Tag Archives: Valentine’s day

Spice up Your Sweetheart’s Valentine’s Day

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Valentine’s Day is on Thursday! I was in a store the other day and marveled at the holiday display, overflowing with giant teddy bears and sappy Hallmark cards.

Image: Hungry Happenings

While these cutesy gifts seem appropriate for a grade-school crush, this isn’t really the declaration of love I want to make to my beloved on Valentine’s Day.

cinnamon heartsImage: Not Entirely Arbitrary Review of Food

This year I wanted to make a treat that reflects the passion of the season, a little more Red Hots than Sweathearts if you will. Searching on the Interwebs, I came across a recipe for cinnamon heart bark which was a simple but rather disgusting sounding mix of melted white chocolate and cinnamon candies.

chocolate and spiceImage: Vosges Haut Chocolat

But it got me thinking. At Christmas, Midori gave me a selection of delectable spiced chocolate bars from Dolfin, including one dotted with pink peppercorns, and I’m completely addicted to Vosges’ Oaxaca Chocolate Bar, which blends guajillo and pasilla chilies with bittersweet chocolate. Why not make my own version of these spicy treats in bark form?

Image: Tracey Eckersley

I decided to make two versions. For the first, I simply melted half a pound of good-quality dark chocolate, poured it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and sprinkled a cup of chopped habanero-dusted almonds that I had on hand. The slightly sweet chocolate paired amazingly well with the smoky, spiced nuts but it is an in-your-face flavour!

Image: Tracey Eckersley

I thought that Valentine’s Day calls for something slightly more decadent and perhaps a little more subtle. For the second batch, I added a tablespoon each of cinnamon and ancho chili powder. Since these spices are often used in Mexican hot chocolate and mole, I figured they would pair well with bittersweet chocolate.

Image: Barina Craft on Tumblr

I would have loved to use pepitas (pumpkin seeds) since these are also popular in Mexican dishes but my store didn’t have any. So for crunch I picked up some macadamia nuts because what says luxury more than these buttery treats? I chopped up half a cup of nuts with half a cup of dried cherries to spread these over the melted chocolate.

Image: Tracey Eckersley

This one was a winner. The cinnamon adds a wonderful depth of flavour and balances out the sweetness of the nuts and the fruit, while the chili heat builds slowly on the tongue without overwhelming the palate. Hopefully this will warm my Valentine’s heart!

Image: Wallpaper Store

Recipe: Spicy Mexican Bark

8 oz. good-quality dark chocolate

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

1 Tbsp. ancho chili powder

½ cup macadamia nuts (or other nuts of your choice), chopped

½ cup dried cherries, chopped

Melt chocolate. I used a small crockpot but you can also do this on low heat in the microwave or in a double-boiler.

Add the spices and let sit for 20-30 minutes to allow the flavours to blend, without letting the chocolate to cool to the point of hardening.

Spread the chocolate on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle the nuts and cherries over the chocolate and press lightly.

Chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 30 minutes, then break into pieces.

DIY Valentine’s Invasion

floating hearts via Apartment Therapy

Valentine’s Day is next week and if you are looking for some ideas to show your loved ones a little extra affection I’ve rounded up a few love-inspired DIY decor ideas. Valentine’s Day has acquired something of a bad rap for being tacky and too sweet, but hopefully you’ll find these projects are anything but. So spread the love and get out your craft supplies.

Fingerprint Art via Man Made DIY

This easy wall art DIY project makes a great gift that can be displayed year round. When making personalized art you do want to make sure it isn’t something the recipient will be too embarrassed to display in their home, and this idea definitely fits the bill (unless it’s your first date, in which case it might veer into creepy territory.)

Giant Valentine Poster DIY by Oh Happy Day!

Sometimes it takes a big gesture to let your special someone know you want to lock lips. Oh Happy Day has graciously offered a tutorial and free download so you can make an oversized poster for your valentine.

Glitter Letters by Make Life Lovely

It is my opinion that everything in life is made better with a little sprinkle of glitter. These sparkly xo’s are a cute idea for a gift or just a Valentine’s decoration. If you want an unexpected touch shake on a non-traditional colour instead of the typical red or pink.

Giant Geometric Wall Heart via Oleander and Palm

I love this Geometric wall heart made by Oleander and Palm. It looks both easy and chic, and you could customize this by using other colours or even by adding initials. I think this is one valentine I would consider leaving up permanently.

Paint Chip Heart Garland via Grace and Light Studios

You’d think with all the paint chip projects out there paint stores would start hiding these things under lock and key. Luckily they haven’t yet, and all this pretty garland takes is some thread, a heart punch or scissors, and a handful of paint chips of course. This would also make a good project for kids to help with.

Heart Balloon Surprise via Oh Happy Day!

Surprise your valentine with a cascade of hearts by borrowing this simple but impactful idea. I sourced out a couple of places (1,2) where you can find heart balloons if you want to give this a try.

Chocolate Hibiscus Truffles via Bake Noir

Of course there’s also the lazy man’s option of just hiding candy and chocolates around the house to be found over the course of the day. Although, when it comes to delicious chocolates why wait for Valentine’s Day?

Happy Friday Everyone!

Sweets For Your Sweet

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Did you wake up this morning and realize that, despite your best intentions, you are completely unprepared for Valentine’s Day? Don’t panic. Skip the card store with its incredibly long line of procrastinators and the picked-over candy aisle at the drugstore and head to the grocery store instead.

Chocolate Says sweets available via Etsy(Photo: Chocolate Says via Etsy)

Seven easy ingredients and less than an hour of work will produce a rich and creamy fudge that is sure to impress the one you love. Trust me, I won the blue ribbon at the Kentucky State Fair with this recipe and those judges know their fudge!

Tracey Eckersley's Blue Ribbon Fudge Ingredients(Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

Tracy’s Festive Fudge

½ cup dried cherries, chopped

¼ cup bourbon

½ cup pecans, chopped

Peel of 1 orange, finely grated

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 ¼ cups dark chocolate chips

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Place the chopped cherries in a small bowl and cover with the bourbon. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes (or, when you have more time, up to 8 hours).
  2. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and place under the broiler for about 5 minutes, stirring once, until slightly toasted. Be careful not to let them burn. Set aside and let cool.
  3. Drain the cherries (save the infused bourbon- it’s great in a Manhattan!) and mix in the cooled nuts and half the grated orange peel.
  4. In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the sweetened condensed milk over low heat until warm. Be careful to not let it come to a boil.
  5. Stir the dark and semi-sweet chocolate chips into the warm condensed milk and keep stirring over low heat until the chips are completely melted and the mixture is smooth. This will take about 5 minutes and a little muscle.
  6. When the mixture is smooth and glossy, quickly stir in the cherries, pecans, and grated orange peel mixture until thoroughly mixed into the chocolate.
  7. Spread the mixture (it will be thick) into a foil-lined 8 x 8 pan. Sprinkle the remaining orange peel over the top.  Refrigerate until firm.
  8. Lift the foil from the pan and remove it from the fudge. Cut the fudge into small squares. The fudge will keep, refrigerated in an air-tight container, for about a week.

Tracey's Festive Fudge(Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

Not only is this an easy recipe but it can be customized to your tastes. Don’t like bourbon? Substitute dark rum, amaretto, or orange liqueur. Want to keep it alcohol-free? Soak the cherries in orange juice or just use them as they are. Can’t find cherries? Use dried cranberries. You can also mix up the nuts, using walnuts or almonds in place of the pecans. One thing that really makes a difference is good-quality chocolate. Ghirardelli makes great chocolate chips that are not much more expensive than other brands and are available in most grocery stores.

Heart shaped sweets for your sweetie(Photo: Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures)

To make it a little more gift-worthy, consider using a cookie cutter to make heart-shaped pieces. Or tuck little notes into paper cups for your sweetie to see when he or she picks up a piece.

Hiding sweet notes under your truffles and fudge sweetens your gift all the more(Photos: Martha Stewart)

Even if you repurpse an old box or tin, take a moment to jazz it up with some nice paper, a personal photo, or special extras that reflect your loved one’s interests.

Interesting gift wrapping(Photo: Better Homes and Gardens)

No one has to know how easy or inexpensive your gift was to make; the fact that it was homemade for the recipient will mean more to him or her than any cliché bouquet of roses (and it will taste better too).

I Heart You

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow. (Or TOMORROW!!!! Depending on your persuasion. ) I like the idea of fêting those you care about, though I don’t buy into commodified romance.  That feels kinda oxymoronic to me.  But I fully appreciate I am in the minority here.  And we did spend part of the weekend making Valentine’s cards and cookies to distribute, so it’s quite possible I’m full of it.

While it might be a little late to get these gifts for tomorrow, I did find some pretty cool heart-shaped things during this week’s internet wander.  Maybe surprise your love another day of the year with one of these sweet finds?

Paul Octavious' Book Sculpture entitled Whole HeartPaul Octavious’ book sculpture entitled 51 Love Stories – Whole Heart.
Image via just a few prints

I love this print by Paul Octavious called 51 Love Stories – Whole Heart.  Paul is a photographer and designer who creates totally charming book sculptures.   You can order prints directly from his site.  This one would be perfect for those of you in long distance relationships!  Swoon….

Paul Octavious' Comeplete My Heart Book Sculpture

image via just a few prints

This darling automata entitled the Heart Machine is by Martin Smith.  Doesn’t this look like Amelie should gift this to her beau?  It’s full of whimsy, with a touch of steampunk magic.

The Heart Machine by Martin Smithimage via laikingland

Here’s a little video of the Heart Machine pitter-pattering away.

Mini anatomical heart in a jar necklaceimage via kivaford on Etsy

Over on Etsy, I saw this Anatomical Heart In a Jar Necklace.  This one isn’t for the quaint of heart, but it’s original and oddly beautiful.  It reminds of the Oliver Jeffer’s book Heart and the Bottle, which would also make a beautiful gift to that special someone who finally freed your heart to love in daring and extraordinary ways.

Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffersavailable on Amazon

There are nerds in everyone’s life who’d appreciate these Star Wars love cards in Aurebesh I think.

The Wallaroo Geek Greeting Cardsvia the Wallaroo on Etsy

And last but not least, by Canadian glassworks company Tsunami Designs, has this Ventricle Vase available by custom order.  Designed by Eva Milinkovic it references “the organic beauty of the human heart”.

Tsunami Glassworks Ventricle Vaseimage via Tsunami Glassworks

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Great Gifts for Valentine’s Day

I admit, I agree wholeheartedly with Mandy’s sentiments about Valentine’s Day mentioned on our blog last week. I for one have always hated the ads that start up in January, urging us to express our love by purchasing hugging teddy bears, heart-shaped cubic zirconia pendants, and over-priced bouquets of red roses. At the same time, I like the idea of a day devoted to showing my family and friends how much they mean to me, even if deep down I know this should be part of my regular routine and not reserved for some random day in February.

(Photo: We Heart It)

Sometimes, I think the smallest gestures make the biggest impact. I can imagine filling these bags, the template for which is available on The Sweetest Occasion, with a batch of rich and gooey homemade chocolate chip cookies for an unexpected take on the traditional Valentine’s Day chocolate.

(Photo: The Sweetest Occasion)

If homemade isn’t your thing, pick up some macarons, the airy French meringue cookies that have popped up in hip bakeries across the country. I think Rocq’s heart-shaped versions are especially apropos this time of year and who could resist such decadent flavours as peach mango and red velvet bourbon vanilla?

(Photo: Pink Memo)

Feeling nostalgic for Sweethearts, the childhood candy associated with this holiday? Save the empty calories and pick up a set of these stamps which would be perfect for making a homemade card or wrapping paper.

(Photo: Paper Source)

Whether you make or buy a card, take the time to include a personal note. This is the occassion to overcome your shyness and pour your heart out to the one you love. Having trouble crafting the perfect poem? There’s an app for that. The iWrite: Love Poems app provides writing instructions to help you express your feelings. There is even an erotic poem app for those looking to spice up their love life this Valentine’s Day!

(Photo: Hub Pages)

The one thing to remember is that no holiday should be stressful. So ignore the commercials and do something personal for your loved one this year. I promise you that he or she will appreciate it more than any teddy bear. And don’t despair if you are single on Valentine’s Day- use it as an opportunity to remind your friends and family how special they are to you with a little gesture, even if it is as simple as a hot chocolate and a hug.

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