10 “Think Outside the Heart Shaped Box” Ways to Make this Valentine’s Extra Sweet

Ahh, chocolates. Bonbons. Cupcakes. Cookies. Rich creamy desserts at an Italian restaurant. If you were being a well-intentioned American and losing those holiday pounds in 2012, Valentine’s traditions are an indulgent curveball you just didn’t need one month in.

But what if you wanted to have a treat that isn’t quite so bad for you? Or make something for someone special without sabotaging their life goals in the process? What if your special someone has a special diet, or just learned they have Type II (as in diabetes)?

For homemade items:

  • Use dark chocolate, 60% cacao at least. There are also carob chips for vegetarian valentines, and Enjoy Life chips.
  • Use Agave Nectar, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, cane sugar juice, honey, or fruit pulp instead of refined sugar, or use a more naturally sourced sugar. Ideal sugar comes in brown, granulated and confectioners varieties. Truvia and Splenda offer similar products.
  • Bake gluten-free with non-wheat flours. Be aware that alternative flours don’t bind like regular gluten flours do, so you will need to substitute with 1 tsp of  xanthan gum and more wet content. You will also be baking longer than a regular wheat flour recipe would dictate. Gluten free baking websites are excellent sites to get the mix of alternatives right.
  • Bake in a more Paleo style—no refined sugar, non-wheat flour. Nuts (except peanuts) and dark chocolate are encouraged.
  • Make basic shortbread dough with non-wheat flour, then split it up in different bowls. In each bowl, make each shortbread a unique variety—use dried fruits for one, nuts for another, dark chocolate for another, and beet or ground pomegranate beads for pink color in another, or your idea for ingredients your valentine would like. Please don’t use nuts if your friend has those type allergies though.
  • Dip dried fruit in melted dark chocolate, then allow it to dry on wax paper. Freeze them until the big day. Put them in the refrigerator to warm up for a few hours on the big day. Package them in a gorgeous wax-paper lined box or basket.
  • If you are using dried coconut, use the sugar free kind.

For non-homemade items:

  • If you aren’t a kitchen god or goddess, there are fruit baskets, chocolate covered strawberries and other fruit from flower and specialty food companies.
  • Groupon and LivingSocial have travel options, massages and other “sampler” experiences that would make a thoughtful gift that won’t sabotage goals.
  • Don’t bother with food or online coupons that are “one-time-only” experiences. Focus on the person. If you’ve been making mental notes of that person’s goals and dreams in regular random conversation, get them something related to those goals and dreams, even if it’s just a sketchbook, kit, or planner. If you don’t remember these things, ask a mutual friend at least 72 hours in advance so you have time to shop in person or online.

Amazon has all of the items below, but if you want to hunt them down in person, try these places:

  • Carob chips: Whole Foods, Earthfare, Piggly Wiggly.
  • Dried coconut with no sugar on it, alternative flours, dweeteners, and xanthan gum, brown rice syrup: Whole Food Market, Earthfare, major chains’ organic and gluten free section.
  • Premade chocolate covered strawberries: Edible Arrangements (online), Proflowers (online), Publix
  • Dark chocolate chips: All major grocery chains, typically Ghiradelli is the best and most widely distributed in the US.
  • Agave nectar: In the diabetic and gluten free foods at Publix. Recommended brand: Madhava.
  • Sketckbook or other kit: Michaels, AC Moore, Dick Blick, Art Supply Warehouse, Utrecht, Jerry’s Artarama Art Supplies, Etsy
  • Livingsocial.com and groupon.com are coupon sites that change semi-daily. Go to the “Escapes” section of LivingSocial, and the “Getaways” section of Groupon.
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