Chocolate as Aphrodisiac: Fact or Fiction

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It takes one lick of chocolate to understand its pull on human nature. The rich cocoa-butter mouth feel coupled with its bittersweet flavor stimulates the body and pleases the senses. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma, allegedly drank multiple cups of a warm herb-infused cocoa drink each day in order to keep his energy up for his many wives. The chocolate concoction was esteemed as a drink only for nobles by the mighty Aztecs, and associated the beverage with the goddess of fertility, Xochiquetzal. Mayans used cacao beans as currency, and though they did not consume the small hard pellets the beans could buy such bawdy experiences as a night in a brothel or fermented beverages to ease inhibitions. As the cacao beans traveled across the ocean to Spain the pellets were coveted as an exotic rarity which only increased its aphrodisiacal lore. Currently, the symbolic ritual of giving chocolate to a lover remains a popular way to procure love and express desire. However, does chocolate possess qualities to heighten romance or is it all a fable?

Cacao beans contains the substances, Phenylethylamine and Seratonin. These two chemicals occur naturally in the brain and produce feelings of pleasure. Once Phenlethlaymine and Seratonin are released through the nervous system they can enhance a person’s mood, increase heart rate, and invoke feel good sensations in the body. However, researchers believe that chocolate possess too few of the substances to cause the desirable aphrodisiac effect. A group of scientist in Italy published an analysis in the journal of Sexual Medicine that studied a random sample of 163 women to see if chocolate had any influence on their rate of arousal. The results concluded that woman who ate up to three pieces of chocolate a day did not have any reports of an increase in their need for passion. Therefore, the result of the study shows that chocolate’s aphrodisiac effects prove to be psychological, not physiological.

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Though modern science disproves chocolate as a physical aphrodisiac, a gift of couverture to a lover never goes unappreciated. The coco bean is a part of us, and a part of our history. This Valentine’s Day forget the store bought heart shape boxes filled with candies and conjure up a pack of Raspberry Ganache Filled Chocolates to show your loved one how much you care.

Chocolates Filled with Raspberry Ganache

10 oz frozen raspberries, thawed

1/4 cup powdered sugar

2 lb. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp agave nectar

1 tbsp red cocoa butter

Make the filling:

Place the raspberries in a blender or food processor, and process them until they are liquefied. Pour the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a small saucepan to remove the seeds. Add the powdered sugar to the raspberry puree and heat it over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it is thick and syrupy and reduced by half. Remove the puree from the heat and set aside.

Place 1 pound of chopped chocolate into a large bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until bubbles start to form around the edges, but do not allow it to boil. Pour the simmering cream over the chopped chocolate. Whisk the chocolate and cream together gently, until it is melted and the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Add the agave nectar and raspberry puree to the chocolate, and whisk to combine. Cover the surface of the ganache with cling wrap, and set aside.

Temper the chocolate:

Melt the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl set over simmering water, to 110 F. Allow the chocolate to cool to 82 F. While cooling, stir frequently. Then, start to heat the chocolate to around 88 F to 91 F. DO NOT EXCEED 91 F. Remove and keep chocolate warm.

Assemble the chocolate candies:

Place a dot of red cocoa butter into the center of each mold compartment. Freeze the mold for 5-10 minutes to set. Add a small spoonful of warm tempered chocolate to your mould and use a paint brush to carefully coat the inside of each compartment. Make sure your coating is even – not too thick, not too thin, and no holes. This will be the outer shell of your candy. Once all the mold compartments have been painted use a scraper to clean it down – clean edges are important to a nicely finished product. Place the mold in the freezer until the chocolate is set. Then, add the filing (raspberry ganache) to a squeeze bottle, being very careful not to spill any onto the mould. Squeeze a drop of raspberry ganache into the center of each compartment. Leave enough space at the top of it for the base-layer of chocolate. Spoon a small amount of chocolate on top of each candy and smooth over with a knife. Lastly, take a hand towel or paper towel and clean around each compartment to ensure a clean cut piece of candy. Return the mold to the freezer and let the chocolates set for 15-30 minutes. Once set, remove the mold from the freezer and free the chocolates by inverting the mold and firmly snapping it down on the countertop. Handle the finished product with clean cotton gloves to prevent marking them with your fingers. Hold and serve at room temperature.

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Spices, Love and Chili

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Spices play an intricate part in how  we experience flavors of different dishes. However, they add more than just gusto to edibles. They actualize notes of different cultures, replicate familiarity, and assist in healing the body. But why are spices rumored to possess aphrodisiac qualities? Historically, the use of cinnamon, myrrh, saffron, and ginger show up in a variety of different ancient texts, including, the Songs of SolomonProverbs, and Psalms from the Old Testament; the Arab’s Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight; and the Hindu’s Kama Sutra. In these books the application of herbs and spices are used to perfume a room, warm a bed, excited the tongue, and rub into the skin.

Spices consist of a blend of chemicals that compose their potent smells and tastes. Cinnamon contains Eugene and Cinnamaldehyde, which masks bad body odor, increases circulation throughout the entire anatomy, and produces a tingling or numbing feeling when applied directly to the skin. Ginger possess Gingerold and Zingiberene. These chemicals increase blood flow, work as an anti-inflammatory, and quiet an upset stomach. Saffron, the stigma of the S. crocus plant, consist of Picrocrocin, an alchemical that produces a number of antioxidants in its threads. Traditionally, saffron was used as an antiseptic, anti-colsant, and as a digestive aid. Cadinene, Heerabolene, and Limonene are the active constituents in myrrh. This spice is commonly used in North Africa and is used to heal digestive and respiratory disorders, along with treat skin irritations and infections. The fragrance of myrrh is said to assist in meditation and in rejuvenation of the body, mind, and soul. Though these components do not produce exact aphrodisiacal effects, their health benefits give the body the strength needed to perform the act of physical love. Furthermore, the rich scent coupled with the stimulating impact spices have on the taste buds creates a heady reputation of love promoting effects especially before modern medicine.

Spices can be added to just about every dish. I like to add cinnamon to my chili, ginger to my morning juice cocktail, and saffron to fish or rice dishes. My only experience with myrrh is as incense. Another great way to add more ginger to your diet is shred up a two inch section of the root, put in a tea bag, and seep in boiled or simmered water for five to ten minutes. An important note about spices is that they do lose their potency and flavor over time. Generally, a spice will stay good for about one year after it is opened. I like to buy mine from a company called Tsp Spices, which packages organic spices in individual pre-measured teaspoon sealed packets. This ensures that every time you cook with a seasoning you know it’s fresh.

The luxurious reputation and folklore surrounding spices is not based on science, but on rarity and its use to exemplify riches. Even modern love uses the fragrances of different spices to catalyze romantic love by tantalizing the sense of smell and creating a lasting impression remembered by the subconscious. However, in the context of this aphrodisiac food column, seasonings added to cookery activates  alleged stimulating effects due to the chemicals that give a particular sustenance its tonicity.

Cinnamon Spiked Chili

SERVES 4

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/2  cup yellow onion, diced
  • 2 gloves garlic, made into a paste
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1-pound ground sirloin
  • 1 24-oz jar of fire roasted crushed tomatoes, or regular crushed tomatoes
  • 2-cups kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp. chili seasoning
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 8-ounce container sour cream (optional)

Put canola oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer and move easily around the pan add the onions, garlic, and peppers, then sauté until the onions are translucent, about five to seven minutes.

Add the hamburger meat and break apart the clumps. Stir the meat until the pink color turns brown.

Once the meat is almost cooked through add the spices. Toss the spices with the meat for 1 minute. Then, add the crushed tomatoes and kidney beans  stir until the tomatoes begin to boil. Once the mixture boils turn the heat down to low, and let simmer for at least thirty minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure that the chili does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Recipe: Sticky Strawberry Roasted Chicken with Au Jus; aka: Sex Before Dinner

As a romantic at heart, I love Valentine’s Day. On the contrary, I loath pre-fix Valentine’s Day restaurant dinners. Nine times out of ten, the meal is low quality at extorted prices, and it’s total amateur night. So, this year, my new beau and I decided to stay in, avoid the crowds, and have a romantic supper at home. Actually, I couldn’t have asked for a more romantic, dreamy V-day, but I won’t go in to the specifics (I don’t want to make you jealous). What I will tell you is how to prepare Sticky Strawberry Roasted Chicken with Au Jus. And, if you’re lucky, you can have sex before dinner too.

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Sticky Strawberry Roasted Chicken with Au Jus

Equipment: 400 degree oven, large cast-iron skillet, cutting board, carving knife, whisk, measuring cups and spoons, kitchen twine

Ingredients

For the Chicken

5 pound chicken

3 lemons

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 TSP sea salt

1 TSP black pepper

4 sprigs fresh tarragon

4 sprigs fresh mint

4 springs fresh rosemary

2-3 handfuls baby carrots

For the strawberry sauce

1/2 cup seedless strawberry jam

2 TBSP white wine

1 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar

sea salt

fresh cracked pepper

1 dried Thai chili

For the Au Jus

1 cup boiling stock

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of fresh thyme

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Rub the chicken inside and out with the lemon juice mixture. Stuff the chicken with lemon slices and fresh herbs. Tie its legs together with  kitchen twine. Place the carrot sticks in the middle of the cast-iron skillet set the chicken breast-side up on top of the carrots and roast until the juices run clear or a thermometer registers 165 degrees in the thigh, about 35 to 45 minutes.

While the chicken is roasting, prepare the strawberry sauce. Combine the strawberry jam, vinegar, wine, salt and pepper in a small saucepan set over medium heat. As the jam begins to melt, add the chili and let steep for 5 minutes. Taste the sauce; if you prefer something spicier, cut the chili and half. Remove the pepper when the desired spiciness is reached.

Once the chicken is finished, remove it from the oven. Put the bird on a platter and let sit while you make the Au Jus. Bring the stock to a boil. Throw the thyme and bay leaf into he pan. Slowly pour the stock into the pan, stirring constantly with a whisk until the liquid reduces by half.

Cut the chicken into pieces. Spread each piece with the sticky strawberry sauce. Lastly, pour the au jus over each piece before serving on a pile of mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetable.

Delicious!

 

Bananas

101: Champagne

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It only takes one sip of a bubbly glass of champagne for the spirit to feel strikingly elegant, frivolous, giddy, and indulgent. Champagne can enliven the soul and entice even the shyest person into animate colloquy or a spontaneous twirl on the dance floor. Romance ignites over a flute of the bubbly liquid, making the chance of a kiss much more likely. This wine stimulates the appetite, drives away timidity, and cures any heartache that plagues the psyche.

The powerful, rich, and famous have consumed champagne in celebration of their legendary awesomeness. It is what the most privileged citizens drank during Napoleon III’s reign; it was the wine that glimmered in the glasses of the dukes and tsars of Imperial Russia. It was even rumored that Marilyn Monroe poured bottles of it in her bath to make her skin shine and her essence sparkle. Pushing beings beyond their accustomed inhibitions, champagne consumed in the proper quantities, possesses the unique quality to make you soar.

Sparkling wine becomes champagne when it comes from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France; also, it must possess the quintessential bubbles to inherit the name famously known around the world as a representation for quality sparkling wine: champagne. It acquires chalk in the soil, excellent drainage, a cool but not too chilly climate, and a nutritious top layer of soil to create its unique nature of acidic grapes in this area. The region provides a unique environment that produces perfect pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay grapes in copious amounts to construct the magic within each bottle of sparkling wine.  The value of the chalky white soil is so high that the residents plant vineyards all the way up to their back doors. The people from this special terroir feel “why waste a good thing”, and, without hesitation, agree with their collective state of mind.

The method champenoise is the immemorial method for making sparkling wine. This intricate, labor-intensive process involves a series of tight regulations that brings the grapes from vine to bottle. The vintners press, ferment, blend, yeast age, bottle, riddle, disgorge, dose, and, lastly, cork each bottle of authentic champagne. The most fascinating aspect of sparkling wine exists in the mystery of its bubbles. The effervescence develops naturally from a second fermentation process inside the tightly corked bottles.

After you have bought your favorite bottle of champagne and are ready to drink it, it’s important that the bottle be slowly chilled in a refrigerator. Many people plunge their champagne into an ice bath or put it in the back of their freezer, which is not the best way to chill a fine wine. The proper method consists of putting the bottle into the refrigerator, which allows it to cool down gradually over the course of four to six hours. Once your bottle has chilled, take it out of the refrigerator for about twenty minute before serving. This ensures that you drink the wine at the correct temperature. Serve champagne with fruit, poached fish, spicy food, or with sugar.

Seared Champagne Scallops

  • ¼ cup roasted salted almonds
  • 5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp. brut champagne
  • 1 tbsp. scallions
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 8 large sea scallops
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp. peach or apricot preserves (it depends on if you want a sweet finish or an emphasis on the brut)
  • Fresh herbs or baby arugula as garnish for the plate

Finely chop the almonds into small pieces being careful not to turn the nuts into a powder.

Mix the almonds and 4 tbsp. of olive oil in a medium bowl. Whisk in the champagne, chives, and season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season scallops with salt and pepper. Add the butter and thyme to the pan. Place the scallops in the pan, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Turn the scallops on the other side and spoon the butter onto the caramelized side of the scallops.

Stir the preserves and ½ tsp. of water into a small bowl. Whisk the mixture to emulsify the preserves and water.

Smear 1/2 tbsp. of preserves into the middle of a white plate. Place 2-4 scallops on top of the preserves and spoon vinaigrette on top of the scallops. Garnish with herbs

Sweet Like Honey: Love, Health, and Honeyed Fruit Squares

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Honey, a gift from the pollen of flowers and hard working bees, promises to sweeten everything it touches. The nectar’s association with love and sensuality reaches far and wide with mentions in the Bible, the Kama Sutra, and the Perfumed Garden. Historically, honey wine, a beverage of fermented yeast, water, and honey, was served to newlyweds the night of their wedding to promote fertility and provoke deep feelings of desire. Westerners continue this tradition, not in action, but in name, as we call the time shortly after the wedding ceremony the “honeymoon.” Behind the association and sweetness of honey, lies numerous amount of vitamins and minerals that give reason to its aphrodisiac lore.

Honey contains copious amounts of vitamins B, C, and the mineral boron. These constituents work together to help regulate estrogen and testosterone levels, stabilizing the mood and providing natural vibrancy. Furthermore, the viscous, sticky substance contains a large amount of sugar, which provides the body with quick usable energy and allows the physique to enjoy long hours of amorous events.

Styles of honey vary from bold and thick like molasses, to soft and creamy like butter. Each batch possess a different aroma and taste based on the type of pollen sipped by the honeybees. Most table honeys, and the one used in the following recipe, come from the clover. However, experimenting with exotic nectar that come from flowers, such as orange blossoms or fire-weeds, will waken the senses not only between two lovers, but anyone that tantalizes their taste-buds with its sweetness.

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Honeyed Fruit Squares

Pie Crust

  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, sugar, and salt together into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter to the dish and cut it into the mixture until it crumbles into pieces the size of small peas.

Mix together egg, water, and vinegar. Add the concoction to the flour mixture. Knead all the ingredients together. If it becomes too sticky add a little flour to the dough.

Sprinkle flour onto two piece of wax or parchment paper. Place the ball of dough between the paper and roll out until about 1/4 of an inch thick.

Cut the dough into 3 by 3 squares. Place on a greased cookie sheet and pork holes in the dough. Brush the dough with butter.

Bake for 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle the squares with cinnamon and sugar.

Honeyed Fruit 

  • 1/4 cup clover honey
  • 1-cup of berries, plums, or apricots
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1-2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Whipped cream

Combine the above ingredients except the whipped cream into a mixing bowl.

Spoon 3 tbsp. of fruit mixture on to each square.

Top with homemade whipped cream.

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