The Aztecs considered chocolate to be a powerful aphrodisiac and source of energy. It contains a chemical called phenylethylamine, a naturally occurring amphetamine which has been linked to falling in love. Chocolate also contains tryptophan, which your brain uses to make mood-elevating serotonin.
When chocolate was first introduced to Europe and people learned this information, chocolate quickly became the ideal gift for a woman to receive from an admirer. But aside from this trivia, chocolate is just plain delicious!
If you buy chocolate for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, please remember to choose fair trade chocolate, so you can be sure that everyone along the way benefits from your purchase from the cacao farmer to your sweetie! Oryana carries a large variety of fair trade chocolate and confections including Alter Eco, Green & Black, Theo, Endangered Species, Lilly’s and locally-made Grocer’s Daughter and Fresh Coast Chocolate.
If you’re in the mood to get creative in the kitchen, here are some easy chocolate recipes for you to make at home either as a surprise for your honey, or that you can make together.
Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce
4 ripe bartlett pears
2 or more cups apple juice or cider
2 cinnamon sticks, broken
2 star anise pods
pinch black peppercorns
fresh mint for garnish
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Peel pears, leaving stems intact. Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each pear so pears stand up.
- In a large saucepan, combine cinnamon stick, star anise, peppercorns, and apple cider.
- Add pears. Bring to a simmer. Cook, turning pears occasionally, until easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, but not falling apart, about 20 minutes, depending on ripeness. Remove pears from liquid using a slotted spoon and transfer to large bowl. Pour the apple juice over pears and refrigerate. (Pears can also be served warm.)
- For the chocolate sauce, combine ingredients in a small saucepan. Turn heat to low and melt chocolate, stirring, until smooth. Serve pears drizzled with chocolate sauce and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.
Chocolate Ganache Tart
1 1/2 cups almonds, ground fine
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons agave syrup
3/4 cup coconut oil
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups agave syrup
1 – 3 pints fresh raspberries to garnish
Oil a springform cake tin (or 9-inch pie plate) and sprinkle with cocoa powder. Combine all crust ingredients and pat into the bottom of the ring mold.
Melt coconut oil in a heat-proof bowl over hot water. Cool and whisk together with the cocoa powder and agave syrup until smooth. Pour into tin or pie pan and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour. Garnish the top with fresh raspberries.
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
8 oz semisweet organic chocolate chips
1 pound organic strawberries, large if possible, washed and dried well, stems intact
Place chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally, until melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. One at a time, dip each strawberry in chocolate, twirling to coat and place on waxed paper. Chill strawberries 15 minutes to set chocolate. Serve immediately.
Fruit and Nut Chocolate Bark
2 cups whole raw or salted, roasted cashews
10 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried crystallized ginger, 1/4 inch dice
1 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1 cup dried apricots, 1/2 inch dice
Place 2/3 of the chocolate chips in a heavy bottom sauce pan over very low heat. Stir gently but steadily as the chocolate melts and heats up. Use a rubber spatula, not a wooden or metal spoon. When completely melted, remove from heat and add the remaining chocolate chips. Stir to melt the chocolate chips.
Using a pencil, draw a 12 x 15 inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper placed on a sheet pan. Turn it over and pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it lightly into the drawn rectangle. Sprinkle the top evenly with the ginger, cashews and dried fruit. Set aside for 1 to 2 hours until firm. Cut the bark into 24 pieces & serve at room temperature.
Paleo Flourless Chocolate Cake
4 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
½ cup coconut oil
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 375°F and generously grease an 8-inch round baking pan with coconut oil. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and grease the paper.
- Melt chocolate and coconut oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over very low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs, vanilla, and sea salt and whisk until combined. Add cocoa powder and whisk until smooth with no lumps.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack, run a sharp knife around the edge of cake and invert onto a serving plate.
- Dust cake with additional cocoa powder. Serve with sorbet, ice cream, chocolate sauce, or fruit sauce.
Warm Bananas with Chocolate
1 tablespoon salted butter
3 bananas, sliced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
vanilla ice cream
Heat butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add bananas and brown sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until bananas are browned, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream and chocolate drizzled over the top.
Strawberries with Chocolate Cinnamon Dipping Sauce
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
washed and dried strawberries with stems intact
Place chocolate chips, cream, and cinnamon in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until chocolate is melted. Pour into a bowl and serve with the strawberries.