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Chocolate – Food of the Gods

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Part 2 of Stress Awareness Month

As I mentioned in my last post April is stress awareness month. One thing that helps me deal with stress is chocolate. This is how I see it:

Chocolate is derived from cacao beans. Beans are a vegetable. Sugar is derived from either sugar CANE or sugar BEETS. Both are a plant, which places them in the vegetable category. Therefore, chocolate is a vegetable.

One of the ingredients added to chocolate during manufacturing is milk, thus making chocolate a dairy product too. You get a double serving of milk if you drink hot chocolate!!

Chocolate-covered raisins, cherries, orange slices and strawberries all count as fruit, so eat as many as you want.

Diet tip: Eat a chocolate bar before each meal. It’ll take the edge off your appetite, and you’ll eat less.  

If calories are an issue, store your chocolate on top of the fridge. Calories are afraid of heights, and they will jump out of the chocolate to protect themselves. (I’m testing this with other snack foods too.)

A balanced diet is eating equal amounts of dark chocolate and white chocolate.

 Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look younger. Therefore, you need to eat more chocolate.

Put “eat chocolate” at the top of your list of things to do today. That way, at least you’ll get one thing done.

A nice box of chocolates can provide your total daily intake of calories in one place. Now, isn’t that handy?

Stressed” spelled backward is “desserts.” So, to reverse being “stressed” . . . EAT CHOCOLATE!!!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

While the above is played for humor there is recent research that shows that dark chocolate (60% cacao or higher) in limited amounts (0.23 ounces) is not only good for you but is actually healthy for you.

YES!!! YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY!

CHOCOLATE IS HEALTHY FOR YOU!

(*small print – in limited amounts)

Chocolate has been described as more than a food and less than a drug.  Chocolate has been around for eons. The cocoa tree is native to South America and the Amazon River Basin.

The ancient Olemec, a pre-Columbian (1400BCE to 400 BCE) grew the beans as a domestic crop. But it was the Mayans (250-900 CE) who drank the bean in a bitter beverage and in religious ceremonies. They also harvested, fermented, roasted, and ground the seeds into a paste to mix into foods. In 1400 the Aztec’s traded with the Mayans and others for the cacao seeds. It was the Aztecs who considered chocolate a gift of the gods. It has been reported that Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, drank up to 50 goblets of chocolate per day.

But it was the Spanish who popularized chocolate in Europe after they conquered Mexico in 1521. It was also the Spanish who added sugar to chocolate to make it less bitter.

Chocolate is produced from the seeds of the cacao tree. But from flower to pod to seeds (called beans) to chocolate is a time and labor intensive process. Growing and harvesting the seeds or beans in the early stages is done totally by hand and on small farms not large plantations.

 

From the Cocoa Tree website, “According to the International Cocoa Organization, 2.5 million farmers produce almost 90 percent of the world’s cocoa on 5-10 acre holdings. Typically, cocoa is the family’s main source of cash. Cocoa provides important income for small farmers in developing economies all over the world.”

After the beans are hand picked, dried, and fermented they are shipped to factories to make the chocolates we all know and love so much.

If you are interested in how the entire process works accompanied by great pictures there is an excellent website that gives all the details. It would be a great resource for children who have to write a report for school: The Cocoa Tree, From Bean to Bar.

NUTRITONAL VALUE OF DARK CHOCOLATE

Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants, higher than even blueberries, red wine, green tea, and pomegranates.

Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.

36% of the fat in choclate is so called good fat as it comes from natural cocoa butter, and the saturated fat in chocolate has no harmful cholesterol.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SUGAR?

According to Facts About Chocolate “…keep in mind that a strong dark chocolate bar might have ten to fifteen grams of sugar, which is still less than the 22 grams in your glass of orange juice, the 29 grams in your cup of yogurt, and the 34 grams in your glass of cran-grape juice, all of which are considered “good” for you.”

RESEARCH ON HEALTH BENEFITS OF DARK CHOCOLATE

There is a growing body of intriguing research being done on the heath benefits of eating dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is considered to be no less than 60% cocoa or higher.

Dark chocolate may be good for your heart. “In short-term clinical trials, dark chocolate has reduced blood pressure, improved blood flow, showed mild anti-clotting effects and may help prevent plaque formation in arteries.”

Research is also continuing on possible benefits of chocolate with cancer patients.

Research is also indicating it may help people with arthritis, asthma, and even Alzheimer’s.

So go ahead. Indulge yourself in small quantities, about 0.23 ounces per day. That is a about one small square 3 or 4 times a week. It will do you good.

THREE CHOCOLATE RECIPES

Most chocolate is consumed in baked goods. I don’t bake very often. I figure that is what bakeries are for. I do have a couple of recipes for you though. Just keep in mind that I have not made  them in some time.

This recipe is very rich and delicious. However, when I get a hankering for hot chocolate these days I usually just make a hot mug of Ovaltine. I only make this now when I want to impress someone. And the older I get the less I care about impressing folks. But it is divine. 

Classic Hot Chocolate for Two

You will need:

2 ¼ ounces 60% or better cacao, bittersweet chocolate chopped

1 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon sugar

Here is what you do:

Place the chocolate in a bowl over saucepan of simmering water.

Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Bring milk and sugar to simmer in another pan stirring until sugar dissolves.

Gradually whisk hot milk into chocolate.

Pour into 2 mugs, add some whipped cream or marshmallows and sit back and enjoy.

Easy Brownies

It has been years and years since I made Brownies from scratch like this. But it is easy and delicious so I provide it for you if you are a baker.

This is what you will neeed:

6 tablespoons cocoa

¼ cup butter

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup flour

1 cup walnuts

2 eggs

Here is what you do:

Preheat oven to 325°F degrees.

Butter and flour a 9×9 inch pan

Melt butter

Add the cocoa and mix well

Add the sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, flour, and salt; mix well

Spread brownie batter evenly in pan.

Place in a 325 degree oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.

When a tooth pick is inserted and it comes out clean the brownies are ready.

Allow to cool until warm before cutting. [/print_this]

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Devilishly Decadent Delight

I saved the best for last.

This next recipe I have never ever made myself. In fact, I had never heard of these tiny little tasty morsels until till my neighbor, Betty shared a few with me recently. She makes them for fund raisers for both church and an organization that raises money for cancer research. They sell 6-8 of them in little bags for $7 or $8. She tells me they sell tons of them. She says they make a ton of money selling them too. I can see why. She never had a name for them, so I made one up – Devilishly Decadent Delight.

Be forewarned. These are addictive. They are also expensive, and the candy is milk chocolate not 60%. I shopped around to find the lowest cost for ingredients and listed those for you.

This is what you will need:

Pretzel Snaps (square shaped)        $2.99/16 ounces

Rollo caramel candy                        $3.00/12 ounces on sale

Whole pecans                                $4.99/12 ounces

Total Cost for about 40:   $10.99

This is what you do:

 Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place pretzel snaps one at a time in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Place one unwrapped Rollo caramel candy piece on to of each pretzel

Bake at 250 degrees for 2-3 minutes, just until the chocolate is softened and beginning to melt.

Remove from oven and working quickly (it helps if you have a helper)  place one pecan piece in the center of each Rollo caramel candy and gently press down a bit.

Cool for 15 minutes and then place uncovered in the fridge until the chocolate sets and is firm.

So small. So delicious. A small bite that melts stress away

Betty Sells Bags of the Candy

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So now that we know April is Stress Awareness Month and since in the last two posts we discovered that both pets and chocolate help alleviate stress and in Send in the Clowns we read about the importance of laughter in our lives it is only fitting that we take a trip down memory lane and watch Lucy and Ethel in the Chocolate Factory.

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May the rest of your April be stress free.

q

(**Source of pictures of cocoa tree flowers and pods: Choclate Manufacturers Association Website, The Cocoa Tree.**)

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