Ah, February: the season of love. I've never been much of a Valentine's Day enthusiast myself, but don't dislike it either. I fall somewhere in the middle, likely not playing a leading role with my participation, but happy to join in the chorus. Traditionally, Dave and I have been known to exchange a thoughtful card and make a nice dinner together with some wine. Pretty standard. Nothing fancy, but quite enjoyable, nonetheless. That said, I respect and admire the couples that really go all out with grand romantic gestures and dinner at a 5-star restaurant. And honestly, with the year we’ve had, if it was an option, I might be more likely to jump on that train, pretty much ready to seize any opportunity to do something that feels social and special! But I digress...
Whether you love or hate Valentine's Day, I think we can all agree that we inevitably associate the occasion with chocolate, along with other pink and red candy options. Now that I have children, V-day is a whole different ball game, since I now have the desire to include them in the celebrations as well. And since I need no excuse to play around with chocolate in the kitchen, this was a great opportunity to come up with some healthier, real-food, festive treats that the whole family can enjoy. They all include chocolate (obviously), but are likely better options than most store-bought treats.
So, of course, I am sharing my creations with you here. All of these were relatively simple to make while still looking very V-day-esc.
First up, we have these simple heart-shaped chocolate-dipped strawberries--like your standard chocolate-dipped strawberries, but more lovey.
1. Start by cutting the stem off a quart of strawberries in a v-shape
2. In a double boiler, pour about half a cup of dark or semi-sweet chocolate into a pot (I just used some dairy-free chocolate chips). Add about a teaspoon of coconut oil and heat over medium heat, stirring regularly.
3. When the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and stir in half a teaspoon of vanilla.
4. Put a toothpick in the end of each strawberry and dip the tops into the chocolate. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.
Related: Chocolate Almond Butter Stuffed Dates
Next are these heart-shaped energy snacks (or energy balls). I love these because they can easily be adapted to make them school-safe by swapping the nut butter for a seed butter. The only special tool I used was a heart-shaped cookie cutter I picked up from my local grocery store. I plan to use it Valentine's Day morning as well for pancakes.
1. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of oats with ⅓ cup of chocolate chips, ⅓ cup of goji berries, ½ cup of honey and ½ cup of peanut butter. Stir until mixed.
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Scoop the mixture onto the sheet and form into a log shape, about 1 inch high. Gently press in some festive sprinkles into the top of the mixture (optional. I did this on half). If you don’t have a cookie cutter you’d like to use, you can skip this step and just roll the dough into balls. Fold the sprinkles in first, if using.
3. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for half an hour. This will make the dough less sticky to work with.
4. Remove from freezer and use your cookie cutter to form heart shapes. I rolled my remaining mixture into balls. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer.
Finally, I have a delicious treat that will likely be used as my Valtentine's Day dessert (primarily for Dave and I). Chocolate bark on any occasion is great because it looks impressive but is so easy to make. The simplicity mixed with decadence makes it the perfect dessert.
1. I used my dehydrator to dehydrate some thinly sliced strawberries overnight. Alternatively, you can purchase freeze-dried strawberries, or use dried cranberries or goji berries instead to give you the festive red look. But, I have to say, dried strawberries are so yummy.
2. Melt about 1 cup of dark or semi-sweet chocolate of your choice over a double boiler, stirring constantly.
3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet and pour the melted chocolate onto the middle of the pan. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate out evenly to the desired width. I like mine fairly thin.
4. Roughly chop ¼ cup of almonds and ¼ cup of dried strawberries (or dried berries of choice). Sprinkle them onto the chocolate and lightly press down.
5. Place the pan in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate is completely set. Remove the pan from the freezer and break your chocolate into pieces. Store in air-tight container (I like to keep mine in the freezer) and enjoy!
Happy Love Day!