The “History of Chocolate” just in time for this Tuesday, the day of LOVE!

With Valentines just around the corner we thought we might have a look at “the history of chocolate”.  At Coffs Coast Health Club we believe that you really can have it all…in moderation that is.  So get fit & healthy plus have the things you love.  Enjoy this Valentine’s Day with the people you adore.

chocolate

Chocolate Is Today’s Healthy Treat

Chocolate. There are few foods that evoke as much passion as this decadent treat. Folklore from many cultures claimed that consuming chocolate instilled faith, health, strength, and sexual passion. Once an indulgence of royalty, it is now a treasured and accessible – and yes, even healthy – treat. So where did our infatuation with chocolate begin?

Ripe cacao seed pods before they’ve been picked.

chocolate

Where Does Chocolate Come From?

The cacao tree, whose pods contain seeds that can be processed into chocolate, was discovered 2,000 years ago in the tropical rainforests of the Americas. The first people known to have consumed cacao were the Classic Period Maya (250-900 A.D.). They mixed ground cacao (cocoa) seeds with seasonings to make a bitter, spicy drink that was believed to be a health elixir.

Mexican hot chocolate is the descendant of a sacred drink called “xocoatl”.

chocolate

What Was Chocolate’s Great Allure?

To the Mayans, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility. The pod was often represented in religious rituals, including marriage ceremonies, and was referred to as food of the gods. In central Mexico, the Aztecs believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree, and that it had nourishing, fortifying, and even aphrodisiac qualities.

Explorer Hernan Cortés meets Emperor Montezuma II of Mexico.

chocolate

Europeans Are Charmed by Chocolate

Europeans got their first taste of chocolate in 1519, when Montezuma offered the spicy drink to Spanish explorer Cortés and his army. The Spanish conquistadors brought cocoa seeds back to Spain, where they introduced new spices and sugar to the liquid concoction. The fad drink spread throughout Europe, where it remained a beverage of the elite for centuries.

The famed Italian lover Giacomo Casanova.

chocolate

Chocolate’s Seductive Reputation

Chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac flourished in the French royal court. Erotic art and literature were inspired by the seductive substance. Casanova, the infamous womanizer, made a habit of drinking chocolate before his romantic escapades. Even today, romantic lore commonly identifies chocolate as an aphrodisiac.

chocolate

Chocolate Goes Global

The first machine-made chocolate was produced in Barcelona in 1780, paving the way for the mass production of chocolate. Later, mechanical inventions made it possible to produce smooth, creamy, solid chocolate for eating — not just the liquid for drinking. The first solid chocolate bar was developed by British chocolate maker Fry & Sons in the early 1800s.

chocolate

Chocolate Gifts on Valentine’s Day

“It’s believed that during the 17th century, lovers began exchanging mementos on Valentine’s Day – sweet treats were one of them. In 1868, the first Valentine’s Day box of chocolates was introduced [by Richard Cadbury],” says Susan L. Fussell, senior director of communications for the National Confectioners Association.

Soldiers hand out chocolate to French children during WWII.

chocolate

Three Cheers for Chocolate!

In 1875, the first milk chocolate was introduced to the market by Daniel Peter of Switzerland.  Chocolate became so popular around the world that even during World War II the U.S. government shipped cocoa beans to the troops. Today, the U.S. Army includes chocolate bars in their rations. Chocolate has even been taken into space as part of the diet of U.S. astronauts.

chocolate

Is Chocolate Really an Aphrodisiac?

Not really, even though throughout its history, chocolate has been purported as one. Chocolate contains small amounts of a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA), a.k.a. the “love drug,” and it’s been linked to the regulation of physical energy, mood, and attention. A tiny amount of PEA is released at moments of emotional euphoria, elevating blood pressure and heart rate. There is no evidence that PEA found in foods increases PEA in the brain – although many chocolate lovers may beg to differ!

chocolate

Chocolate Makes Health Headlines

Dark chocolate (as opposed to milk or white chocolate) contains healthful flavonoids similar to those found in tea, red wine, fruits, and vegetables. Studies have shown that dark chocolate can improve blood vessel flow and may improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity to help reduce the risk of diabetes. But beware, chocolate candy has plenty of saturated fat and sugar, so enjoy small portions of as part of a healthy diet.

 

Coffs Coast Health Club love to eat yummy things.  Why not try these macaroons?

Dark Chocolate Dipped Macaroons

By

Picture of Dark Chocolate Dipped Macaroons

The cookie (if it can be called a cookie?) is typically composed of coconut, egg whites, sugar, and vanilla, and you will find recipes made of differing proportions of the former, plus or minus an ingredient or two. I’ve had ones made with sweetened condensed milk and do like the moisture it contributes, but it makes the lighter treat a tad too heavy. Though it does sound like a lot of sugar, we didn’t find this version to be overly sweet at all. If you scale it back too much, it tastes like a coconut omelet. Coconut is wonderful, but the contrast of the dark chocolate makes these babies exceptional.

I encourage you to experiment with natural sweeteners here, as I think it would only slightly change the flavor. You can find natural sweeteners at natural foods stores or online. Evaporated palm sugar is a great alternative, or you could use regular granulated sugar if you prefer.

Ingredients

3 Egg Whites
1 Cup Organic Sucanat (Whole Cane Sugar)
3 Tbsp. Honey
2 tsp. Real Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 3/4 Cups Unsweetened Coconut
1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour/Brown Rice Flour*
340 grams Semi-Sweet/Dark Good Quality Chocolate Chips

Instructions

Heat oven to 190 C degrees.

Beat the egg whites with a whisk until they are loose and frothy. Add the salt, vanilla, sugar, and honey and combine. Add the coconut and stir. See starred note for consistency advice.

Using a small spoon, dollop about 2 Tbsp. of the mix 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with either parchment paper or a non-stick cooking mat.

Bake in the oven for 14-16 minutes on the middle rack. Remove and cool completely. While the macaroons are cooling, heat the chocolate chips over a double-broiler, or glass bowl over simmering water. Be sure to not let the glass touch the water to avoid scorching. Continue to stir until chocolate is melted.

Lay out a new piece of parchment paper. Take a cooled macaroon, and generously dip half into the melted chocolate. Lay on the parchment for chocolate to harden. This time could be expedited in the fridge or freezer.

* The consistency of the mix will vary depending on the size of your egg whites and also how your coconut is shredded. When the mix sits in the bowl, you don’t want it to be weeping any liquid, it should hold itself together while still being moist. If anything is puddling at the bottom, add a bit of flour or GF flour to help dry things up. Add little by little, you may not need all of it. I needed to use the flour, as my eggs were large. Use your discretion and look for consistency before sticking to the measurements.

Total Servings: 24

Nutritional Information Per Serving

Calories: 155
Carbohydrates: 22.3g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Fat: 6.9g
Saturated Fat: 4.6g
Fiber: 1.9g
Sodium: 69mg
Protein: 1.8g

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