Valentines Made By Hand

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Valentine’s Day has always been special, when I was a little girl my father would always be sure to give me a special gift on Valentine’s Day. He always made me feel loved and appreciated with chocolates, flowers and cards. When I grew older and more responsible he gave me some beautiful pieces of jewelry. Valentine’s Day has become sweeter to me as I’ve grown. I am married and as the years have passed we’ve had children. The depth of love I feel for my husband, children, family and friends continues to grow as I age and  I now see things through different a light.

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”
– Aristotle

When my husband and I met, we were soulmates, best friends and inseparable. Neither of us had ever felt anything like this before yet alone ever loved that deeply, we were always together. 1 to 2 days apart was not an option for us because he really does complete me, I am whole when I am with him. He and I truly were made for each other. We fell in love as teenagers and as the days continue to pass and we get a little older every year I can honestly say that we are more in love now than ever before. I am not saying that our lives are perfect or without flaw, but despite hard times we’ve grown closer. we appreciate each other and the beautiful creation that each of us was created to be. We were brought together for a common purpose, to spread light, love, blessings and peace. It started in our hearts, grew when we met and has spread as our family grows and our children get older, they now are spreading light, love blessings and peace wherever they go. It fills my soul to know that love prevails in our family and in our home.

“Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable.”
– Henry Ward Beecher

When I was young and in love, I have to admit that I viewed Valentine’s Day a little selfishly, “What will I get” I thought, or “Will the gift show how much he loves me or how important our relationship is to him.” I would try to get things that would impress him and show how much I cared. I wanted to be impressed and to see just how much we loved each other by the measure of material things. I now have a completely different view and to think back on those times gives me sick feeling in my stomach to think that I was that shallow. The bumps and bruises that life hurls at you makes you realize that none of the material things matter. What truly matters are the intentions of the heart. A smile, a warm embrace, a shoulder to lean on when you’ve had all you can take, a sweet gesture, the smile of an innocent child, or even the greeting of your pet after a long day. Love in it’s true form is innocent; “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (NIV 1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
– Lao Tzu

After we were married and had children the materialistic views and longings faded away, rather quickly, and those longings were replaced with gratitude, thankfulness and love, lots of pure, sweet love. As our family grew and life took its toll on us with struggles, triumphs,  losses, broken and mended hearts, we were brought closer together. These trials revealed the depth of love that  we couldn’t have imagined or felt without all the peculiarities life had in store for us.

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”
– Zora Neale Hurston

This Valentine’s Day the truth remains that the love shown, felt, given and received is the beauty just for you and it is pure and natural and old as time itself. This love is meant to fill up your soul so you can reconnect with the purpose of life, to love and be loved.

If you want to spread love and care to those who are close to you, here are some sweet ideas to help you achieve that.

Heart Shaped Chocolate Chip Cookies:

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 Ingredients:

2/3 cup of butter (or shortening)

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 cup  of brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1  3/4 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. of baking powder

1/4 to 1/2 a tsp. of salt (depending on how sweet you like your cookies)

1/4 lb shaved bittersweet chocolate

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream butter and sugars together, add egg and vanilla, mix well. Add flour, baking soda and salt, mix well. Add the Chocolate shavings and mix well one more time. Roll out onto a floured surface and cut using heart shaped cookie cutters.

Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. When golden around the edges take out and cool on a wire rack.

After the cookies are cooled place in a clear cellophane bag and tie with a pink, red or white bow. Viola! Gift completed.

These cookie freeze well, this allows you to pull them out and enjoy them whenever you wish. They also make a beautiful and delicious gift for loved ones this Valentine’s Day.

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Melt Your Heart Lava Cakes:

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Ingredients:

Cooking spray, for spraying custard cups
1 stick butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Spray the four custard cups with baking spray and place on a baking sheet.

In a saucepan melt the butter. Whisk in the chocolate until it is also melted. Stir in the sugar until well blended. Whisk in the eggs and egg yolks, then add the vanilla. Stir in the flour.

Divide the mixture among the four custard cups.

Bake until the sides are firm and the centers are soft, about 13 minutes. Let stand 1 minute. Invert on individual plates, serve while warm. Top with fresh raspberries, whipped cream and a mint leaf.

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Chocolate Fantasy Cheesecake:

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Chocolate Cookie Crust:

22 Chocolate Sandwich Cookies Crushed

3 Tablespoons of melted Butter

In a small bowl stir together the crushed cookies and melted butter until well combined. Press the crumb mix evenly on the bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan.

Double Chocolate Filling:

19 ounces cream cheese, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

5 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup chocolate syrup

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

10 ounces Cocoa Mill Bittersweet Chocolate

3 ounces Cocoa Mill Milk Chocolate

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine cream cheese and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition.stir in the sour cream, whipping cream, chocolate syrup, bittersweet and milk chocolates . Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 200 degrees F and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the center no longer looks wet and shiny. Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife along the edges of the pan. Turn the oven off and return the cake to the oven to sit for an additional 2 hours. Chill uncovered, overnight.

The next morning make the chocolate sauce topping:

2 Tablespoons Melted Butter

6 ounces Cocoa Mill Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped

4 Tablespoons Heavy Cream

To serve, place chocolate, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and cream in the top of a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir  until melted. Remove he sauce from the heat and let cool slightly.off a bit. Pour chocolate glaze over cheesecake and spread into a circle, leaving a bit of a  border. Chill just until chocolate has set, about 10 minutes.

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If you don’t want to make something or don’t have time:

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Directions:

Go to Cocoa Mill Chocolate Company in Lexington or Staunton Virginia or go online to www.cocoamill.com  and pick up one of many selections of Valentine Chocolates. All made by hand using pure, simple and the freshest ingredients.

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While any of these ideas are sure to impress and show how much you care the greatest gift of all is to love and be loved.

 A Very Happy Valentine’s Day To You!

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Caramel Apples

Fall is the favorite time of year at our house. My husband and I were married in the fall, our first daughter was born in the fall, our family enjoys being outdoors in the fall.

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One our favorite things to do is to go apple picking. We make our yearly pilgrimage up into the blue ridge mountains, deep in the heart of apple country. There we enjoy the crisp fall air, beautiful mountain scenes and freshly picked apples from the orchard.

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Having a rather large number of freshly picked apples in my possession, I thought it wise to make use of them, hence the following recipe:

Caramel Apples:

Makes 10 -12

caramel apples

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • Dash salt
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 10 to 12 Popsicle sticks
  • 10 to 12 medium tart apples, washed and dried
  • 1 cup chopped, salted pecans

Directions

  • 1. In a large heavy saucepan, melt butter.  Add the brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in milk. Cook and stir until a candy thermometer reads 248° (firm-ball stage).
  • 2. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla.
  • 3. Insert Popsicle sticks into apples.
  • 4. Dip each apple into hot caramel mixture; turn to coat.
  • 5. Dip bottom of apples into pecans. Place on greased waxed paper until set.
  • Makes: 10-12 apples.
Enjoy!

Owl Cupcakes

Hoo hoo,hoo hoo….Owl Cupcakes

Semi-homemade

If you are like me you totally forgot that you said you would donate a baked good to your child’s school for the “Fall Fundraiser”, and now it is the day of and the freaking out begins!  Have no fear Owl Cupcakes are here! These are so easy you could practically do this in your car on the way to the school (provided someone else is driving).

What you will need:

12 Premade Chocolate Iced Cupcakes (or you can bake them if you have enough time, if you do props to you!!)

1 Bag Oreos (I like the orange filled Oreos this time of year)

1 Bag Reese’s Pieces or M&M’s if you are worried about peanut allergies

Directions:

Open Two Oreos, place on the cupcake and place 2 Reese’s Pieces or 2 M&M’s for the center of the eye. Place another candy for the nose (sideways on the cupcake).

Basically, make it look like the picture below. This is fairly easy and not too involved!


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Enjoy!

Harvest Beans

The day was cooler and I was really craving something comforting and filling for dinner. I had never made this recipe before but I thought I would wing it and see what happened. Turns out it was pretty good and I have made it several times since. These Harvest Beans are full flavored BBQ enhanced bean, the peppers, onions and dark chocolate give it nice complexity that leaves your palate wanting another taste. I hope you enjoy this recipe as the leaves change and a crispness enters the air.

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Harvest Beans:

What you will need:

beef

1 15.5 oz Great Northern Bean

1 15.5 oz  Pinto Bean

1 15.5 oz  Black Bean

1 15.5 oz Kidney Bean

2 tsp. Onion Powder

3 tsp. Ginger

1 tsp. Chili Powder

2 tsp. Garlic Powder

1 tsp. Pepper

1 1/2 tsp. Salt

1/2 tsp. Paprika

4 slices of Ham (hand chopped)

1 1/2 pounds Ground Beef

1 Green Pepper

1 Orange Pepper

1 Medium Onion

5 tsp. Truvia

1/4 cup Molasses

1/4 cup BBQ sauce

1/4 cup Ketchup

1 Tbsp. Honey

1.5 oz Dark Chocolate

chocolate shavings

How to make it:

Pre-heat the oven 250 degrees.

In a sauce pan melt the dark chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. After melted add the BBQ sauce, Ketchup, Honey, Truvia and the Spices. Stir until completely combined into a rich sauce. Set aside.

In a large baking dish place the beans and pour all the sauce over it set to the side and let the beans soak up the flavor for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile chop the onion and peppers place in a skillet along with ground beef. Brown the beef until almost all the pink is gone, the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft and easy to cut. (You may want to begin cooking the onions and peppers 5 minutes or more before adding the beef.) Once done drain the grease and add the meat (ham and beef) and onions and peppers to the baking dish . Stir all ingredients until thoroughly coated.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 2.5 to 3 hours.

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Enjoy!

Quick and Easy Chocolate Chili

The countdown to fall begins: school will be back in session, jobs back in full swing and life begins to pick up the pace. I always enjoy welcoming a new season with heartwarming recipes that are not only good for the body but good for the soul. This recipe will delight your senses and your appetite.

Welcome the change in season with me and try this Quick and Easy Chocolate Chili.

You will need:

A slow cooker

1 lb ground beef

1 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes

1 green pepper chopped

1 onion chopped

1 14.5 oz can of corn

1 14.5 oz can of kidney beans or great northern beans

1 package McCormick chili seasoning (I know you may think this is a cop-out but it’s the easiest for me.  Obviously you can substitute your own spices for this step)

1 1/2 oz of Cocoa Mill Bittersweet Chocolate

(You can also add venison or other meats if desired. If you choose add additional meats use 2 packages of spice mix instead of 1.)

1. Place all ingredients in the slow cooker and stir until mixed. Cook on low heat all day (8am-6pm)

2. Stir well before you are ready to serve. Top with sour cream and cheddar cheese. Enjoy c:

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Ok, I have resisted this for a long, long while however it looked super easy and supper yummy….

Having three little ones running around who are always hungry for a good snack, I thought this would be a healthier alternative to offer them. Pudding is a favorite at our house amongst the children and hubby and however hard I try to feed the healthy foods I am met with great resistance. I will say I have tried the kale smoothie and that went over like a lead balloon. I am reminded of Jim Gaffigan and all his kale remarks here is one:

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I happen to like kale, a little olive oil, garlic, salt pepper yummy… My family happens to hate the green stuff, I guess they think it “tastes like bug spray” too, lol.

Anyway if you are feeling adventurous give this avocado pudding a try, I don’t think you will regret it.

So here it is Chocolate Avocado Pudding. I hope you enjoy it!

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Avocado Chocolate Pudding

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 2-3 servings

Serving Size: 1/2 cup

  • 2 ripe medium avocados, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup honey or raw agave nectar (or other sweetener of choice)
  • 1/2 cup milk (regular or almond milk, coconut, etc.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Blend all ingredients, until smooth, in a blender, food processor or using a hand-held mixer. Serve immediately, or chill first.

AVOCADO CHOCO

Chocolate Protein Bars

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Sometimes we don’t need a guilty pleasure, instead we need a chocolate feel good about myself snack. This seemed like it would work for those warmer days when you still need a chocolate pick me up.

Chocolate Protein Bars

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 scoops protein powder (vanilla or chocolate)
  • 1/4 cup Stevia
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 4 Tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt

Directions:

  • 1.Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • 2.Mix almond milk, egg whites, applesauce, peanut butter and yogurt together in a small bowl.
  • 3.In a separate bowl, mix flour, protein powder, Stevia, baking soda, salt and cocoa together and then combine with wet ingredients.
  • 4.Pour mixture into a greased 8″ x 8″ glass dish and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy!

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