Three Apps for Chocolate Lovers

ChocolatesGuest Post by Ashley Cranston

Chocolates are often associated with love and happiness. That’s because chocolate contains a chemical called phenethylamine, which is the same substance that the body releases when a person falls in love. Chocolates also contain dopamine, which is a natural painkiller, and serotonin that helps the body release chemicals associated with feelings of pleasure.

Thanks to the digital age, mobile apps were developed to help people find various kinds of chocolates. There are even companies that give away chocolates to users who would participate in gimmicks. One time, Shopmium offered free Lindt chocolate samples to its newly-registered users. Conversely, mobile gaming hub Pocket Fruity gave chocolate prizes to users during its Valentine’s Day and Christmas promos. With literally hundreds of chocolate-related apps to download, people would never run miss out on cool promos, free samples, or new products created by their favorite chocolate brands!

iChocolate  (iOS, $0.99)

iChocolate is a recipe recipe app that not only offers chocolate desserts but savory chocolate main dishes as well. It also provides vital tips on how to cook chocolate perfectly, and a built-in ingredient conversion measurement chart.

World Chocolate Guide (iOS, Android, Free)

The World Chocolate Guide lets users find the best chocolates shops near them, and around the world. Users can also filter their search by shop features like if a shop sells cakes, pastries, or hot chocolate. It also features detailed description of each shop, photo galleries, and customer ratings.

The Chocolate App (Android, Free)

This app is developed by Philadelphia Candies, a company that has been manufacturing the finest milk and dark chocolates since 1919. In it, users can browse the company’s finest selections of boxed chocolates, specialty chocolates, and gifts for every occasion. Users can even order through their Android-powered smartphone, and checkout with PayPal. The Chocolate App ships to customers all over the world.

Ashley is a self-confessed foodie. She loves trying out new restaurants and admits that she doesn’t go out of the house without a snack or two in her bag. She loves watching the food channel and feeding new dishes to her two little boys.

Festive Recipe Ideas

Vegan Sugar Cookies by Renee on FlickrThe holidays are a time when you choose a variety of ways to celebrate your family and what you have been given in life. One small way you might choose to do that is by preparing a hearty meal with treats to match. You probably also decorate your home with festive ornaments. Well, why not meld the two together and make your treats decorative too? The easiest foods to make festive are desserts, though you can implement the idea in other ways too.

A simple and tasty chocolate snowman shaped cake is easy to make and highly festive. Best with Dutch cocoa, you can use coconut flakes to create the coating. You can use black licorice sticks for the arms, black licorice drops for the eyes and peppermints for buttons with gum drops on top. For the mouth, you can use a piece of red shoestring style licorice. Fruit leather makes a great decorative scarf.

Alternatively, or in addition to, you can create a Christmas tree cake with equal festivity. By creating individual cake squares, you can stack these to create a tree-like shape with green frosting and other colored frostings to your liking. You can use candies for ornaments and smaller cake squares decorated with colored frosting to make presents under the tree.

Gingerbread houses are a classic way of creating decorative treats. However, there are more creative ways to make artistic gingerbread treats. One less known design is the gingerbread lantern, created by four rectangular pieces of gingerbread connected by frosting. You can cut holes in the pieces to let the light out, such as stars or hearts. Once settled, you can place candles inside these and use them as actual lanterns.

Another creative design is the gingerbread train. You have a great amount of creative license with this, in that there is room to decide how intricate you want to get with the design. However, there is a minimum amount of intricacy involved. The frosting is used for piping and a combination of circular and rectangular gingerbread cookies create the body. You can use candies, licorice and frosting to decorate it anyway you like. Gum drops work well to top the train while licorice works well for the pistons. You can also decide how long you want to make the train.

If you are looking to go more gourmet than flashy, you can make chocolate espresso snowballs with fair trade coffee. Using cocoa, pecans and sugar you can have a treat both decedent and decorative. There are plenty of ways to brighten up holiday cheer just with culinary creativity.

Festive Cooking Tips

The Dessert by Iryna Yeroshko on Flickr

The Dessert by Iryna Yeroshko on Flickr

For many people, cooking for the holidays can be frustrating and stressful. This year, though, instead of rushing around in a frenzy, try out these festive holiday cooking tips.

Plan Ahead

Instead of rushing around the day of your holiday dinner, plan ahead. Since most of the stores in your area will be closed on the holiday, make sure you have everything you need a few days in advance. This can include spices, vegetables, condiments and beverages.

Making a few dishes ahead of time can also save you the hassle of preparing them on the holiday. Baked dishes, like pies and rolls, for example, can usually be made a day or two before your holiday meal and stored in airtight containers. Dishes like mashed potatoes can also be made up to three days before your meal and stored in a refrigerator or freezer.

Keep it Simple

Remember that the most important thing about the holidays is family and friends. While a huge, fancy, extravagant holiday dinner is nice sometimes, ask yourself if it’s really worth the stress. Prepare the traditional turkey or ham, but keep the side dishes simple. If your dinner guests will be arriving early, a simple vegetable or cold cut tray can also be put out as an appetizer.

Also, don’t think you have to go it alone. If one of your guests offers to bring a dish or help out, by all means, accept the help.

Have Fun

It’s the holidays, so have fun. No one ever said that cooking a holiday meal had to be boring. Put on some festive holiday music and rock out! If your kitchen is big enough, try to get your family to join you. Not only will you get some free helpers, but you’ll also have a blast.

Count Your Dishes and Cutlery

This may seem like an odd festive cooking tip, but don’t dismiss it. Always make sure that you will have enough plates, bowls, platters and cutlery for your holiday dinner. Running out of clean silverware or not having an adequate number of plates for your guests can be very frustrating.

Stash Extra Chairs and Tables

Even if you’re expecting only six people at your holiday table, always plan for more. Any number of things could happen and there is always a possibility of unexpected guests showing up. To accommodate them, borrow or buy some inexpensive folding tables and chairs and keep them stored until they are needed.

Make Serving Easy

Forgo passing the dishes around the table this year and opt for a buffet-style holiday dinner instead. Set up a long table with plates at one end and the food spread out in a line along the table. Doing this allows your guests to choose their own food in an orderly fashion and it keeps messy dishes off your table. Most food can be kept warm with the help of slow cookers, electric roasters and electric skillets. If you are hosting a very large holiday dinner and do so frequently, you may want to consider purchasing or renting some catering equipment, such as chafing dishes and serving platters.