These treats are so good that I have to give them away. I can't have a lot of them in my house because I will eat them all, which is why they are the perfect little gift to give friends and family this time of year. However, as far as holiday treats go, they are among the "healthier" treats out there without tasting healthy at all. While they are loaded with things that are amazingly good for you, they are still somewhat high in calories so sharing or gifting is the way to go. And if you're going to indulge in a holiday treat, why not make it something that is actually good for you? They are flour/wheat/gluten free and contain no added white sugar, no butter or oils. You just need to make sure you use dark chocolate and start with raw, unsalted almonds and roast them yourself. Store-bought roasted almonds can contain (bad) oils you don't need and you are able to control the amount of salt they are seasoned with.
Almonds are one of the most nutritious nuts around: they are a great source of protein, fiber and healthy fats; they contain vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, iron, and a variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals, which may help protect against cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Almonds can help lower blood pressure and also have anti-inflammatory properties which can prevent wrinkles and other signs of aging even at the cellular level.
One ingredient I've recently discovered that has enhanced these lovely nut clusters is smoked sea salt. Of course you can use regular sea salt, but if you can get your hands on this stuff - please do. Some specialty food stores will make you think you have to pay $10, $12 or even $14 for a small jar, but you don't. Trader Joe's sells a 4 oz jar for $1.99 complete with attached grinder.
Please note when making these almonds, it's not an exact science. The amounts can vary depending on how much you have in your pantry and how much you want to make. As far as the chocolate goes, I use a combination of Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips and 4-6 squares of a Ghirardelli 100% cocoa bar - you can use what ever % of chocolate you like. Even if you don't give them away, be forewarned, they won't be around for long.
Dark Chocolate-Covered Almonds with Smoked Sea Salt
1 1/2 - 2 cups raw, unsalted almonds
10 - 12 oz dark chocolate chips and/or squares
sea salt or smoked sea salt
1.) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.) Line a baking pan with parchment paper and spread almonds over the pan. Season with a few grinds of sea salt and bake for about 6-7 minutes or until you start to smell them and they start to crack. Let cool.
3.) In a 3 quart pot/sauce pan, add 1 inch of water and heat over a medium flame. Place a glass bowl on top making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl as much as possible, (creating a double-boiler). Add the chocolate and stir until all is melted and smooth.
4.) Turn off the heat and add the cooled, roasted almonds. Stir until all almonds are covered with chocolate. With a fork, lift a cluster of almonds out and place onto a parchment lined baking pan or plate. Grind the smoked sea salt on each. Let set for a good hour or two - you can put them in the refrigerator if you can't wait! Store in an airtight container. Enjoy.
"The Greatest Wealth is Health" - Roman Poet Virgil