This post is adapted from my guest post on Stone Soup, the blog of Food and Nutrition Magazine, which is a publication of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Just the word conjures up the taste of rich hot cocoa and the snap of a pure chocolate bar. For some, it is tied to the memory of a favorite birthday cake or the fluttering nerves of a first Valentine’s Day date. For others, it’s an everyday treat to be slowly savored with a mug of coffee.
We often think of chocolate only in the context of a sweet dessert. Yet, the chocolate we know today is quite different from how it was consumed originally. Did you know that during the vast majority of chocolate’s 2000-year history it was enjoyed as a beverage—and not even a sweet one? As far back as 1400 B.C.E., chocolate was prepared as a bitter drink that was sometimes fermented. It wasn’t until after Europeans set foot in the Americas that chocolate was sweetened. The first chocolate bar was created hundreds of years later, in the mid-19th century.
Today, chocolate is big business, with Americans buying more than $345 million in chocolate candy during Valentine’s week, making up 5.1 percent of annual sales. How much chocolate do people eat around the world?
With the abundance of chocolate in stores across the U.S., we may think we eat the most of anyone. Not true! People in Germany, Switzerland, and the U.K. eat about twice as much chocolate per year as those in the U.S. Europeans consume nearly half the world’s cocoa, while Americans consume just over 20 percent.
Enough statistics. How about nutrition? Cocoa contains vitamin E and some of the B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin and niacin), as well as minerals such as magnesium, copper, phosphorus and zinc. Check out the chart below for a breakdown of macro nutrients in different types of chocolate:
Suprisingly (for me, at least), dark chocolate tends to have a higher percentage of calories from fat than milk or white chocolate. This trend is due to the fact that dark chocolate tends to have more cocoa butter added to it to help it flow better. I would not have know this before we got our own chocolate temping machine and struggled with stiff dark chocolate. Notice that as you move from dark chocolate to white chocolate, the percentage of calories from sugar increases. This makes sense: if you take away the cocoa, you need to replace it with something. Sugar to the rescue! Finally, note the percentages don’t add up to 100 percent. This is partly due to rounding and mostly due to the other things in chocolate, such as fiber.
Chocolate is also rich in flavanols, a substance that protects the body against oxidative damage and may help improve blood flow to the brain and heart. To benefit from these flavanols, choose dark chocolate over highly processed milk chocolate and cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing. Enjoying an ounce of chocolate once in a while is something to which I can raise my glass!
While I had my open hours at Strawberry Fields last weekend, I offered these chocolate-dipped apricots for customers to nibble on while they asked me questions. They were a universal hit with everyone (well, except the kiddie who swallowed the chocolate and spat out the apricot. Can’t get them all, I guess.)
Looking for more chocolate recipes? Give these a try!
Wedding Chocolate Drops (fudgy chocolate cookies)
Fluffy Chocolate Ricotta Cookies
Vegetarian Chocolate Chili
Chocolate BBQ Sauce
Spiced Chocolate Tea
Q: Any special plans for Valentine’s Day? What’s your favorite chocolate recipe?
P.S. No post this Friday – I’m flying to Colorado for a lovely long weekend with my dad and sister.
“But, wait!” you cry. “Weren’t you just there?”
Why yes, yes I was. I’m going again because (a) I have a few extra days off between large projects, and (b) plane tickets are so darn cheap from here. Who knew?
See you on Monday, dear reader!
International Cocoa Organization: World Consumption of Chocolate/Annual Per Capita Consumption of Chocolate
International Cocoa Organization: Inventory of Health and Nutritional Attributes of Cocoa
Nielsen: U.S. Consumers Show Their Love for Chocolate on Valentine’s Day
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
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Happy MLK Jr. day, everyone! Before I share this month’s Recipe Redux, I have an important picture to show you:
Remember when Peter and I made our own inexpensive standing desks from Ikea furniture? I made sure our home office versions were all white (i.e. pleasing to the eye). For Peter’s uni office, he decided to go for a more, uh … striking color combination, as you can see from the picture above. He’s already had quite a few people commenting on his black-tan-red office addition. Personally, I think he chose bright red to intimidate students coming to his office hours.
And now, for something just as important (and much tastier): Creamy Green Pea Soup with Ham.
This month’s Recipe Redux challenge:
A Trend in Every Pot – We love reading predictions for what will be hot this year on restaurant menus and in supermarkets. Pick your favorite ‘new’ food trend and add it to a pot. Take a trend and use it in a soup, stew, one-pot meal or Crock Pot recipe to warm up readers (or perhaps use a chilled pot if it’s currently summer in your part of the globe.)
And so I Googled! There are a lot of trend predictions strewn across the Internet. Some look tasty (fancy popcorn, yum!), while others are downright odd (tea and chicken are trends? Okay … ). One trend I saw over and over: the rise of vegetables as a starring ingredient in main dishes. As a dietitian, I’ll raise my soup bowl to that!
What better way to celebrate vegetables-as-main-course in January than with winter and/or frozen veggies? As I already made a winter vegetable soup for my last RR, I decided to go with frozen veggies this time. Packed with vitamins, frozen veggies are a great way to eat on the cheap.
The weather has been a bit cold and dreary around here lately, so I went for a green pea soup to cheer things up. I’ve made pea soup before, and while that one is tasty, it doesn’t have the same bright flavors as this soup. The recipe is adapted from Heston Blumenthal at Home. I had to make quite a few changes to convert this recipe into a one-pot meal. I also healthified it up by making a few swaps (e.g. olive oil for butter and low sodium ham for regular ham). Finally, feel free to add other veggies to the soup for color, taste, and nutrition (e.g. chopped tomatoes, steamed cauliflower, roasted corn).
A FINAL final cook’s note: We didn’t have mint leaves for this batch, but we’ve served this soup with mint leaves before and it is delicious! Give it a try if you have mint hanging around.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Keywords: blender soup/stew entree peas
- 30 oz. green peas, fresh or frozen
- 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 slices low sodium bacon
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 pound precooked low sodium ham, chopped
- Mint leaves or mint oil (optional)
If peas are frozen, pour them into two towel-lined baking sheets and allow to defrost completely, about thirty minutes. If using fresh peas, can skip this step.
Heat olive oil in medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot garlic, and bacon and cook for five minutes. Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and add all but 1/3 cup of the peas.
Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender, if necessary), blend soup until smooth. Return to burner over medium-low heat and add the rest of the peas and the ham. Heat through. Serve with torn mint leaves and/or mint oil drizzled on top, if desired.
P.S. Check out my guest post on Stone Soup, the blog of Food and Nutrition Magazine, which is a publication of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In the post I talk about tackling challenges in the kitchen, as well as using a typical ingredient in an unusual way. Enjoy!
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