The ancient Mayans are credited with discovering chocolate. They fermented, dried and roasted the beans of the cacao tree to produce cocoa mass, what we know as chocolate liqueur. Mayan and Aztec cultures employed the cacao tree for both food and medicine.
Modern researchers have found that chocolate is high in antioxidants due to its high levels of flavonols, a subclass of flavonoids. Current indications are that chocolate may be heart healthy by inhibiting platelet adherence to the lining of blood vessels and prevention of plaque formations in the arteries. It may also lower blood pressure and decrease LDL cholesterol (the bad one). With a low glycemic index, it releases energy slowly and does not cause a rise in insulin levels. It may increase alertness and lessen pain. Chocolate's high amount of magnesium may counteract the effects of stress.
Great news: Chocolate is good for you! Terrible news: That candy bar is high in calories and fat. What to do? Camilla Saulsbury has created recipes that maximize the health benefits of chocolate while holding the fat and calories in check.
Granted, most of the recipes are for sweets, but that is what you'd expect. Cookies, cakes and desserts each get their own chapters. Then there's a chapter called "Morning to Noon" with beverages, yogurt, spreads, cereals, breakfast breads and pastries, trail mixes and the like. What is unexpected is the last chapter, which showcases the savory uses of chocolate. There are recipes for soups, salads, meats and vegetables.
The recipes use nothing exotic. Most well-stocked pantries will contain all the ingredients in this book. Almost all kitchens should have the makings on hand for many of these recipes.
My favorite recipe is for Chocolate-Peanut Butter Spread. I made it with a natural peanut butter that was quite dry and, straight from the refrigerator, mine does not spread. But eaten off a spoon, it is more satisfying that a candy bar with 104 calories, 6.3 grams of fat and 9 grams of carbohydrate per one and a half tablespooons. Take THAT, peanut butter cups!