The SparkPeople Blog

Chocolate's Not Just for Desserts

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
10/26/2010 5:47 PM   :  45 comments   :  14,426 Views

Some refer to it as food for the gods, others like me, call it a saving grace! Why do we love chocolate so much? Is it the taste, memories, or an experience for the mouth?

As you eat chocolate, it hits so many of the senses. As it melts, it covers your tongue and its smells enter into your nasal cavity. Soon your olfactory receptors and taste buds are all screaming in happiness. For me, that moment has a calming effect on the brain and body. Although I crave that feeling, I am not willing to buy larger jeans, so I choose chocolate that's strong and rich. That way, you don't need much, just a taste.

But...that chocolate has to be full of flavor, so don't give me that waxy variety from the supermarket. I want the real stuff: Dark chocolate with at least 60% cacao. Even better, the real stuff is actually good for us.

The experts at SparkPeople agree: "Studies have found that dark chocolate helps prevent heart disease and cancer, and has also been shown to improve mood by boosting the brain chemical serotonin. Some even consider chocolate an effective diet food, claiming that a chunk of chocolate before meals diminishes your appetite."

What makes up the chocolate we eat? It is not just the bean. Chocolate, in its most basic form, contains cocoa bean solids and cocoa butter. Sugar, milk, and other ingredients can also be added. Depending on the variety, the ratios of the ingredients can vary.

Dark chocolate contains less cocoa butter and more cocoa solids.

Milk chocolate contains more cocoa butter and less cocoa solids than dark chocolate.

White chocolate contains no cocoa solids, just cocoa butter.

I bypass the milk and white varieties for deep, dark chocolate when I want a sweet treat, but there's another kind of chocolate that has a place in my kitchen: Unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder, which do not contain sugar. (Warning! Don't bite into a bittersweet block of chocolate. Your mouth will not be happy.) Instead of eating these straight-up, I use them in savory dishes.

I love to use unsweetened cocoa powder in rubs for pork. Try this one tonight!

Chef Meg's Cocoa-Coffee-Porcini Rub

Use this rub on pork roasts or tenderloins. It gives the meat an earthy flavor and beautiful brown color.
  • 2 ounces porcini mushrooms, dried
  • 1/4 cup espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder Combine all in a coffee grinder.
Or try this recipe which has a little more kick with the addition of chili powder. (Note: If you need advice on how to use the porcini rub, follow the directions in this recipe.) My Mole Sauce also contains chocolate.

Other tips on cooking with chocolate.

  • When melting chocolate, chop it into small chunks using a serrated knife.

  • Chocolate will melt at about 98 degrees, so there is no need to blast it with heat. When melting chocolate, use a double boiler method. Place 1-2 inches on water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Place chopped chocolate into a metal bowl that is larger than the saucepan. Place the bowl over the simmering water and stir the chocolate until it has barely melted (it will continue to melt after you pull it off the heat). Microwaves work well too but make sure you use only 50% power and short 30 second cooking times, checking the chocolate often.

  • Water is not a friend of chocolate. If a small amount of water comes into contact with chocolate during the melting process, it will seize. The mixture will almost look grainy and dull in color.


Chocolate doesn't have to be sinful. Learn all about the good, the bad, and the delicious aspects of chocolate in this article.

Do you ever use cocoa powder or chocolate in savory dishes?


Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
 

NEXT ENTRY >   12 Spooky Recipes for Halloween

Great Stories from around the Web

Comments

  • PARISTASAI
    45
    I eat cocoa by the tablespoon, and unsweetened baking chocolate like a candy bar and love it!
    When I cook a pork roast or a beef roast I dredge it in a mixture of non-fat dry milk, Mrs dash for steak, and cocoa and flour, the brown it in a little olive oil in a skillet before roasting it in the oven. - 2/8/2011   12:09:40 PM
  • STRAWBERRY*MOON
    44
    Your rub is a must try! Thanks. I love mole sauce, too. I also make a lamb chili--cubes of lamb, dusted with flour and browned along with onion and garlic, then cooked in broth (the flour on the meat thickens the liquid, which does cook down quite a bit) with spices and some unsweetened chocolate. Just before serving I stir in some fresh white goat cheese. I accompany it with black beans and rice. - 12/16/2010   2:45:03 PM
  • 43
    Mmmmm.... - 10/31/2010   7:36:45 PM
  • 42
    Be careful if you love chocolate and have an autoimmune disease. The crux of immunity is in your gut, and the caffeine in chocolate is a gut irritant. *sigh* I've been caffeine free for about 8 months ... I miss it, but it doesn't miss me. lol (I was into "dark" chocolate - doesn't matter. Can't have white chocolate as it has sugar and I'm sugar-free ...)

    signed,
    Dotslady Downer (lol) - 10/31/2010   9:43:20 AM
  • JBDLUCYQ
    41
    You, too, can learn to love DARK chocolate. I've never been a chocoholic, but I've always liked milk chocolate, especially with caramel. However, I could not stand the taste of dark chocolate. Now I love it. Having read of its health benefits, especially relating to blood pressure, I decided to try to learn to like it. I started by nibbling on 60% cocao chocolate, then 70+%, then 80+%. Now I love the DARK DARK chocolate and look forward to my "cap off the evening" treat. I keep it in the refrigerator and nibble on the hardened chocolate and spread each nibble around the inside of my mouth as long as possible to savor the flavor and creamy texture. I want to make the most of every bite. Yum. Now I'll have to try adding cocoa to savory dishes. Thanks for the idea. - 10/30/2010   11:48:45 AM
  • 40
    My boyfriends mom makes the BEST Mole...and, of course, there is coacoa in there! - 10/29/2010   10:08:21 AM
  • 39
    I add cocoa powder and cinnamon to chili, especially if I make my black bean-sweet potato chili. I think I've lived in Cincinnati too long. Even though I don't eat the local chili, I've absorbed the love for odd spices in it. - 10/28/2010   4:08:00 PM
  • SUGARSMOM2
    38
    thank you for the receipes . i will give them a try . - 10/27/2010   9:53:59 PM
  • 37
    I'm not very adventurous when it comes to cooking with chocolate! It seems to me, and I'm probably wrong, but I would think the chocolate would make things sweet. Maybe someday I'll try it...... - 10/27/2010   5:36:13 PM
  • KHELMAN
    36
    thanks for the very infomative article i always thought with a diet you had to give up all chocolate this helps now i can treat myself to the ocasional dark chocolate which is my favorite anyway - 10/27/2010   4:57:06 PM
  • 35
    Give me chocolate or give me death!
    Chocolate makes the world go round!
    Whatever the question.........the answer is chocolate!
    Ok, you get my drift....I LOVE chocloate!!
    Will definetley try the recipes...........have never thought of doing so in anything but desserts.........how interesting!! - 10/27/2010   4:20:07 PM
  • DEBIGOLD32779
    34
    I use the chocolate along with a little nutmeg and cinnamin in my chilli. It really adds a depth of flavor people can't figure out but they love it. Mole taste good on everything! (In my opinion!) Thanks for the new ideas. - 10/27/2010   3:04:17 PM
  • 33
    I have not tried this yet, but will do so soon. - 10/27/2010   1:12:36 PM
  • 32
    I am not a fan of chocolate. EXCEPT of course for the not good for you white chocolate, which is amazing..... I do add unsweetened cocoa powder to my smoothies though, so I do get some of the benefits!

    I HATE it when sweet and savory things are combined though. I especially hate fruit in salads or main dishes. - 10/27/2010   11:52:12 AM
  • 31
    Chocolate is a basic food group and you need to eat some every day. - 10/27/2010   11:27:35 AM
  • 30
    Thanks Chef Meg. I love Chocolate! I want to try it out on a savory dish now. - 10/27/2010   11:20:06 AM
  • PARISTASAI
    29
    Cocoa is an ingredient I use in baked beans. When I brown a roast I use cocoa in the flour. - 10/27/2010   11:13:21 AM
  • 28
    One of my favorite all time recipes is Chef Meg's Cocoa Crusted Pork Tenderloin. I have tried other recipes for pork tenderloin, and this is the best one I have found. - 10/27/2010   11:05:24 AM
  • 27
    I always put cocoa powder in my chili, I used to call it my secret ingredient however I shared that secret with many people throughout the years so I guess it isn't really a secret anymore. - 10/27/2010   10:20:03 AM
  • 26
    Yes, I use cocoa powder in savory dishes. I use it in my chili recipe.
    Last week I made a new Pumpkin Chili and added cocoa powder to that, it was fabulous. I use cocoa powder in Mexican recipes and it enhances the flavor of the dish. The recipe in the article here for a pork rub sounds like a winner! - 10/27/2010   10:15:52 AM
  • 25
    I use Arizona Dreaming spice blend (from Penzy's spices) that contains cocoa powder in chili and even guacamole. It makes my tex mex dishes taste incredible. - 10/27/2010   10:12:32 AM
  • 24
    Never have used chocolate in savory dishes, though I knew mole sauce had cocoa in it. It's definitely something I'm going to try.
    em>148 /em> - 10/27/2010   10:09:12 AM
  • 23
    Never cocoa powder and DH is right on board for this for dinner.
    I have however roasted Leg of Lamb( New Zealand preferred) in Coffee and cream and Lamb lovers really go for it . - 10/27/2010   10:06:13 AM
  • 22
    thanks for the ideas!
    Here's another healthy chocolate option which is my favorite breakfast - mix 1/2 greek yogurt with 1 scoop chocolate Vega powder and 2 tbsp dry unsweeted cocoa. Vega has enough stevia in it to make it sweet like dark chocolate pudding. Add berries and/or nuts and enjoy. - 10/27/2010   9:51:54 AM
  • 21
    I don't care for chocolate in chili - nor am I a fan of mole sauce which mus be related to the chocolate in it. Unfortunately my preferred chocolate is not the "good for you" variety. If I am going to expend calories on chocolate it is going to be milk chocolate. I'm not a chocoholic. DH on the other hand like the opposite of me so he likes all of the above.
    Good blog though and gives some new ideas for rubs on meats for that is not out of a jar and high in sodium. - 10/27/2010   9:30:19 AM
  • SUNSET09
    20
    I loe a good bowl of chicken or turkey chili, however have never used it in chili. What a great idea !It is to the taste or a certain amount needed?! Thanx - 10/27/2010   9:11:14 AM
  • JUDY_B
    19
    I use cocoa in savory dishes quite often. It's one of five "secret ingredients" of my chili. There's a little cocoa-arbol chile rub in the cabinet waiting for the next chicken breast to come along. I keep the cocoa powder on the counter next to the spice grinder as inspiration. Hmm, wonder how it would work in the tomato sauce for the lasagna I'm making today. Only one way to find out! - 10/27/2010   8:41:20 AM
  • 1CRAZYDOG
    18
    Oh . . . chocolate and chili are a match made in heaven!!! Yumm-o. I'm with you . . . if I am going to have chocolate it has to be the rich, dark chocolate . . . not milk chocolate, white chocolate or less cocoa varieties.

    Yes I do use dark cacoa in savory dishes like . . . CHILI. Excellent. Or chicken with mole sauce (looking for a low fat version). - 10/27/2010   8:35:44 AM
  • 17
    Love the chili idea! I'll have to try it next time.

    I am a chocolate addict but I've managed to modify my taste so now I'm getting dark organic chocolate from Ten Thousand Villages, and since it's expensive and I'm cheap, I don't eat as much.

    Chocolate is a major dietary source of magnesium, plus, since it's a BEAN, I'd like to count it as a vegetable. See? Health Food ;) - 10/27/2010   8:21:02 AM
  • LADNBA
    16
    Chocolate lover or not - try dropping an ounce of dark chocolate into your chili as you are making it. The depth of flavor it adds is incredible and no one will ever suspect that dark chocolate is your secret ingredient! - 10/27/2010   7:55:45 AM
  • TWOOFTHREE
    15
    chocolate works well in savoury dishes because it's not naturally sweet. It's actually quite bitter on its own.

    2/3 - 10/27/2010   7:52:07 AM
  • 14
    I love Dark Chocolate and I understand it has redeeming qualities. For me it is a slippery slope I cannot stop with a small amount so I do not start.
    - 10/27/2010   6:13:27 AM
  • PERKINSSISTERS
    13
    I use cocoa powder when I make homemade brownies and homemade chocolate syrup. - 10/27/2010   12:28:53 AM
  • 12
    I can't leave chocolate alone. I am addicted. I haven't used it in main dishes but I'm willing to try. I think I will use it in the leftovers I currently have just to test taste. Thanks for such a timely blog. - 10/26/2010   11:49:23 PM
  • 11
    Alllllll the time :) - 10/26/2010   11:12:53 PM
  • 10
    Yes, I love cocoa powder in my chili. - 10/26/2010   10:46:17 PM
  • 9
    Now that's MY kind of blog! Have always been a chocolate lover. - 10/26/2010   10:25:34 PM
  • 8
    I've made Cincinnati Chile before. - 10/26/2010   10:02:19 PM
  • 7
    No, as I'm really not a chocolate lover. - 10/26/2010   9:44:07 PM
  • 6
    Cocoa powder in chili and in an adobo sauce makes them richer tasting. Anyone have a good recipe for a rich hot cocoa that doesn't rely on a lot of sugar? - 10/26/2010   7:42:07 PM
  • 5
    I have never tried cocoa powder in dishes before? I will have to give it a try just to see what it tastes like in a meal? - 10/26/2010   7:25:10 PM
  • 4
    Never had used the coco powder in a dish but I am game on trying it. I love to use different flavors in my everyday food to make it kick and be moe interesting. Thanks for the article. I LOVE CHOCOLATE! LOL - 10/26/2010   7:20:13 PM
  • 3
    Oh wow. My favourite article ever!!!!! Thanks for sharing!! MMMMMMMM - 10/26/2010   7:02:10 PM
  • 2
    I occasionally will put some cocoa powder and cinnamon in my oatmeal. - 10/26/2010   6:56:30 PM
  • 1
    How timely, Meg....Are you peeking in my kitchen tonight. I loove chocolate.
    I just tried making beef stew with shaved unsweetened bittersweet chocolate
    and it indeed did come out very well...interesting taste.

    Thank you for all your recipes....I look forward to trying some of them! - 10/26/2010   6:24:42 PM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›


Join SparkPeople.com

Sign up for a FREE SparkPeople account