Archive for February, 2010

The second Valentine’s my husband and I celebrated he made me dark chocolate truffles. They weren’t the prettiest things ever, and he kept beating himself up for it, but they tasted great! This year I wanted to return the favor but remembering his frustration with the truffles I wanted something a little easier. I found this recipe for red velvent cake balls from Bakerella and new I had found a winner, sort of. J. likes red velvet cake but he doesn’t love it so I decided to adapt the recipe a bit. I used a strawberry cake mix, cream cheese frosting, and Giardelli’s 60% cocoa dark chocolate chips and it came out amazing if I do say so myself.

Per Bakerella’s instructions I made the cake mix as instructed on the box.

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Lacking a 9 X 13 I used to 8 inch round ones. I figure it doesn’t matter what shape you bake it in since you are crumbling it up anyway.

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Once the cake were cool I tore each one into four pieces and hollowed them out so that none of the brown outer edges ended up in the bowl. I realize this is a bit shall we say OCD but I wanted pink cake balls not pink and brown ones. Plus I got to eat the outer edges 😉

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Then I combined one can of cream cheese frosting with the crumbs using my hands. And like Bakerella warned it got messy!

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I found the room temperature mixture of cake and cream cheese too soft to work with so I tried sticking in the fridge (didn’t work), then in the freezer for 20 minutes (still not enough) and finally 40 minutes- just right! If I did it again I would stick it in the freezer for 45-60 minutes immediately after combining the cake and frosting and before I attempted to do anything with it.

I tried to play with shapes making balls, squares, hearts and kisses. If you want to experiment the chilled mixture is key!

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By then it was getting late and I left the balls in the fridge over night and then stuck them in the freezer for an hour before coating them with chocolate.

I’ve never used chocolate bark before and I didn’t want these to end up too sweet so I used dark chocolate chips melted on the stovetop using an improvised double burner. It took one and a half 11.5 oz bags of the chips to coat all my cake balls.

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I did this in two batches because you want the dough to be nice and chill so it hold its shape when rolled in the hot/warm chocolate and you want the chocolate to be bordering on hot to get nice coverage. Once the chocolate was melted I kept in the bowl on low heat on the double boiler. When I turned the heat off the chocolate would cool and give me uneven coverage. If someone was more practiced and thus faster this might not be a problem.

You also want to keep enough chocolate in the bowl too easily cover the dough. If you have too little you will also get uneven coverage. I used my fingers to roll the dough around and didn’t really have any problems. Occasionally I would use a regular spoon to add more chocolate over the cake ball once it was place back on the wax paper. And with some of them I dipped them in again after fully cooled to cover any “bald spots.”

The end result is amazing, I mean amazing!

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Aloe Vera Plant, originally uploaded by RasMarley.

For our first Valentine’s Day together I asked my husband for an Aloe Vera plant. At the time I had just finished reading a book about plants that purify the air and since we were living in Colorado succulents were plentiful. I knew he would be able to find me a gorgeous aloe plant locally without to much searching.

While most people think of giving cut flowers on Valentine’s Day potted plants can be just as beautiful and last much longer! You can find potted plants at most florists but you will have greater luck at a garden store. While there I suggest checking out plants that are as useful as they are beautiful.

No matter where you are, your air is polluted to some degree and in many cases the air quality inside buildings is worse than the air quality outside! So how about gifting your true love with something green to add color, texture and cleaner air to their home.

According to a NASA study these are the top 10 air purifying plants based on their ability to remove chemical vapors, resist insects, and how easy they are to maintain in your home.

1) The Areca Palm
2) The Lady Palm
3) The Bamboo Palm
4) The Rubber Plant
5) The Dracaena
6) English Ivy
7) The Dwarf Date Palm
8) The Ficus Alii
9) The Boston Fern
10) The Peace Lilly

Keep mind these do generally well in homes but each plant has specific care requirements that will impact it’s ability to thrive. For example in our Philly house we didn’t get any direct sunlight and our Aloe Vera plant slowly died no matter where I put it. Although we have better access to sunlight in our new house most places I have to put plants aren’t flooded with light so I’m better off with something like the Peace Lilly that does well in modest sunlight. And of course pets are always a concern. My cats think plants are essentially cat toys. I can’t have plants that are potentially toxic to them in the house because I know they will eat the leaves.

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