9 Surprising Foods To Pair With Chocolate

Can’t decide on the food you want to serve at your party?

Chocolate is always a good starting place, but what should go with it?

You can mimic the techniques of gourmet chefs to make even very simple party food memorable. The main goal is to pair foods that bring a variety of flavors and consistencies together so that the individual foods enhance each other. Consider foods with a flavor that is nearly as strong or a little stronger than the chocolate. You don’t want either food to overpower the other. Salty, tart, and spicy foods compliment chocolate well. Also, think of foods that can be described as crunchy or crispy.

These 9 Surprising Foods Compliment Chocolate

#1. Herbs and Spices

Cinnamon, ginger, and rosemary enhance the flavor of chocolate in unique ways. Flavor chocolate with ground spices, serve other foods seasoned with herbs, or offer whole items such as cinnamon sticks, depending on the type of chocolate being served. It could be fun to serve chocolate candies flavored with or paired with each spice so people can try them out and see which they like best.

#2. Cheese

The love affair between chocolate and cheese seems to be really hitting it off, according to gourmet specialists on the internet. I haven’t personally tried it yet, but I think I need to. Cheeses are tart and have a distinctive taste, so this would pair well with chocolate.

Want a real shock? If you had asked me which cheese would pair worst with chocolate, I would probably have guessed parmesan cheese, but people are raving about it.

Again, this would be a great opportunity to lay out a chocolate and cheese bar and let people try out their own combinations. This way guests receive food, fun, and new experiences.

#3. Potato Chips

Most of us have probably stumbled upon this delight on our own because so many parties include chocolate cake and potato chips. These salty, crunchy and oh-so-lovable snacks make a delicious and fun food to serve with chocolate in all forms. Chocolate fountains, candies, cakes, and ice cream benefit from the taste and shape of potato chips.

#4. Peppers

Yes, hot peppers will dazzle partygoers. The strong, spicy flavor of the peppers enhances the smooth, sweetness of chocolate. This taste sensation is particularly powerful because your tongue gets a little numb from the peppers and leaves typically unnoticed taste buds ready to fully appreciate the chocolate.

#5. Salt

It seems to be easy for our mouths to enjoy salty and sweet things at the same time. You actually taste both of the items more.

Did you know that you can put salt in or on chocolate?

#6. Popcorn

Drizzle chocolate on popcorn or serve them next to each other, and your guests will be delighted. This could be another great food bar opportunity. It would be amazing to serve several types of popcorn, different kinds of chocolate, and toppings of diverse candy and nuts.

#7. Vegetables

This is another one I haven’t tried, but apparently people have been pairing vegetables and chocolate together. You can dip vegetables in a chocolate fountain, serve vegetables covered in chocolate, and pair chocolate and vegetables together in a snack plate.

#8. Bread

Chocolate tastes delicious with sweet and savory breads. Vegetable based breads such as zucchini, cheesy breads, and nutty breads taste great served with and dipped in chocolate. Also, chocolate spreads make great party sandwiches.

#9. Mushrooms

Save this one for a party with very adventurous guests. Apparently, mushrooms and chocolate are something we are all missing out on, but you wouldn’t want to force the pairing on someone. Cook them together, serve them together, maybe even dip it.

Pairing unexpected foods at your party will make your party stand out from the crowd, and it will add an extra element of fun when people get to try to new things.

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Journey of the Cocoa Bean

The tree theobroma cacao (theobroma, meaning food of the gods in Greek, and cacao is thought to be borrowed from the mixe-zoquean language family and was originally ‘kakawa’) is originally a native to central and south America and now grown in tropics of the world, particularly in Africa and in Indonesia, places where it was taken after the conquests of the new world and the colonial period. It is an unusual tree in which small flowers bloom from small cushions on its trunk and large branches these flowers are self pollinated or by pollinators like midges and produce pods that vary from 100 to 350mm in length and weigh from 200g to 1kg when mature. when we open the pod it usually contains 30 to 40 almond shaped bitter beans surrounded by a sweet pulp and there is no doubt that animals were attracted towards this delicious white gooey pulp and probably what early humans were interested when they first saw the tree. The pods which ripen in about five to six months are soon harvested, opened and then dumped inside out into a tray or anything like that and are left to ferment probably for five day which builds up heat. The rotting is initiated by a wide range of microorganisms present when the pod is opened. During the process beans briefly germinate but are soon killed by heat, ethanol and acetic acid which penetrate through the testa of the cocoa beans into their cotyledons and kill the embryo, the non-germinating beans don’t produce a chocolate flavor.

Biochemical transformations within the bean lead to the formation of numerous flavor precursors, ethanol may be responsible for the activation of certain cocoa bean cotyledon enzymes, acetic acid penetrates into the cocoa beans and so the alkaloids and polyphenols leak from the fermenting cocoa beans into the surrounding pulp hence reducing bitterness and astringency of the fermented cocoa beans, the pulp is converted into a mild alcohol from its sugars and the proteins and polypeptides react with polyphenols to give a brown color. Hence the process of fermentation is the basis of the entire chocolate making process and now the focus is on the enhancement of flavor in the final chocolates through the use of appropriate starter culture which enable the production of uniformly fermented cocoa beans within four days as well as produce standard bulk chocolates. The next phase is drying of the fermented wet bean were the volatile or low boiling acids, such as acetic acid are lost and the brown colour becomes more pronounced and result in the beans which are less astringent but still bitter and then is the roasting phase which is important as it is the process in which the full flavor of chocolate starts coming out and the chemistry involved is enormously complex because there’s hundreds of compounds in the seeds of the chocolate so called ‘beans’ and the chemical reactions in this process are often approximately called the”browning reactions”. Then these beans are gone through the processes of winnowing because there is a sort of skin outside which has to be removed. Then these beans are ground and native way of doing it is in Mesoamerican which is where chocolate was invented, they apply heat underneath while grounding which brings up the flavor of the beans and then results in the formation of a solid chocolate mass. The process involved has always been the Same throughout history to the present and the difference being only the machinery and technology.

Chocolate in one form or the other has been around since the ancient times and there are a lot of myths about the history of chocolate, there is no 100% evidence but it had to have been in the Mesoamerican lowlands, the evidence to this is that the word ‘cacao’is found in practically all Mesoamerican languages for chocolate and it is a lone word in those other languages, its origin is in a language that was spoken in the olmec country, known as mixe-zoque, analysis of the olmec pottery found traces of chocolate and another hard evidence of early chocolate was found in the Maya area in the site of Rio azul in northeastern Guatemala, very near the Belize border. An expedition worked on tombs at Rio azul and found a great Maya pyramid probably about 450A. D, they also found a tomb of a king which was buried by digging down into a bedrock which contained early classical Maya pottery which were the remains of the king and these pottery vessels which had hieroglyphs written around it on stucco some of them containing animal bones and fish bones but there was a tall cylindrical vessel which was very important at Rio azul and the hieroglyphs on this read ‘kakawa’ which means cacao and this vessel might have chocolate in it which belonged to the king. This vessel and several others which had a kind of residue at the bottom were sent to the Hershey company lab in Hershey, Pennsylvania and what they found was two alkaloids that occur together and are peculiar to chocolate, they are caffeine and theobromine and they have found traces of these in many Maya vessels, there are many descriptive pictures of people drinking chocolate on pictorial Maya vases. It was a very prestigious drink and only the upper caste which includes the kings, politicians could drink it and was an important part of the Maya marriage negotiations, it was their champagne and any celebration or festival was incomplete without this ‘drink of the gods’. These beans were not only used to produce a highly valued drink and were also used as currency, The cocoa beans were of tremendous value but it was consumed as a drink for the first couple of thousand years of their existence before it was consumed as chocolate bars.

The Maya even had a chocolate god called ‘Ek chuah ‘ and celebrated an annual festival in April to honor their cacao god. And as the time went by other Spaniards, invading the yucatan peninsula and Mexico in the early 1500s, quickly discovered that people were drinking and highly valuing chocolate and so did they. The Aztec accounts say that the froth on top of their cocoa drink was very important to them. The Spaniards used a large wooden swizzle stick to obtain the froth and the natives made their cocoa drink frothy by pouring the beverage from a great height from one vase to another. The best chocolate came from the province shoconochco called soconusco in the colonial times. Down in the chiapas and going over into the pacific coast of Guatemala, this was the top quality cacao from one variety of cacao which among chocolate produces today is called ‘criollo’. Today the best and the finest chocolate originates here. The Aztecs have made many descriptions about the cocoa beans, so important were the cocoa beans that the emperor made huge storehouses for the cocoa beans and paid his people and army with these beans and there were even cocoa bean counterfeiters. The first European encounter with cocoa beans came with Columbus on his fourth and final voyage to the new world, but he never knew what they were and didn’t know their value. The arrival of cocoa in Spain was documented in a Dominican document in which a Dominican priest who were in the Alta Vera paz of the Guatemala among the k’ekchi Maya and they took a group of k’ekchi nobles to Spain to the court of Philip II And they prepared a chocolate drink for him, hence this was the first mention of chocolate in Europe. Soon chocolate became popular in the Spanish court during the first 17th century, it was especially popular among women and tasted better after adding sugar, thus the craze for chocolate spread throughout Europe.

Everything changed in the 19th century when a Dutch chemist Conrad van housten devised a method to press out some of the fat from the cocoa beans as this popular chocolate drink was considered as very fatty by modern standards and this fat is called cocoa butter. The leftover residue is with turned into cocoa, which is a very weak chocolate drink or you could also mould them into bars. The chocolate which was consumed in the liquid form was transformed into a solid bar form. In great Britain the great Quaker families like Cadbury’s, rowntree’s etc developed methods to mass produce solid chocolate.

In Switzerland, Swiss innovator Hendry Nestlé who invented condensed milk and Swiss chocolatier Daniel peter collaborated and added dried milk to chocolate. To produce the first milk Chocolate, The Nestlés which is the largest food corporation in the world was thus founded.

In U. S. A the commercialization of solid chocolate was done by Mr. Hershey and developed mass production in a big way and was known as Henry ford of the chocolate industry.

The Cadbury or any other chocolate bars that we eat isn’t chocolate at all and contains only less than 15% of cocoa solids, they extract the cocoa butter from the cocoa beans which is delicious and sell it to the cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies, then add cheap substitutes like sugar, milk and vegetable fats. Nowadays the finest chocolate is produced by the French chocolate makers in Europe.

Cacao or Chocolate, was used both as a medicine and as a vehicle to deliver other medicines, which originated among the olmec, Maya and Aztecs. The Aztecs drank chocolate to treat stomach and intestinal complaints when cocoa was combines with liquid from the bark of the silk cotton tree, five cocoa beans were used to treat childhood diarrhea and it also served as a vehicle to deliver other medicines which includes quinametli, described as “the bones of the ancient people called giants” was used to treat patients who passed blood.

In the 16th to early 20th century manuscripts produced in Europe and Spain revealed more than 100 medicinal uses of chocolate and the consist roles are to treat emaciated patients to gain weight, to stimulate nervous systems of the apathetic, exhausted or feeble patients and to improve digestion and elimination where chocolate countered the effects of weak stomachs, stimulated kidneys and improved bowel function.

Chocolates methylxanthines constitutes like caffeine and Theobromine may contribute to the liking, craving and addiction for chocolate. The caffeine increases mainly energetic arousal and acts as a central nervous system stimulant and Theobromine as a muscle stimulant.

Real chocolate which have 70-80% cocoa solids contain antioxidants which are good for the heart and to the vascular system and eating dark chocolate may also help sleep better at night as it regulates the body clock, Magnesium present in the dark chocolate helps cells to cope in the body’s circadian rhythm.

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A Chocolate A Day Can Keep You Healthy

It is widely believed that eating dark chocolate is good for cardiovascular health. Some health and lifestyle experts, however, emphasized that there is no evidence for this fact. Recently, the British Journal of Nutrition published a new study, which supports regular consumption of chocolate. Before changing your diet to eat more chocolate and sweets, you should understand that this study is published based on clinical observation and available data.

According to the new study, the researchers from Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), university of South Australia, university of Warwick Medical School and university of Maine suggested that consuming a small amount of chocolate every day can help to prevent insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. The study considered the data of 1,153 people between the ages 18 and 69. When comparing the health of various participants, the research group found lower insulin resistance and healthy liver enzymes in those who claimed that they ate around 100g of chocolate every day. Insulin resistance is one of the very important factors determining the onset of cardiovascular diseases.

The academic researchers proposed the hypothesis that chocolate can be useful for insulin sensitivity and liver enzymes. This study is conducted rigorously, noting down the lifestyle and diet preferences of the participants. The consumption of tea and coffee is also monitored. Both tea and coffee contain polyphenol which is useful to accelerate cardiometabolic effects of chocolate.

The visiting academic at the University of Warwick Medical School,and Scientific Director of department of population health at LIH, Prof Saverio Stranges said that cocoa based products can be suggested as dietary recommendation to improve cardio health and metabolism. However, he added that the results are simply observatory and more robust evidence based trials are required. He also emphasized that natural cocoa product is entirely different from highly processed commercial chocolates.

Among those who participated in the study, 80% of the individuals said that they eat at least 24.8g of chocolate every day. These people were active, young and had higher educational status compared to those who did not eat chocolate regularly. The principal investigator of the study, Dr. Ala’s Alkerwi said that the people who consumed chocolate had significant socio-demographic profiles, better health access and healthy lifestyle habits. This can also be an important contributor for the reaction of the body to insulin and liver biomarkers.

Researchers have agreed that randomized control studies and additional observational research are required to truly understand how chocolate is useful in reducing insulin resistance and preventing disorders related to cardiometabolism.

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Coasta Rica’s Bribri Indians’ Secret to Long Life: Raw Cacao

Costa Rica’s Indians are some of the longest lived people on earth. We spent time visiting with the BriBri in the Talamanca Mountains. They, like many modern indigenous people, live between two worlds. They wear modern clothes, live in modern houses, and carry cell phones. But they still adhere to the old ways when it comes to taking care of themselves. And one of the traditions they hold dear is the drinking of chocolate. YES! Chocolate is GOOD FOR YOU! In fact, the BriBri drink 5-6 cups of this unsweetened, rich beverage every day and they say its powerful anti-oxidants are the secret to their longevity.

Visit the Bribri up in the hills of southern Costa Rica and spend some time with a 72-year-old woman named Ophelia. Ophelia and her family have a finca, or Costa Rican farm, where they allow cacao plants to grow wild. They use no chemicals, organic or otherwise. When the red and yellow pods ripen, they harvest the cacao bean filled pods and carry them down to a big barn that is cool and dark inside and covered in chocolate dust.

Imagine the aroma!

Step inside the sweet-smelling barn and you are greeted with mats filled with drying cacao beans, white chocolate filled bags stuffed to the brim and ready for market, and–my favorite part–little trays of raw cacao squares flavored with things like coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, chilies, papaya, pineapple, almonds, hazelnuts, or wild honey. Samples are free and bigger, all natural, fantastically good for you bars are for sale.

Talk to Ophelia and she will tell you she doesn’t eat anything with preservatives in it and she never takes any medicine, but relays only on what she can gather in the rain forest. She will also tell you the young people don’t drink cacao like the old folks do.

“It is important to drink cacao everyday,” she will say.

And then she will make you a cup of traditional hot chocolate. She will take a puck made from the paste of ground raw beans and shave it into a powder and boil it in hot water for you. Drink it and taste its bitter richness. It is definitely not the cocoa your mother used to make. This drink is pure and dark and has tiny oily circles of cacao butter floating on top. And it’s full of heart-healthy fats and cancer preventing polyphenols.

So here’s what I propose. Try replacing your morning coffee with a cup of raw cacao. It will give you a caffeine boost similar to coffee, but without the jittery feeling. It will also keep you from being hungry and, because cacao is full of B vitamins and other feel-good chemicals, it will promote a general feeling of don’t-worry-be-happy.

Here’s my favorite Raw Cacao Hot Beverage Recipe

MORNING CACAO RECIPE

10 oz water

2 Tablespoons raw cacao

Generous pinch of sea salt

A few drops of vanilla

Pinch of cinnamon

1 Tablespoon honey

Boil the water with the cacao and salt. Whisk with fork or whisk. Allow it to boil for 2 minutes or so (this will make sure the cacao is melted)

Turn off the heat and add vanilla and cinnamon

Pour into your favorite mug, add honey, and stir well

ENJOY!

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Eating Healthy Is the Key to Happiness

The importance of health has been ingrained in our minds since time immemorial; so much so that we are often reminded of the phrase that if health is lost then everything is lost. It is a challenging task to remain hundred percent healthy nowadays thanks to inorganic food, polluted drinking water, smog filled air that we are breathing and last but not the least, lifestyle disorder. It is important to have a balance diet and regular exercise. Keep checking your BMI and make sure that it is under control. Obesity leads to a number of disorders and diseases so try to cut down on carbohydrates and avoid junk food as much as you can.
Healthy eating should start as early as an infant. Babies should be fed only mother’s milk because that is the only and most nutritious thing that a baby survives on during the first few months. When the baby is breastfed, the mother should maintain a diet specifically focusing on iron and zinc rich food. Calcium is also needed to give strength to the bones because a new mother has to do a lot of running around. Malt based food, which is mainly extracted from barley, is a highly nutritious substance. Aqueous extracts of barley malt, called “wort” contain all the essential vitamins in the B family (niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, thiamin, nicotinic acid, Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), biotin, and folic acid); plus amino acids and protein, minerals, (such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc), and soluble fiber (glucans). Malted Food beverages like Choco Malt, Malto Vitaa, Champion, Choco Vita, etc are excellent sources for a healthy life.

Once the baby becomes 5 to 6 months old, the weaning process will take place. The mother will gradually replace or add other sources of food with breast milk. Usually mothers feed formula or mashed banana and sometimes mashed rice with boiled lentils. It is prudent to give the baby a specially prepared weaning food, mixed with fruits, vegetables and various pulses. In other words, kit should be a judicious mix of Protein – easy to digest and helps in rapid growth, Carbohydrates – acts as energy booster, Vitamin, Calcium and Phosphorus for strong teeth and bones, Iron and Zinc for rich blood formation. Such type of weaning food is very good for nurturing the health and growth of the baby.

These days, the supermarkets are filled with processed foods. Before buying anything off the shelf, do check the labels – if there are more than 6 ingredients, most likely it is a processed food. Please avoid them because you should thrive towards eating wholesome food that has no other ingredients but themselves. It is very difficult to change food habits once our taste buds develop a fondness for a particular food item. So the trick is to develop taste for healthy food. Consuming sugar in the form of ice cream or sweets is alright once in a while but not always. Instead you can replace them with natural sugar available in dates, grapes, homemade honey, maple syrup, etc.

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