Hooray!! This is my second Valentine’s Day blog anniversary!
Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!
A huge thank you goes out to everyone who follows my posts, and for spending some of your busy lives and time with me! I really appreciate and love that you’ve stopped by!
Well simply put, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and anything to do with Chocolate or Love is definitely my kind of holiday. I really love both of these things.
Couldn’t Valentine’s Day be every day though?
Each day filled with lots of beautiful smelling roses, romantic candlelight dinners, chocolate decadent desserts, and red cardboard heart filled boxes?
Well I know this sounds a little funny to actually think about, but the truth is, is that this is the way we should actually live each day. I believe that we should appreciate the ones we love daily with our actions and our words, and not just for one nationally marked commercial holiday.
Can you imagine if people actually treated each day like Valentine’s Day, and how that would impact lives for the better, and the divorce rate, and especially the overall levels of happiness, joy, and contentment experienced in the world?
Love and appreciation on Valentine’s Day is for anyone you love, not just for couples. It could be as simple as dropping a friendly note in a neighbors mailbox saying thanks for being such a great neighbor through the years, or it could be giving a widow a small bouquet of flowers on Valentine’s Day because you understand this holiday might be difficult for that person, or maybe it’s a heart-shaped box of candy for your child to tell them how much you love them and realize how hard they’ve been working in their responsibilities at school and at home.
Can you see how just loving people well and appreciating people daily can really make a positive difference in the lives of those you reach out to?
Appreciating every day people around you is what I am specifically talking about.
Those quietly nearby needing a little care and notice. If you can help just one person smile and feel valuable, you can actually change the world. It’s true.
That’s how I look at Valentine’s Day anyway… to do my best to make others feel valuable to me and loved. You don’t always have to move mountains to make the world a better place. Sometimes just giving a thoughtful card or some delicious homemade chocolates to someone who wouldn’t be expecting any such remembrance on this holiday can really make a notable difference.
Although for me, it might not be such a good idea after all to make Valentine’s day every day, because chocolate is so tempting to me everywhere I go. Gone are the days that I can eat whatever I want without paying a hefty price at the gym! Wahhh!
Oh well, it was great while it lasted!
I am actually working really hard to eat a more healthy diet (as seen in many of my Instagram food posts). This is because food is absolutely medicine in the body, and I am taking this knowledge very seriously. I have reduced my overall sugar intake, removed processed foods completely, gone as clean eating as possible, no soda at all, rarely eat snack foods, doubled my veggie intake, and I continue to exercise often as I have done my whole life.
But health of our bodies doesn’t come easy for most of us. It takes a lot of hard work and effort. No pain no gain right!
Well, enough of that serious healthy eating talk because it’s Valentine’s Day soon, so it’s a PASS from the usual healthy rules for one day.
Well maybe for two days, as we can’t forget our birthdays.
Hmmm, maybe for three days, haha, because I have a Valentine’s “RED” party I am going to this weekend, and I am bringing my signature Flourless Chocolate Cake and Chocolate covered Bacon desserts. I’m going to want to taste them of course!
Oh, and then there’s that trip away to Charleston South Carolina next weekend for Valentine’s Day celebration I have to look forward to as well. That makes FOUR!
Loll! I’m sure not going to diet while on vacation… absurd right! Oh gosh, this is going to be a really tough month.
Well let’s just try to keep a balance in our eating over the coming holiday. It’s really about living life full and in the moment, but to also live it smart and with good contemplative thought. This is important before you go grab a handful of chocolates and gobble them down in two seconds and then feel really awful. No crazy eating people, but a few bites here and there is perfectly fine.
In contemplating what I would be creating for my recipe this month, I thought about candy… sweet, amazing, silky chocolate candy. Yum!
Why you ask? Because it is my absolute favorite food (besides pizza).
It always has been since I was a little girl. Even my first birthday, there is a picture of me eating a piece of chocolate cake with white icing, and I was in heaven by the look on my face! The birthday girl was wearing a lot of her chocolate cake too! I am sure I was in my very first taste bliss!
So what to make for this beautifully romantic “sweet holiday” of Valentine’s Day?
Well the first thing that came to my mind was my favorite candy that I would always choose first from those large assorted boxes of Russell Stover Whitman Samplers my mother used to buy for our family when I was growing up.
And which candy did my quick little fingers grab before anyone else could possibly take it as theirs, and only two of these types of candy per entire box? Any guesses?
Those amazingly delicious milk chocolate covered coconut haystacks!
Gahhhh I love them so much. First, you bite into one and you immediately taste the creamy silky milk chocolate sweetness (beware I will be using A LOT of adjectives while I explain this heavenly experience to you).
Then, as you continue eating, you literally hear all the toasted coconut in the chocolate making little crackling noises in your head with each and every chew. Any of you know what I’m talking about? I still love that deliciously beautiful sound. Such a fun multi-sensory food experience for a kid as I reflect back on it.
Come to think of it, I haven’t had one of these amazing candies in years!
So I think it is fine time that I make them homemade, and of course with a Jill’s creative twist. You all know by now that I like being unique and not always doing the same things everyone else does. I mean, who wants to do what everybody else is doing? That’s not original! And I really love being different, doing different, thinking different, and I tend to always favor going against the tide of what most people and trends tend to do. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change, and often is quite subtle.
Even still, a small change in a recipe yields my own voice and artistic fingerprint being seen and tasted in the food I serve. This detail is imperative to my feeling creatively satisfied with any of my final recipes.
So raise up your glass of champagne (if you are 21, otherwise grab some sparkling water loll), and cheers to each of you on this fun chocolate holiday!
I wish each of you the very best Valentine’s Day with those you love or even on your own, because Valentines Day is not just for couples in love. Valentine’s Day is about love and chocolate… so anyone can celebrate someone or something they love plus the enjoyment of chocolate. I promise you that these beautiful candy haystacks in my recipe below will set the tone for a very special celebration.
So let’s get this Chocolate Party Started shall we!!!
And begin feeling the love instantly with the aromas of the melting chocolate and toasting coconut in the air!! Magical!!
CHERRY AMARETTO CHOCOLATE HAYSTACKS
Prep: 15 minutes
Completion: 30 mins
Serves: 18-20 pieces
2 cups Shredded Coconut, sweetened
12 oz Milk Chocolate or Semisweet Chocolate Chips (whichever your preference)
15 small bottled Maraschino Cherries, rinsed well, drained and dried, then diced small
1/4 tsp Disaroono Amaretto liqueur *optional
1/8 tsp Almond extract
LET’S GET COOKING:
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Place coconut on a baking sheet in a thin layer, and toast the coconut until lightly golden, approx. 8-10 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently to get even toasting. Once done, remove from oven and allow to cool at room temp.
While the coconut is cooling, begin creating a double boiler by taking a small pot and filling it with water half full. Heat the water to a light boil on the stovetop. Then place a medium sized stainless steel bowl on top of the smaller pot. Make sure the top bowl is only resting on top of the rim of the smaller pot of simmering water, and that the bottom of the stainless bowl is not in contact with the water. Place the chocolate in the top bowl of the double boiler, and stir gently until melted, approx. 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on the chocolate, and once melted immediately remove from heat. Stir in the almond extract and Amaretto.
In a large bowl, add the toasted cooled coconut and the diced cherries, mix well.
Next add the chocolate and stir well.
Place one rounded tablespoon or one small scoop of mixture on a parchment lined sheet tray, and continue making haystacks with remaining mixture. Once done, refrigerate sheet tray of haystacks until the chocolate firms up (approx. 10 mins). Then remove from refrig. and store at room temp in an airtight container until ready to serve.