Let’s talk about two dreaded words “eating healthy”. If you’re like any normal person, you probably cringe at the word and it sorta terrifies you (at least, it did for me!). I think society these days has made the concept of eating healthy so much more difficult and confusing with changes in dietary recommendations every couple years and new research on diabetes, heart disease and other chronic disease always coming out. It’s hard to keep up with all of it!
A couple ways to make it easier to eat healthy is to remember these recommendations:
- keep it simple – try to stay away from foods with a lot of ingredients and especially those that you don’t recognize.
- keep it fresh – fresh foods, are always better than processed food! Fresh foods are lower in sodium, sugar, and free of preservatives.
- homemade is best – when you eat out, or buy already packaged foods, you can’t control the ingredients that go in there. By making things yourself at home, you can control the salt, sugar, and contact with other ingredients that aren’t good for you.
Now, I agree, homemade is not always the easiest, and sometimes you have to pick your battles. For me, if I’ve worked a 12 hour work day and the only thing I’m craving is Chinese takeout, I just go for it. But if I’m home on a Saturday and find free time on my hands, I love to meal prep and bulk make snacks. Eating healthy is all about finding what works for you, whether it is home cooking everyday, or just starting a weekend meal prep that’ll last you a couple days.
One of my favorite snacks to make is this dark chocolate, cherry, almond, and cashew bark. It was born out of wanting a more even distribution of chocolate whenever I ate trail mix. I hated having a handful of just dried fruit, or too many almond or just not enough chocolate. This recipe is made with only 4 squares of chocolate (think like half a Hershey’s chocolate bar) and will last you the whole week! I grew up with people always telling me that chocolate was terrible for you and would give you acne and so on and so forth. The truth is, it all depends on the type of chocolate! Dark chocolate is actually really good for you (in moderation, as everything is, haha), the key is just to choose a brand that is low in sugar. The cherries, or any dried fruit in general help give the bark some natural sweetness and are a good source of fiber; make sure to only buy dry fruit that hasn’t been sweetened (it will usually say if there’s been extra sugar added on the packing, so keep a look out for it!). I know cherries and almonds are the classic combination, but I love the addition of cashews. They’re heart healthy and help give a creaminess to the bark that makes it that much more delicious. I am addicted to the salty-sweet combination, so the final finishing touch to this bark is just a sprinkle of sea salt on top. If you’re sensitive to salt, need to avoid it, or just don’t like salty snacks, leave it out!
This bark is perfect in every way. It keeps well, it’s healthy for you with no refined sugars, and is pretty much as minimally processed as foods get. It also takes only 20 minutes and is legitimately 3 steps. I’ve included photos to help guide you, I find that it’s always less daunting to try out a new recipe when you’ve got photos to compare your product to at every step!
First thing, gather up your nuts and dried fruit and roughly chop them. I cut the cherries into quarters and the nuts in half. You can go as large or as small as you want, but I find that these sized pieces are best to make sure you get at least a good amount of cherries, almonds and cashews in one bite.
Then, melt your chocolate in the microwave and sprinkle your nuts on top. It’s going to be a pretty densely packed bark, just because I’m trying to keep the chocolate at a minimum and make the majority of the bark nuts and dried fruit. Don’t forget that last sprinkle of sea salt!
Then, just pop in the fridge for 15 minutes. When the chocolate has solidified, break into large pieces and you’re ready to devour. Seriously, it’s that simple!
HEALTHIER CHERRY, ALMOND, CASHEW BARK | Makes 3-4 servings
- 1/4 cup roasted almonds
- 1/4 cup cashews
- 1/4 cup pitted dried cherries (no added sugar)
- 4 oz dark chocolate (I look for the one with the lowest amount of sugar)
- A pinch of sea salt
- Roughly chop up almond, cashews, and cherries. They should be chopped into bite-sized pieces.
- Heat dark chocolate in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time and taking out before all the chocolate is melted. Let the residual heat of the already melted chocolate melt the remaining chocolate. This will ensure a smooth and luscious chocolate texture.
- Pour melted chocolate on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Spread the chocolate out as thin as you can get it (I picked up the sheet pan and tilted it side to side to help the chocolate spread, it’s the easiest way!). It should be spread out very thin (almost paper-thin).
- Sprinkle chopped nuts and cherries over the melted dark chocolate and then press the nuts and fruit into the chocolate. This will make sure everything stays inside the melted chocolate and doesn’t fall out when you try and eat it. It should be pretty densely packed! Sprinkle with sea salt.
- Pop into the fridge for 15-20 minutes until bark is solidified.
- Once bark is solidified, break into large pieces and you’re ready to eat!
- Store bark in an airtight container in the fridge and it will pretty much keep indefinitely.
*Recipe can be doubled, tripled or quadrupled to meet your needs.