I don’t need an excuse like Valentine’s Day to eat chocolate — I eat it every day (hey, it’s good for your heart.) But I definitely use the holiday as an excuse to make sweet treats for the people I love and care about.
I saw a new ad campaign this year that said something like, ‘It’s not ‘I love you, it’s I love us.'” What a great message to send! There’s no better way to show someone special how you feel than by making candies from scratch. I’m not talking about labor-intensive sweets that require a candy thermometer, patience and little room for error. I mean chocolate treats that are super-simple to make and can be customized for anyone and everyone. Check out my three favorites: truffles, chocolate bark and white chocolate haystacks.
Valentine’s Day Chocolates, Three Ways
These recipes are super-simple and guaranteed to please a crowd. The truffles and bark are elegant enough to gift as gifts and the “haystacks” are great for kids (and they love to help make them.)
Dark Chocolate Truffles
Basic Method: Melt 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate in the microwave, double boiler or bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; set aside. Beat together 8 ounces light cream cheese and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix in melted chocolate and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Shape the mixture into 36 balls; transfer balls to parchment or wax paper; set aside. Melt 12 ounces semi-sweet or milk chocolate; spear chocolate balls with a wooden pick or fork and immerse in melted chocolate. Return to parchment; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Variations: After you dip the balls in chocolate, you can roll them in any topping you want — chopped almonds or peanuts, colored sprinkles and cocoa powder make great choices.
White Chocolate Bark with Pretzels and Almonds
Basic Method: Melt 18 ounces white chocolate in the microwave, double boiler or bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; fold in 3 cups broken pretzel pieces and 2 cups slivered or coarsely chopped almonds; pour mixture onto parchment or wax paper; spread out to 1/2-inch thickness; cool until hard (refrigerate to speed cooling if desired). Break into pieces.
Variations: The bark can be made countless ways — I adore pretzels and almonds, but you can use a variety of nuts and leave the pretzels out, or leave the nuts out and just use pretzels! I also like tons of “stuff” in my bark, so if you like less, use 2 cups of pretzels and 1 cup of almonds.
Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter Haystacks:
Basic Method: Melt 6 ounces milk chocolate in the microwave, double boiler or bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat, stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter. Fold in 1 cup chocolate puffed rice cereal and 1 cup chow mein noodles. Drop 18 mounds of mixture onto parchment or wax paper; chill until firm.
Variations: I make these with milk chocolate, but you can also make them with semi-sweet chocolate.
TELL US: What Valentine’s Day treats are you making?
Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.