A Lifestyle of Romance
This is the time of year to shake off the dust of distraction, polish our manners and look for creative ways to express ourselves romantically. Often the centerpieces of these endeavors are built around sensual foods and, when wooing our loved ones on Valentines Day, chocolate rules supreme.
The roots of St Valentines Day lay in Rome with February marking the beginning of Spring on the Roman Calendar. At that time, every household was swept out and sprinkled with salt and spelt berries. The fertility festival, Lupercalia, began on the Ides of February (15th) and was celebrated throughout Rome by pairing unmarried youths until the following February, often resulted in marriages.
Roman culture had a great appreciation for earth’s beauty and those who inhabited it. They celebrated the gifts of the land and the power of attraction which is intimately intertwined like a grape vine in an arbor. One could reason this had something to do with the word romance being derived from Roman.
In 485 A.D., the Catholic church sought to Christianize the Lupercalia festival by celebrating Saint Valentine, thought to be a martyred priest from two centuries prior. As a result, the romantic aspect of the celebration does not appear again until the Middle Ages. It was the mid 19th century when it began to resemble the phenomena it is today.
On Valentine’s Day, when the meal is emotionally charged, there is one ingredient that is a “must” on the menu–chocolate. Chocolate has long been known as an all around sensual ingredient. The Aztecs called it “Nourishment of the Gods.” Not only does it enchant us with its dark seductive flavor, but it contains compounds which have an immediate sensual effect as well as long lasting health benefits.
This dessert, Hazelnut Love Bites, is a combination of three luscious flavors and textures–hazelnut, raspberry and chocolate–all making for a passionate dessert experience.
Makes 24 Love Bites
1/3 cup ground hazelnuts
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice (organic sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
2/3 cups plain almond milk
1/4 block (3 ounces) firm silken-style tofu
1/8 cup raw cashew nuts, ground to a meal
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350º F. Using a 24 cup mini cupcake pan, line each cup with unbleached baking cups. Put hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, evaporated cane juice and arrowroot into a large bowl and whisk together with a French whip. In a blender, puree soy milk, tofu and cashews to a smooth consistency. Transfer to another large bowl and stir in canola oil and vanilla. Combine the two mixtures and stir vigorously for one minute to develop the gluten in the flour. Fill each cup to just below the rim and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean(a little sticky is Ok). Allow to cool.
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat a saucepan on medium heat. Add all ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Then strain by pushing through a fine wire strainer with a rubber spatula until only the seeds are left–really work it. Discard seeds. Return strained raspberries to pan and simmer for another 5 minutes. Reserve.
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1/2 cup plain almond milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a double boiler on medium heat, add all chocolate ganache ingredients. Stir periodically and cook for about 30 minutes until chocolate is melted and smooth. Test a drop on a cold plate, it should set up to a frosting consistency. Allow to cool and reserve.
When the cupcakes are cool, use a small pointed-tip knife to create a crater in the center of each cake, then pour in a small amount of raspberry sauce. To frost, either use a flat knife to frost each cupcake or put frosting into a pastry bag and pipe.
Ready to serve.
I only use organic and unadulterated ingredients
Through personal example, my father inspired me to respect beauty and romance on a daily basis–one never knows when they will be encountered, often by chance. He often expressed his inspirations through poetry.
With the kindness of its weather,
San Diego has developed multiple forms of beauty.
(My words of enthusiasm are difficult to restrain.)
The soil harbors and embraces plants which give birth
to hundreds of varieties of flowers.
Their creative method of procreation is:
they make their flowers so fragrant and colorful
that the bees and other pertinent species
are attracted to visit,
To collect their nectar, and thereby leave tracks
from gathering visits to neighboring flowers.
The plants then “eat”, and become happily pregnant.
This is the intelligence of beauty!
Now the plants we call ‘trees’ reach high for the sky
and its sunshine.
Each family has its own leaf formation, and height,
their arms lissome to the winds,
as their hair of leaves is tousled.
And we humans too enjoy our views of them.
Happy Valentines Day!