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handmade holidays — Page 2

handmade holidays

Last Minute Valentines

February 14, 2012

Any holiday that is all about chocolate seems like a good idea to me. My husband and I are chocolate lovers, and every Valentine’s Day I try and find one new home made goodie to surprise him with.

This year I have to admit that the holiday snuck up on me, and Sunday night found me in my kitchen with a bag of bittersweet chocolate, some cream, and the strawberries I was saving for the boy’s breakfast the next morning. The result was a chocolate strawberry truffle that  is so decadent I almost couldn’t share.

I am not a truffle person under most circumstances, but when you want a strong chocolate punch they really do the trick. Most recipes call for around 8 oz of chocolate and 1/2 cup cream. I chose to up both a bit to see if I could get an equally intense but creamier consistency. I really wanted the strawberries to be incorporated into the chocolate, and I decided to test the idea of a puree directly into the ganache. The flavor is subtle, but just enough to remind me that this pairing was made for each other.

Of course it is also the outer layer of a truffle that makes it worth it’s weight, and  two that stuck out (ok, the only two that I had in my pantry, but still that stuck out) were white chocolate and sweet ground chocolate. I have to say that all three of my boys voted the white chocolate as their favorite, and I was right there with them, but the ground chocolate was a close second. All in all the truffles took 10 minutes to prepare, 2 hours to firm up, and 20 minutes to roll. Not bad for a last minute Valentine’s treat.

Bittersweet Chocolate and Strawberry Truffles

12 large truffles 

Truffle
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
5-6 strawberries, chopped and pureed

Outer layer
White chocolate, chopped
Chocolate Cocoa

Place the bittersweet chocolate into a glass/heat proof bowl. Heat the cream almost to just a simmer. Remove from heat and slowly pour over the chocolate, whisking as you go. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add the pureed strawberry and fold until just combined. Pour into an 8×8 glass pan, cover with foil and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

With a melon baller or table spoon, scrape chocolate into desired size. Roll with hands just until smooth and roll in desired topping. Refrigerate for another 20 minutes or store in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper.

While eating chocolate is always my favorite way to enjoy it, bathing with it is a very close second. I love cocoa butter. Love it. I use it whenever and wherever possible, and besides smelling good it is a savior for my dry Colorado skin this time of year. My family’s preference has always been our chocolate lavender oil, but this year my skin was in serious need of some exfoliation.

Salt scrubs are a great way to soften and refresh dry skin, and while I normally keep a jar on the side on the bath, this batch was my first adding in cocoa butter to our recipe. Though I love the benefits of cocoa butter, I often wonder about it’s propensity to harden up. I tested this recipe a few weeks back, and I am excited that so far I have seen nothing but a smooth and clear consistency. Avocado and olive oil top the recipe off for a scrub that hydrates skin for hours.

My favorite way to enjoy a salt scrub is in the bath, where I can let the oils soak in and take their full effect. A chocolate salt scrub, a strawberry chocolate truffle, and a glass of champagne is a simple way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, or any day for that matter.

Chocolate Salt Scrub

1.5- 2 cups dead sea or epsom salts
7 oz avocado oil
3 oz olive oil
2 oz cocoa butter
2 oz coconut oil
15 drops of lavender essential oil (optional)

In a heat proof glass bowl set over simmering water (the double boiler method), combine the oils and allow to melt.  Remove from heat and add the lavender essential oil. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Pour over salt, mix, and store.

*I make this recipe in a small enough batch to use within 1 month. 

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Holiday decorating is always a joy of the season, and I feel most connected to the rhythm of this time of year when I use natural materials to decorate, both inside and out.

I lived in the suburbs of Chicago from the time I was 6 until I was 12, and one of the our most treasured holiday traditions was to line our driveways (and sometimes streets) with brightly lit luminarias on Christmas Eve. It looked so magical as we would drive away to midnight mass, and it embodied the return of the light that this season celebrates.

This year we are hosting a winter solstice/advent spiral in our home, and for each of the 8 children present, there is a candle along the spiral for them to light. Last year the candle was set in the traditional apple, but this year the boys wanted to create ice luminarias along their path.

We experimented with milk cartons and coffee cans, but finally settled on two decorative brioche pans as the molds that I would use for the candle holders. We played with a few different ways to create the hole for the candle; using a standard can, a dixie cup and finally a 4 oz freezable ball jar.

The jar worked out perfectly, as it is can withstand extreme cold, is reusable, and allows for the maximum amount of light to filter through the candle holders.

Now I think we are ready to let the children walk the spiral, return to their center, and awaken renewed.

I can not wait to lay the evergreens and celebrate the return of the sun, the promise of brighter days, and the light that shines in each of us.


Ice Luminarias

A mold of your choice (I used stainless steel brioche molds)
4 oz ball freezer safe jar (If using a tall mold, you may want to consider an 8 oz jar)
Candles for each luminaria
Decorations for each luminaria; cranberries, star anise, evergreens, sliced oranges, apples, etc.

Place your 4 oz jar in the center of your mold. Fill the mold up half way with ice cold water and fill with decor of your choice. If the temperature is below 32 degrees you can leave the molds outside to freeze, or place in the freezer.

Once frozen, fill the mold to the rim of the freezable jar and once again add your decor. Freeze once more. Allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes, unmold, place a tea light into the jar, light and enjoy!

Of course no celebration of the return of the light would be complete without a sun catcher (I used the instructions from Amanda’s book), and they are the perfect way to put to use any left over fruit, cranberries, star anise, etc. that you might have left over.

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