Red Hot Chocolate Beverage

In the movie Chocolat, Vianne (the chocolatier played by Juliette Binoche) serves Armande (the diabetic lady played by Judi Dench) a special concoction spiked with what she is mistakenly recognizes as rancid cinnamon – but in fact is hot chilli pepper. The Aztecs, who were the first to concoct a cocoa drink – cocoa beans cooked in water and spiced with vanilla and hot chillis. This beverage was thought to give power and act as a phrodisiac.

After watching the movie “Chocolat” for the first time several years ago, I had an awful craving to try this drink, and so I tried making it myself. The ingredients, as in any recipe, make all the difference between an ordinary muddy beverage to an exquisite hot chocolate. Dutch processed cocoa is less acidic and more flavoruful. It has an unmistakable reddish colour (as opposed to the dusty-brown of inferior cocoa powders). Black chilli pepper has a rich, rounded flavour and is also quite sweet comparing to other chillis. And the brown sugar adds a nutty flavour.
The recipe is simple but feels very wholesome and authentic.It is richer and fuller than a hot chocolate cooked from cocoa powder only, but not as rich (and choking…) as the hot chocolates that are made of full milk, heavy cream and chocolate. I think it’s perfect – served as a fancy desert drink, a seductive treat or even a breakfast power drink.

2 cups milk of your favourite calibre (1% works just fine)
1 Tbs. Dutch cocoa powder
2 Tbs. brown sugar
30 gr. bitter 75% chocolate (I like Lindt – 3 squares equal to 30gr.)
½ tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
Black chilli pepper for garnishing

In a small, clean and dry saucepan, mix the cocoa and sugar in a small using a small whisk. Slowly add the milk, while continuously whisking the mixture to prevent lumps from forming. Cook on a medium heat, until very warm, than add the chocolate squares and the vanilla extract. Stir well to avoid sticking to the bottom. Cook until milk is just about to start bubbling.
Serve hot, in small cups, sprinkled with black ground chilli pepper – or your favourite hot pepper or cayenne. Other spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom will work well too.

For a more spicy, aromatic hot chocolate, add the following spices to the milk before cooking:
1 Cinnamon stick
4 Cardamom pods
2 clove buds

Now, if you keep on reading to the next post, you'll find a very nice surprise...
...And don't forget our chocolate contest!

DIY Love: Charlotte's Custom Underwear

If you haven't found that perfect gift yet for that special someone, Charlotte of Five Is For Riches creates custom underwear to suit your fancy. These one of a kind panties are not only sexy and unusual, they are the most comfortable pair of undies you’ll ever have, and the most durable underwear I’ve ever seen. They come in all sizes (from small to extra large), textures and styles and you can pick your own colours and the select from the original designs of appliqué (the undies above have a burning heart appliqué) and silkscreen – all designed by one talented and loving woman, Charlotte Hewson. They can be also worn by men, believe it or not. I've seen it and it's quite amazing to see what these undies are willing to cover... (should have kept the photos, I knew it!). These make a perfect romantic gift as well as a gensture of friendship between girls - you can know it will become a staple in her wardrobe!
To order, all you'll need to do is email Charlotte and let her know your pants' size and favourite colours.

My friend Charlotte is one of the most talented textile artists I’ve met. She taught me how to make my own underwear in a special Valentine’s Day workshop at the late Seamrippers studio (now defunct, but hopefully it will re-open). Which, now that I’m thinking about it – can be another treat you can give yourself: take one of Charlotte’s workshops, and learn how to make your own underwear. It only takes 45 minutes!

DIY Love: Bath & Body Oils

What can be a better gift than a massage? Perhaps - a massage that is also scented with your lover's favourite scent!
Massage is a relaxing and sensual way to relieve stress and build intimacy. And with the stressful life that most of us lead, this special treat is invaluable - and probably more memorable than anything that comes with a price tag.

Give your Valentine a sensual massage using your own scented massage oil. Blending your own fragrant massage oil will add an extra romance to one of the nicest thing we can give each other – personal touch…

As a base, use a cold pressed vegetable oil that is full of nutrients for the skin, such as jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil and avocado oil. You can also use a combination of several oils to benefit from their unique properties.

My personal favourite is sweet almond oil, which reduces friction during the massage, yet absorbs well into the skin by the end of the massage. It has a very pleasant and light almond scent of its own. Unscented almond oil is a perfect addition for a bath for individuals with an extremely dry and sensitive skin. It will leave your skin soft and nurtured and flexible and with only the slightest scent of sweet almonds. It does, however, go rancid after a few months, so you better use it fast. Adding some vitamin E to the can help prevent pre-mature rancidity though.
Word of caution: Avoid if you (or the massage receiver) is allergic to almonds and/or nuts.

Alternatives to almond oil are:
Sunflower oil, which is scentless, fast absorbing and full of anti-oxidants and fast absorbing.
Sesame oil, which is highly emollient. Use the light sesame oil rather than the toasted dark sesame oil used in Asian food.
Grapeseed oil is also scentless, non greasy and silky-smooth.  The only disadvantage to some is that it is often extracted with a solvent.
Avocado oil is very rich, and might be better blended with other lighter oils such as grapeseed or almond oil if allergy is not an issue; please note individuals that are allergic to latex may not respond well to avocado oil.
And and last but not least -  Olive oil. If you don't mind the intensely fruity scent, of course - which by the way, smells divine when blended with simple citrus scents such as sweet orange oil - you'll hardly need anything else as far as scent goes. Use a food-grade olive oil that is labeled "Extra Virgin". Any other labeling on olive oil might mean it is not truly cold-pressed, or is adulterated with inferior oils.

Jojoba oil is much more expensive and will not go rancid and is also an excellent oil to put on our skin as it resembles the skin’s natural sebum. It absorbs extremely well into the skin and is not as greasy as some other oils. It does not provide quite as much in terms of reducing friction while massaging, because it absorbs quite fast into the skin. That's is why it's better as a skin treatment or in baths to give the skin nourishment and restore moisture.

Another oil that resists rancidity is fractioned coconut oil. It is liquid at room temperature (unlike the non-fractioned coconut oil varieties). Colourless, odourless, lightweight, and non-greasy. It’s a great choice for a massage oil and also doesn’t stain.

You will need up to 2% of essential oils to scent your oil. For an ounce (30ml) of base oil, use no more than 1.5ml (about 60 drops - size of drops varies on the dropper size so note how many drops make 1ml of liquid with the dropper you're using) of essential oils. In many cases, less than that will probably be enough. This will depend on the tenacity of the specific oils, as some are stronger than others. Remember that a massage oil, unlike perfume, is not meant to linger on the skin for very long time – but mostly enjoyed during the massage itself. Therefore there is no need for base notes or fixatives, and the massage oil can be very simple, consisting of as few as 1-6 essences. You can pick your own essences from what you have available to you. Or you can follow the formulas provided below. Some of them call for essential oils that are more difficult to find, and for those I have added a link to where you can get them online. But for the most part - youll find these essential oils in your local health food store or aromatherapy shop.

Fill a clean glass bottle with the carrier oil of your choice (i.e.: sweet almond, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, etc.). Add the essences drop by drop using an eye dropper. Stir with a bamboo skewer. Cap and swirl from side to side to let all the essences blend together.
Let the oils age for a week (unless you are in a real hurry, in which case you can use it the next day).

Well, in this particular case, the manner in which it is served (as a sensual massage) is more important than the container itself. Any clean glass bottle that can be sealed properly would fit. These can be purchased in many aromatherapy stores, or online. The most commonly used is called "Boston Round" and comes in many sizes and colours - clear, amber, cobalt blue or emerald green.

If you are in a particularly crafty mood, you can draw or print your own labels, hand paint the bottle, or dig in the flea markets, garage sales or thrift shops for particularly attractive bottles that will fit your purpose. The sky is the limit when it comes to packaging!
Remember to laminate your labels so that they don't get ruined in the bath or stained by the oil.

Next on the DIY Love series: Love Letters and Valentines

Image: Un Bain Maure - Femme Turque au Bain, No.2 (A Moorish Bath - Turkish Woman Bathing) by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) courtesy of ArtRenewal.org

Black Licorice Bath & Body Oil

Sexy, spicy bath and massage oil. Licorice is considered an aphrodisiac, and so are black truffles.

20 drops Star Anise Essential Oil
10 drops Aniseed Essential Oil
3 drops Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
20 drops Tarragon Essential Oil
1 Tbs. Black Truffle Oil (these can be found in many supermarkets and gourmet grocery stores)
100ml Carrier Oil of your choice

Fill a clean glass bottle with the carrier oil of your choice (i.e.: sweet almond, fractioned coconut oil, jojoba, etc.). Add the essences drop by drop using an eye dropper. Stir with a bamboo skewer. Cap and swirl from side to side to let all the essences blend together.
Let the oils age for a week (unless you are in a real hurry!).

Image: Black Licorice by FloydSlip

Red Roses Bath & Body Oil

Roses with just a tinge of aphrodisiac nutmeg oil.

20 Rose Otto
15 Rose Absolute
20 Rose Geranium
5 Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
2 Nutmeg Essential Oil
100ml carrier oil of your choice

Fill a clean glass bottle with the carrier oil of your choice (i.e.: sweet almond, fractioned coconut oil, jojoba, etc.). Add the essences drop by drop using an eye dropper. Stir with a bamboo skewer. Cap and swirl from side to side to let all the essences blend together.
Let the oils age for a week (unless you are in a real hurry!).

Image: Bed of Roses by isto-ica
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