(PCM) The winter season is supposed to be about joy and reflection, but all too often it’s a time of stress. Are you behind on your holiday shopping? Are you juggling family drama or work worries? By December 16th the countdown towards Christmas and years’ end is well underway, and many of us feel like we’re racing against the clock. But now you can relax, because the calendar people and the candy people have come together to give us just the thing for those mid-December blahs: Chocolate-Covered Anything Day.
Chocolate-covered what now? Chocolate-covered anything. Chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate-covered nuts, chocolate-covered cookies, chips, pretzels, pickles, peppers, peppermint – whatever gives your mouth that mmmm, mmmm feeling is fair game.
Chocolate contains sugar and fats and is, in general, a treat to eat sparingly. However, in small amounts it also has certain health benefits. Studies have shown that chocolate (the darker the better) can help lower cholesterol, reduce your risk for heart disease, cancer, arthritis or stroke, improve memory and – oh yes – boost your mood (at least temporarily). So if you’re feeling a little slump-ish today, we hereby give you permission to dip, dunk, swirl, coat, or crumble whatever you feel like with chocolate-y goodness.
You can find chocolate-covered confections at many of your fine local bakeries, groceries, or cafes. Chocolate-covered-anythings can also be prepared at home with very little fuss or muss. You just need some form of chocolate (duh); specialty melting chocolate is fine, but baking chocolate, chocolate bars or chocolate chips will do – any of which you might have on hand anyway if you’ve been baking for the holidays.
According to the pros, the key to melting chocolate is to keep it dry – you can use a tiny bit of cooking oil or shortening if necessary, but do not let it touch water. Heat your chocolate in short bursts in the microwave or use a double-boiler (easy enough to improvise if you don’t have one; cover the bottom of one cooking pot with water, put the chocolate in a slightly smaller pot or heat-resistant bowl inside of the larger one and melt over a low heat). In either case, stir often and be careful! The cooking vessel and the chocolate will get hot. Have your dipping items bite-ready (fruit stemmed and cut, pickles rinsed and dried – you know, whatever) and a plate, tray or wax-paper set up to hold your creations until the chocolate cools.
If the health benefits of chocolate, the ease of melting it, and the freedom to put it on anything you want isn’t enough to convince you, consider this: chocolate is also considered an aphrodisiac. It contains tryptophan (as in the happy-making after-turkey feeling) and an amphetamine-like stimulant that is also released in our brains when we fall in love. And the name of the day is Chocolate-Covered Anything, so, you know. Make of that what you will.