Always good: Chocolate

“The torch of love is lit in the kitchen.” — French proverb

Ah, love! February is the month of enchantment when we are reminded to celebrate our romantic selves.   I, for one, find passion in the kitchen and revel in the sweet seduction of preparing foods that satisfy the soul while stimulating the senses.

February is also National Heart Month and this is an excellent time to become more conscious of loving and nourishing this incredible life-sustaining organ. Heart disease is the number one killer of American women.

The American Heart Association publishes a list of guidelines to help Americans achieve a desirable level of heart health, recommending eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, as well as whole grains and fatty fish (rich in Omega 3's), such as wild salmon twice a week. Limiting the intake of foods high in calories and low in nutrition should be a priority. Other tips include limiting daily consumption of salt to no more than 1 teaspoon and consuming no more than one alcoholic beverage per day for women and two for men.

There is a vast menu of whole foods that can have a powerful effect on your vitality and can aid in the battle against heart disease. Super hero foods such as walnuts, a solid source of Omega 3 fatty acids, pomegranates, onions, avocados, kidney beans, barley, and oats can all have a promising effect on lowering LDL cholesterol, (the bad cholesterol) and preventing hardening of the arteries.

But there is one sweet, sensuous ingredient that not only ramps up romance, but provides amazing health benefits for the heart. Dark chocolate. Exchanging chocolates has long been a Valentine's Day tradition, but during the entire month of February, why not enjoy dark, delicious chocolate and reap the intense health benefits?

Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, naturally occurring compounds found in the cacao plant.

Flavonoids may promote heart health by helping to prevent blood clots, which can trigger a heart attack or stroke. Enjoying a small amount of dark chocolate daily may improve the health of arteries, making them expand and contract more readily, so the precious flow of blood may be transported most efficiently.

Eating dark chocolate is a delicious, decadent way to say “how do I love thee.” Remember to love, nurture and nourish yourself and your loved ones as you prepare your delicious life.

Dark Chocolate Fondue

16 ounces premium dark chocolate (at least 65% cacao) (Trader Joe's 72% is quite good)

1 cup organic strawberries (or well washed strawberries)

1 ripe banana, peeled and cut in chunks

dried apricots, figs, or prunes

Break or chop chocolate in to pieces and melt in a double boiler over gently simmering water. Stir the chocolate until nice and smooth. If you have a fondue pot, place in pot and serve with a selection of fruits. Otherwise pour chocolate into a bowl, let cool for a bit.

Dip fruits into chocolate and enjoy the marvelously healthy flavor of dark chocolate.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing, fresh, natural ingredients and simple, delicious recipes. She conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to Robin’s blog is