Easy Dark Chocolate Mango Almond Coconut Clusters


Every Christmas I like to make snack packs as gifts.  I tend to go a bit crazy making lots of chocolates.  You can see some examples here.  While they turn out great and people love them, it is a bit too much work I've decided.  So this year I was just going to make a batch or two of spiced nuts.  That was until I found some fantastic easy healthy recipes for nuts, candies, and chocolates from "Paleo Indulgences" by Tammy Credicott.


How I Altered This Recipe And Why
This recipe is the second to come from her book (just slightly altered by me).  The first one I tried was candied coconut walnut clusters which were so easy and addicting.  For this recipe I used a combination of dark chocolate chips (I used Nestle which is also soy free) and 100% unsweetened cocao bar to create a true dark chocolate.  This gives the clusters more great chocolate antioxidants and less chocolate in a way that's easy for anyone to find since both dark chocolate chips (which are 53% cocao) and 100% chocolate baking bar are both easily found in the baking asile of most grocery stores.  My guess is the chocolate ends up being close to 70-75% cocoa. 

This recipe originally had cherries in it, which I'm sure is delicious and plan to try sometime, but I changed it to coconut to keep the cost down.  I was at Trader Joe's and was planning on buying organic dried cherries.  Since they we're so expensive for organic (which you want to get because cherries are heavily sprayed with pesticides), so I started looking for cheaper alternatives.  I ended up deciding to try a new product at Trader Joe's, lightly sweetened dried coconut stripes ( if you don't Live by a Trader Joe's and can't get the coconut strips, don't worry you can easily omit them and add more mango).  It was much cheaper than organic cherries and I love coconut! I started thinking of Almond Joy's as my inspiration for this recipe.  I decided to add shredded coconut to increase the coconut flavor, chili flavored mangoes for a little surprise ingredient, and of course almonds!

So What Was the Result? 
Well this was super easy to make, it would be a fun thing to make with kids since they could help pick out an ingredient, and it doesn't take very long to make.  Over all I would say this recipe was a success, I just tweaked it a bit.  I used whole almonds in the original recipe as you can see in the above picture (since they do in Almond Joys), but  I found it to be to over whelming whole since this recipe uses a lot of almonds.  I think coarsely chopped would be much better.  I liked the different texture created by the diced coconut strips (since they were so thick)  but didn't find them necessary I actually liked eating them plain with no chocolate more than in this recipe.  So if you don't Live by a Trader Joe's and can't get the coconut strips, don't worry you can easily omit them and add more mango.
 

Other Flavor Options

The flavor options for this recipe are only limited by your imagination!  I think it would be fun to try a new version every time you make it.  Here are some of my favorite ideals.

Nuts:  Macadamia, walnut,shelled pistachios, pecans, etc.  If you can't eat nuts you could try to add pumpkin seeds in place of nuts
Dried fruits:  organic cranberries, strawberries, cherries, apricots, and broken banana chips (not made with partial hydrogenated oil).
Spices: sea salt, chili, cayenne pepper, cinnamon

Other Mix in Ideals: white chocolate ships (not made with partially hydrogenated oil), sliced crystallized ginger, crushed peppermint candy, marshmallows (not made with high fructose), organic shortbread cookies or oreos, and broken waffle cones. 


Ingredients

2 cup raw almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried coconut stripes (pict above) coarsely chopped  from Trader Joe's (If you can't find these don't worry just omit and sub with more dried mango)
1/2 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut 
1/2 cup of diced dried mango (you could try Trader Joe's chili mango slices for a kick like I did)
10 ounces dark chocolate chips
2 oz 100% cocao bar, finely chopped (I used Ghirardelli® 100% Cacao Unsweetened Baking Bar)
Sea salt for sprinkling 

Directions

1.  In a medium bowl, toss together the almonds and the coconut (diced and shredded), and mangoes. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.

2.  Melt half the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over slightly simmering water, over the lowest possible heat, stirring frequently. Make sure the water is not touching the top pan. Remove the double boiler from the heat and stir in the rest of the chocolate. Remove the top pan with the chocolate in it, gently wipe the bottom of it and set it aside for a moment. Replace the simmering water in the bottom pan with warm tap water. Put the pan of melted chocolate on top of the warm water. This will keep the chocolate at the right temperature while you make the clusters.
3.Stir the fruit-nut mixture into the chocolate. Spoon out heaping tablespoon-sized clusters of the chocolate mixture onto the baking sheet about 1-inch apart and sprinkle sea salt on each cluster. Put them in the freezer to set for 15 minutes. Store and serve at room temperature (as long as the room temp is not hot enough to melt chocolate).

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