Valentine’s Day is next week so if you’re looking for an alternative to store-bought chocolates or for a sweet treat to make for someone special, here are a few recipes you can try.

The nice thing about making your own treats from scratch is that you know exactly what’s in them; no fillers, no high fructose corn syrup and no artificial colors or extracts, which comes through in the flavor. Besides, taking the time to make something for someone lets them know they’re special and appreciated, even if it’s just a cup of decadent hot chocolate.

My younger son loves hot chocolate and over the years during the colder months, I’ve tried to keep the pantry stocked with hot chocolate mix. I finally showed him how to make it from scratch using cocoa powder (we like Hersey’s Special Dark) with sugar, milk and a little vanilla paste or extract. It’s so rich and creamy it can work as a dessert. Lately we’ve been using almond milk (chocolate almond milk is delicious in hot chocolate) but you can use any kind of milk you want and you will get a good result.

A couple of my favorite chocolate desserts to make are truffles and chocolate lava cake. Chocolate lava cakes are flourless and have a gooey, rich center. They are excellent served warm with a little fresh whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. They’re easy and quick to make and when you serve them, you’ll think you’re having dessert in a five-star restaurant.

The trick is to use quality chocolate. I like to use a combination of dark and semi-sweet chocolate, but you can experiment and try milk chocolate or even white chocolate.

You can also experiment with different kinds of chocolate to use in the truffle recipe. Once you make the truffle balls, you can either roll them in powdered sugar, cocoa or even sanding sugar.

For Valentine’s Day, I added some little candy heart garnishes. The truffles are simple to make, but look gourmet. Box them up with a little tissue or parchment paper and they make a thoughtful gift.

Favorite Hot Chocolate

1/4 c. dark cocoa

4 T. sugar

1/2 c. boiling water

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

3 c. milk (I used chocolate almond milk)

Optional garnish:

1 c. heavy whipping cream

1 tsp. vanilla paste

3 tsp. powdered sugar

Candy heart sprinkles

First, make the whipped cream, if using. Add the whipping cream and vanilla paste to a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the cream begins to thicken. Slowly sprinkle in the powdered sugar and continue to beat. When the whipping cream is firm and thickened, set aside and make the hot chocolate.

Add the cocoa, sugar and salt to a saucepan and set it over medium-high heat. Whisk in the water and continue to whisk until smooth. When the mixture starts to boil, whisk in the milk. Lower the heat to medium and continue to stir until heated throughout, then transfer to cups for serving. Garnish with whipped cream and sprinkles, if desired, just before serving.

Chocolate Lava Cake

4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

4 oz. milk chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 sticks butter

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 c. sugar

4 eggs

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prep your baking pan by lining the bottoms of a large muffin tin with parchment paper and spraying the tin lightly with cooking spray then set aside. Set a pot of water over high heat on a stove and add the chocolate, vanilla and butter to a bowl or pan you can set over the pot of boiling water to use as a double boiler. While the chocolate is melting, add the eggs, sugar and salt to a bowl and beat with an electric mixer. Beat the eggs until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Whisk the chocolate and butter until smooth, then remove from heat. Pour the chocolate into the eggs and beat well to incorporate, then transfer the mixture to the muffin tins. Set in the preheated oven and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cakes are pulling slightly away from the sides and the batter has set. Remove from heat and cook for 3 or 4 minutes before removing from pan. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Easy Truffles

4 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped

4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 tsp. vanilla paste (optional)

Powdered sugar, cocoa and sprinkles for garnish

Add the chocolate, vanilla paste and cream to the top of a double boiler (you can also set a glass or metal bowl over a small pot of boiling water). Once the chocolate begins to melt, whisk the ingredients together. Continue to whisk until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a shallow dish and set in a refrigerator to cool for about an hour. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of powdered sugar on a shallow dish and a few tablespoons of cocoa powder onto a separate dish. Remove chocolate from refrigerator and use a small scoop to scoop out a ball of chocolate. Set the ball in the either the powdered sugar or cocoa powder and roll to cover. Set on a plate or tray and garnish with sprinkles, if desired.