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It's National Chocolate Month

February is a special month for chocolate! It is "Heart Healthy Month" and also "National Chocolate Month." In honor of chocolate being such a heart healthy treat I am doing a follow up blog on fall in love with chocolate...We all love chocolate and guess what? Chocolate loves us back!

Did you know...Chocolate has more antioxidants than red wine or green tea? A daily intake of a small amount of chocolate may: lower blood pressure, offer disease protection, reduce inflammation, have a positive effect on the immune system, help us to stay sharp, promote blood flow, and moisturizes our skin. The potent flavonoids found in chocolate (the same nutrients that are found in green tea, red wine, and blueberries) are naturally rich in antioxidants and have protective effects that guard against disease. What better reason do you need to enjoy chocolate?

hershey's best of life.jpg We eat chocolate when we feel happy or sad. We may even reach for it when our body truly needs it. Chocolate can warm our stomach, perfume our breath, fight disease, and alleviate pain. There should never be guilt in enjoying chocolate.

I tend to imagine my favorite things as outfits! So...If chocolate were an outfit what would it be? My chocolate outfit is brown silk pajamas because chocolate is luxury yet it is also a comfort.

One of my favorite chocolate memories was vacationing in Paris with my husband. I had just gotten a chocolate crepe in Montmartre and was looking at paintings in the artist's district by Sacre Coeur talking to an artist just babbling away when I met up with my husband he said, "Come here Ash!" He wiped down my face like I was a three year old. I had no idea I had chocolate all over my face! That chocolate crepe was so good I must have intuitively rubbed it all over me!

Did you know...Americans eat 13 pounds of chocolate a year? The Irish eat the most, 24.6 lbs (this does not surprise me, I am Irish)!

Chocolate can be an impulse purchase at the store, strategically placed by the check out. Recently, my second grade teaching team went to a conference and during some down time we found ourselves magnets to the Godiva store! See chocolate, must have! We all left deliriously happy with our little bags of treasure!

Chocolate is what milk is to infants, a necessary vital part of happiness and contentment.

Hershey's is an all American staple. The Hershey's label is my favorite thing to see when I open up my little pantry! The simple label is so perfect with its big block letters. Hershey's is an American classic that will never go out of style.
Think about all the different times a year we celebrate with chocolate: Halloween, Valentine's Day, Easter, Christmas...I couldn't possibly pick a favorite time of year to have chocolate.

Chocolate is so dreamy the way it slowly melts on your tongue, and then tortures you with pleasure. Eating good chocolate can be like a spiritual experience! When we share chocolate with the ones we love I think it is an intimate form of communication. We are sharing a dark delicious secret.

Hershey's chocolate is the only chocolate to be awarded the "Best Life Seal of Approval." The best Life Program was created by exercise physiologist, Bob Greene. It's a program to help people achieve their own personal best life. My life is certainly better with chocolate and if Hershey's can make me feel good about what I'm putting in my body, I'm all for it! My favorite is the dark chocolate "best life" bar with blueberries, cranberries and almonds. I even put it in my oatmeal and fed it to my children for breakfast!

It is easy and a pleasure for me to write about chocolate. I think most of us have very positive feelings about chocolate. It's one of the greatest joys in life!
Do you have a favorite chocolate recipe or memory? Please share yours and you could win a chocolate stash of your own courtesy of Hershey's.
My friend Craig who is a chef and father of young children recommends this chocolate recipe:

*Use small balloons size of a softball

Make dark chocolate ganache by adding a cup of hot heavy cream and tablespoon of salted butter over 14 oz chopped dark chocolate pieces. Whisk until smooth. Chocolate melts at 100 degrees F. And should cool to 88 degrees so balloons don't pop. Dip each balloon on an angle on each third to create 3 petals on sides of balloon. Set on wax paper, put them in fridge. When firm, pop with knife, remove balloon pieces. Fun for kids!
*if you are allergic to latex, don't attempt balloons!

Chocolate mousse: 14 oz favorite chocolate melted again with cup hot cream, tablespoon of butter. Whip cup of cold heavy cream to stiff peaks. Fold one-third whipped cream into ganache to temper chocolate. Then fold in remaining. Can pipe mousse into chilled chocolate cups, or spoon in. Add raspberries and or sliced strawberries as garnish. A dry champagne goes exceptionally well with this sweet and rich dessert!

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