March is National Cherry Month and it’s time to celebrate these decadent little fruits! Did you know the largest cherry crop in the United States comes from Michigan? In fact, my hometown of Traverse City, calls itself the Cherry Capitol of the World.  There is even a cherry festival every year in July. Here are some interesting facts about cherries:

  • Michigan produces 75% of the nation’s tart cherries.
  • Tart cherries have fewer calories and more beta-carotene than sweet cherries.
  • It takes about 250 cherries to make a cherry pie.

How I love sitting down to snack on a bowl of cherries. And I didn’t even know how healthy they were.  Recent research shows the following health benefits:

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  • Tart (sour) cherries are packed with antioxidants that are believed to relieve arthritis and gout pain.
  • Tart cherries also helps fight against heart disease and cancer.
  • Cherries can help to soothe sore muscles.
  • They are rich in vitamins and fiber.
  • They can help diminish hot flashes in women (this one I learned from a friend and I would drink a shot of tart concentrated cherry juice every day – it really was tart but you can add water, Sprite or 7-up and make it a drink).

The research has been done on tart cherries, but it is believed that sweet cherries also pack in antioxidants and nutrition.

But, enough about the healthy side.

What a better way to celebrate cherry month, and a little post-Valentine’s Day, than with a decadent chocolate cherry cookie.  These are so chewy, chocolaty good with a cherry on top! Plus the whole family can get involved, including dad who probably has the biggest thumbprint in the family (you will see why this needed below).  The kids can help roll the cookies into the balls.

Decadent Chocolate Cherry Cookie Recipe

Directions:

Makes 2 dozen.

  •  1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs (you can use 1 egg if you want them a little harder)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 10 ounce jar maraschino cherries
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

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Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.  Add flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder and stir until smooth.
  3. Roll the mixture into about 1 1/2 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Press center of each ball with thumb (this is where hubby comes in).
  4. Place a cherry in the indentation of each cookie ball.
  5. In a saucepan, heat condensed milk and chocolate chips until chips are melted.  Stir in some of the cherry juice to taste.  Spoon about 1 teaspoon over each cherry (I used a pastry bag with a large tip to cover the cherry and then changed to a small tip to make the lines.) NOTE:  I had a lot of leftover frosting (that we used on ice cream!), so you can half the measurements if you wish.
  6. Bake for 12-14 minutes.

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Using the 2 eggs made them so chewy and good, almost like a brownie texture which is my favorite.

So, healthy or not, celebrate cherry month with a bowl of cherries or a cookie!