Minty Chocolate Trail Mix "cookies"

 Dark chocolate packs a great heart-healthy punch and is a great cure for a sweet craving. Although it may taste bitter to many, up to 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day (> 60% cacao) can be a great addition to a heart healthy diet.

Whether it is due to the nutrient compound found in chocolate or just the way it makes most people feel inside after taking one bite, chocolate alone has been shown to help improve cardiovascular health (lowering LDL cholesterol and blood pressure), reduce inflammation, control appetite (ex. overeating/excessive snacking), increase insulin sensitivity, reduce blood clot risk by improving blood flow and improve stress and mood. 

Now that's a great list of reasons for you to enjoy dark chocolate! 

Here are a few ways to get creative with chocolate:
*Add 1 tbsp cacao powder to smoothie, oatmeal or pancake/waffle combinations
*Enjoy an individually wrapped or piece of dark chocolate within 30 min after finishing a meal, combined with a few lightly salted nuts (most portions are ~.37-1.5 ounces). 
*Enjoy up to an ounce of dark chocolate with an orange for a snack in the afternoon
*Add a little shaved chocolate to your coffee instead of creamers, sugar sweeteners or whipped cream (you can still splash with milk)
*Add a piece of dark chocolate to stews/chili for a little extra hint of flavor

Remember that dark chocolate does have calories and fat but if you make room for it in your diet, rather than trying to give it up, you may end up having less cravings later in the day (and reducing the risk for overeating) because you feel more satisfied after a meal.
Being satisfied is not just about calories, carbs, protein and fat but also keeping your taste buds happy. 
Karel and I always have a bar of dark chocolate in our refrigerator - always. It is a staple daily food in our diet and a necessary part in us having a healthy relationship with food. 

Minty Chocolate Trail Mix "cookies"

2 cups (1 bag) semisweet chocolate chips
1 x 6 ounce bag trail mix of your liking (or make your own trail mix, ex. cashews, peanuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds) - lightly chop nuts (or smash with mallet on cutting board, in large baggy to break up into small pieces)
5 Andes Mints (chopped)
Pinch of powder ginger
3-4 tbsp Unsweetened coconut shreds (optional)
6-8 large pretzels (chopped/broken) (optional)
Parchment paper
Large cookie sheet (be sure there is room in the refrigerator for this to cool for 2 hours)

-For those who don't like to follow ingredient steps, melt chocolate and then combine all ingredients. Spoon onto parchment paper as cookies on cookie sheet and then put into the freezer for 2+ hours.

Steps (for recipe followers)
1. Spray a non stick cookie sheet (large) with cooking spray and then line with parchment paper. 
2. Melt chocolate in a medium-large stainless steel bowl placed over simmering water in a pot (about half pot filled - or melt in microwave in short 30 sec intervals to allow for stirring). 
3. Use heat resistance spatula to stir chocolate together (you may need a towel to hold the stainless steel bowl for it will get hot if touching the pot of water). 
4. As you are stirring the chocolate, add in 5 chopped Andes Mints - you could also use peppermint extract or a candy cane.
5. When chocolate mix is smooth, add the nuts and a pinch (no more than 1/2 tsp) of ginger.
If using pretzels, also add pretzels at this time. Stir until combined.
6. Spread chocolate and nut mix on paper as individual "cookies". 
7. After chocolate cookies are on the paper, sprinkle with a little coconut and a pinch of coarse salt on top. Lightly press down with clean fingers (or fork) so coconut and salt sticks. 
8. Refrigerate for 2+ hours. 
9. Place a small portion into individual baggies and keep refrigerated (or in freezer) for a delicious snack, once a day or keep in a container if using for a (holiday) party. 

(This also makes a delicious holiday gift or dessert at a party - keep refrigerated as long as possible or place plate of chocolate "cookies" over ice to keep cool)