Tomorrow is National Chocolate Day, the day to celebrate and recognize the creation of one of America’s favorite flavors. Let’s give chocolate a shout out on behalf of all of its lovers.
Chocolate’s journey began with the Aztecs, an ancient tribe of Mexico, but started in its most natural form. Cocoa beans are found in pod like fruits that dangle from trees in tropical forests. The Aztecs cracked open the fruit, removed the beans, and then crushed them between rocks to form a powder. This powder was used to form little cakes that they would eat as a treat. The Spaniards later discovered the cocoa bean, also crushing them to make a powder, but then added their own flare with flavors such as vanilla and sugar to the original cocoa bean cake. From that point forward, the evolution of chocolate took off in Europe and the first original chocolate house was opened in England in 1657. What started as a small cake transformed into a beverage, the favorite hot beverage of Americans commonly known as hot chocolate. This beverage was a delicacy and was predominately only available to high-class citizens. By about 1682, chocolate was exported to Boston in the United States and the rest was history, it was love at first bite.
Chocolate now comes in all different forms simply based on the amount of milk and sugar added to the bitter cocoa bean. Milk chocolate is rich, creamy and is known to be a “cure for the broken heart”. This quote may seem cliché, but there is some scientific truth to back it up. Chocolate stimulates tryptophan, which is an amino acid that causes the brain to produce serotonin, the brain’s “happy chemical”. This Endorphin causes a sense of pleasure and well being with in us.
Dark chocolate is also known to have healthy benefits. Studies show that it plays a beneficial roll in heart health. Made with smaller amounts of milk and sugar dark chocolate is closer to the cocoa bean’s original form. The cocoa bean is rich in flavonoids associated with reducing the chances of blood clots and decreasing the incidence of hypertension, aka high blood pressure.
In honor of chocolate day try these two simple recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth and to release some stress reducing endorphins during your upcoming exams. If you are hungry and in the mood for a sweet treat in between classes, the hearty dark chocolate oat clusters will provide you with fiber that can temporarily leave you with a sense of satiety.
Sea Salt chocolate Almonds.
- 2 Bars of milk chocolate
- 1 cup of raw almonds
- 3 teaspoons of sea salt
Cut the chocolate bars into small uniform pieces, and heat in bowl using the microwave over low heat in 10-second increments stirring in-between.
- Lay wax paper down on a flat surface
- Dump the almonds into the mixed chocolate
- Fork the almonds out and place on wax paper
- Sprinkle sea salt on top and enjoy!
Dark Chocolate Oat Clusters
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
- ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
- ¾ cup old- fashioned rolled oats
- Heat peanut butter, milk, and chocolate chips in a saucepan over low heat 3 minutes of until chips melt.
- Stir in oats. Remove from heat.
- With a spoon, small ice cream scoop, or melon baller, drop 8 ball-shaped portions on a wax paper- lined- baking sheet. Let set in fridge 10 minutes.
When celebrating National Chocolate Day this year, think back about the 4,000 years of love and joy that chocolate has shared with the world and you will never underestimate the power of chocolate again. Remember to show chocolate your gratitude by enjoying a chocolaty treat on October 28th!
Photo Credit: Rachel Weidt, Samantha Gitlin