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Anyone can enjoy chocolate just as it is — sweet little morsels that tempt us and delightfully tickle our taste buds. But it is also one of the most diverse foods to be found! We can use it as a sauce, a dip, a drink, or a decoration, and the list goes on and on. It begins as a bean, and can ultimately be turned into a butter, a powder, a liquid or a solid.

Hot chocolate warms us when we’re chilled, or cools us as chocolate milk in the heat of summer. Drizzled over our favorite ice cream, it’s better than air conditioning! Eaten when we’re stressed, it makes life’s little irritations seem less important. Shared, it can cement a friendship and enhance a relationship. As a gift, it’s nearly priceless.

How terrific a few bites of chocolate go with a cup of strong, hot coffee after a meal . . . and what a welcomed treat after a round of intense exercise. Chocolate is a sweet reward for anyone in recognition of a job well done, or a tender consolation after what we may feel was a failure. It can be given as a trinket of affection at the holidays, and is the go-to ingredient in home-baked or bakery delicacies any day of the year.

When choosing, what do you pair it with? The combinations of chocolate and “whatever” are mind-boggling! Want a little salt with your sweet? Try chocolate covered peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds or pretzels. Crave a challenge? Try quickly eating chocolate covered toffee, raisins or caramels.

Are carbohydrates a necessity in your diet? Melt semi-sweet chocolate pieces and fold in any unsweetened crisp corn, wheat, bran or oat cereal.

How about sweet on sweet? Dip bits of sponge cake into melted chocolate fondue, or drizzle it over moist slices of pound cake. And don’t eat just plain marshmallows. Dress them in chocolate!

No diet’s complete without fruit. Use chocolate to not only coat fresh fruits like kiwi, kumquats, bananas, strawberries, star fruit and mandarin oranges, but also to dress up dried fruits like dates, apricots, raisins, apple rings, figs and pineapple. Scratch the caramel apples in lieu of chocolate-coated ones.

We can even use chocolate to adorn what we would probably consider inedible . . . like stem ginger, orange peels and even prunes, making each of them a lip-smacking sweet reward.

Chocolate is a dessert, a beverage, a snack or a main dish ingredient. Hot or cold, liquid or solid, with fruit or cereal, cream-filled or nougat, plain or fancy, you can definitely have chocolate YOUR way!

This  Month’s Heavenly Selection fromYour Favorite Chocolate of the Month Club:  

“ON THE MOUND”  — Center pieces are — DARK CHOCOLATE ORANGE BARS  — Outer pieces include —  MILK CHOCOLATE WITH PUMPKIN SPICE MIDDLE &WHITE CHOCOLATE WITH CRUSHED ALMONDS COVERING SWEET COCONUT

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Tracie Burket
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