SOURCE: Almond Board of California

February 14, 2011 05:00 ET

Crunch Your Way to a Healthy Heart

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - February 14, 2011) - (Family Features) During the month of February, the heart stands as the shining beacon for love. People exchange heart-shaped greeting cards, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and pastel colored heart candies that read "Be Mine" and "You Cutie."

And while it is true that February is known for love, chocolate and St. Valentine, it's also when many celebrate Heart Health Month and National Almond Day, February 16th. Coincidence? Not really -- the almond has depth and while it looks great dipped in dark chocolate; it's also lauded for its nutritional benefits that help make for happy hearts.

To celebrate, registered dietitian and Food Network star Ellie Krieger has designed a limited edition tin to hold a single serving of almonds -- about 23 -- a perfect portion for an ideal nutritious snack. The portable tin is small enough to slip into a purse, jacket pocket, gym bag or brief case and makes smart-snacking a snap. The new tin will be available spring 2011 and consumers can sign up now to be among the first to be notified when Ellie's new tin is available at www.AlmondBoard.com/shop.

"I have long championed the power of almonds' heart health benefits. My almond tin is a great way to keep a daily dose of an almond's nutritional perks close at hand, especially when you're on the go," says Krieger, host of Cooking Channel's "Healthy Appetite" and award-winning author of "So Easy." "February is a great month to celebrate almonds' heart health love. They're delicious, satisfying and good for you -- that really gets my heart pumping!"

What hearts love most about almonds is how hard they work to be nutritional overachievers. Just a handful of almonds can provide an excellent source of alpha-tocopherol vitamin E with 7.4 grams or 35 percent of the daily allowance. Always cholesterol-free California Almonds are also an integral part of the "good" fat gang, with one serving of almonds (28g) having 13 grams of unsaturated fat and only one gram of saturated fat. Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Almonds are the perfect Valentine for your heart. It's love at first crunch.

Chocolate Almond Bark
Created by: Almond Board of California

Yield: 32 servings

4 cups sliced California Almonds
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound fine-quality bittersweet chocolate
1/2 pound fine-quality semi-sweet chocolate
3 ounces of milk chocolate or white chocolate (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F and oil a large baking sheet. Set aside. In a separate large baking pan, spread almonds and toast for 8 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool.
  2. In a large heavy saucepan, bring butter, sugar, water, vanilla and salt to a boil over moderate heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. Boil mixture, without stirring, until deep golden color, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in 2 cups of the toasted almonds. Immediately pour onto reserved baking sheet and spread evenly. Refrigerate until set.
  3. Chop chocolate. In a hot double boiler, melt chocolate until smooth. Pour chocolate over cooled almond toffee and spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle top with remaining almonds. If desired, drizzle with melted milk or white chocolate for contrast. Chill uncovered until firm, about 1 hour.
  4. Break toffee into pieces. Store layered between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container at cool room temperature, or chilled, up to 1 week.

Nutritional analysis per serving; Serving size: 2 ounces
Calories: 246 kcals; Fiber 2.1 g; Total Fat: 17.5; Cholesterol: 8.2 mg; Saturated Fat: 7.2 g; Sodium: 22.1 mg; Monounsaturated Fat: 5.7 g; Calcium: 45.9 mg; Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.6 g; Magnesium: 42.6 mg; Protein: 4.17; Potassium: 211.5 mg; Carbohydrates: 24.5 g; Vitamin E: 3.2 mg (Total alpha-tocopherol equivalents)