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In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

A secret to happiness?

April 12, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

Can the secret to happiness lie with a piece of dark chocolate?

Over the years, chocolate - America's favorite flavor - has been called an aphrodisiac, thought to have healing powers and even to improve strength.

Truth is, chocolate is loaded with chemical mood enhancers (endorphins) which are credited with making people feel good. The carbohydrates - sugar - existing in it trigger the release a chemical which produces an immediate rush. As well, the fat in chocolate enhances flavor and satisfies a primordial urge for more calories. We like the sensations associated with calories coming in, and they do come in, fast, with fat.

The craving for chocolate is sensory. It's a desire for a purely oral experience - the odor, the smoothness, the flavor.

While a controversial issue, some studies claim that the more chocolate one consumes (notably the dark variety which at a high percentage of cocoa is virtually sugarless), the less the calories and the less they accumulate in the body - and the more they contribute to lowering cholesterol and, in lesser degree, lowering blood pressure - same as with tea, red wine, grape juice and other plant foods which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties. Still, too much light chocolate (high in sugar) cancels out the positive values.

Chocoholics often like their favorite food combined with other foods. One such is PB2 with Premium Chocolate, which contains cocoa added to peanut butter to displace some peanuts, with calories dropping to 45 per 1 1/2 tablespoons. It can be found at some natural food stores or on the computer: or You may never return to regular peanut butter again.

With strawberries now available year-round, another delightful blend is the chocolate covered strawberry. The simplest version, perfect for weddings and other celebrations, can be prepped in 15-minutes: Ingredients: 16 oz milk chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons shortening, 1 pound fresh berries. Directions: In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening together, stirring over low-to-medium heat until smooth. Holding by a toothpick, dip each berry into the chocolate mixture. Carefully lay each berry on a sheet of wax paper, until cooled. For fancy designs, dribble melted white or dark chocolate over the hardened milk chocolate. Also nice for a light but satisfying dessert at any meal (Note: fresh strawberries can be kept fresh with a quick bath of 1 part white vinegar, 15 parts water. Leaves no odor, but kills the bacteria).

Chocolate has been written about often, sometimes facetiously, as in this "Rules of Chocolate" essay (to be read with tongue planted firmly in cheek):

If you get melted chocolate all over your hands, you're eating it too slowly.

Chocolate covered raisins, cherries, orange slices and strawberries are considered fruit, so eat plenty.

Problem: How to get 2 pounds of chocolate home from the store in a hot car. Solution: Eat it in the parking lot.

Diet tip: Eat a chocolate bar before each meal. It'll take the edge off your appetite and you'll eat less. In fact, a nice box of chocolates can provide your total daily intake of calories at one time. If you can't eat all your chocolate, it will keep in the freezer. But if you can't eat all your chocolate, WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?

If calories are an issue, store your chocolate on top of the fridge. Calories are afraid of heights, and they will jump out of the chocolate to protect themselves.

Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look younger.

Why is there no such organization as Chocoholics Anonymous? Because no one wants to quit?

Put "EAT CHOCOLATE" at the top of your list of things to do daily. That way, at least you'll get one thing done.

Note: CHIA of Copper Harbor invites you to see their sponsored movie, WILD STRAWBERRIES, tomorrow at the Calumet Theatre at 7:15 p.m.

Rotten Tomato ratings: "Titanic in 3D," B+; "American Reunion," D+



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