Happy Valentine’s Day!

You must know by now that I love traditions – especially holiday traditions!

Valentine’s Day just happens to be one of my favorites!

Somewhere around baby number three we realized that finding a sitter and heading out to eat on Valentine’s Day was more expensive and stressful then it was worth.

So I made a special meal for the entire family – and served it by candlelight.

A tradition was born.

This year was no exception! But since we had a church activity on Valentine’s day – we celebrated early.  Dagmar was our chef for the evening and decorated the table with candles and napkins.

It is amazing how beautiful 25 cent silk flowers from the thrift store look in candlelight! It’s also amazing how candlelight covers up the baskets of unfolded laundry, the piles of toys, and the school books that never got put away!

Notice the napkins? Over twelve years ago I bought some nice red cotton material, cut it into napkins and hemmed them up. We’ve used them for Christmas and Valentine’s Day ever since!

The menu varies somewhat from year to year – but always includes red jello with Cool Whip. This year Dagmar got fancy with a heart mold and conversation hearts!

An Italian dish – like cavatini or lasagna is almost always our main dish. This year it was a yummy sausage lasagna! She added a lettuce salad and freshly baked baguettes. We filled our garage sale stemmed glasses with pink lemonade to drink.

Dessert is always cream puffs – always!

They are filled with French vanilla cream and topped with chocolate ganache.  Yummy! This year we fancied up the plates a little with Smucker’s raspberry plate-scapers.

There is usually a card or two to open, maybe a small gift or chocolate treat.

It’s a simple, but very special way to celebrate with my Valentine’s.

What better way to say “I Love You” then with food!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Chocolate Mousse Cake

This  rich chocolate mousse cake is a delightful chocolate treat that is sure to impress the Valentine’s in your life.

It looks and tastes like it took hours to make, but actually is quite fast to assemble. If you are short for time, just use a boxed chocolate cake mix.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Cake:

Stir together in a medium bowl and set aside:

1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Beat together in a second bowl:

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/3 cup sugar

Add:

1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat on high speed for 1 minute.

Slowly add the dry ingredients into the mixture alternately with 1 cup milk.

Pour the batter into 2 greased 8 inch round cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Let the cakes cool on wire racks for 10 minutes, then take them out of the pans and cool completely.

Filling:

In medium bowl combine:

1 1/2 cup of milk
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat in for 2 minutes:

1 large package instant chocolate pudding mix ( 6 servings size)

Fold in:

2 cups of Cool Whip

Assemble:

Place one of the cakes on a platter. Spread with 1/4 cup of seedless strawberry jam. Spread with a large spoonful of the mouse.

Spread the other cake with 1/4 cup of seedless strawberry jam and invert on the first layer.

Put the cake and the remaining mousse in the refrigerator for about an hour for the mousse to set.

Spread the remaining mousse on the top and sides of the cake.

Refrigerate until served.



Chocolate Heart Cookies

Chocolate Heart CookiesReady for a change from the traditional white sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day?

How about a chocolate heart cookie?

These are a really yummy cookie, but a few cautions are needed. They are very soft and break easily, so handle with care.

The original recipe called for dipping the cookies in white chocolate and drizzling with dark chocolate, but we had a lot of trouble dipping!

Actually we had a lot of trouble melting the white chocolate, then it wouldn’t stick to the cookies.

We finally scrapped the white chocolate off and mixed it all into a basic frosting recipe, tinted it pink, and frosted the cookies.

Yummy! It was both colorful and tasty!

Chocolate Heart Cookies
(from Taste of Home Feb/Mar 2005)

Cream together:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Beat in:

  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla

In a separate bowl combine:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Cut out cookies with a 3 inch cookie cutter. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until firm.  Cool on wire racks.

At this point you can frost them or you can melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon of shortening. Dip both sides of the cookie into the melted chocolate.

Melt 1/2 cup of chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon shortening and drizzle over the cookie.

Either way, the cookies are a great way to make your Valentine’s feel special!

Valentine’s Day Tradition: Cream Puffs

Chocolate Filled Cream PuffsI love Valentine’s Day! All the love talk and chocolate, and hearts, and chocolate, and silly little valentine’s and chocolate. Oh by the way? Did I mention the chocolate?

The kids and I have been watching the Food Network’s chocolate specials every evening and I think I’ve gained 5 pounds just looking!

Of course I can’t let this holiday go by without some special desserts for the special Valentine’s in my life! Several years ago I started the tradition of making cream puffs for dessert for our special Valentine’s meal. I fill them with French Vanilla Custard and top them off with a rich chocolate ganache. They are a little more involved (as in more steps and take longer) than most of the recipes I share with you, but not very difficult.

Cream Puffs: Melt 1/2 cup of butter in 1 cup of boiling water. Add 1 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt all at once and stir vigorously. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixtures forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously after each one.

Drop by heaping tablespoons 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a very hot, 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the cream puffs from the oven and split them open. Turn the oven OFF and put the cream puffs in oven for 20 minutes to dry out. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

French Custard Filling: Mix together 2/3 cup of sugar, 2 Tablespoons flour, 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gradually stir in 3 cups of milk. Cook and stir until the mixture thickens and boils, cook and stir 2-3 minutes more. Stir a little of the hot mixture into 2 beaten egg yolks, then return to the hot milk, stirring constantly, bringing just to the boil. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Cool completely. Beat smooth with electric mixer. Whip up 1 cup of whipping cream and carefully fold in. (Or you can shortcut and use 8 ounces of Cool Whip)

Chocolate Ganache: Melt in microwave 2/3 cup of whipping cream and 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips. Stir till smooth.

To assemble: Open the cream puff and fill with French Vanilla Custard. Lay the top on carefully and drizzle (or dump, pour, drown) it with the chocolate ganache. Serve with a kiss and a smile and the Valentine in your life will thank you!

All of the components (cream puffs, French vanilla cream and the ganache) can be made ahead , then assembled the day you wish to serve them. I have on occasion used a box pudding mix instead of the custard. (I highly recommend the Jello White Chocolate Pudding!). I just mixed according to the recipe and then folded in Cool Whip.

Enjoy a delightful and chocolate-filled Valentine’s Day!

Chewy Chocolate Fudge: The Last of the Christmas Treats

It looks so lonely sitting there in the midst of the crumbs; it is the last of the Christmas treats. Here it is mid-January, in the midst of sub-zero temperatures and wind chill factors and we are down to one lone Christmas treat. It was a great holiday but it went by much too quickly. Now all that remains is this one last treat.

At least it’s a really good treat! It was an experiment that Lola and I tried that was wildly successful! I took one of my favorite recipes, Chewy Chocolate Fudge (delicious as is) and substituted Nestle Swirled Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Chips for the regular semi-sweet chips in the recipe. They were wonderful and reminded me of a cordial cherry! Here’s the recipe:

Chewy Chocolate Fudge

Melt: 1-12 oz. package chocolate chips (or substitute 1 bag Nestles Dark Chocolate Raspberry Chips), 3 Tablespoons butter and 1 can sweetened condensed milk.

Add: 1 cup flour, dash salt, dash vanilla and 1 cup nuts (optional).

Drop on a foil lined pan and bake 7 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool slightly before removing. These freeze well for up to 3 months, but will disappear in hours if left on the counter unattended.

So simple and so delicious! Chocolate and raspberries go so well together….. they remind me of Valentine’s s Day, which is just around the corner….. maybe it’s time to eat this last Christmas treat and move on to the next holiday! I think it’s time for a fresh batch!