Love is in the Air!
By Chef Mary
As a chef, and food connoisseur I know a little something about the popularity of chocolate. The relationship one has with chocolate has many parallels to relationships with dear friends and family. Adjectives that come to mind for both include comfort, celebration, satisfaction, sharing and adoration.
Just know that I am writing this article while in the kitchen baking chocolate cheesecake brownies for a friend’s birthday. The sweet rich aroma of chocolate is wafting through my home and it is truly delicious.
Look around your house today, and chances are that you will have something stashed away in the refrigerator or a cupboard containing cocoa. What would your life be like without that pint of Ben & Jerry’s “Chocolate Therapy”? (For those who have not had the pleasure it is a mixture of chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookies and swirls of chocolate pudding).
It’s hard to pin down exactly when chocolate was discovered, but it’s clear that it was cherished from the start. For several centuries in pre-modern Latin America, cacao beans were considered valuable enough to use as currency. One bean could be traded for a tamale while 100 beans could purchase a good turkey hen, according to a 16th-century Aztec document. In America, chocolate was so valued during the Revolutionary War that it was included in soldiers’ rations and used in lieu of wages. While most of us probably wouldn’t settle for a chocolate paycheck these days, statistics show that the humble cacao bean is still a powerful economic force.
Our long-standing association with Valentine’s Day started after Richard Cadbury invented the chocolate box in 1868. He then took it one step further and devised a heart-shaped version; today more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes are sold annually in the United States. Chocolate manufacturing is a more than 20-billion-dollar industry in the United States, and the average American eats at least half a pound of the stuff per month.
So is it healthy? Here are some interesting facts from a study:
♥ Chocolate suppresses the appetite.
♥ Chocolate helps prevent the body from translating the fat in our diets into fatty cells.
♥ Research proves that dark chocolate improves the health of blood vessels by making arteries more relaxed and responsive.
♥ Chocolate has mood elevating chemicals (xanthine’s, a form of caffeine) that provides a sense of well being creating greater interest in exercise and weight loss.
♥ Cocoa Butter does not contain saturated fat.
Milk chocolate is very popular in the United States, but the dark variety has been making strides in recent years, fueled by reports that it contains anti-oxidants.
A combination of pheniletilamine and theobromine, present in cocoa is what contributes to making chocolate a “love potion.” Pheniletilamine, which causes euphoria, is also capable of reducing depression in elderly people as well as pregnant women. Theobromine is a stimulant slightly less effective than caffeine, which acts on the circulatory system. Next time you share chocolate with a friend you can impress them with your newfound knowledge of this delicious indulgence!
- About 85% of people prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate (not me!)
- Annual consumption of chocolate is about 12 pounds per person
- Chocolate can be lethal to dogs. Theobromine is an ingredient that stimulates the cardiac muscle and central nervous system. For a 10-pound puppy, 2-ounces of chocolate can be poisonous!
- There are 10 mgs of caffeine in 1 cup of cocoa; there are 125 mgs in 1 cup of coffee
- 1-ounce of chocolate contains Vitamins A1, B1, B2, C, D, E, Iron, Calcium & Potassium
- One chocolate chip provides food energy for an adult to walk about 150 feet — it would take 875,000 chips for a hike around the world!
Chocolate is America’s favorite flavor. Americans eat over twenty billion dollars’ worth of chocolate each year making the U.S. the world’s eighth largest consumer at about half the level of the world’s leading chocolate-lovers, the Swiss.
Nothing says Valentine’s Day like chocolate and today we have many decadent choices for indulging both our sweethearts and sweet tooth.
Chocolate, I Adore Thee!
Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes
6 ounces dark chocolate
6 oz. butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 425°F
- Melt chocolate on medium heat in double boiler. When melted, remove from heat and stir in diced butter, until it melts.
- In another bowl, beat eggs and sugar, until it starts to whiten and sugar is dissolved.
- Stir in melted chocolate and then the flour.
- Butter & lightly flour (shake out any excess) 4 individual ramekins, and fill 3/4 fill with batter.
- Bake until the tops are just set but the cakes still jiggle slightly when you shake them, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cakes sit for 2 minutes
- Tip ramekins upside down onto dessert plates and serve w/ whipped cream and garnish with fresh raspberries or fanned strawberries.