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Monday’s With Mike: Homemade Valentine’s Day Sweets

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Happy Valentine’s Day friends!

This week I had to recruit my Valentine to help me with the Valentine’s Day edition of Monday’s With Mike, since it involves things I am not exactly skilled at… making treats.  However, I leave you in great hands since making treats (even ones I will eat), just happens to be her specialty!

While we love going out to have a nice dinner, we don’t love the spiked prices, long waits, and impersonal feel of a Valentine’s date night at a restaurant.  This year, I encourage you to show the one you love just how much you love them by making them dinner and dessert.  Nothing says love like the time and effort that goes into doing things the homemade way!

Plus, it’ll be cheaper and so much more romantic.  I promise!  Check out this week’s video for our tips on making not one, but TWO desserts your Valentine is sure to love!  And keep reading for our tips on how to rock your homemade Valentine’s Day date night.

The Dessert Recipes!

This week we’re showing you how to do TWO super EASY desserts that are sure to impress your Valentine.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Easy as 1-2-3

A classic Valentine’s Day treat that never gets old.  These are very quick and easy to whip up, and always look impressive.

There’s just a few things you need to know to make it a breeze.

 

Ingredients
1. Organic Strawberries
2. Chocolate (we use Lily’s Salted Almond)

Steps
1.  Melt the chocolate (see tips below)

2.  Wash + Dry the strawberries while chocolate melts

3.  Dip strawberries in chocolate

4.  Place on wax paper and repeat

5.  Put strawberries in fridge to harden

 

Things You Need To Know

1.  Use Lily’s Salted Almond Milk Chocolate
This is our favorite chocolate. The mix of salty and sweet with the crunch of the almonds is fantastic.  And of course there isn’t any refined sugar, it’s non-gmo, and has only a few ingredients so it fits the bill when it comes to being “Coach Mike Approved.”  We buy it from Vitacost where shipping is fast and free with a low minimum order,  and there’s usually a coupon to use with no added sales tax. Boom!  We’ve also seen it at some Whole Foods and Sprouts.

2.  Buy Organic Strawberries
Historically, strawberries are among some of the fruits sprayed the most  with pesticides, yuck!  So if you pick and choose what you’re buying organic, strawberries should be in the group of foods you choose to buy organic.  I’ve yet to come across any chocolate dipped strawberries where the strawberries were organic and the chocolate not full of garbage ingredients…  So show your Valentine just how much you love them by making “Coach Mike Approved” chocolate covered strawberries.  I bet your efforts won’t go unnoticed!

3.  How To Successfully Melt Chocolate
If you’re like us, then you don’t have a candy melter or fancy double boiler… so you can melt chocolate 2 alternative ways:  In a stainless steel bowl parked on the stove in front of the oven vent, OR using a stainless steel bowl placed inside a larger pot with boiling water in it.

If you’re using the oven anyway, the first option is a no brainer and for sure the way to go.  It’s simpler and you don’t risk ruining your chocolate with a drop of water.   To melt chocolate this way:

> Break up chocolate into small pieces

> Put the pieces into a stainless steel bowl (or a bowl that will take some heat),

> Turn on your oven

> Park the bowl in front of the oven vent on top where the hot air comes out

> Stir often and you’ll have your melted chocolate in no time

If you want to use the DIY double boiler method, you just need to make sure that not even a drop of water lands in the chocolate or it’ll be ruined. I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way… Don’t Let Water EVER Touch Your Melted Chocolate!  It’s like kryptonite or something.  It instantly ruins the chocolate so it’s no longer creamy. To melt it this way:

> Put a little bit of water in the bottom of a pot (like an 1″)

> Place your heat proof bowl with high sides inside the pot with water in it

> Add your chocolate

> Stir often

Regardless of which method you choose, stirring helps the chocolate melt faster and not cook on the bottom of the bowl, so stir often!

4.  Strawberries Must Be Dry!
For the same reason we can’t have any water touching the chocolate, your strawberries must be bone dry when you dip them.  Ideally, you’d wash and dry them the day before you coat them with chocolate, and then let them sit on the counter while the chocolate melts so you can wipe up any condensation sitting on the surface. For this demonstration, I washed them as the chocolate melted, but I dried them immediately with a paper towel, let them sit near the oven, and then wiped them on a fresh paper towel just before I dipped them.

5.  Prepare Them The  Day of
Chocolate covered strawberries are best when prepared the day you plan to have them, so try to not make them too far in advance.  I’d recommend not making them more than 1 day before you plan to have them.  Ideally, you’ll make them hours before show time.

 

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Bark, Your New Favorite Treat

We first tried this recipe from PaleOMG for Christmas, and boy was it a hit.  It’s salty, sweet, chocolatey, crunchy, and oh so delicious.  Coach Mike can’t control himself around it. THAT’S how good it is.

And did I mention how easy it is to make?  Pretty much as easy as making the strawberries… I swear.

Basically, you  will make the caramel sauce while the chocolate melts, then put it all on a baking sheet and pop it in the freezer.

Ingredients

Caramel Sauce
– 1 cup heavy cream (or full fat coconut milk; we used cream)
– 1 cup fine maple sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Chocolate Bark
– 1/3 -1/2 cup toasted pecans
– 1 cup chocolate chips
– 7-8 gluten free pecan cookies
– Flake or coarse salt (optional)
– Lily’s chocolate chips (optional)

(A note on the pecan cookies: The ones we linked to are by Simple Mills and you can get them on Amazon or at Whole Foods.  They have a few basic ingredients, are non-gmo, and are sweetened with coconut sugar!)

Steps

1. Preheat Oven
Heat your oven to 350.

2.  Make the Caramel Sauce
In a medium pot over medium heat, combine all 4 ingredients. Stir until completely combined. Bring to boil then set a time for 12 minutes, being sure not to let the mixture boil over. After 12 minutes, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 more minutes or until the caramel coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, let cool for 5 minutes.

Pro Tip: Make sure the caramel is not boiling on high or high-ish heat as this will over cook the caramel and it won’t be smooth and creamy. It’ll be thick and clunky and you’ll have to chew it like taffy on your bark.

3.  Bake Pecans
Place pecans on a baking sheet lined with foil.  Roast in the oven for 10 minutes until dark and fragrant.

4.  Melt Chocolate
See steps and tips above for successfully melting your chocolate.

5.  Assemble Bark
Pour chocolate on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spread evenly throughout.

Add cookies (whole or broken into pieces) to melted chocolate along with toasted pecans. Use a fork to drizzle caramel throughout the chocolate.

Sprinkle chocolate chips on top along with flake salt (optional)

6.  Freeze
Place in freezer to harden for 30 minutes then break into pieces.

 

Tips for Rocking the Rest of Your Valentine’s Date

For dinner, check out the Dark Horse blog for a simple and delicious recipe to make at home to go with your desserts.  If the desserts have you tapped out for cooking, get takeout from your favorite place, throw it in the oven to reheat, and put it on nice plates to enjoy at home.

You can pick up items like dinner rolls, salad, and some fresh flowers from Costco or Whole Foods to make your meal complete.  Don’t forget to pick up a thoughtful card and write a sincere message.  All these little touches will add up to make your Valentine feel really loved.

Obviously creating ambiance is key for anything romantic at home. So break out the candles, soft music, and dim the lights!

 

Happy Valentines Day!

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