Invite chocolate bark to your holiday party

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The holiday season is in full swing this week. Even though some radio stations have been playing Christmas music since the day after Halloween, the season really doesn’t start for me until I get the first holiday party invitation.

Parties this time of year are fun. It is a chance to slip on that sparkly sweater and have long conversations with someone while standing and sipping punch that has slowly melting sherbet as the main ingredient. Really, what other time of year can a person do that?

And let’s not forget the food. I enjoy appetizers, so a savory holiday buffet of canapes, dips, crudités and cheeses is always a welcome sight. In addition to that, there are also the sweet treats that make an appearance only once a year. Things like gingerbread cookies, mincemeat pie, and homemade fruitcake.

By the way, if the thought of consuming all these once-a-year calories has you distressed, I have one word for you: exercise. I know what you are thinking. “What? Start exercising now, in the middle of Christmas rush? That all starts after New Year with a resolution or two.” I assure you, dear reader, the best time is now.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, exercise has multiple benefits that are especially helpful come holiday time. First, physical activity revs up the body’s production of endorphins, also known as the feel good neurotransmitter. Something as simple as a brisk walk through the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights can contribute to your sense of well-being and happiness.

Next, exercise eases stress levels. Because physical activity can relax you and help lower symptoms associated with anxiety and depression, a bike ride around the lake is not only burning calories but is also letting off steam produced by that driver that cut you off in the Target parking lot. You will also sleep better at night.

Last but certainly not least, working out burns calories. My goal this time of year isn’t to lose weight, but to not gain any weight. So, in addition to getting in some kind of exercise every morning, I try to see where else I can fit in a few calorie-burning moves.

Things like a quick 10 minute walk at the field while waiting to pick up my daughter from soccer practice, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away in the grocery store parking lot are easy ways to fit in extra movement. Just like those gingerbread cookies, it all adds up.

The holiday season is also a good time to fit in some healthy fats. Remember, that was one of the goals this year? Healthy fats like those found in oils, avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, salmon and eggs contribute to our heart and brain health.

This month’s recipe features healthy fats from nuts and chocolate. Talk about a winning combination! I found it reading, of all things, a fitness magazine: Men’s Fitness.

And what, you may be thinking, was I doing reading Men’s Fitness magazine? Normally when I visit a doctor’s office I bring my own reading material since I know the wait will be long. But on this visit I didn’t.

I’ve found the waiting room of a doctor’s office is the perfect place to branch out from my normal fare and read magazines I normally wouldn’t, such as People, InVision Magazine for Eyecare Professionals, and yes, Men’s Fitness.

This recipe is a snap to make, perhaps dangerously so. It is gluten-free, dairy-free and would be welcome at any holiday party to which you get an invitation.


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Dark Chocolate Bark

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12-ounce) bag 63 percent dark chocolate chips (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, cranberries, apricots, or plums
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans,
  • pistachios, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, or peanuts
  • 1/8 teaspoon fleur de sel (or kosher salt)

Directions:

Melt dark chocolate chips in the microwave on medium heat 2 minutes or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Pour melted chocolate onto a piece of parchment paper and smooth to ⅛-inch thickness. Top evenly with cherries, pecans, and salt. Allow to cool and dry 2 to 4 hours then cut or break into bite-sized pieces.

 

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Betty Williams