A chocolate fountain is a fantastic addition to your dessert table, whatever the occasion. And you can opt for white chocolate that's suitable for coloring, milk chocolate or dark chocolate. The thing about dark chocolate is that it often contains less sugar than white or milk chocolate and is much higher in flavanols, plant-based substances that may help to protect the heart, boost brain function and reduce the risk of diabetes. Order a dark chocolate fountain for a healthier treat or, if you're making it yourself, remember to shop for organic dark chocolate.
To make sure the chocolate flows freely through all the levels of the fountain, you'll need to add about 1/2 cup of vegetable oil for every 5 pounds of chocolate. Use sunflower, safflower or canola oil; others, such as peanut oil, may overpower the flavor. Or you could try replacing the vegetable oil with coconut oil to add a hint of tropical zest to the mixture. To avoid adding oil, buy high-quality chocolate that's rich in cocoa butter and specifically made for chocolate fountains.
In addition to all those flavanols, chocolate is rich in magnesium – a mineral that helps turn your food into fuel, supports your immune system and keeps your bones strong and your heartbeat regular – and pairs well with most fruits, many sweets and some unexpected savories. Don't be afraid to experiment!
Add the Humble Potato
Potato chips are an excellent match for dark chocolate. You can buy your favorite baked brand or you can bake healthy chips to control the amount of oil and sodium that goes into them. Thinly slice the potatoes, sprinkle with olive oil, add kosher salt and cayenne pepper (optional), and pop them in the oven. If you're not a fan of potato chips, try pretzel sticks or twists or baked plantain chips.
Have a Nacho Affair
Nothing is more versatile than tortilla chips. The crunchy triangle seems to go well with everything, from a classic pico de gallo to a trendy edamame hummus. So instead of, or in addition to, adding pretzels to your chocolate fountain menu, include tortilla chips. The gluten-free alternative is super easy to make: Just cut your favorite corn tortillas in triangles, drizzle with olive oil, add kosher salt and bake in the oven until they're golden and crunchy.
Make It Berry Healthy
Wash and hull fresh strawberries and serve them alongside blueberries to get a healthy dose of anti-aging antioxidants. Spear one strawberry with a skewer, follow with one or two blueberries, and finish with another strawberry. If you want to indulge, include a cube of pound cake, angel food cake or sponge cake on each berry skewer. Don't want crumbs in your fountain? Swap the cake for potassium-rich banana slices or provide spoons so guests can ladle chocolate over cake cubes and slippery fruits.
Say Yes to Citrus Peels
Citrus fruits are considered powerhouses because of their high concentrations of nutrients and their association with reduced risk of chronic disease. If you have some fresh citrus on hand, candied citrus peel is easy to make from scratch. To reduce the amount of sugar in almost any candied peel recipe, just skip the granulated sugar coating. While candied orange peel covered in chocolate is a worthy treat, consider also including candied lemon and grapefruit peels on the menu to give your guests a "palatial" experience.
Load Up on C
When they're in season, fresh mandarins and clementines meld memorably with dark chocolate, supply lots of vitamin C, and are easy to peel and section. Infuse more color, variety and vitamin C into your buffet with additional fruits, such as sliced kiwis, mangoes and pineapples, which also go swimmingly with melted chocolate.
Nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, both key to maintaining a healthy heart, so why not make peanut brittle and dip it in the silken chocolate? Swap the peanuts for almonds or macadamia nuts to make an extra-luxurious treat. Use coconut oil instead of butter for a dairy-free confection. Don’t want to use sugar? Try using agave nectar instead. For partygoers with peanut or tree nut allergies, concoct a batch of sesame brittle. If you don’t have time to cook, no worries. Buy your brittle ready-made or substitute store-bought sesame snaps, granola bars or high-protein bars for your dipping pleasure.
Experiment With Flavors
Dried apricots and chocolate are a match made in heaven. The tangy, decadent combination is loaded with iron, which is essential for producing energy and keeping the immune system healthy. To get all the goodness and avoid the nasties, dry organic apricots at home. You'll need very ripe apricots and a dehydrator, or you can dry the fruit alfresco or in the oven.
Pair It With Avo
Buttery avocado is rich in fatty acids and potassium, and if consumed regularly, may help lower cholesterol. As yummy as an avocado-chocolate duo sounds, avocado may be tricky to dip in the fountain. To avoid floating bits of avo in the chocolate, cut a ripe fruit in slices or cubes, squeeze a bit of lemon on top to prevent it from turning brown, put it in a resealable freezer bag or freezer-safe container, and toss it in the freezer for a few hours. When it's time to party, dip the frozen avo in chocolate straight from the freezer.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source: Dark Chocolate
- Harvard Health Publishing: Why Nutritionists Are Crazy About Nuts
- NCBI: Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach
- University of Edinburgh: Nutrient Plays Key Role in Internal Clocks
- NCBI: Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects
- MedlinePlus: Magnesium in Diet
- NIH News in Health: Claims About Cocoa: Can Chocolate Really Be Good for You?
- Harvard Health Blog: Your Brain on Chocolate
- Colorado State University: Types of Citrus Fruits
- Harvard Health Publishing: Is Chocolate Really a Health Food?
- NCBI: Vitamin C as an Antioxidant: Evaluation of Its Role in Disease Prevention