Crunchy Holiday Clusters
I love homemade food gifts – both giving as well as receiving! And so, I thought it would be nice this year to share some with my clients and students for Christmas. Although I now have a pretty good collection of healthy treat recipes, I wanted something that was easy to make in bulk and would keep well outside of a refrigerator.
Luckily enough I found a PaleOMG recipe for 4 Ingredient Chocolate Mint Cashew Clusters on Instagram. I loved the idea and it worked really well. As I tried a few more batches, I started playing around, changing quantities and adding in some additional ingredients. You can’t really go wrong with this recipe – it really is that simple; but I’ve now found the mix and proportions that I like.
So What Makes Them Healthy?
Cashews, almonds and walnuts have a nix mix of proteins and healthy fats, as well as micronutrients, such as magnesium, manganese, copper, vitamin E and some B vitamins too.
I soak the nuts overnight and then roast them in a low temperature oven. Why? Soaking and roasting helps to reduce the phytate content of nuts. If you cast your mind back to the Apple and Almond Soaked Oats recipe, you may remember that phytates can block the absorption of certain minerals and are sometimes referred to as anti-nutrients.
You can soak the nuts overnight in filtered water and then drain and rinse in the morning. If you’re pushed for time, then you can always use warm water to soak for an hour or two.
Once drained, rinsed and drained again, they can be roasted in a fairly low heat.
Good quality dark chocolate (at least 70%) is a healthier option than milk chocolate. It has less sugar for starters; but also contains antioxidants and minerals such as magnesium, iron, copper and manganese. Yes, it still has sugar, but the good thing is that dark chocolate is rich enough that just a small amount will do.
Go for organic and Fair Trade if you can.
Peppermint can be a great support for digestion, helping to ease bloating and indigestion. This makes these a good after dinner option! I use food grade edible peppermint oil extract, but you can use peppermint extract also – depending on the quality it may not have the same effects.
However, if you suffer from reflux (GERD), then you’ll need to skip this flavouring, as peppermint can worsen symptoms.
I really wanted to find some unsweetened dried cranberries to use, but the best I got were some naturally (pineapple-juice) sweetened ones. Yes, cranberries are a great source of vitamin C and other antioxidants, as well as compounds, which can support the health of the urinary tract; but unfortunately, the drying processes greatly reduce these levels.
In other words – this is just a festive, chewy addition! Do try for unsweetened cranberries if you can.
Crunchy Holiday Clusters
- 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
- 1 tsp peppermint extract or 1 drop of peppermint oil
- ½ cup cashews
- ½ cup almonds
- ½ cup walnut pieces (or halves)
- ½ cup dried cranberries (unsweetened if possible)
- Soak the nuts in a bowl of warm filtered water for at least 1 hour
- Preheat the oven to just under 130C
- Drain, rinse and drain the nuts.
- Spread the nuts evenly onto a large baking tray and roast for 20 minutes or until dry.
- Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Keep stirring until melted.
- Once the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the pan and stir in the peppermint.
- Add the nuts and mix into the chocolate until well covered.
- Add the cranberries and mix in.
- Allow to cool a little. (This will make it easier for the clusters to hold together).
- Line a large plate with greaseproof paper. Using a tablespoon (a measuring one works best) spoon out the clusters.
When serving you can decorate these with some unsweetened coconut for “snow dusting” or raw cacao powder. For gifts, you can put these into gift bags.
Enjoy and Seasons’ Greetings!