Monthly Archives: February 2012

A History of Easter & Easter Eggs

Source: – by Aphrodite Handmade ChocolatesAlthough we think of them as Christian, a closer look at the history of Easter and the Easter Egg reveals a much earlier association with pagan ritual and in particular, the pagan rites of spring, dating back into pre history. 

In most parts of the world chocolate is associated with romance, and not without with good reason. It was viewed as an aphrodisiac by the Aztec’s who thought it increased the prowess of men and made women less inhibited, so when chocolate was first introduced to Europe, it was only natural that chocolate quickly became the ideal gift for a woman to receive from an admirer or a loved one.

Click Here for our handmade Easter eggs

Click Here For our handmade Easter gift chocolates


Delve into the history and origins of the Christian festival of Easter and you come up with a few surprises. For instance, Easter eggs do not owe their origins to Christianity and originally the festival of Easter itself and the giving of Easter gifts had nothing to do with Christianity either. A closer look at the history of both Easter and the Easter Egg reveals a much earlier association with pagan ritual and in particular, the pagan rites of spring, dating back into pre history. 

For us, the ancient rites celebrating the Spring Equinox are most obviously associated with the mysterious Druids and places like Stone Henge, but most ancient races around the world had similar spring festivals to celebrate the rebirth of the year. The Egg, as a symbol of fertility and re-birth, has been associated with these rites from the earliest times.

The Christian Festival Of Easter

In fact, the festival of Easter is a classic example of the early Christian church adapting an existing pagan ritual to suit their own purposes. The Saxon spring festival of Eostre, was named for their goddess of dawn, and when they came to Britain in about the 5th century AD, the festival came with them along with re-birth and fertility rituals involving eggs, chicks and rabbits. When the Saxons converted to Christianity and started to celebrate the death and the resurrection of Christ, it coincided with Eostre, so that’s what the early church in Britain called the celebration, Eostre or Easter in modern English. 

The actual date that Easter falls on every year is governed by a fairly complex calculation related to the Spring Equinox. The actual formula is: The first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox is Easter Sunday or Easter Day. This formula was set by Egyptian astronomers in Alexandria in 235ad, and calculated using the same method as the Jews have traditionally used to calculate the feast of the Passover, which occurred at about the same time as the crucifixion.  

Early Easter Eggs

As well as adopting the pagan festival of Eostre, the Egg, representing fertility and re-birth in pagan times, was also adopted as part of the Christian Easter festival and it came to represent the ‘resurrection’ or re-birth of Christ after the crucifixion, Some Christians believe it is a symbol of the the stone blocking the Sepulchre being ‘rolled’ away. 

In the UK and Europe, the earliest Easter eggs were painted and decorated hen, duck or goose eggs, a practice still carried on in many parts of the world today. As time went by, artificial eggs were made and by the end of the 17th century, manufactured eggs made of various materials were available for purchase at Easter, for giving as Easter gifts and presents

Easter eggs continued to evolve through the 18th and into the 19th Century, with hollow cardboard eggs filled with gifts and sumptuously decorated, culminating in the ultimate in Easter eggs, the fabulous Faberge Eggs. Encrusted with jewels, they were made for the Czar’s of Russia by Carl Faberge, a French jeweller, surely these were the ‘ultimate’ Easter gift, to buy even a small one now would make you poorer by several millions of pounds sterling. 

Chocolate Easter Eggs

It was at about this time (early 1800’s) that the first chocolate Easter eggs appeared in Germany and France and soon spread to the rest of Europe and beyond. The first chocolate eggs were solid and they were soon followed by hollow eggs. Making hollow eggs at that time was no mean feat, because the easily worked chocolate we use today didn’t exist then, they had to use a crude paste made from ground roasted Cacao beans. 

By the turn of the 19th Century, the discovery of the modern chocolate making process and improved mass manufacturing methods meant that the hollow, moulded Chocolate Easter Egg was fast becoming the Easter gift of choice in the UK and many parts of Europe, and by the 1960’s it was well established worldwide.

Easter Gifts & Presents

Handmade Rainforest Alliance Chocolate Easter Eggs

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10 Cocktails to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Source: – by Maryse Chevriere, Editor  

Sweet cocktails, spicy cocktails, drinks featuring chocolate liqueurs and bitters, and others flavored with floral spirits — we have recipes for all that and more in our Valentine’s Day cocktail roundup. 

Chocolate Cherry Russian

This cocktail takes the traditional White Russian in a new direction by freezing the mixer and garnish — in this recipe, chocolate milk with cherries — into an eye-catching ice cube. The more the cube melts, the better the cocktail gets. 

Chocolate and Spice Cocktail

This cocktail, from Veritas pastry chef Emily Wallendjack, is an indulgent drink that “tastes like a boozy, liquid bonbon.” 

Chocolate Negroni

This take on the classic cocktail celebrates the winning pairing of chocolate and orange (the traditional Negroni garnish). It combines Plymouth gin, Punt e Mes vermouth (very bold, spicy, and rich), Campari, and a whisper each of white crème de cacao and chocolate mole bitters. 

Absinthe and Old Lace

Created by Jackson Cannon of Boston’s Eastern Standard, this Grasshopper spinoff features premium crème de menthe, absinthe, and gin, and is topped with shaved bittersweet chocolate. 

Spicy Basil Cocktail

A little bit of spice from the Sriracha, sweetness from the St. Germain, and bubbles from the splash of sparkling wine make this drink an ideal Valentine’s Day choice. 

Tea Rose Martini

Forgot to buy flowers? Not to worry, this drink has you covered with its use of St. Germain and rosewater. 

Lola in Love Cocktail

For your tequila-loving sweetie, try this lovely cocktail made with Tanteo chocolate tequila and cranberry purée. 

The Parisian

This Valentine’s Day cocktail from New York City’s South Gate fuses cranberry and orange juices with vodka and Grand Marnier. 

Raspberry-Champagne Mojitos

This utterly delicious and sophisticated cocktail is topped with champagne or sparkling wine instead of club soda. Serve it in a coupe with no ice, so as to not dilute the bubbles. 

The Valentine Cocktail

Like drinking liquid chocolate-covered strawberries, this cocktail from expert mixologist Charlotte Voisey combines Stoli chocolate raspberry vodka with fresh, muddled strawberries.


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Chocolate Guide | Taste of Home

Did you know? Decadent, ooey-gooey chocolate comes from beans…cocoa beans! When the center of the bean is ground into a liquid state, it becomes chocolate liquor. Here’s more information about chocolate:

Unsweetened Chocolate

Also known as baking and bitter chocolate. To create this, the chocolate liquor is cooled and molded into blocks.

Related Recipe: Pecan Toffee Fudge»

Dark Chocolate

The term dark chocolate is not regulated, but it often refers to sweet and bittersweet chocolates containing at least 35 percent chocolate liquor. It can also have sugar, cocoa butter and vanilla.

Related Recipe: Cookie Dough Truffles»

Milk Chocolate

Must contain at least 10 percent chocolate liquor and 12 percent milk solids. It’s considered the most common kind of eating chocolate.

Related Recipe: Cherry Chocolate Pie»

White Chocolate

Not considered a true chocolate, it actually has little chocolate flavor. It’s typically a mixture of sugar, cocoa butter, milk solids and vanilla.

Related Recipe: White Chocolate Raspberry Cake»

Quick Chocolate Curls

Adding a pretty chocolate garnish to any dessert is a cinch. Use a vegetable peeler to “peel” curls from a solid block of chocolate. To keep the strips intact, allow them to fall gently onto a plate or a single layer of waxed paper. If you get only shavings, your chocolate may be too hard, so warm it slightly.

Related Recipe: Chocolate Silk Pie»

Top 10 Chocolate Recipes»

More Chocolate Recipes»

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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Guide


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Top 10 Chocolate Recipes | Taste of Home Recipes

Top 10 Chocolate Recipes | Taste of Home Recipes.

You’ll love this collection of our best chocolate dessert recipes! Find top-rated chocolate recipes like chocolate cake recipes, chocolate pie recipes, chocolate fudge recipes and chocolate brownies.

Raspberry Chocolate Cake Recipe

This was just fantastic. The chocolate and raspberry flavors were sooo delicious together. The cake was so moist and light. I will definitely make this again.


Chocolate-Praline Layer Cake

 Chocolate-Praline Layer Cake

For the chocolate-lover in all of us, this dessert is the one. Packed with pecans, the luscious layers are topped off with heart-shaped chocolate candies. Every day is Valentine’s Day with this cake!—Kathy Engler, Brookfield, Wisconsin
12 Servings
Prep: 30 min.
Bake: 30 min.+ cooling


  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans


  • 1 package (18.4 ounces) chocolate cake mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) cook-and-serve chocolate pudding mix


  • 1-3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Chocolate curls and heart-shaped chocolate candies


  • In a small heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter and cream.
  • Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour into two greased 9-in. round baking pans and sprinkle with pecans.
  • In a large bowl, beat the cake mix, eggs, milk, butter, sweetened condensed milk and pudding mix; beat on low speed for 30 seconds.
  • Beat on medium for 2 minutes. Transfer to prepared pans.
  • Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  • In a large bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form.
  • Place one cake layer on a serving plate, praline side up. Spread with half of the whipped cream. Top with remaining cake layer; spread remaining whipped cream over top. Garnish with chocolate curls and candies.

Yield: 12 servings.

Nutrition Facts: 1 slice (calculated without garnishes) equals 674 calories, 41 g fat (22 g saturated fat), 170 mg cholesterol, 506 mg sodium, 72 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 8 g protein.

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St. Valentine’s Day Traditions

There are several of theories about the beginnings of St. Valentine’s Day. Some believe that Valentine’s Day was celebrated to commemorate the death and burial of Valentine, a priest or bishop living in the third century after Christ. Valentine had an affinity for young people and during a time when Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage due to the Roman Empires need for soldiers, the priest married young lovers in secret. He was arrested and executed on February 14. When he was buried, a pink almond tree near his grave blossomed as a symbol of his lasting love. Another belief is that while Valentine was imprisoned, he fell in love with the jailer’s blind daughter. On the morning of his beheading, he sent his love a farewell letter signed “From your Valentine”. Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. 

Some historians believe Valentine’s Day stems from an ancient pagan festival known as Lupercalia. To begin this festival, at the official beginning of Spring–February 15–a group of Roman priests known as the Luperci gathered at the cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were said to have been raised by a she-wolf, lupa. The priest sacrificed a dog for purification and then a goat for fertility. Houses in the village were  cleansed by sweeping followed by sprinkling salt and wheat throughout each home as an act of purification. The boys in the village would take slices of the sacrificed goat hide dipped in the goats blood through the village gently slapping the women of the village and the field of crops. This was welcomed as an act of encouraging fertility. The names of all single women were put into a large urn and the bachelors of the village would choose a name from the urn. They couples would be paired for the year, hopefully resulting in marriage later. Some believe that this festival was later “christianized” and the Roman system for romantic pairing off was un-Christian and outlawed. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day around 498 A.D.  

In the Middle ages, the beginning of Spring when birds and animals began to mate, enhanced the idea that February and Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance and lovers.

The oldest known valentine still in existence today is in the British Library in London, England. It is a poem written in 1415, by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.

Traditions & Superstitions Surrounding St. Valentine’s Day

The Birds of Valentine’s Day- One suspicion connected to Valentine’s Day is that the first bird a women sees on the day, would determine the kind of husband she would marry. Below is a list of birds and they’re meanings:

Blackbird – a man of the cloth or religious figure
Dove – a man with a good and generous heart
Goldfinch – a man of wealth, especially if it was a yellow goldfinch
Sparrow – a happy man
Hawk – a brave man, most likely a soldier
Crossbill – a man of bad temper, argumentative
Robin – a man of the sea
Bluebird – a happy man
Owl – a man destined to live a short life
Woodpecker – It is believed the woman will never marry if a woodpecker is the first bird she sees on Valentine’s Day

England – One early tradition had women eating a hardboiled egg then putting green leaves under their pillow to dream of their husband-to-be. Children threw parties during Victorian times playing games, dancing and exchanging valentines. This tradition grew and is popular among many.

France –  On the morning of Valentine’s Day, the first man to be seen by a girl became her boy-friend or “valentine”. Often engagement occurred after a year. Flowers became a popular gift when one of Henry IV’s daughter received a bouquet from her chosen valentine.

Germany – Women would plant onions in pots, giving each a man’s name and placing them near the fireplace. The first sprout onion would be the husband-to-be.

Italy – Cupid is a cherub angel who shoots arrows at people making them fall in love. (From Roman Mythology: The Roman god of love and desire (Eros in Greek mythology). He fell deeply in love with Psyche (a mortal). They married and had a child named Pleasure.) Roman Emperor Claudius II forbad soldiers to become engaged or marry. The priest Valentine secretly married many couples. He was punished on February 14th for his defiance. Youth would gather in places such as a garden to listen to romantic music and poetry. Roman youths would draw the names of a girl from a jar that were to be their partners during Lupercalia (celebration of the wolf).

Scotland – Gifts given in early times were a knot made of ribbon or paper.

USA – Exchanging of gifts and cards are the popular tradition of America. School children enjoy classroom parties exchanging sweethearts. Many marriages occur along with proposals.

Wales – Gifts of carved wooden love spoons were exchanged. People decorated with hearts, keys and keyholes. The person who received a key was said to be able to unlock the givers heart.



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