I have to admit, although I am a Christian and I love to read fiction, I rarely enjoy Christian fiction. Honestly, I just find it is often incredibly insipid (think sappy stories about life on the prairies) or overly preachy (I'd just as soon go to church and hear a sermon thank-you-very-much!) and rarely do I find it an enjoyable read. However, I came across a book in our local public library recently that was categorized as "Christian Fiction" that had an intriguing title "Chocolate Beach" so I thought I'd give it a try.
Well, first off, I have to warn you that if you're looking for a really deep novel that will change your life, this probably isn't it! But, in it's own charming way, Julie Carobini's light-hearted approach was exactly what I was looking for in a book that I could read on a nice hot day, lying on my porch swing, enjoying the breeze and pretending the constant sound of traffic from the six-lane highway just a mere kilometer away was actually the song of deep blue waves rhythmically pounding on a golden sandy beach.
And though I wasn't expecting it, the book actually got me thinking deeply ... well, at least as deeply as one can think on a drowsy summer day anyway. The thing is, some of her points hit home, just not in an overly-intense way, but more in an "Ah, I recognize that in myself" kind of way. Like when her heroine, "Bri," realizes that she is spending more time worrying than she is praying, and when she gets all caught up in trying to change the exterior without acknowledging that the internal probably needs more tweaking. And of course, who can't relate to the notion of "break-up brownies" - that absolutely necessary "go-to-dish" for all those broken-hearted and in need of the ultimate comfort food?!
I won't give away the plot line, in case you all want to read the book, but suffice it to say that one of the external changes that Bri attempts, is to learn how to cook, and she starts by attending a seminar on cooking with chocolate. Smart cookie, eh? I mean, if you're going to learn cooking, you might as well learn how to cook something delicious and chocolately!
Being an avid cook, I found myself quite interested in the menu at the seminar: satiny chocolate soup, glazed chocolate potatoes, sumptuous chocolate chili and chocolate cherry fondue! Yum! What's not to like about that? I've heard of chocolate chili before and have been meaning to try making a batch myself, so after finishing the book - yeah, another good point is that it's a pretty quick read - I decided that it was time to attempt to cook some myself.
Now unfortunately, Carobini's book did not contain any recipes, so I went surfing the net and found a few to choose from. The one I landed on contained no fresh veggies beyond one onion! This just seemed really wrong to me - chocolate and chili are both soul foods to me, and soul foods just can't come out of a can alone! And right now my garden is over-flowing with fresh produce just waiting for me to slice, chop, and cook, so I switched things up a bit and below you will find the "tweaked" recipe I ended up using.
The result was an unbelievably satisfying spicy chili, with a subtle dark, earthy taste of chocolate that gave incredible depth to the dish. I am not 100% happy with the final result but I am now totally hooked on chocolate chili and intend to keep practicing until I have the perfect blend of ingredients. If any of you have a good chocolate chili recipe you'd like to share, please send it my way. As for "glazed chocolate potatoes" ... well, I haven't tried those yet, but they just don't seem quite as intriguing as the satiny chocolate soup that is probably going to be my next experiment! And in the mean time, I'm sending up a huge prayer of thanksgiving for the Aztecs who were smart enough to realize the value of chocolate! I can't imagine life without it!
Chocolate Chili Recipe:
Brown 1 lb of ground beef and 3 medium sized onions, drain any excess fat, put beef/onion in mixture into slow cooker.
In frying pan, with some heated olive oil, gently soften 4-5 good sized sweet banana peppers and 3 jalapenos that have been rustic-chopped. Once done, add to the slow cooker.
Rough-cut 5-6 medium sized fresh tomatoes. Add to slow cooker.
Crush 3 garlic cloves and add to the slow cooker.
Add the rest of these ingredients to the slow cooker and give the mixture a good stirring.
- 2 (15 oz) cans of diced tomatoes
- 1 (15 oz) can of kidney beans
- 1 (15 oz) can of black beans
- 2 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. cumin
- some fresh oregano chopped fine
- 2/3 cup of semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
Cook on the highest setting of your slow cooker for a half-hour, then reduce to cook for at least 3 hours more. The longer it cooks, the more flavour will be released into the mixture.