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Stop and smell the cocoa

Mmmm, yummm! Have you ever waited for a mug of cocoa to cool down enough to drink?

As a child, cocoa wasn’t something we were allowed every day, so those times we did make it were extra delightful. Usually it was a snowy day when my mom would make cocoa as a special treat. Trying not to burn our tongues, we would push the marshmallows around the cup until they melted ever so slightly before taking our first sip. Naturally, the debate of the right kind (big ones or the minis) of marshmallows — and how many were too many per cup — would erupt. But after that first sip, the room would fall quiet as we savored the rich, exceptional flavor. What a happy memory. (Try making your own homemade marshmallows!)

Fond memories aside, cocoa has several beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, such as lowering of blood pressure, and improving vascular function. In fact, chocolate is a potent antioxidant, and is rich in minerals such as magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese. Bonus: The serotonin found in dark chocolate acts as an antidepressant. Wow, my new favorite “superfood!”

I love a good mug of hot cocoa, but also like using unsweetened cocoa in other ways.

Check out these tips for ways to enjoy cocoa:

  • Blend in smoothies: Cocoa can be added to your favorite healthy smoothie recipe to give it a richer, chocolaty taste. Check out this smoothie recipe made with cocoa.
  • Eat dark chocolate: Make sure it’s good quality and contains at least 70% cocoa, or it won’t have the same health-supporting properties. Check out these tips on selecting high-quality dark chocolate.
  • Sprinkle over fruit: Cocoa is particularly nice sprinkled over bananas or strawberries. At only 12 calories a tablespoon, it makes a delicious dessert that helps me stay within my dietary goals. Add to your yogurt or oatmeal to make a yummy and healthy bowl.
  • Add to rubs: Who would have thought that cocoa in a rub would add a tasty savory essence to meats? Try it on ribs!
  • Stir in: Just a little goes a long way to add a depth of flavor in your favorite Mexican dishes, stews and chili.
  • Mix it up: Add cocoa to your preferred granola bar mixture to bump up the health benefits and enrich the flavor.
  • Make from scratch: Desserts made with real cocoa powder gives your favorite recipes a richness you can’t get from a box.
  • Gift to others: Chocolate treats are a favorite gift, both to give and receive! Check out my famous chocolate sauce recipe, a favorite among my friends and family.

I think it’s important to treat myself to something special every now and then. Just like any treat, chocolate should be consumed in moderation. One to two ounces of dark chocolate a day is all that’s needed to feel like I’ve enjoyed a special indulgence.

Check out these delicious recipes with cocoa:

Type “Cocoa” in your DinnerTime Recipe Box to find more tasty and nutritious recipes.

Remember to rate recipes, and “favorite” them to your recipe box.

A traditional Mexican dish. Ready in 30 minutes!

Super easy, healthy and delicious.

The perfect bite-size dessert.