A Passion For Chocolate
Intro by Rebecca Broida Gart
Recipes by Mary Jo Romano

Make your Valentine's Day extra sweet with all-natural chocolate desserts.

When it comes to chocolate, ice cream particularly tempts me. So do cakes, cookies, crisps and pies. I savor the enveloping silkiness of a luscious hunk of chocolate; the slight hint of bitterness; the elegant, sweet aroma; the delicate, dark color. I lament a poor-quality, waxy chocolate morsel, but at home I take pride in using the premium stuff all the way. Yes, you can label me a chocoholic, and with happiness I nod in agreement. The best part is — I'm not alone.

It doesn't take much to get self-professed chocoholics to start talking about their favorite culinary subject. White, milk or dark? What's the best method for melting? Take small bites or pop the whole thing in your mouth? Cream-filled, fruit-filled or nougat-filled? Favorite candy bar? The conversations could last for days.

So why does chocolate arouse such passion? According to Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty, authors of Chocolate Passion (Wiley), the answer is fivefold. First, cocoa butter, the fat in chocolate, melts almost exactly at body temperature. Sure, other foods melt, but there is a moment in chocolate that is neither solid nor liquid: both and neither. Pretty cool, huh? Then, there are the pleasant memories associated with chocolate: comfort, good times, special occasions of childhood. Third, cravings. The combination of fat, sweet and carbohydrates attracts the survival mechanisms in our brains. Fourth is purely primal instinct: While a taste for hot and bitter foods is acquired, we were all born with a love of sweets. And the last reason we love chocolate is for its flavor.

'Nuff said. The following five recipes promise to ignite some passion and leave you ruminating about the wonderful experience of cooking with chocolate. And that these recipes are low in fat is only part of the fun. Enjoy!

Chocolate Dessert Waffles

Makes 3 1/2 cups batter;
Serving size: 1/2 cup

Depending on the size and shape of the waffle, it is terrific as the base or a garnish for a frozen dessert, or simply drizzled with chocolate sauce on its own. Can be frozen and reheated for later use.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

1 3/4 cup organic multigrain pancake and waffle mix
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup organic sugar
1 1/2 cup vanilla-flavored organic almond milk
1 tablespoon oil
2 extra-large organic eggs
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

1. Mix together pancake and waffle mix, cocoa and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Whisk together almond milk, oil, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl. Stir in waffle mixture just until lumps disappear. Bake according to waffle iron instructions. Drizzle with Nondairy Chocolate Sauce (see recipe).

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 203 Fat: 5g % fat calories: 23 Cholesterol: 61mg Carbohydrate: 30g Protein: 8g

Nondairy Chocolate Sauce

Makes 20 1-tablespoon servings

Rich in taste but not in fat. Plus, it's dairy-free! A great way to add elegance to a simple scoop of frozen dessert or a slice of angel food cake. Top with fresh berries for added color.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup organic sugar
Dash of salt
1 cup vanilla-flavored organic almond milk
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

1. In a tall-sided saucepan, combine cocoa, sugar and salt. Gradually add almond milk until smooth.

2. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in vanilla. Serve immediately or cool completely and reheat for later use.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 24 Fat: .5g % fat calories: 21 Cholesterol: 0mg Carbohydrate: 4g Protein: 1g

Chewy Organic Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 3 dozen 2-inch cookies;
Serving size: 1 cookie

To get uniform cookie sizes, use an ice-cream scoop to form the batter on the sheet pans. Then, create a gift bag, basket or box of these classic cookies turned healthy.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

1 1/4 cups organic unbleached white flour
3/4 cup organic whole-grain pastry flour
2 tablespoons each: oat bran, wheat germ and brewer's yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons each: baking soda and baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup organic unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sucanot, ground
2 extra-large organic eggs
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1 10-ounce package grain-sweetened semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine flours, oat bran, wheat germ, brewer's yeast, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium-size bowl. Set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer, in a large bowl cream together butter and sucanot until fluffy, about 4 minutes.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.

5. Slowly blend in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

6. Drop spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 - 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 2 minutes on the sheet pan. Transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 114 Fat: 7g % fat calories: 53 Cholesterol: 22mg Carbohydrate: 12g Protein: 2g

Chocolate-Studded Strawberry Apple Crisp

Makes 8 servings

Chocolate and fruit are great companions. Plus, this crisp is dairy-free and wheat-free!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Fruit filling:

2 organic Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 tablespoons organic sugar
2 tablespoons organic brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 bag (10 oz.) frozen organic strawberries, thawed


1 cup organic rolled oats
1/3 cup organic brown rice flour
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine apples, sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl. Gently fold in strawberries. Pour into an 8''x 8'' baking pan.

3. Combine oats, flour, oil, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly over strawberries. Sprinkle chocolate chips over top. Bake for 35 minutes.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 181 Fat: 7g % fat calories: 36 Cholesterol: 0mg Carbohydrate: 27g Protein: 3g

Mary Jo Romano is a trained chef based in Norwalk, Conn., specializing in whole-foods cooking. Rebecca Broida Gart is a senior editor for Delicious! magazine.

Photography by Laurie Smith