Love, romance and chocolate. This is the time of year for all three to be together. Chocolate is something people are passionate about, yet when asked why they have no idea. Many people love chocolate and peanuts together, two totally American Indian foods. Cacao (kah KOW) is said to be at least 2,000 years old, originating in Mesoamerica.
Mayan ruins contained carvings and pictures of cocoa pods as representations of life and fertility. Maya called a spicy, frothy drink they made from the beans xocoatl, meaning “bitter water.” The cacao tree itself was called cacahuaquchtl, so somehow through time those two words became chocolate.
That drink the Maya and Aztec revered also contained water, chili pepper and cornmeal, no sweetener was used. In the 1500s, chocolatl was taken to Spain where it was mixed with sugar, vanilla, cloves, allspice and cinnamon.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
2 cups of water
½ cup honey
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or ground allspice
2 shakes of salt
3 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups of hot (not boiling) milk
Put all ingredients, except egg whites, vanilla and milk, in a large saucepan and heat until hot, but not boiling. Pour the hot mixture into a blender. Add egg whites, vanilla and milk. Blend until foamy, serve immediately.
Fast Peanut Butter Brownies
1 package commercial brownie mix
1/2 package peanut butter morsels
Prepare brownies as directed on package and fold in the morsels before baking. This works equally well with butterscotch morsels
New York Egg Cream
When in high school I lived near New York City. Everyday a bunch of us would stop for an “egg cream” before trudging home. There is no egg in an egg cream. It is a frothy drink containing milk, so don’t go for it if you are lactose intolerant.
For 2 servings:
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons chocolate syrup
2 cups seltzer
Use tall glasses, stir together equal amounts of milk and syrup. Stir in the seltzer until white foam forms on the top and enjoy.
A lot of people think the ultimate romantic chocolate treat is a large fresh strawberry dipped in warm melted chocolate. These are two American Indian foods, just like chocolate and peanut butter. You see, we know what’s good.
Unsweetened chocolate is often used in Mexican cooking, including all of Central America. It is called mole (mo-lay). Every cook has their own way of preparing it, but basically, it is a sauce made with chilies, spices, seeds and unsweetened chocolate.
Most mole recipes are quite complicated with up to 20 ingredients sometimes. If you are willing to experiment, get some Ibarra at your supermarket or Latin specialty shop. Ibarra is a Mexican-style chocolate that comes in a box of six little 3-ounce cakes.
This slaw thinks it’s a salsa. It’s great with chicken, pork or any spicy dish.
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1/2 medium onion, chopped small
1/2 head of a small cabbage, shredded
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped small
3 fresh jalapenos, chopped small
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 cup white (or cider) vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
Combine all vegetables in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper, stir in the vinegar and sugar. Combine again gently and pack into a glass or plastic container tightly. Refrigerate overnight before serving.
Some more facts about chocolate:
• By the 1600s, Europeans went on a chocolate craze. It became fashionable in royal circles where it was reputed to be an aphrodisiac. The Aztec and Maya thought of chocolate as a medicine, probably not as an aphrodisiac. During this period of time, cocoa plantations were established for a world marketplace. Brazil became a major supplier.
• Around A.D. 600, Mayan culture used chocolate in religious ceremonies and their language refers to it as “God’s Food.” Cocoa began to move north in this time period.
• In 1765, the first chocolate factory was established in Dorchester, Mass. and five years later the first chocolate mill was founded in Norwich, Conn.
• In A.D. 1200, Aztec culture embraced the cocoa plant completely. They used spices, chili peppers and cornmeal. Records from this time indicate that cocoa beans were even used for currency.