferred.
8. Place truffle in dish with cocoa powder and roll around to coat. Remove truffle and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Once all truffles have been rolled and coated, allow to set in a cool dry place for at least one hour.
9. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator but serve truffles at room temperature. Roll in additional cocoa powder just before serving, if needed, for a smooth finish. MS&F

*Recipe adapted from Alton Brown’s Chocolate Truffles recipe

Nutritional Information Per Serving
Serving size: 2 truffles
Calories: 129
Fat: 8.2g
Carbohydrates: 11.2g
Protein: 1.6g
Fiber: 0.9g
Sodium: 28mg

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