Tuesday, February 28, 2017

O Chocolate!

By Janice Carter and Lee McKenzie

As February draws to a close, we reflect on something we truly love...chocolate!

Janice:
Here we are, perched on the cusp of spring in Ontario, at the end of one of the mildest Februarys ever. I’m sure Old Man Winter has one more trick for us but I’ll say Happy Spring anyway. While I’m eager to say goodbye to February and winter’s last Hurrah, I will be sorry to say goodbye to chocolate. Wait! Chocolate? Goodbye? Those two words should never be together in one sentence, should they?

Valentine’s Day – as significant as it is to romance writers and lovers in general – may be the acme of a post-Christmas chocolate blitz but it’s also a smooth segue into Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and any other special occasion that can conveniently be used as an excuse to buy and eat chocolate. Not that we chocolate addicts need an excuse. My personal rationale for indulging is to give my body much needed antioxidants and my energy levels a dopamine boost.

And of course, there’s the rumor that the glorious cacao bean is an amazing aphrodisiac. Ooops, I have a mental image of my daughters covering their ears and crying, Too much information!

Okay, back to you, Lee. Any favorites? Where and when do you like to indulge? In secret or public? Give us the reveal!

Lee:
February had a wintery start here on Canada’s west coast but it didn’t last long. Now the snow drops and crocuses are blooming, as are the pansies I planted last fall, and just today I noticed that my neighbor’s camellia is covered in blossoms.

As for chocolate, well, it’s always in season! I keep a bar of dark chocolate in my desk drawer and whenever I feel the need for an energy boost, I treat myself to a square. A friend of mine can’t understand how I avoid eating the whole bar in one sitting but for me, chocolate is something to be savored.

On February 13th, I took this photograph at one of my favorite chocolate shops as they prepared for Valentine’s Day. As you can see, they were expecting a lot of customers, and what better way to keep hoards of chocolate-buying lovers under control than to have them queue up down the middle of the mall?
Looking for some love? Please line up here!
Many of us associate chocolate with February and Valentine’s Day, but it turns out that National Chocolate Day in the US, as deemed by the National Confectioners Association, is celebrated on October 28th. Wikipedia says it’s held on September 13th, which also happens to be Milton S. Hershey’s birthday. Yes, that Hershey.

Also according to Wikipedia, World Chocolate Day, held on July 7th, 2017, will mark 467 years since Europeans were introduced to chocolate. To make up for already having several chocolate days of their own, Americans celebrate Chocolate Ice Cream Day on July 7th. A brilliant compromise, don’t you think?

Janice:

Whew! I see that I no longer need to search for excuses to indulge myself, Lee, with this impressive summary of official chocolate celebrations. It’s ironic that National Chocolate Day is held on October 28. I’m suspecting a sneaky corporate strategy to warm us all up—especially kids—for the “Big Rock Candy Mountain” three days later!

Although Europeans have been drinking cocoa and eating chocolate for 467 years, the ancient Mayans used the cacao bean in religious ceremonies hundreds of years earlier. Last year I spent a month in the Yucatan and visited the Mayan archeological site at Uxma. Right across the road from the site entrance was a place enticingly called “Choco-Story.” We hesitated at the inauspicious name, thinking it might be the kind of tourist trap we usually avoid. But what a surprise! Beautiful botanical gardens, with cacao trees of course, a re-created Mayan religion cocoa ceremony and a demonstration of ancient cocoa making and drinking the Mayan way—spiced without sugar. I highly recommend the place.

Preparing to make cocoa the Mayan way.
 

Preparing to make cocoa the Mayan way.
 
July is still a long way away but spring—and Easter—is just around the corner. I’m looking forward to the spring flowers you’re already enjoying, Lee, and especially to another reason to eat chocolate. I take mine straight, dark and sometimes, with a shot of caramel.

Lee:
I love your Mayan cocoa photos, Janice! Thank you so much for sharing them. There’s an exotic, earthy quality there that is perfectly paired with chocolate.

And it’s so interesting that you mention dark chocolate with caramel. My two favorite chocolate shops here in Victoria make pink Himalayan-salted dark chocolate-covered caramels. Purdy’s Chocolates is pictured above. And here's Roger’s Chocolates is my other indulgent go-to.
Roger's Chocolates ~ a go-to for Victorians and tourists alike.

O Chocolate!
At the bottom of the photo, two pink Himalayan-salted dark chocolate-covered caramels from each chocolatier. Working our way up, dark-chocolate orange truffles and then two coffee creams. The large one in the pink-and-white wrapper is one of Roger’s famous Victoria Creams. Of their more than 24 flavors, the coffee cream is my first pick. And what’s that cute little chocolate in the middle of the plate? One of Purdy’s signature hazelnut cream-filled Hedgehogs. Do I have a top pick? Yes. All of them, equally.

Janice and Lee:
And since it’s not possible to have enough chocolate—who knew there’s a chocolate-flavored red wine? We didn’t, but we’ll happily raise a glass to our favorite indulgence!

Chocolate Shop ~ vinted and bottled by Chocolate Shop Wine, Caldwell, Idaho
And now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite chocolate indulgence?

Allergic to chocolate? Not a fan? We’re so sorry, but we hope you’ll share your favorite non-chocolate treat.

Until next time,

Janice and Lee

Janice Carter
@JaniceGCarter
For Love of a Dog
Harlequin Heartwarming, September 2017

Lee McKenzie
www.LeeMcKenzie.com
His Best Friend's Wife
Harlequin Heartwarming, January 2017


32 comments:

  1. For me, every day is chocolate day...in moderation of course. :)
    I enjoyed all of the photos, ladies. I'm wondering, is it okay to have chocolate for breakfast?

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    1. Thanks Jill, I'm with you on the chocolate every day as to breakfast....my daughter has been known to indulge but I think that's a bit too much for me!

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    2. Hm. A cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter morning? Chocolate chip pancakes to kick off a special day? I say yes to those!

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  2. Fun and informative! I like chocolate, but it's not a big thing with me (nothing like potato chips); however, chocolate wine is really good!

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    1. Although I love certain chocolate, Liz, if I had to choose between potato chips and a nice dark bar, I hate to admit (especially after writing this post!!) that I too would opt for the chips. I'm more of a savoury fan than sweet. Chocolate wine? A nice dessert I think.

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    2. I, too, lean more toward savory than sweet. I do enjoy dark chocolate that's around 70% cacao, though. I never buy milk chocolate because it's far too sweet for me.

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    3. I've never tried chocolate wine, but I couldn't resist picking up this bottle when I saw it. I'm taking it to a writer's retreat this weekend :)

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  3. Jill and I have the same reaction to this post. Yes, everyday is a good day for chocolate for me. I favor milk chocolate. I like to snack and KitKat bars just about anytime, and my husband keeps a stash of the little Cadbury chocolate eggs to give me a couple with me tea in the evening. After reading your post, I might have to munch on some chocolate as an after breakfast treat.

    As for chocolate wine? I'll take Liz's word for it that it's good. Somehow it does appeal to me.

    I loved the Mayan pictures, too!

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    1. I like a combo of milk and dark but anything with caramel and/or nuts works for me, Kate! My husband never used to eat chocolate but has developed a fondness for it in his senior years so now we both have our little stashes. Haven't tried the chocolate wine yet...may have to visit Lee some day and check it out!

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    2. I'll let you know what we think of the chocolate-flavored wine. I'm still trying to figure out if it should be served chilled or at room temperature. Does anyone know?

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  4. I love dark chocolate, but it's on the list of things I'm supposed to give up after finding I have a hiatal hernia. So I still think I can indulge in moderation. As for chocolate wine, not long ago I was in Safeway looking at wines to buy for our chapter raffle and a woman asked if I'd help her find "chocolate wine". She'd had some at a friend's home and declared it delicious. We found it, she bought 4 bottles, so I bought one for the raffle. The person who won it promised to tell me if she likes it. So I guess it's getting noticed as the new big wine. It's supposed to be served very cold the woman told me.

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    1. Everything in moderation, Roz, or so "they" say! I can't eat a lot of chocolate in one sitting, but I do love a little nibble now and then. A small bar of dark chocolate usually lasts at least a week.

      How interesting about the chocolate wine! I had never seen it before but thought it would be a fun treat for the mini writers' retreat I'm attending on the weekend.

      I make a chocolate-balsamic reduction, which seems like an odd combination but is wonderful with roasted root vegetables and truly delicious on a citrus-spinach salad. I imagine the chocolate-flavored red wine could be equally good.

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  5. Roz, I can relate to the no-no re dark chocolate. For years I suffered migraines and chocolate was a trigger. One of the best things about post-,menopause was saying goodbye to migraines! Red wine was also a trigger but I never developed a real taste for it afterwards. As for the chocolate wine.....will have to test that out!

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  6. Dark chocolate covered almonds or cranberries, or both together. They're from the bulk bins at Sprouts, so they have to be healthy, right? All those antioxidents.

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    1. I'm with you, Beth. They really do sound healthy. I love dried cranberries, plain and chocolate covered. I often toss a handful of the plain ones into a salad, and I usually use them instead of raisins in muffins, pumpkin loaf, etc. Yum!

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    2. Surely they are, Beth. Anything with fruit or nuts can't be bad!!

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  7. I love chocolate of every kind! Chocolate cake, Reese's peanut butter cups, peanut M&M's, Hershey bars, those candy-coated chocolate Cadbury eggs are among my favorites. Although, as with anything that contains sugar, I have a problem with moderation! I'm jealous of you people that can eat just a "bite." Fun post, Ladies!

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    1. I hear you, Carol! But I will say it's easier (for me, anyway) to have "just a bite" when it's dark chocolate that's not so sweet :)

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    2. Thanks Carol and when it comes to one bite, I'm safe with chocolate. Potato chips...not so much.

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  8. Umm, chocolate. I love it, but I can't have it around because the suggestion of 'one square of chocolate at a time' simply doesn't compute in my brain.

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    1. LOL, Patricia! We all have our weaknesses. Like Liz, mine is salty foods. I can eat a big bag of potato chips or a huge bowl of buttered, salted popcorn in one sitting :(

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  9. What a fun post on a favorite indulgence - chocolate. My favorite chocolate is Sees. I love the soft chocolates filled with fruits, orange being my favorite.

    Thanks a lot. Now I'm hungry. LOL

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    1. Sandra, I love the combination of chocolate and orange. Have you tried dipping mandarin orange segments in chocolate sauce? Oh, my.

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    2. Haha! I admit to rummaging around for any leftover chocolate from Christmas (yes, I found some with that white patina but it didn't deter me). while writing this.

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  10. Okay, ladies, now I'm craving chocolate! Truffles are my favorite. Thanks for a yummy post.

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    1. The power of suggestion is scary, isn't it Leigh? Truffles....hmmm, haven't had any in a while. Thanks!

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    2. I hope you get a chance to indulge a little, Leigh!

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  11. Little Debbie's Nutty Buddies are my favorite chocolate/peanut butter treat! I enjoy chocolates any chance I get! :)
    jennydtipton at gmail dot com

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    1. I'm with you Jennifer! The combo of chocolate and peanut butter is wonderful.

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    2. I'll second that! I also love chocolates with a hazelnut filling.

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  12. I LOVE chocolate!! I used to work for The Hershey Company. Unfortunately, my acid reflux issues severely limits my intake of it now. ) :

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    1. Laurie, I'm pretty sure it would not be a good idea for me to work for a chocolate company ;)

      I've heard that chocolate has an adverse affect on people with acid reflux. That just seems wrong on every level.

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