Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because our bodies manufacture it from a form of cholesterol when our skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. In the south, ten to 15 minutes of sunshine 3 times a week produces enough to meet our requirement but with increased use of sunscreen and air pollution experts feel that Vitamin D supplements are becoming necessary almost everywhere. In northern parts of the U.S. the level of the sun is too low to provide enough ultraviolet rays to produce adequate levels of Vitamin D from November to February. People living in areas above a line drawn roughly from northern CA to New England are included in this group.
Vitamin D is helps prevent osteoporosis in adults and rickets in children. Bone is constantly lost and rebuilt, but as we age it becomes more difficult for the body to rebuild. Once this delicate balance is upset, bones are more fragile and easily broken in falls especially after menopause.
Vitamin D helps maintain appropriate levels of calcium and phosphorous in the blood and improves the absorption of calcium into bones. In the United States since the 1930’s most milk has been fortified with Vitamin D.
Here's a comforting dessert for a cold winter's night packed with Vitamin D. Is chocolate a substitute for sunshine? Not really!
Chocolate Bread Pudding with Custard Sauce
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 cups 1-inch pieces of day-old bread
Heat whipping cream in small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Add chocolate and remove from heat. Let stand until chocolate melts, stirring once or twice. Cool slightly
Beat sugar, salt, and eggs in medium bowl until mixture is completely smooth. Stir in milk and vanilla. Add chocolate mixture and mix well.
Place bread in lightly greased 9-inch pie pan. Pour milk mixture over bread and let dish stand about 1 hour. Push any bread not moistened down into the milk.
Heat oven to 325°F with oven rack in middle.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until set and a knife inserted near center comes out clean although it will be wet.Cool on wire cooling rack until serving, or cool to room temperature and refrigerate.
Baking Basics and Beyond, 2nd Edition, 2012 Surrey Books, by Pat Sinclair