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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 02/13/12

Monday, February 13, 2012

DIY PAPER VALENTINES FLOWERS!

   This comes from www.marthastewart.com .  You could use these as a two-fold gift.  One as a card, and the other as flowers.  Save a little money than on roses, plus these will last forever.


The petals of these romantic flowers are overlapping paper hearts, inscribed with words or single letters that spell out a message. If you make them with wire stems, the valentines can be displayed in a vase; with ribbon stems, they can be tucked into envelopes.








Tools and Materials

Colored paper
24-gauge wire
Small beads
Ribbon
Floral tape or glue
Scissors


Valentine Flowers How-To

1. Cut out five to eight hearts of the same size, and inscribe them. Use a pushpin to make a hole near the pointed end of each heart.
2. For a wire stem, thread a small bead onto a piece of 24-gauge wire cut a little longer than you want the stem to be; twist the wire so the bead stays at the end. Thread hearts on the other end until all the hearts are stacked against the bead. Twist the wire again to keep the hearts in place. Cover the stem with floral tape, or glue ribbon around the wire.
3. For a ribbon stem, thread a bead to the center of a 3-inch length of wire, and bend the wire in half. Send the ends through the hole in each heart. On the back, form the two ends into a small loop around the midpoint of a length of ribbon; trim the excess wire.

ASH WEDNESDAY!



   Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. In the Christian calendar, it finds place as a holy occassion on which priests make ash marks on the foreheads of devout Christians to symbolize their repentance for wrongdoings, their mortality and their commitment to Jesus and the Almighty.


Origins and History of Ash Wednesday

   Ash Wednesday marks the onset of the Lent, the 40-day period of fasting and abstinence. It is also known as the 'Day of Ashes'. So called because on that day at church the faithful have their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross.
    The name 'Day of Ashes' comes from "Dies Cinerum" in the Roman Missal and is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary. The concept originated by the Roman Catholics somewhere in the 6th century. Though the exact origin of the day is not clear, the custom of marking the head with ashes on this Day is said to have originated during the papacy of Gregory the Great (590-604).
     In the Old Testament ashes were found to have used for two purposes: as a sign of humility and mortality; and as a sign of sorrow and repentance for sin. The Christian connotation for ashes in the liturgy of Ash Wednesday has also been taken from this Old Testament biblical custom.






     Receiving ashes on the head as a reminder of mortality and a sign of sorrow for sin was a practice of the Anglo-Saxon church in the 10th century. It was made universal throughout the Western church at the Synod of Benevento in 1091.
    Originally the use of ashes to betoken penance was a matter of private devotion. Later it became part of the official rite for reconciling public penitents. In this context, ashes on the penitent served as a motive for fellow Christians to pray for the returning sinner and to feel sympathy for him. Still later, the use of ashes passed into its present rite of beginning the penitential season of Lent on Ash Wednesday.
    There can be no doubt that the custom of distributing the ashes to all the faithful arose from a devotional imitation of the practice observed in the case of public penitents. But this devotional usage, the reception of a sacramental which is full of the symbolism of penance (cf. the cor contritum quasi cinis of the "Dies Irae") is of earlier date than was formerly supposed. It is mentioned as of general observance for both clerics and faithful in the Synod of Beneventum, 1091 (Mansi, XX, 739), but nearly a hundred years earlier than this the Anglo-Saxon homilist Ælfric assumes that it applies to all classes of men
    Putting a 'cross' mark on the forehead was in imitation of the spiritual mark or seal that is put on a Christian in baptism. This is when the newly born Christian is delivered from slavery to sin and the devil, and made a slave of righteousness and Christ (Rom. 6:3-18).




    This can also be held as an adoption of the way 'righteousness' are described in the book of Revelation, where we come to know about the servants of God.The reference to the sealing of the servants of God for their protection in Revelation is an allusion to a parallel passage in Ezekiel, where Ezekiel also sees a sealing of the servants of God for their protection:
    "And the LORD said to him [one of the four cherubim], 'Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark [literally, "a tav"] upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.' And to the others he said in my hearing, 'Pass through the city after him, and smite; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity; slay old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one upon whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.' So they began with the elders who were before the house." (Ezekiel 9:4-6)
    Unfortunately, like most modern translations, the one quoted above (the Revised Standard Version, which we have been quoting thus far), is not sufficiently literal. What it actually says is to place a tav on the foreheads of the righteous inhabitants of Jerusalem. Tav is one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and in ancient script it looked like the Greek letter chi, which happens to be two crossed lines (like an "x") and which happens to be the first letter in the word "Christ" in Greek Christos). The Jewish rabbis commented on the connection between tav and chi and this is undoubtedly the mark Revelation has in mind when the servants of God are sealed in it.





    The early Church Fathers seized on this tav-chi-cross-christos connection and expounded it in their homilies, seeing in Ezekiel a prophetic foreshadowing of the sealing of Christians as servants of Christ. It is also part of the background to the Catholic practice of making the sign of the cross, which in the early centuries (as can be documented from the second century on) was practiced by using one's thumb to furrow one's brow with a small sign of the cross, like Catholics do today at the reading of the Gospel during Mass.



Customs & Traditions of Ash Wednesday

   At this time of year, many of us are quite familiar with the scene where the young and old, the rich and the poor stand waiting in long queue at the Church. And they may wait for hours, and some may even spare their lunch. No, the zeal is not for clinching a big deal. The reason is rather simple. All of them just want to 'get ashed'. For this is Ash Wednesday.
    Getting ashed apart, the tradition is to pray, and go for fasting as a preparation for Lent. Both the Old Law and the New says that those who had repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Thus wearing sack cloth and sprinkling the head with ashes was an ancient sign of repentance. The Biblical custom for repentance was to fast, wear sackcloth, sit in dust and ashes, and put dust and ashes on one's head. But the Bible does not specify the Ash Wednesday rites as such. In earlier ages a penitential procession often followed the rite of the distribution of the ashes, but this is not now prescribed.





    In fact, the traditions of Ash Wednesday came up as a part of the Lenten customs during the late 5th century. Penitence and fasting are two of the key distinctives of Lent. And thus also of the Ash Wednesday. It does not associate commemoration of any event. For, nothing special is known to have happened forty days before the crucifixion. So, the Day could only be said to indirectly commemorate a Christ since it is the beginning of preparation for the greater celebrations of Christ's saving work. Obviously the Bible makes no reference to this day.
   Unlike the old days, we no longer normally wear sackcloth or sit in dust and ashes, the customs of fasting and putting ashes on one's forehead as a sign of mourning and penance have survived to this day.
    It is just an observance among the western churches. Ash Wednesday is a day of penance. The Church has never chosen to make it or any other specific day the definitive commemoration of the concept of repentance. Still it is a deacon. Some churches observe it with distribution of ashes, reading prayers of repentance, and with other services offered from the pulpit.
    Even in ancient days, people marked times of fasting, prayer, repentance, and remorse by placing ashes on their foreheads. The custom was prevalent in early days of Judaism: as found in 2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1-3, Job 42:6, and Jeremiah 6:26.
   This custom entered the church from Judaism. And is observed on Ash Wednesday, that marks the onset of a period of sober reflection, self-examination, and spiritual redirection.






    At first only public penitence received the ashes. They were made to appear barefooted at the church and perform penances for their sins. Friends and relatives began to accompany them, perhaps in sympathy and in the knowledge that no man is free from sin, and gradually the ashes were given to the whole congregation.
   On this day all the faithful according to ancient custom are exhorted to approach the altar before the beginning of Mass, and there the priest, dipping his thumb into palm ashes previously blessed, marks the forehead of each the sign of the cross, saying the words: "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."In case of clerics it is upon the place of the tonsure.
    The saying and the act are meant for reminding us that man is mortal. This means we are dust and it is dust to which we shall return.
    The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In the blessing of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. The celebrant himself, be he bishop or cardinal, receives, either standing or seated, the ashes from some other priest, usually the highest in dignity of those present.
     In the United States, besides the Roman Catholics some Episcopal Churches also observe Ash Wednesday with the distribution of ashes. In addition, prayers of repentance are read and exhortation denouncing sin, taken from chapter 28 or the Book of Deuteronomy, are delivered from the pulpit. The Psalm 51 is prayed and the litany of penitence in solidarity with those preparing for baptism or restoration to the church's fellowship. Other Protestant denominations also mark the beginning of Lent with the observance of Ash Wednesday. Orthodox Churches do not, since the Great Lent begins on Monday. For all Christian Churches, however, Lent is a period of preparation. The culmination is Holy Week, beginning on Palm Sunday and building to the joyous celebration of Easter.
    Originally it was only the Roman Catholics who had the foreheads marked with the cross of palm ash. But now the imposition of ashes has made its way into the wider church and even the popular culture.





    As the deacon sings "Earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God" the gateway to the pilgrimage floats open to the Lenten session of penitence. The session that tells us to take a relook at our past deeds and weed out the wrong ones by certain observances.


The Significance of Ash Wednesday
   Traditionally, the ashes for the Ash Wednesday service come from burning the palm fronds from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebration. They are made by burning palm fronds which have been saved from the previous year's Palm Sunday, the Sunday before the Easter. They are then blessed by a priest.
     Ashes are a biblical symbol of mourning and penance. In Bible times the custom was to fast, wear sackcloth, sit in dust and ashes, and put dust and ashes on one's head.Blessed ashes having been used in God's rituals since the time of Moses (Numbers 19:9-10, 17).
   They also symbolize death and so remind us of our mortality. Thus when the priest uses his thumb to sign one of the faithful with the ashes, he says, "Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return,"





 Getting self-ashed:
    Of course, it is easier to purchase them from a religious supply house. However, if you burn the palm fronds yourself, don't add any other ingredient-just burn the ashes plain. Add a little oil to the ashes so that they will stick to people's foreheads.
Don't overestimate how much you need! It is amazing how far a small amount of ashes will go!



Why Fasting?
    Today the word 'fasting' means a total abstention from all food. In the historic Church, it means a disciplined diet so that your animal appetites become a sort of spiritual snooze alarm. Although no such period of fasting was ascribed in the Bible, fasting and penitence came to be associated with Lent following the way Jesus did. The Lenten tradition of fasting commemorates the forty-day fast of Jesus in the desert after his baptism and before the beginning of his public ministry.
    Today in the United States, Roman Catholics in the age groups of 21 to 59 are required to fast and abstain only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Abstinence from meat is recommended for the other Fridays of Lent. Voluntary fasts and abstinences are encouraged for the entire season.
    Earlier, in Catholic Europe, fasting was decreed first by church laws. England enforced it also by its statute law. Meat, eggs and milk were forbidden and any lapse into gluttony could be severely punished.James II issued a proclamation in the London Gazette a year before the Bloodless Revolution of 1688 urging that the people abstain from meat. However, by giving alms to the poor, a license permitting the eating of meat could be acquired in St. Paul's Churchyard. In the days of stricter abstinence the money saved through fasting was to be donated to the poor.
    The practice, however, fell into abeyance later. Being out of the purview of the Bible the devotion to Lenten food laws waned, especially by the time of the Puritans. Finally, in 1863 England repealed the food laws. And gradually the practice came to be reduced to only two days. The first day and the final day.





    While the Lenten tradition of fasting has its religious connotation, the practice could also be regarded to be backed by some hygienic prudence. A light eating practice between two session of heavy feast is always helpful to tone up the digestive system. So instead of continuing with the usual practice of gluttony or overindulgence in the food habit, a controlled dieting of low animal protein could always be helpful at least as a preparation for the great feasting session of Easter.

VALENTINES CHOCOLATE HEARTS WITH FLAMING STRAWBERRIES!

 


   This recipe/diy comes from www.thepinkwisk.co.uk .  What woman/man in your life would like to get these on Valentine's Day?  (better than a tie, balloons or a sharp stick in the eye). 

Valentines Chocolate Hearts With Flaming Strawberries!







A Valentines treat that’s definitely got some wow factor!
There’s only one thing Mr C. loves more than cake and that’s ice cream so I’ve rustled up these Chocolate Valentines hearts especially. The cake and icecream is simple to do, the flaming strawberry bit is a bit faffy so think about having a practice ‘flaming strawberry’ run in advance. There’s lots of tips for this bit at the end of the post. I am sure you will appreciate that I got myself well and truly sozzled for you folks on ‘Ginberries’ in the name of research for this idea!




You will need:

1 x silicone hearts cake mould
1 x Chocolate Traybake cake mixture (recipe here)
Ice cream – vanilla, chocolate or pick your favourite!

For assembly (and the flaming strawberry) you will need:

Softly whipped double cream
A little cocoa powder for dusting (optional)
Strawberries, room temp
Liqueur of your choice (must be 40% abv)


This project is great, it’s a make the elements in advance and assemble at the last minute, which is good because I’m away for Valentines, in Rwanda see here, Mr C will be left assembly instructions. I do however doubt they will look quite the same…
To start we’ll make the icecream hearts for the middles of our pud.
Lightly grease the recesses of a silicone hearts mould with a little vegetable or sunflower oil. Fashion squares of clingfilm and use to line each recess. The greasing will help the clingfilm mould to the edges and not stick together in a messy ball.






Take your icecream and place a couple of spoons into each heart. Press down to shape with the back of a teaspoon.







Fold in the clingfilm over the top of the icecream and gather together to seal.






Place the tray into the freezer and allow to firm up completely again.
Pop out the clingfilmed icecream hearts from the mould, and keep them in the freezer until Valentines dessert assembly time.
Preheat the oven to 160c (fan)/180c/Gas Mark 4. Regrease the silicone mould, if you don’t grease they won’t come out.
Mix up the cake mixture as per the instructions.
Fill each greased recess with cake mixture, 1/3rd full. Some trays have six hearts some have eight so its difficult to say how much mixture you’ll have left over. The remainder pour into the recesses of a greased silicone cupcake tin. You get to use these as quality control – eat as you work!






Bake in the oven for 18 minutes. Allow to cool fully in the tray before attempting to turn them out. Once cooled they can be wrapped in clingfilm and frozen if you’re making well in advance or they can be stored in an airtight container for upto 3 days.

Now for assembly (and the flaming strawberry) you will need:

Softly whipped double cream
A little cocoa powder for dusting (optional)
Strawberries, room temp
Liqueur of your choice (must be 40% abv+)

Prepare the strawberries first, using a small sharp knife pare out the top so the strawberry forms a little cup. If the knife goes through the side of the strawberry you’ll have to start again, no leaks allowed.







Set one chocolate cake heart onto a serving plate, trim off the domed top using a serrated knife.






Unwrap and position an ice cream heart and top with a second chocolate cake heart. I’ve decorated the plate with some cute marshmallow hearts that I couldn’t resist!








Add a swirl of softly whipped double cream, dust with cocoa powder if you’d like and set the strawberry cup into the cream.






Add a small amount of your chosen liqueur to a a heatproof jug and microwave for 15-20 seconds until warm, alternatively you can heat it up in a pan. Room temp liqueur won’t set alight easily so this bit is important for success! Carefully fill each strawberry cup with warmed liqueur. The liqueur should be lit, at the table, with a cooks match (one of the long ones) or a utility/candle lighter.







Tips for flaming strawberries:

Try a dummy run for practice – you can place the strawberries into egg cups to hold them upright.
The blue flame will show best in a dimly (candle?) lit room and will burn for 30-45 seconds. (Fool note: I spent ages fighting to get them lit in the kitchen during daylight hours and I couldn’t get them to do it, turns out I just couldn’t see the darned flame – good job I didn’t set fire to anything)
Spirit or Liqueur of choice needs to be at least 40% abv. e.g. Absolut Vodka 40%, Tanqueray Gin 47.3% etc, the likes of a Brandy at 38% and Smirnoff at 37.5% just won’t do it .
Room temp spirits won’t ignite easily they should be heated gently in a small pan or in a heatproof jug in the microwave.
Strawberries need to be at room temperature or they will cool the spirit too quickly and you won’t be able to ignite it.
Light the liqueur at the table, carefully using a long match or candle lighter.
Never ever attempt to eat whilst still alight (I know, but if I don’t say it…)
Don’t play with fire Pink Whiskers, please don’t set yourselves/the kitchen/the husband alight.



Valentines Chocolate Hearts (and a flaming strawberry)

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CHEESECAKE!!

   This recipe comes from www.mangiodasola.com .  WARNING! WARNING!WARNING! DO NOT MAKE WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION!! MAY LEAD TO YOU EATING THE WHOLE THING BY YOURSELF!......So Enjoy sparringly!!









Sunday, February 7th, was....*gulp*...my birthday. Whew! There. I said it. I know my mom's proud and shocked. It has taken me years to admit my birthday publicly to friends, students, and strangers. Usually I don't tell anyone and don't even celebrate the day of my birth. I also turn off my cellphone to avoid well-intentioned phone calls from relatives and my ex-girlfriend. I really don't like commemorating the 7th of February, but interestingly, food blogging is the catalyst behind my decision to slowly change my perspective.




   For weeks, I have been planning out what type of cake I wanted to make for my birthday. Like I said, I don't usually do anything for my birthday, but now that I have just started baking, I decided to make something special for it. (My friend guessed right that I made this cake for the blog more so than for my birthday haha)
   I wrote down notes for my quintessential cake. I wanted it to be special. I wanted it to have layers. I wanted it to be beautiful - no, I wanted it to be stunning. I wanted it to have my go-to cheesecake in it and chocolate. From there, I put together what I'll call a Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake made up of an Oreo crust, regular cheesecake filling (to contrast with the welcomed onslaught of chocolate), espresso mousse au chocolat, and espresso chocolate ganache on top.





Since I'm not very creative, I didn't add any frills such as whipped cream decorations or pieces of fruit, and ultimately, I was happy with that decision. It was already more than enough. It was decadent. Smooth. Silky with a slight crunch from the crust. Delectable. Rich. PERFECTION.

 




I really, really, really don't mean to brag, but every single layer was perfect. Every layer complimented each other brilliantly. I was shocked. I couldn't believe I had made this cake...every single layer. I was proud of myself for planning it out and allowing my plans to come to fruition successfully.






I knew that I couldn't keep this amazing creation in my house for long, so via text messaging and quick visits, I shared slices with my nearby colleagues/friends/neighbors (yes, they wear all three of those hats; I live in graduate housing, remember? :D). They all loved this cake. One person said I should sell it. Another person ate two slices in under 5 minutes. Another couldn't focus on our non-gastronomic conversation even after finishing off the cake and scraping the plate b/c she would interject repeatedly about how delicious the cake was haha.

My mom's birthday card in the background; she just couldn't resist...


Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake
A creation compiled by me along with two giants in the cooking world.
NOTE
: to make things easier, make the cheesecake and crust on one day and the mousse and ganache on the next day. Cheesecake lasts longer than mousse. Keep this cake refrigerated and will last up to 2-3 days but is best eaten the day it's made.

 

Layer 1: Oreo Cookie Crust
30-32 Oreo cookies (or chocolate sandwich cookies) for a high crust
4 Tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
1-2 tsp espresso powder (optional)

Crush cookies in a food processor or in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin or mallet. In a bowl or food processor, pour melted butter on top of the crushed cookies and add the espresso powder (optional), and mix or pulse well. Place the oreo mixture at the bottom of a springform pan. Smooth out the mixture with the bottom of a measuring cup or glass. Wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil. Place the crust in the freezer while you make the cheesecake.
Layer 2: Tall & Creamy CheesecakeHALVED & adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
For the cheesecake:
1 pound (two 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (I always use kosher salt)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup heavy cream (or sour cream or combination)

Put a kettle or pot of water on to boil. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Working in a stand mixer (or large bowl with hand mixer), preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft for about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt, and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition to yield a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and stir in the heavy cream or sour cream.
Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan, and pour in a few cups of the hot water in the pan around the springform pan (I do half before putting the cheesecake mixture, to reduce my chances of getting water in the cheesecake and to get everything ready.)
Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter should fill only half of the pan. Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour the rest of the boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 15-30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven's heat, and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours or overnight. Make the mousse once the cheesecake has cooled.



Quality chocolate courtesy of Callebaut Chocolate. YUM.

Layer 3: Mousse au chocolat/French Chocolate Mousseadapted from Tyler Florence on Food Network

6 ounces semisweet baking chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut; use good chocolate)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp espresso powder (added to intensify chocolate flavor, optional)
3 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold (do not use half-frozen cream; the whipped cream will curdle)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, and place over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler). Melt the chocolate and butter together and stir with a whisk until smooth. Add in the espresso powder. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add the egg yolks to the chocolate, 1 by 1, beating with a whisk until incorporated. Set aside.




In another bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and continue to beat. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks form.



Beat heavy cream in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters until it begins to foam and thicken up. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla. Continue to whip the cream until it holds soft peaks.
Gradually and gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Then, delicately fold in the whipped cream. Take care not over work the mousse but make sure you blend in the cream well. Place the mousse on top of the cooled cheesecake while still in the springform pan.    Cover the mousse cheesecake with foil, being careful to not let it touch the mousse. (If your springform is too small for this, just use less mousse in the cheesecake and instead eat them in ramekins while you prepare the ganache!) If making the ganache immediately, place mousse-covered cheesecake in the freezer as you make the ganache (the cheesecake should NOT be in the freezer for more than 30 minutes). If making the ganache later, place the cheesecake in the refrigerator for a few hours. Either way, the ganache must be cool before you can pour it on top of the cheesecake.


Top layer: Espresso Ganache
HALVED and adapted from allrecipes.com

 

1/2 cup heavy cream
4.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut semi-sweet and milk chocolate)
1 tsp espresso powder (optional)
1 1/2 tsp dark rum (I used vanilla extract instead)

Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Heat it up just BEFORE it boils. Place the chocolate in the cream, and remove from heat. Stir the mixture until smooth. Stir in the espresso powder and rum or vanilla extract. Allow the ganache to cool for about 15 minutes before pouring the mixture on top of the mousse cheesecake.

Release the springform pan. With an offset spatula, smooth the ganache while starting at the center of the cake and working outward. (I did a "crumb" crust by placing a thin layer of the warm, not hot, ganache on top, allowed it to cool in the freezer for 30 minutes, then I poured more on the cheesecake after releasing the springfrom pan so that it could pour down the cake.) Don't do exactly what I did, though. Just pour ganache on top once it has cooled. Keep in mind that the cold temperature of the cake will cause the ganache to firm up quickly, and you may have to pour more on top.

Save the rest of the ganache for decorations (if you whip the ganache when it's cold, you can pipe a beautiful decoration) or save it for something else.

DIY HEART SHAPED SOAPS!







   This diy comes from www.marthastewart.com .  What wife or girlfriend or family member would want to get a special gift like this.  And it's something that can be used until there'se nothing left. 


Stamped soaps, inspired by candy conversation hearts, are great gifts for friends. Put in cellophane bags tied with tags; adorn with glitter.

Tools and Materials

 Nonstick 9-inch square pan
Heart-shape cookie cutter
Glass measuring cup
Glycerin soap
Bench scraper
Soap colorant or food coloring
Spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol
Cutting board
Needlenose pliers
1/8-inch metal letter stamps
Masking tape
Heart-Shaped Soap How-To We used a 2-inch cookie cutter (1 inch high) and 2 1/2 pounds of glycerin soap-sold at crafts stores-to make 16 hearts.


1. Depending on your equipment, yields may vary. To determine how much glycerin you'll need, fill pan with water to 1/4 inch below height of cookie cutter; pour water into measuring cup. Record amount; discard water.
2. Cut soap into small pieces with bench scraper; fill measuring cup. Microwave on medium heat until melted; stir. Add soap and heat until you've reached the water amount. Add colorant; stir. Pour liquid into pan. Spray with alcohol to eliminate bubbles.
3. Let harden at room temperature, 2 hours. Freeze 10 minutes.
4. Turn upside down onto cutting board. Create soaps with cookie cutter; pull cutter out with pliers if it sticks. Tape stamps together to form words, and imprint on soap, applying light, even pressure.

VALENTINE'S DAY!









Valentines Day is a day to express your love, and to celebrate the spirit of love. You will love this absolutely for valentine's day site, where you can celebrate the spirit of this day of lovers.





History of Cupid ~ The God Of Love !

   Cupid is the most famous of Valentine symbols and everybody knows that boy armed with bow and arrows, and piercing hearts . He is known as a mischievous, winged child armed with bow and arrows. The arrows signify desires and emotions of love, and Cupid aims those arrows at Gods and Humans, causing them to fall deeply in love.      Cupid has always played a role in the celebrations of love and lovers. In ancient Greece he was known as Eros, the young son of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. To the Roman's he was Cupid, and his mother was Venus.
     There is a very interesting story about Cupid and His mortal Bride Psyche in Roman mythology. Venus was jealous of the beauty of Psyche, and ordered Cupid to punish the mortal. But instead, Cupid fell deeply in love with her. He took her as his wife, but as a mortal she was forbidden to look at him.
   Psyche was happy until her sisters persuaded her to look at Cupid. as soon as Psyche looked at Cupid, Cupid punished her by leaving her. Their lovely castle and gardens vanished too. Psyche found herself alone in an open field with no signs of other beings or Cupid. As she wandered trying to find her love, she came upon the temple of Venus. Wishing to destroy her, the goddess of love gave Psyche a series of tasks, each harder and more dangerous then the last.
    For her last task Psyche was given a little box and told to take it to the underworld. She was told to get some of the beauty of Proserpine, the wife of Pluto, and put it in the box. During her trip she was given tips on avoiding the dangers of the realm of the dead. She was also warned not to open the box. But Temptation overcame Psyche and she opened the box. But instead of finding beauty, she found deadly slumber.
    Cupid found her lifeless on the ground. He gathered the deadly sleep from her body and put it back in the box. Cupid forgave her, as did Venus. The gods, moved by Psyche's love for Cupid made her a goddess.





History Of Valentine's Day

   February has long been a month of romance. It is the month associated with Valentine's Day celebrations. We have, time and again, heard the name St. Valentine being uttered before us in this season of love. But just who is this St. Valentine? Why is this month associated with love and romance? Learn about St. Valentine, how Valentines day came into practice as it is today. The origin of this lovers day goes back as early as 270 A.D and started with the clash between a kindly priest and a mighty ruler. To know more, just read on and discover the true meaning of this festival.
   Every year, the fourteenth day of the month of February has millions across the world presenting their loved ones with candy, flowers, chocolates and other lovely gifts. In many countries, restaurants and eateries are seen to be filled with couples who are eager to celebrate their relationship and the joy of their togetherness through delicious cuisines. There hardly seems to be a young man or woman who is not keen to make the most of the day.
The reason behind all of this is a kindly cleric named Valentine who died more than a thousand years ago.
    It is not exactly known why the 14th of February is known as Valentine's Day or if the noble Valentine really had any relation to this day.
   The history of Valentine's Day is impossible to be obtained from any archive and the veil of centuries gone by has made the origin behind this day more difficult to trace. It is only some legends that are our source for the history of Valentine's Day.
    The modern St. Valentine's Day celebrations are said to have been derived from both ancient Christian and Roman tradition. As per one legend, the holiday has originated from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalis/Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that used to observed annually on February 15. But the rise of Christianity in Europe saw many pagan holidays being renamed for and dedicated to the early Christian martyrs. Lupercalia was no exception. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set its observance a day earlier, on February 14. He proclaimed February 14 to be the feast day in honor of Saint Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the 3rd century. It is this St. Valentine whom the modern Valentine's Day honors.






       According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by the name of Valentine. While one was a priest in Rome, another was a bishop in Terni. Nothing is known about the third St. Valentine except that he met his end in Africa. Surprisingly, all three of them were said to have been martyred on 14th February.
    It is clear that Pope Gelasius intended to honor the first of these three aforementioned men. Most scholars believe that this St. Valentine was a priest who lived around 270 AD in Rome and attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II who ruled during this time.
   The story of St. Valentine has two different versions - the Protestant and the Catholic one. Both versions agree upon Saint Valentine being a bishop who held secret marriage ceremonies of soldiers in opposition to Claudius II who had prohibited marriage for young men and was executed by the latter. During the lifetime of Valentine, the golden era of Roman empire had almost come to an end. Lack of quality administrators led to frequent civil strife. Education declined, taxation increased and trade witnessed a very bad time. The Roman empire faced crisis from all sides, from the Gauls, Slavs, Huns, Turks and Mongolians from Northern Europe and Asia. The empire had grown too large to be shielded from external aggression and internal chaos with existing forces. Naturally, more and more capable men were required to to be recruited as soldiers and officers to protect the nation from takeover. When Claudius became the emperor, he felt that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, and thus, will not make good soldiers. He believed that marriage made the men weak. So he issued an edict forbidding marriage to assure quality soldiers.






    The ban on marriage was a great shock for the Romans. But they dared not voice their protest against the mighty emperor.
   The kindly bishop Valentine also realized the injustice of the decree. He saw the trauma of young lovers who gave up all hopes of being united in marriage. He planned to counter the monarch's orders in secrecy. Whenever lovers thought of marrying, they went to Valentine who met them afterwards in a secret place, and joined them in the sacrament of matrimony. And thus he secretly performed many marriages for young lovers. But such things cannot remain hidden for long. It was only a matter of time before Claudius came to know of this "friend of lovers," and had him arrested.
    While awaiting his sentence in prison, Valentine was approached by his jailor, Asterius. It was said that Valentine had some saintly abilities and one of them granted him the power to heal people. Asterius had a blind daughter and knowing of the miraculous powers of Valentine he requested the latter to restore the sight of his blind daughter. The Catholic legend has it that Valentine did this through the vehicle of his strong faith, a phenomenon refuted by the Protestant version which agrees otherwise with the Catholic one. Whatever the fact, it appears that Valentine in some way did succeed to help Asterius' blind daughter.
   When Claudius II met Valentine, he was said to have been impressed by the dignity and conviction of the latter. However, Valentine refused to agree with the emperor regarding the ban on marriage. It is also said that the emperor tried to convert Valentine to the Roman gods but was unsuccesful in his efforts. Valentine refused to recognize Roman Gods and even attempted to convert the emperor, knowing the consequences fully. This angered Claudius II who gave the order of execution of Valentine.





    Meanwhile, a deep friendship had been formed between Valentine and Asterius' daughter. It caused great grief to the young girl to hear of his friend's imminent death. It is said that just before his execution, Valentine asked for a pen and paper from his jailor, and signed a farewell message to her "From Your Valentine," a phrase that lived ever after. As per another legend, Valentine fell in love with the daughter of his jailer during his imprisonment. However, this legend is not given much importance by historians. The most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is one not centered on Eros (passionate love) but on agape (Christian love): he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion. Valentine is believed to have been executed on February 14, 270 AD.
    Thus 14th February became a day for all lovers and Valentine became its Patron Saint. It began to be annually observed by young Romans who offered handwritten greetings of affection, known as Valentines, on this day to the women they admired. With the coming of Christianity, the day came to be known as St. Valentine's Day.
    But it was only during the 14th century that St. Valentine's Day became definitively associated with love. UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of "Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine", credits Chaucer as the one who first linked St. Valentine's Day with romance. In medieval France and England it was believed that birds mated on February 14. Hence, Chaucer used the image of birds as the symbol of lovers in poems dedicated to the day. In Chaucer's "The Parliament of Fowls," the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine's Day are related:
    "For this was on St. Valentine's Day, When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate."





    By the Middle Ages, Valentine became as popular as to become one of the most popular saints in England and France. Despite attempts by the Christian church to sanctify the holiday, the association of Valentine’s Day with romance and courtship continued through the Middle Ages. The holiday evolved over the centuries. By the 18th century, gift-giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine's Day had become common in England. Hand-made valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids and hearts began to be created on this day and handed over to the man or woman one loved. This tradition eventually spread to the American colonies. It was not until the 1840s that Valentine's Day greeting cards began to be commercially produced in the U.S. The first American Valentine's Day greeting cards were created by Esther A. Howlanda Mount Holyoke, a graduate and native of Worcester. Mass. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap". It was when Howland began Valentine's cards in a large scale that the tradition really caught on in the United States.
    Today, Valentine's Day is one of the major holidays in the U.S. and has become a booming commercial success. According to the Greeting Card Association, 25% of all cards sent each year are "valentine"s. The "valentines", as Valentine's Day cards are better known as, are often designed with hearts to symbolize love. The Valentine's Day card spread with Christianity, and is now celebrated all over the world. One of the earliest valentines was sent in 1415 AD by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife during his imprisonment in the Tower of London. The card is now preserved in the British Museum.
     There may be doubts regarding the actual identity of Valentine, but we know that he really existed because archaeologists have recently unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to a Saint Valentine.

Different Symbols Associated With Love and Valentine's Day

   There are many symbols that are attached with Valentine's day and with expression of love. TheHolidaySpot aims to show a glimpse of these varied symbols that have been used over a long period of time, and across continents. Starting from the ubiquitous heart sign, to the less popular rebus.




Heart
   It was formerly believed that the heart was the seat of all human emotions. Accordingly, the gifting of a heart signified the selfless act of giving everything to someone you love. Though the ancients were not aware that the heart was responsible for pumping blood though the circulatory system, yet they knew one thing for sure that the heart was the center of all feelings. This ancient belief has lingered on through the ages.





Ribbon and Lace
   Ribbons and laces have been associated with love and romance since the days when a knight used to ride into a battle sporting the scarf or handkerchief presented to him by his ladylove. In the bygone times, laces were used making women's handkerchiefs. It was also usual for a lady to drop her handkerchief in the path of the man whose attention she wished to draw. 





Cupid
     The love and attraction that a man and a lady feels for one another is traditionally ascribed to the mythological god,Cupid.In Latin, the word Cupid means "desire." Cupid is represented as a naked, chubby boy with wings and possessing a mischievous smile. He carries a bow with a quiver of arrows which he uses to transfix the hearts of youths and maidens.





The Rose
    From time immemorial, beloveds have been compared to roses. If we juggle the letters of the word ROSE we get EROS, who is the God of Love. Rose has thus been the traditional choice of lovers around the world. The colour red is associated with strong emotions and below are listed sentiments expressed by different hues of rose:-

Lavender -- Enchantment and Uniqueness
Orange -- Fascination
Pink (Dark) -- Thankfulness, Friendship and Admiration
Red -- Love, Respect and Courage
Peach -- Modesty, Gratitude, Admiration and Sympathy
Pink (Pale) -- Grace, Joy and Happiness
Deep Red -- Beauty and Passion
White -- Innocence, Purity, Secrecy, Silence, Reverence, Humility and (according to some sources) True Love
Yellow -- Joy, Friendship, Jealousy, Hope and Freedom
Black -- Farewell
Red/White -- Unity or Engagement
Yellow/Orange -- Passionate Thoughts
Peach -- Modesty, Gratitude, Admiration and Sympathy
Pink (Pale) -- Grace, Joy and Happiness
Yellow/Red -- Congratulations
Rosebud -- Beauty, Youth and a Heart Innocent of Love
Red Rosebud -- Purity and Loveliness
White Rosebud -- Girlhood
One Dozen Red Roses -- "I Love You"
Single Red Rose in Full Bloom -- "I Love You"
Tea Roses -- "I'll Remember Always"






Hands
     The hands of a lady has been a favorite decoration for Valentine's Day for many years and is suppose to depict "femininity". To add to its beauty, the hand is often decorated with frilly cuff and a jeweled ring on the third finger. A lady's hands was a favorite decoration that depicted "femininity." Its beauty was enhanced by adding a frilly cuff and a jeweled ring on the third finger. Clasped hands are said to represent those of Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert...the symbol of friendship between their respective countries of England and Germany.







Doves and Love Birds
     It was the popular belief that birds chose their mate for the year on February 14.Since doves and pigeons mate for life ,they symbolize loyalty, fidelity and love. Lovebirds, the small birds with colorful plumage, commonly found in Africa, are so called because they tend to get cozy with each other and can't survive without each other. pairs. Doves...common urban birds, shy and gentle by nature, with a distinctive "cooing" call...symbolize loyalty, fidelity and love .


Puzzik
     A Puzzik is a quaint sort of homemade valentine which was a sort of puzzle that the receiver had to solve. Not only did she have to decipher the message but also to figure how to refold the paper once it was opened. The order of the verses was usually numbered, and the recipient had to twist the folds to determine what was being said.

Rebus
     Although it had many forms, a rebus usually was a romantic verse written in ink with certain words omitted and illustrated with a picture. Meant to be a riddle, they were not always easy to decipher.

Love Knots
     They are made of ribbons and are traditional symbols of interminable and everlasting love.