Would it be cruel to extol the virtues of chocolate these dark, cold days of January and February, months traditionally reserved for dietary resolutions and abstention from such temptations? I say now is when we need it the most.
For instance, consider that a cup of Mexican hot chocolate—with its frothy milk foam and fragrant cinnamon—warms stiff limbs much faster in the morning than the ponderous wood stove. (Best of all would be the hot chocolate and the wood stove together!)
Hazelnut-chocolate spread frosted bite by bite onto a banana makes a great breakfast. Coffee break? Brownies, or devil's-food cake, or mocha chip cookies, of course. At the noon meal, you can pop a few chocolate morsels like so many vitamins, for dessert. Supper could be an exotic Mexican dish: chicken, turkey, beans, or a protein-rich grain smothered in molé poblano—a piquant blend of chilis, chicken stock, sesame tahini, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, tamarind, or dried apricots...and chocolate. Scrumptious.
Thumbing through my file of newspaper recipe clips, I find (predictably) many that feature chocolate in some form: handmade truffles, mocha pecan pie, warm and gooey individual chocolate cakes, homemade English toffee, chocolate silk pie, espresso baked custard with bitter chocolate glaze, chunky caramel squares, devil's-food cake cockaigne, chocolate walnut fudge.
In this fondness for chocolate, it seems I am not alone. About 50 studies of food cravings have been published over the past five years, and they all list chocolate as one of the major munchies of choice in the United States, especially among women. The reasons why have a lot to do with hormones and brain chemicals.