Throughout history chocolate has played many roles, most notably as a symbolic aphrodisiac. Cacao bean pods, the source of chocolate, grow on Theobroma cacao trees, which translates to “cacao, food of the gods.” The Aztecs and Maya used the beans found within the pods as a form of currency. The Maya were known to exchange a few beans for a night of passion at the brothel, while the Aztec emperor Montezuma is rumored to have consumed 50 cups of chocolate each day in order to satisfy his many, many wives. Anybody who has read the memoirs of the notorious Italian lover Casanova can’t help but notice his addiction to chocolate. He starts each day with a cup of chocolate for breakfast; it is comical to see the amount of times chocolate is mentioned during his escapades. He must have needed quite a bit of chocolate in order to sustain his lustful exploits!
So what are chocolate’s passion-inducing qualities? Scientists have narrowed it down to two key components – phenethylamine and tryptophan. The former is a stimulant that is released in the brain when we fall in love, while the latter helps to produce serotonin, a brain chemical associated with elevated moods and sexual arousal. In addition to all of this, chocolate makes for a very satisfying dessert.
On Valentine’s Day, sweet and decadent chocolate reigns supreme. These simple, elegant and tempting Chocolate Cheesecake Parfaits are a perfect way to set the mood. Make them with lowfat ricotta and lowfat Greek yogurt to lighten things up, or use full fat dairy for a more luscious treat. Enjoy!
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- 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
- 7 tbsp sugar, divided
- 1/4 cup whole or lowfat milk
- 2 tbsp amaretto or Grand Marnier (optional)
- Heaping 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 15 oz ricotta cheese (lowfat ok)
- 8 oz Greek yogurt (lowfat ok)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups chocolate cookies, crushed
- Chocolate shavings or sliced strawberries for garnish
- 1 cup sliced almonds for garnish (optional)
You will also need
- double boiler, stand mixer or hand mixer, mixing bowls, food processor or plastic storage bag and rolling pin, 8 parfait cups
- In a double-boiler combine chocolate chips, 6 tbsp sugar, milk, almond liqueur and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly until the mixture is smooth.
- Combine ricotta, Greek yogurt and vanilla in a stand mixer or large mixing bowl and whip until thoroughly combined.
- While the chocolate mixture is warm, but not hot, slowly pour it into the cheese mixture while whisking. Beat until everything is incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Crush the chocolate cookies in a food processor or place them in a plastic storage bag and crush with a rolling pin.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whip together heavy cream and 1 tbsp sugar until stiff peaks form.
- To assemble: Place 2 tbsp of the cookies in the bottom of 8 parfait cups.
- Evenly distribute the chocolate cheesecake mixture between the cups.
- Top with an additional 2 tbsp of the crushed cookies.
- Divide the whipped cream evenly between the 8 cups to top the parfaits.
- Garnish each parfait with chocolate shavings, sliced almonds, a sliced strawberry and/or any fruit of your choosing. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving.