|There’s Just Something About Chocolate|
There’s Just Something About Chocolate…
By Cheryl Meister
Baby, its cold outside! February is the perfect time to stay in, light a fire and sip some hot cocoa as you get cozy with your sweetheart. Chocolate (hot or otherwise) evokes love, joy and happiness throughout the year in people of all ages.
But when it comes to Valentine’s Day, there is just something about chocolate that enhances the romance. Some would even propose that chocolate is nature’s most perfect (and romantic) food. No argument here!
Generally, chocolate is made of cocoa solids with the addition of sugar and milk solids (for milk chocolate). Cocoa solids come from cocoa beans which today are harvested primarily on Africa’s Ivory Coast.
The beans are heated to split and the inner nibs are then pressed to form cocoa “liquor” and further processed to become cocoa butter or powder. Bittersweet and semi-sweet refers to the amounts of sugar and cocoa solids.
By the way, white chocolate is really not chocolate at all, since it’s generally made of cocoa butter, milk solids and sugar but no actual cocoa solids, making it a bit sweeter.
Why do we give and get chocolates on Valentine’s Day? There is just something about chocolate and its silky, smooth texture and taste that is truly romantic and sensual.
Also, cocoa includes a substance called Theobromina which is believed to stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin creates a feeling of pleasure in our minds.
As an added bonus, chocolate (especially dark) has positive health effects, as it reduces blood pressure and provides antioxidants. There is just something about chocolate! So, go ahead and give some, get some, and then, have some more. Mmmmmmm.
Happy Chocolate Eating & Drinking and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
10-20 ripe, but firm, large strawberries, with stems (rinsed & completely dried)
6-12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate baking chips
Pour about 6 oz. of chips into a microwaveable bowl and cook on high in 30 second intervals, stirring with a spoon at each break just until nearly melted. Stir to smooth (do not overheat). Spear each berry with a toothpick at the stem and swirl in the melted chocolate. Carefully set berry on a dish or cookie sheet covered with waxed paper. Refrigerate for 20 minutes then store loosely covered at room temperature for up to 48 hrs. Tip: Great served with champagne!
Chocolate Fondue for Two
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2/3 c. heavy cream
1-2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
2-3 tbs. favorite flavored liquor (such as Chambord, Amaretto, Contreau)
4-6 each firm cookies, chunks of pound cake, thick banana coins, strawberries, pineapple chunks, graham crackers, marshmallows, pretzel rods, etc.
Combine chocolate and heavy cream over low-medium heat in heavy saucepan, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Stir in extract and liquor. Pour into a small, warmed ceramic dish. Using long toothpicks or fondue forks, dip your favorite dessert treats! Serve with a glass of cold milk or indulge in a mug of hot chocolate, gooey with melted marshmallows (oh why not?)!