Guilt Free Chocolate

Guilt Free Chocolate

Chocolate kisses, M&M´s Snickers and Hersey bars, These were brands we found even at our country store in Cecilville California in the 60´s. (Population 35). I am sure I had choclaate earlier in life but the moment that stood out as memorable was on Halloween. I had just finished reading “Winnie the Pooh” so I dressed up as Christopher Robin and carried an old bear who I called Pooh. I was 9 years old, going on 10 and the school kids (all 7 of us) from our one room school house, decided to go trick or treating. Houses were miles apart on muddy one lane roads along the river so we had to choose 3 for our adventure.

We loaded into a couple of cars and our 1ststop was at the Cecilville country store where we were greeted by the owner, Edlo Bennet. She allowed us to pick 3 candies off her shelf and so I loaded my pockets. Below is a pic of the old store and one of my pals Scott. He is Edlos grandson and very proud of the snake he just caught here. In the pic also Old Chief the horse. Watch for more upcoming stories about life in Cecilville with these characters.

The second house was that of Alice and Skitter Swenson. They lived across the river and we had to get there on a walking, swinging bridge. They greeted us with taffy and root beer cool-aid.

The third house was the Lukeys old cabin along the river. Mrs. Lukey was always working on a paint by number picture that amazed all of us kids. On this rainy cold Halloween night she had made cake and a pot of Hot Chocolate from some canned condensed milk, lots of sugar and some powered dark chocolate.

The aroma pulled me in the minute we walked through her cabin door. I still can recall to this day the deep, creamy rich taste of the dark chocolate, elevating my awareness of how grand life could be. Little did I know that this almost pure dark chocolate was creating cognitive effects on my brain releasing endorphins. Yea, 60 years later we now know that as “the happiness hormone”. I was not only happy but instantly in love.

Hot Chocolate is still my drink of choice that I consume a cup most mornings. Contrary to belief, chocolate is not addictive. Now the sugar and fat in many chocolate products are addictive, but not the pure chocolate. I make a hot chocolate with water and a high protein, low sugar powder. It hits the spot. I even found one brand that had zero grams of sugar and was documented to stabilize blood sugar. Unfortunately, I haven't found a way to get it in Portugal YET.

Other positive claims have been that chocolate can significantly affect blood pressure levels reducing your heart risk. Dark chocolate is high in antioxidents contributing to many health benefits. Now I am not suggesting you drop your medications and replace with chocolate. Just add more chocolate…..and drop the guilt.

How did the worlds favorite sweet treat get to us?

1200 BC….First documented in Mesoamerica. The Olmec, one of the earliest civilizations in Latin America drank an ancient chocolate drink during rituals and used it as medicine. Centuries later, the Mayans praised chocolate as the "drink of the gods". Mayan chocolate was a revered brew made of roasted and ground cacao seeds mixed with chilies, honey and water and had at every meal. The Aztecs considered chocolate more valuable than gold and used cacao beans as currency.

Even more interesting is that the Aztecs also invented and hand crafted the Molinillo, an intricate wooden tool with different style rings incorporated at the bottom. The Molinillo performed the same function as modern day milk frothers, to blend and froth the chocolate to aerate it and develop a complex flavor

1500´s ... Chocolate seduces Europe. It has been debated if Cortez or Columbus brought this treat to Spain but none the less it arrived. The native method was too bitter for Spain and European tastes so they added cinnamon, cane sugar, and vanilla. As a result of chocolate becoming so popular, elite chocolate houses were created throughout European cities during this period as a way to serve this hot drink to wealthy aristocrats. Even Catholic monks loved chocolate and drank it to aid religious practices.

In 1615, French King Louis XIII married Anne of Austria, daughter of Spanish King Phillip III. To celebrate the union, she brought samples of chocolate to the royal courts of France. These marriages were for political purpose to reduce the risk of war with another country.

The history of chocolate continues as the treat remained immensely popular among European aristocracy. Royals and the upper classes consumed chocolate for its health benefits as well as its decadence.

1828... A Dutch gentleman named Coenraad van Houten, created the first Cocoa Press. It provided a method for separating out the cocoa butter leaving what is called “cocoa cake,” which could be pulverized into a substance we now know as cocoa powder. He also invented the process of treating cocoa mass with alkaline to remove bitterness, mellow the taste and improve its ability to blend; the resulting product was and is still called “Dutch Process Chocolate” or “Dutched Cocoa”. With the cocoa press and Dutching process, Van Houten went on to become the father of “Eating Chocolate” which was a method that also made chocolate more affordable for everyone to enjoy.

1876... The First Chocolate Bar: Henri Nestlé came up with the idea and process to incorporate milk and voilá– milk chocolate was brought into the mass market. With these new techniques and technologies, chocolate could be precisely blended to create a variety of tastes, flavor profiles, and textures, which led to the creation of the first “eating chocolate”- or chocolate bar. Following this evolution, varieties of chocolate exploded spreading throughout the planet.

Outside the obidos castle at the chocolate festival

The Óbidos International Chocolate Festival transforms Óbidos into the world’s chocolate capital for about a week, in the months of April or May. Each year has a different theme, meant to inspire the amazing chocolate sculptures that are usually on display. There are tastings of chocolates from different parts of the world, and professional chefs showing off what they can do with cocoa. Chocoholics may also join workshops and courses, and participate in contests.

Choclate Bless was one booth and have a shop in Nazare 

Upon visiting Portugal last May, I realized I had missed this annual event.I then vowed not to miss it in 2023. The castle is a fairy-tale place to start with, then adding a chocolate festival makes it a must visit. Join us next year.

We skipped the workshops but did enjoy the tasting and fun. There were many people in costume to entertain us as well.

I heard a voice call out “The monkeys are here. We turned, looked and a lovely chocolate festival character told me that she heard about them from the Childrens Christmas festival but didn’t get to meet up then. So of course we stopped for a foto op and graced her with a bit of "Sock Monkey Magic".

This tree guy was a lot of fun too.

Tree climbing at the festival!

I am not sure what Popeye and Olive Oyl had to do with chocolate or a medieval castle but they certainly added to the “fun factor” Olive oyl had us spinning.


Even when there isnt a festival, you can always stop in and buy some ginja served in cups made of chocolate. This is one of our favorite little stores right inside the castle entrance on the right.

Six great reasons to consume more chocolate

1. Mayans, Olmec, Aztecs and courts of Europe drank chocolate for good health
2. Current studies show it is high in Antioxidents and can reduce blood pressure
3. Aztecs used it as a currency
4. Catholic Monks used it to aid religious practices
5. Used as gifts to bond marriages and reduce acts of war
6. Releases endorphins (the happiness hormone) and is mood elevating without negative side effects YES!

In my 70 short years I have found that Chocolate brings joy all over the earth from a tiny river town in northern California to the Castle of Obidos, Portugal and everywhere in between.

Old rules: Chocolate is bad for you!

New rules: Join me, eat more chocolate!!!

You can have your cake and eat it to with Chocolate.....