Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thank God for the Aztecs!

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.


  1. For many years, we were under some legalistic teaching that said "as Christians we shouldn't read any fiction." The only kinds of books we were encouraged to read were the "how to be more spiritual" kind of books.

    Well, we have been set free from that thinking, and we realize that profound truth CAN come through loud and clear in story format. One such book for me is "The Victory Club" by Robin Lee Hatcher (a Christian author).

    It's a book set in the 1940's, which is SO me. Interestingly, one of the main characters is joyless because her walk with God has been all about adhering to a bunch of rules. She never really experienced God's grace and freedom. When she finally realized what she was doing, I was weeping right along with her, because I had seen myself.

    Another character had trouble forgiving herself for a sin, even though she had confessed her sin to God and knew he forgave her. She kept wanting to punish herself, but she finally heard the Lord's voice saying, "I've forgiven you." Again, I wept, as I tend to beat myself up too.

    All that to say, without being preachy, this book proclaimed the Gospel and ministered to my heart.

    I'm glad your book similarly touched you.


  2. Wow! Patti, I had no idea some people taught that Christians shouldn't read fiction. How sad! I'll have to look up Robin Lee Hatcher. I find the 1940's to be a really interesting time frame too. Karen Kingsbury is one Christian author who really speaks to me with her fiction. Love the way she writes. Like you said, without being preachy those books can minister to our hearts.

  3. sometimes i wouldn't read a Christian book because it preaches too much. the book you mentioned sounds more likable for me. thanks for your recent comment on my blog about nature. Just getting back to sit down and read comments. have a good day. Rose

  4. What an awesome recipe and book review. Even though I'm Jewish, that book is calling out to me. (I wonder why.:))

  5. Hahaha... Chocolate unites all religions it seems. You've just described a book I'd like to get my teeth into! Anything with chocolate grabs my attention (though you know what they say its a substitute for wink-wink)...I don't know about reading and Christianity but chocolate is way too sinful for a Christian book. Best Christian book I ever read was Kazantzakis' "The Last Temptation" (but unfortunately he got excommunicated for that one).

    PS Are you sure you missed me? I missed you. Every time I saw bouganvillae (and Greek islands are covered in those!). Take care dear friend.

  6. I agree with Purpose Cow -- chocolate is a uniting force, not just for religions but also for cultures. I have yet to find any culture in the world (and I have worked with dozens) that does not love chocolate. In fact, I just got infected. I am going to log off and go nibble on some chocolate.

  7. Now that was a great review! But chocolate chilli? I'd never heard of that before. Who would have ever imagined getting inspired to make this concoction from reading a novel. It sounds strange, but when you said the chocolate gave it a deep earthy flavor I figured it wasn't sweet and maybe this is something I should look into. Anyway it does look delicious! Great blogging!

  8. Hello, my friend,
    My hat is off to you for trying a fantastic new recipe and experimenting with chocolate chili!! I am with you, just about anything should be delicious with chocolate. Also, thank you for the book review. I am going to see if I can find a copy. I once accidentally put cinnamon in my vegetable soup (thought I was putting in a sprinkle of chili powder), and the cinnamon gave the soup a very interesting flavor. Have a happy week~Vicki

  9. Hello Ro- I have never heard of chocolate in chili before, but I must admit that I am strangely intrigued. I love the Gooseberry Patch cook books, they have one called Back Yard Gatherings that has wonderful garden recipes. Our favorite is layers of potatoes, zucchini, onions, squash, tomatoes, rice, and cheese; with savory, rosemary and basil for seasoning. It is then baked it in the oven (I think that was everything in the recipe). Take care.

  10. Just popping by to say hi. I've missed you this week. Hope all is well...and that Tiger is nearly back to his ol' self.


  11. Good morning Ro,
    I think I need to read that book. It sounds very interesting! Thank you for the review and suggestion.
    Chocolate chili tho, hmmmm....sounds weird, but I suppose the chocolate would provide a certain "richness", kinda like coffee in a chocolate cake.
    I hope all is well with you.
    Take care.
    Warm hugs, Laura

  12. Hi Ro,
    Me again! Just read an old post of yours about a book written by Trisha Ashley. I found her website and I am gonna read some of her stuff, too. She sounds like a brilliant writer! Thanks for another review!!
    Hugs, Laura



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