In mid February, both the hopefully and hopelessly romantic start preparing for the annual
Valentine’s Day ritual. This usually includes the requisite bunch of overpriced roses (why are they
$2 per rose up till 2/12 then $2 again after 2/15 but $10 in between?), the chilled bottle of
champagne (e-mail me for affordable yet romantic suggestions), the candlelit dinner (there’s no
evidence that any particular food will put your mate in the mood. The dining companion is
usually the mood maker. Frozen pizza makes mighty fine fare if Salma Hayek is your dining
companion!) and usually a box of chocolates.
But why just enjoy the by-products of the cacao tree only on Valentine’s Day? Since chocolate
contains phenylethylamine, which is supposed to mimic being in love, we can get all the benefits
of Valentine’s Day without the other overpriced accoutrements simply by eating chocolate!
Eat Chocolate Everyday?
Chocolate does carry its fair share of fat and calories so if you decide to indulge in a daily slice of
triple chocolate ganache cake, you won’t have to worry about your next Valentine’s Day date
because you’ll fill a table for two by yourself. What I’m suggesting is the judicious use of
chocolate itself along with a liberal helping of chocolate-based products.
I previously suggested using very good quality chocolate when it is used in its pure form. The who-
knows-how-old supermarket baking chocolate probably has the same amount of fat as the fresh
gourmet varieties and you may even be able to use less gourmet chocolate due to its intense flavor
– cutting both calories and fat.
There are legions of gourmet chocolates available at most specialty stores and some can even be
found at the neighborhood grocery store Valrhona, Callebaut, Michael Recchiuti, Neuhaus,
Scharffen Berger, Michel Cluizel and Guittard are just a few that might add that “je ne sais quoi” to
your next chocolate dessert. The key here is to purchase “fresh” chocolate for your desert. Purchase
from a retailer that has a good turnover of products.
Remember that chocolate is a food and like any other food, it does get old. Sometimes this may
simply lead to a loss of that intense chocolate flavor. In worst cases, the oxidation of the cocoa
butter in chocolate produces funky flavors that make your molten chocolate dessert taste like
What are Chocolate-Based Products?
For those chocoholics who just can’t seem to defeat the battle of the bulge or due to a medical
condition, have been instructed to reduce their intake of saturated fat…repeat after me: Cocoa
powder is my best friend.
Cocoa powder basically contains the basic chocolate taste without most of the fat and calories.
Based on simple food chemistry, chocolate is simply cocoa powder plus cocoa butter. The powder
containing all of the chocolate taste and the butter giving it body and a rich mouth feel. Unlike
certain “light” beers of old, I think the jury would prefer “taste” over “body.”
Another by-product that adds taste without extra calories is chocolate extract. The extract is an
alcohol-based extraction of roasted cocoa beans similar to alcohol based extracts like almond
extract, citrus extracts and good old vanilla extract. Supposedly, chocolate extracts enhance
chocolate desserts by replacing volatile flavor essences lost during the heated processing to make
Unlike vanilla extract, there are only a couple of products on the market, though Williams-
Sonoma carries one of them. Now aren’t you glad that I didn’t suggest you use carob instead of
Is Chocolate a Love Substitute?
The compound that supposedly mimics being in love is phenylethylamine or PEA. It is naturally
released when we feel that we are in love with someone. However, it doesn’t mimic the
psychological feeling we get, it produces the physiological reaction we experience. Namely, the
increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, flushing skin, perspiration, etc. Therefore, eating
copious amounts of chocolate won’t give you the mental high that love produces but simply adds
inches to your waist…which reduces your chances of finding a Valentine next year…which leads to
chocolate gorging again to stimulate that “love” feeling…you get the picture.
To experience that increased heart rate and blood pressure, flushing skin and perspiration, I simply
exercise. Which helps me to burn off the added calories of chocolate…eaten not to feel loved, but
because it tastes good.
This recipe can be enjoyed on Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day or whatever Day
you desire. It also meets the National Cholesterol Education Program, Adult Treatment Panel
dietary guidelines with less than 7 percent of calories from saturated fat. Gochisosama!
Chocolate Pound Cake
½ cup soft margarine (trans fatty acid free)
1 & ½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1 tbsp chocolate extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 & ½ cup low-fat buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
3 & ½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup good semi-sweet chocolate broken into morsel-sized bits
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream margarine and sugar, add extracts then add eggs one at a time
and mix until combined. Combine buttermilk and baking soda in another bowl. In a third bowl,
combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to margarine mixture
alternately, with buttermilk mixture beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Fold in semi-
sweet chocolate bits. Pour batter into pre-greased and sugar coated Bundt pan and bake for 45
minutes or until a wooden stick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes
ten remove from pan.
Can also bake in smaller single serving Bundt molds for about 20-25 minutes. When serving these
individual cakes, fill the hollow center with any type of fresh red berries marinated in sugar and
liquor of your choice for several hours.
Not Just for Valentines