In this uber politically correct world, I’m sure it’s scandalous to say this, but I’m a bit prejudiced – prejudiced against people who don’t like dogs and chocolate. Well, maybe prejudiced is too strong a word to use, but let’s just say we’ll likely never be BFF’s if you don’t harbor great affinity for both of the aforementioned. I would say I’m even a little suspicious of people who don’t like dogs and chocolate. If you like one, but not the other, well, there may be potential for some shared polite banter, but if you don’t like BOTH, well, there’s not much hope for camaraderie . . .just sayin’.
Now, since I’ve brought up the subject of two of my favorite things, I’m sure you know that dogs should not eat chocolate. It’s very harmful to them (if it’s the real deal, meaning dark chocolate), but I can testify firsthand that a small quantity of milk chocolate or chocolate without much real cacao in it will likely not harm your dog. Back in the day when I still bought Oreo cookies, well, they were Whole Foods’ brand, I left a box of them in a grocery bag on the floor for a few minutes, only to come downstairs later and find my beagle/basset with the box torn open and a couple sleeves of missing cookies – obviously in the belly of the happy beast. I also once had a student whose dog had eaten a whole bag of M &M’s, and suffered no ill effects. Both the Oreos and M&M’s are more sugar than chocolate, so thankfully no harm was done. That being said, with the quantity of dark chocolate stockpiled in this house, we have to be very vigilant about keeping it away from the pups. I even keep an “emergency chocolate bar” in my purse, so I have to be sure not to leave my purse around unzipped or in the floor.
Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants – three times the antioxidants of green tea, and its high flavonoid content provides heart protective benefits. Studies have shown dark chocolate can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and improve your mood. Don’t confuse dark chocolate with milk chocolate. Milk chocolate has milk solids added and has less cacao content and higher sugar content. Look for chocolate that is at least 70% cacao for the most health benefits.
These power clusters are like an energy bar and dessert all in one. They satisfy the sweet tooth and help keep you full. The nuts, seeds, and fruit provide protein and nutrients. It’s preferable to use soaked or sprouted nuts and seeds in order to increase digestibility. This recipe can be made without the freeze-dried blueberries, but I have to tell you that they make all the difference. They provide a wonderful, sweet crunch as you bite into them, and our family fights over clusters that look like they have the most blueberries. This recipe is so adaptable to whatever nuts, seeds, and dried fruits you have on hand. I hope you enjoy them! Just don’t share with your dogs . . .
- ½ cup cashews, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup almonds, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup dried, unsweetened, shredded coconut
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- ½ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped if they're large
- 1.2 oz. package freeze-dried blueberries
- 2½ cups dark chocolate chips, preferably at least 70% cacao
- 3 Tbsp. coconut oil
- 2 Tbsp. brewed coffee, optional, but coffee deepens chocolate flavor
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Put first ten ingredients in a large bowl. Place 1-2 inches of water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Place chocolate chips, coconut oil, and brewed coffee in a heat-proof bowl that fits over the saucepan. Make sure the bowl is not touching the simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate chips and coconut oil are melted and incorporated. Remove from heat and pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl of nuts, seeds, and fruit. Stir to coat. Working quickly, place mounded tablespoons of mixture onto parchment lined sheets. Place baking sheets into the refrigerator for 20 minutes for mixture to cool and set. Remove clusters from the refrigerator and store in a container in the frig.