It’s February, the month most often associated with love and relationships. It is true that emotional wellbeing is impacted by the state of our close relationships with others, whether they are romantic ties, friendships, family members, or coworkers. When we nurture healthy, stable relationships the benefits are multifold. We are calmer, we feel less anxious, we get better sleep and eat healthier diets when our close relationships are happy ones. All of these effects are restorative in recovery.
February is an excellent month for going that extra mile to show someone that you care. Baking a delectable treat for someone special is sure to put a smile on his or her face. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner why not consider whipping up a batch of delicious chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes to help celebrate the occasion? Serve these delightful treats as a special dessert to top off a romantic dinner, or serve them at teatime to your closest friends.
For the Cupcakes
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup boiling water
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. salt
For the Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
- 3 ¼ cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup freeze-dried strawberries
- 1 cup strawberry puree
- ¾ cup unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
- Few drops of red food coloring (optional)
For Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
- 12 small fresh strawberries
- 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
For the Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake liners
- Melt the semi-sweet chocolate in the microwave in 15-second intervals until smooth, set aside.
- Combine in a separate bowl your flour, cocoa powered, baking soda and salt, then set aside. This will be the dry mixture.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add in your egg and egg yolk. Once incorporated, add in your melted chocolate followed by the sour cream. Add half of the dry mixture in at low speed. Once incorporated, add the remaining half and mixed until combined.
- Slowly add in the boiling water a little at a time, once all has been added, mix on medium speed to completely incorporate.
- Divide equally into baking cups and bake for 17-20 or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
- When fully cooled, top with strawberry buttercream and chocolate covered strawberries
For Strawberry Buttercream
- Crush the freeze-dried strawberries with a rolling pin and sift through a sieve to remove any seeds, set aside.
- Strain the strawberry puree through a fine mesh sieve and measure out ¾ c. Pour the puree into a small saucepan and set over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, allowing it to reduce down to ¼ cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to fridge to cool.
- In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, whip butter until pale and fluffy.
- Mix in powdered sugar, cooled reduced strawberry puree, freeze-dried strawberry powered, lemon juice and vanilla.
- Mix until fully incorporated and tin with red food coloring if desired.
For Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
- Melt chocolate in microwave safe bowl in 15 second intervals until smooth, stirring between each interval.
- Dip strawberries in chocolate, let excess run off then transfer one to each cupcake
Prep: 60min Cook: 30min Total: 90min
While at first glance it may seem that these cupcakes are on the decadent side, consider the following:
- Using unsalted butter allows you to control the amount of salt in the recipe. Lowering sodium reduces the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure and kidney issues.
- Fresh strawberries contain a very high amount of vitamin C! Vitamin C is important in addiction recovery because of its function in the production of neurotransmitters, specifically serotonin. This neurotransmitter is the most negatively affected by repetitive drug use. Vitamin C intake can help to restore levels of serotonin in the brain, which helps to relieve symptoms of withdrawal such as depression and anxiety.
- Unprocessed baking chocolate and chocolate that contains 70-85% cocoa content contains many nutrients such as iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Dark chocolate is also a very powerful antioxidant and may help to reduce heart disease.
How Healthy Relationships Can Induce Wellness
Anyone who has ever been in love can recall that feeling of walking on air. Being in a loving relationship has a profound affect on our mood, sparking increased production of endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, the feel-good brain chemicals. This chemical action helps cultivate an emotional connection as we bond with the person. As the attachment deepens, so do the feelings of love and contentment. All of this impacts our overall mood for the better.
Multiple scientific studies have demonstrated the relationship between positive interpersonal connections and better mental and physical health. Benefits include reduced heart disease, lower blood pressure, higher self-esteem, and reduced rates of depression and anxiety.
In recovery, healthy relationships are beneficial in many ways. A loving relationship can result in a higher degree of emotional stability. Knowing that you matter to someone will make you feel valued, something that can ultimately help reduce the risk of relapse.
5 Ways to Improve Our Relationships in Recovery
February is an excellent time to ponder 5 ways we can improve our interpersonal relationships and thrive in recovery:
- Improve communication. Healthy and enduring relationships depend on open and ongoing communication between the partners. Don’t hold back your feelings. Although communicating our emotions may make us feel a bit vulnerable, it is through this communication that we grow closer and more trusting.
- Thoughtful gestures. When we do an act of kindness for someone we care about, or even a perfect stranger, it has a boomerang effect. The recipient of the thoughtful gesture will respond with gratitude, and then this good will is reciprocated. Being thoughtful, such as baking these yummy strawberry cupcakes, makes the recipient feel cherished and valued.
- Keep your word. In recovery it is common to be repairing damaged relationships. By staying true to your word and being mindful about keeping your promises it is possible to mend broken trust bonds and rebuild the emotional connection.
- Respect boundaries. In early recovery it is essential to honor the healthy boundaries that a loved one has put in place. These boundaries are set for good reasons, such as to prevent co-dependency, or even enabling on their side. Understand the need for reasonable boundaries, respect them, and see your relationship blossom.
- Prioritize recovery. No relationship will thrive—much less survive—unless you make recovery the number one priority. By communicating your commitment to sobriety through your words and actions, you send a clear message to your partner that you are serious about your own wellbeing.
Make the month of Valentine’s Day the month for renewing your relationships. Learn to enjoy the many benefits of caring for someone else, and being cared for yourself.