Valentine’s Day is here and while the candy aisle is tempting, there are simple make your own treats you can make at home – and some may have health benefits! Whether you are gifting or enjoying something sweet yourself, here are some sweet treats you can make at home for Valentine’s Day.
While chocolate covered strawberries are the most associated with Valentine’s Day, there are many fruits that are delicious dipped in chocolate. Try dipping your friend or families’ favorite fruits as a gift. Pineapple, kiwi, blueberries, cherries, even pomegranate seed clusters are delicious when accompanied by chocolate. Consider dried fruits like apricots, dried pineapple, or even dried persimmons. The antioxidants in fruit prevent oxidative stress to brain cells, in other words, maintain a healthy brain.
Dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants, so dipping the fruit in dark chocolate provides a double dose of antioxidants. Per Johns Hopkins Medicine, “the antioxidants in dark chocolate have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of clotting and increase blood circulation to the heart, thus lowering the risks of stroke, coronary heart disease and death from heart disease.” The flavanols in chocolate that protect the heart are also found in milk chocolate, so dip away in your favorite chocolate.
Before dipping any fruit in chocolate, be sure to wash and fully dry the fruit so the chocolate sticks to the fruit. Chill the fruits to ensure the chocolate fully hardens to the fruit before gifting. Or, enjoy with the slightly warmed chocolate and fruit as a treat at home.
The cooler temperatures outside, even in Florida!, mean warm drinks inside. Hot cocoa is a drink that can be enjoyed by most. Prepare them in bomb form or a mix.
Making a hot cocoa mix is surprisingly easy. Mix together 2 cups of powdered sugar, 1 cup of cocoa powder (dark or regular – we prefer dark), 2 cups of powdered milk and 1 tsp of kosher salt. Mix until well-combined. Add the mix to mason jars. You can mix in marshmallows or chocolate chips, or even peppermint chip pieces to taste. If gifting, add a ribbon to the jar with a note to use 3 TBL of powder for every 8 oz water.
For a hot chocolate bomb, you need a mold for the outside chocolate shell. Melt down your favorite chocolate and coat the mold with the chocolate, allowing for full cooling before popping the chocolate out of the shell. Smooth out the shells with a warm dish to ensure for smooth connection once filled. Fill one shell with the hot chocolate mix desired, and perhaps some marshmallows. To connect the two sides, warm one shell’s edge on a warm plate and attach to the filled bomb. If needed, add some melted chocolate to the shell seam. You can add colored sprinkles to this area for extra Valentine’s pizzaz.
The beauty of parfaits is the personalization to individual tastes, what you have on hand or desire, and can be made ahead. Make these the night before Valentine’s Day to have a sweet start to your day.
Layer in seasonal fruit, yogurt and granola. Yogurt has natural bacteria which can aid in digestion and contains vitamin D and calcium which are key nutrients in maintaining bone health. Fruits, as previously mentioned, contain antioxidants which are involved in cardiovascular health. Consider sweetening plain yogurt with maple syrup or honey to taste – this lessens what extra stuff is in your yogurt. Other things to consider mixing or layering: nuts, chia seeds, dark chocolate pieces, raisins, or craisins. Get creative with what you have on hand, all while making breakfast, lunch or snacktime tasty and easy.
The BBC shared a simple chocolate truffle recipe using only three ingredients several years ago, and it still stands today as one of the best sweet treats at home. Use dark chocolate to keep all the health benefits of chocolate, all while enjoying both making and eating these sweet morsels. If you have a food scale, melt 50 g of unsalted butter with 300 g of heavy cream in a saucepan. Once the mix is melted, combine with 300 g of melted dark chocolate. Mix until a smooth mixture is formed. If you do not have a food scale, 300 g is 1 ¼ cups and 50 g is 1/3 cup. Cool the mixture for at least 4 hours.
To form the truffle balls, dip a melon baller in warm water so it can easily scoop up the chocolate mixture and form into balls. Dip the truffles in the desired coating. Consider dark cocoa, nuts, candy pieces, peppermint pieces or even orange peel for different flavored truffles.
These are great for gifting but can also be stored in the fridge to enjoy when desired.
Raspberry Chia Seed Pudding
Chia seeds are packed full of protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Protein and fiber keeps you full longer, promoting healthy eating. Fiber also helps with healthy digestion.
To make the chia seed pudding, mix together 3 TBL chia seeds, 1 TBL maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla and ¾ cup milk of choice. Leave the mixture on the counter for 15 minutes to allow it to thicken. The pudding mixture can then be stored in the fridge to be eaten the next day or enjoyed right away. Top with fresh raspberries for a pop of red color.
Enjoy these sweet treats this February or all year long!