Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sublime Valentine

Valentine’s Day is always a welcome occasion.  One of the most romantic days, it occurs here during the bleakest and (often) coldest time of year.  What better way to warm body, mind and spirit than with a little romance?

Popular ways of setting the mood include fine dining, lingerie, or gifts of jewellery.  All these can be lovely experiences but, when budgets are tight, stressing about over-spending can easily dampen the passion.  Yet extravagance isn’t necessary.    With a little creativity, there are ways to express your love without breaking the piggy-bank.

One our favourite Valentine treats is chocolate.  In better years, we’ve enjoyed some of the fancier delights from our favourite Chocolaterie, but when life must be lived more frugally I make homemade truffles.  They can’t compete with the professional’s fare, but they are scrumptious and we get more seductive chocolate (by pound) for significantly less dough.

I have two recipes.  One is truer to the traditional recipe -- a ganache made with dark chocolate and heavy whipping cream -- and results are always light and luscious, though heavy in calories.  The second recipe (shown below) is a little more firm, like a soft caramel, but rich in dark chocolaty flavour.  It also flirts outrageously by having 16% fewer calories, 35% less fat and 25% less cholesterol than the original recipe!

Chocolate Truffles (reduced fat)
½             cup          Butter, unsalted
½             cup          Cocoa, powder, unsweetened
9               oz            Sweetened condensed milk (300 ml)
2               tsp           Vanilla extract

Melt butter in heavy saucepan on low heat.  Add cocoa and stir until smooth. Blend in sweetened condensed milk, stirring constantly until mixture is thick, smooth, and glossy (about 5-10 minutes.) Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Refrigerate a few hours (approximately 3-4) or until firm. Shape into 1-inch balls and roll in your choice of topping: cocoa, espresso powder, salt, icing sugar, and/or nuts.

(The nutritional comparison provided does NOT include toppings.)

Intention counts on Valentine’s Day, but need not come with a hefty price tag.  If your wallet desires some loving too, it’s time to get imaginative.  Whether preparing dinner for two, making truffles, or bestowing an at-home spa treatment, loving devotion shines as bright as any gem.