Sweets for Your Sweet

Valentine Truffles

Decadent chocolate truffles are so easy to make, I really had no idea! This recipe is very simple and can be adapted with a variety of flavors, such as extracts stirred into the chocolate or different spices or toppings coating the chocolate.

When I make these, I divide the chocolate and cream into two batches and flavor them separately. In the photo, I rolled plain chocolate truffles in either cocoa or cinnamon (for a little bite) and then I made a half batch with almond extract, rolling them in either crushed toasted almonds or toasted coconut.

Easy Chocolate Truffles

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate

8 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 T. prepared strong coffee
½ t. vanilla extract
(Optional flavorings: 2 T. liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Frangelico, or 2 t. almond extract)
Cocoa powder
Cinnamon
¼ c. almonds, toasted and crushed finely
¼ c. shredded coconut, toasted and chopped

Chop the chocolates and place in a medium mixing bowl. Heat the cream just until boiling; pour over the chocolate. Slowing stir the mixture with a wire whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir in the coffee, vanilla and an optional flavoring, if using. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature for 1 hour.

Using 2 teaspoons, form small balls of chocolate, about 1 inch in diameter. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Roll each mound of chocolate lightly between your hands to form a somewhat smooth ball. Roll in coating(s) of your choice. Store in an airtight container in the fridge, but allow the truffles to come to room temperature before serving. Makes about 50 truffles.

To present your sweets to your sweet here are a few ideas:- Place each truffle in a mini cupcake liner and place them in a heart-shaped box (available at craft stores).- Line a confection box (the kind with the clear cellophane window in the lid) with red tissue paper, place your truffles inside, close the lid and wrap with a red organza ribbon.- For a mini treat, place two truffles in a clear cello treat bag and tie with red, white and pink curling ribbon.Enjoy these rich and delicious treats!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Light Up Your Love

This year I looked at the craft supplies I have on hand and came up with 3 unique ways to add some Valentine flair to everyday items. With ribbon, lace, paper and some felt stickers, I’m very happy with the results.

Love Letters

The LOVE letter votives are inspired by a high end look — $39 for a set of four! — that I saw at one of my favorite stores, but knew I could create a similar look for less. All you need is computer and printer, parchment paper and straight-sided votive cups.

Use a word processing program and a font of your choice (100-point size) to spell out L-O-V-E, one letter per line. Add a piece of clipart behind the letters, like this swirly, romantic graphic. Print on parchment paper using the color setting. Measure the height of the votive holders and cut the letters into horizontal strips to fit, using a paper cutter for a straight edge. Wrap one letter band around each cup, trimming the ends if necessary and secure with double-sided tape. Download the template to get the look shown by clicking here: LOVE candles (Tip: Use this technique to create custom candlelight for any occasion or holiday!)

Lace Lights

Lace is one of the iconic symbols of Valentine’s Day, dating back to Victorian times when ladies’ handkerchiefs trimmed in handmade lace inspired candy boxes and greeting cards.

For this look, I looked through my sewing supplies and found some pretty bits of lace that happened to be the same width as my clear votive cups. Wrapped in lace, secured with a bit of double-sided tape and tied with thin satin ribbon, these candles evoke a romantic spirit — perfect for a Valentine’s table. (And talk about a fast craft project!) If you don’t have (or can’t find) lace in the perfect width, simply stack the lace in bands around the votive glass. This technique would also dress up a simple glass vase, making it rose-ready!

Embellished Jar

Jar candles are a great way to bring a lot of fragrance to your home, with the added bonus of a long burn time. But, they’re plain and the labels aren’t so decorative.

Peel off the label (remove any residue with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol) and wrap the jar with a variety of ribbons in Valentine’s Day hues. Trim to about a ¼ inch overlap and secure with double-sided tape. In the look shown, the ribbon choices were inspired by the felt heart stickers (Michael’s craft store, $4). Because jar candles tend to be relatively small in circumference, you don’t need a lot of ribbon. In fact, the black ribbon used in this project was saved from a gift box and the others are leftovers from other projects, making this a very inexpensive project!

Why not take a rummage through your craft supplies, paper box, sewing basket, ribbon stash — even buttons and stickers? Look at what you already have with a fresh eye towards embellishing something plain into something sweet for your home.

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Cocktail of the Month: Pink Velvet

This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I created a bevvie reminiscent of red velvet cake. It’s “Pink Velvet” and it’s smooth, creamy and decadent. As a bonus, it’s so delicious, it can double as a dessert!

Pink Velvet

1 shot white chocolate liqueur

1 shot vanilla vodka

Splash of grenadine (or 2-3 drops of red food coloring)

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Pour in all ingredients, cover and shake until cold and well-blended. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Serves 1.

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Modern Floral

One of the hippest trends in floral design right now is the low, mounded bouquet of one type of flower, and it’s surprisingly easy to make at home. Try this arrangement on Valentine’s Day if you receive roses sans a vase, or any day of the year that you treat yourself to some colorful blooms. The trick is using floral oasis foam, about $3 for a large block at craft stores.

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Low & Lovely Roses

Supplies:

  • Valentine 2010 022A small, low bowl
  •  Floral oasis foam
  • Serrated knife
  • One dozen roses (or flowers of your choice)

1. Select a bowl that is about 4 to 5 inches in diameter such as a candy or nut dish, or even a cereal bowl.

2. Using the knife on a suitable cutting surface, trim the oasis foam to fit into the bowl. Following the instructions on the package, soak and float the oasis.

3. Trim the stems of the roses to about 3 to 4 inches, depending on the depth of the bowl. (Save the stems with the leaves attached.) Cut the stem at an angle. Place one rose in the center top of the oasis, then place a rose at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, keeping them close to the rim of the bowl. Fill in with roses along the rim, creating a ring of flowers. Place the remaining three roses between the center rose and the ring.

Valentine 2010 0234. If desired, fill in any voids with greenery still attached to the stem. (The stem provides the stability to push into the oasis.) Trim the stem close to the leaves. Or, fill in with baby’s breath, purple statice or even sturdy green cuttings from your yard. (I often mix rosemary sprigs with roses.)

5. Check the oasis daily and carefully add water as needed. The flowers should last at least a week.

This arrangement is a great centerpiece for dinner for two or anywhere space is precious.

 

 

 

Finished rose centerpiece

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The Original Love Story: Cupid and Psyche

Cupid

We think of Cupid as an adorable, cherubic, mischievous little tyke who shoots couples with his arrows of love.

The ancient Greeks saw Cupid as the god of love—the son of Venus, the goddess of love, and Mars, the god of war. (Kind of explains his weapon of choice.) And while he is best known for uniting lovers, his own tale of love is compelling as well.

There was a king with three daughters, the youngest named Psyche. Psyche outshone her sisters in every way; her beauty was legendary throughout the earth, and men came from far and wide to see her and adore her. Some said Venus herself could not be as lovely.

The goddess learned of Psyche and the peoples’ love of her. Venus bade her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with an ugly, vile man. Upon seeing Psyche, however, Cupid fell in love and used his powers to ensure that Psyche would never fall in love. Men would adore her and worship her, but never love her.

Through an oracle, Cupid arranged for Psyche’s father to leave her alone on a mountaintop where her husband, a serpent, would meet her. Instead, a soft wind carried Psyche to a beautiful mansion where her husband came to her only at night. She could hear his voice and feel his presence, but he would not allow her to see him. Although she was generally happy, Psyche innocently followed her jealous sisters’ advice to sneak up on her sleeping husband with a candle, so she could finally see him.

Cupid was furious when Psyche looked upon him, and he fled to his mother’s house. Despondent, Psyche attempted to gain the gods’ favors in order to win back Cupid. Venus gave Psyche impossible tasks to prove her love; she accomplished each task, but during the last task, she opened a magic box which put her into a deep sleep.

By that time, Cupid was over it and wanted to find Psyche. He woke her with a prick of his arrow and sought the help of Zeus to be reunited with his wife. Zeus showed compassion and not only announced to the gods that Cupid and Psyche were married, he also made Psyche immortal.

Thus, Love and Soul (the meaning of Psyche) were united forever.

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Valentine Heart Treats

I admit, I like to keep things. Especially holiday things. One holiday thing I’ve kept for years is a set of 2 Wilton 6-cavity mini heart cake pans. They must be popular, since they are still available online at sites like amazon.com and overstock.com. Sure, the manufacturer has since come out with ruffled heart pans and non-stick heart pans, but my oldies can still make goodies.

The Wilton 6-Cavity Mini Heart Pan

The Wilton 6-Cavity Mini Heart Pan

Here are two ways to use mini heart pans – and there are dozens more! If you don’t have mini heart cake pans, each recipe may be adapted to use a heart-shaped cookie cutter, widely is available at craft stores and some supermarkets.

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Rice Krispies® Hearts

3 T. butter or margarine

1 10 oz. package regular marshmallows

6 c. Rice Krispies® cereal

1 c. white chocolate chips

2 T. shortening

Red food coloring

1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Add the Rice Krispies® cereal and stir until well coated.

3. Spray 12 mini heart cake molds with non-stick cooking spray. Using waxed paper (or spray your hands with the cooking spray), divide the mixture into the pans, making sure to completely fill the shape. Compact the mixture and level the top. Allow to cool, then unmold the hearts and place on a large plate or baking sheet.

4. In the microwave, melt the white chocolate chips and the shortening in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second increments, stirring after each increment until the morsels are nearly all melted. Continue stirring, using the residual heat to melt the remaining morsels.

5. Using a teaspoon, drizzle the white chocolate over the hearts. (Tip: Move your wrist in a quick back and forth motion to get a zigzag effect.)

6. Tint the remaining white chocolate with one drop of red food coloring to achieve a pale pink, and drizzle the pink chocolate on the hearts. Add one or two more drops of red to the remaining chocolate, and repeat. Allow the chocolate to set.

Notes and hints:

– For best results, use fresh marshmallows.

– 4 c. miniature marshmallows or 1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow crème may be substituted for marshmallows.

– Diet, reduced calorie or tub margarine is not recommended.

– For melting the white chocolate, do not use butter or margarine. It must be shortening. Crisco® sticks are ideal.

– Best if served the same day. To freeze, place in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container.

– Variation: To use a cookie cutter, evenly press the mixture into a 13x9x2 inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool 10 minutes and cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. (Spray a bit of cooking spray on the inside of the cutter and use a finger to evenly coat the entire inside surface of the cutter.) Carefully remove the treat from the cutter and place on a baking sheet. Cool completely.
 

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Conversation Cakes

1 boxed white cake mix

2/3 c. light corn syrup

2/3 c. hot water

7 c. confectioners’ sugar

Food coloring

1 tube white writing icing

1. Generously grease and flour 12 mini heart cake pans. Place muffin liners in 6 cupcake cups. Preheat the oven as directed on the package.

2. Prepare the cake batter according to the instructions on the box. Fill the heart cake pans about ½ full. (It’s slightly more batter than a cupcake requires; if you use an ice cream scoop, it’s about 1 ½ scoops per heart.) Pour any remaining batter into the cupcake cups.

3. Bake about 20-25 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the heart pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully unmold the cakes. Place the cakes on a wire rack set on a roasting pan or a jelly-roll pan. Place the cakes in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes until cold.

4. When the cakes are completely chilled, prepare the fondant icing. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the corn syrup and the hot water until well combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar in batches until well incorporated.

5. Divide the icing into smaller bowls, one for each color you desire. Tint each bowl of icing to the desired color, whisking to incorporate the color.

6. Remove the cakes from the refrigerator. Gently brush off any excess crumbs off the top and sides of the cakes with your fingers or a pastry brush. Place them back on the wire rack on the pan. (The pan will catch excess icing.) Working with one color at a time, use a large spoon to coat each cake making sure to completely coat the top and sides. Allow the icing to set and repeat. You may collect the icing from the pan and put it back into the bowl. If the icing stiffens, simply re-whisk.

7. When all the cakes are covered with icing, allow the icing to set and harden. Write conversational sayings on each heart using the white writing icing.

Notes and hints:

– To use a heart-shaped cookie cutter, use a greased and floured jelly-roll pan and bake according to the package directions. When the cake is completely cooled, use the cookie cutter to cut shapes from the cake. Chill the heart cakes as directed above.

– Chilling the cakes helps the icing go on more smoothly.

– Two or three coats of icing may be required to achieve complete opaque coverage.

– Practice writing with the icing before decorating the cakes.

Let your creativity loose and use the mini heart pans to make chocolate cake hearts covered in dark chocolate ganache; individual gelatin molds; meringue hearts to hold strawberries and cream; corn muffins; or individual rice molds. Whatever you could put in a cupcake tin, you can make into a heart for your Valentine.

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