This week I saw another article that shows us how nutritious some of our favorite foods can be. Once again dark chocolate and red wine tops the list. Right after reading the article I sat down to do my weekly writing and was working on an article about the hazel tree (Corylus americana).
The tree has a lot of cultural importance throughout the world. It is often associated with insight and wisdom, actually being called the Tree of Knowledge in some mythologies. It is the favorite for those who dowse for water and Mary, the mother of Christ, is said to have blessed the tree for saving her from a dangerous snake.
The hazelnut is worthy to be considered in the list of surprisingly nutritious snack foods. In fact, all day I’ve been thinking about a recipe that combines two of these very healthful foods into something decadent. Last year for Christmas I made a dark chocolate hazelnut spread (homemade Nutella ®) and gave it as stocking stuffers. I’m going to share the recipe with you in this post; but first let’s see why the hazelnut needs to be considered in your list of favorite health goods.
Health Benefits of the Hazelnut
The hazelnut is heart healthy. They contain oleic and linoleic acids, which have been known to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol). They are high in Vitamin E, which would make them a great choice to help women who are moving through menopause. For the rest of us, this extra Vitamin E is helpful for good skin and hair.
Hazelnuts are rich in the B complex vitamins, making everyone feel happy. The support that this gives to the nervous system is priceless, especially with the amount of stress and sleep deprivation that is common in our culture. Folate is one notable part of the “B’s” that is often suggested for pregnant women. I’m not a big fan of supplements in pill form and there are a number of concerns surrounding folate in this form. What better way to get a boost of folate than in a chocolate treat?
Homemade Nutella ® Spread
- 1 cup hazelnuts (find raw hazelnuts here)
- 12 ounces 60-70% dark chocolate
- 2 Tbsp sunflower oil (find unrefined organic sunflower oil here)
- 3 Tbsp powdered sugar (find organic powdered sugar or make your own)
- 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (find organic cocoa powder here)
- ½ tsp almond extract (find organic almond extract here)
- ¾ tsp salt (find unrefined sea salt here)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and roast them for 10-12 minutes. You’ll see the skins brown just a bit. Dump them directly into a slightly damp towel and rub them until the skins are removed. Cool.
- In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate.
- In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until they make a paste. Add the oil, sugar, cocoa powder, extract, and salt and blend until everything is smooth. Add the cooled chocolate. Don’t worry if the spread seems too thin. It will thicken as it cools. Transfer to a pint jar with a tight-fitting lid and label. Refrigerate and use within 2-3 months.