Tag: valentines day

Valentines Day Chocolates!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I know you are still wondering what to do. We all spend a lot of time looking for something new and creative to do. We all want to “keep it fresh”. Well, I’ve been married for almost 20 years and let me tell you it gets hard. I am a devotee of the classics. Let’s do a romantic dinner. That’s not to say we can’t shake things up a little bit. If you or your significant other are certified chocoholics, like me, how about a meal that has chocolate in every single course?

There is so much to love about chocolate but what you need to know here is that it starts out as cacao, which is mouth wincing bitter. Don’t be scared, that gives you control. That bitter cacao nib is a chameleon. Once add sugar, fat and cream, with a little mixing, you can have the sweet Hershey Kiss from your childhood or a complex and award winning delicacy.

In a typical three-course meal, you’ll start with salad. Let’s make milk chocolate vinaigrette. The milk chocolate is an emulsifier that creates a welcome creaminess. Serve the vinaigrette it over greens that included purple radicchio. Radicchio is a little bitter so it cuts the sweetness. Spinach adds necessary balance. To round out the salad add Asian pear for a tart crunch and diced cranberries for their sweet chewy flavor.

The star of the main course is a fennel seed and cacao nib rubbed pork tenderloin. The secret really is the rub. The rub is a blend of cacao nibs, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cayenne with cocoa powder and brown sugar bounces all over your mouth. The recipe calls for grinding the nibs and seeds in a mortar and pestle. The result will be quite coarse. If you’d like a finer texture you can use a coffee grinder or food processor. Remember though, the finer the rub, the less pungent the flavor. Is the rub sweet or spicy? The rub will seal your juices in while cooking so you won’t need any other sauce than the glorious juices as they pour out when sliced.

In keeping with the play on sweet and spicy the pork is served with a charred cauliflower in a picada sauce. Picada is similar to a pesto. This recipe uses; bitter dark chocolate, Marcona almonds, garlic, parsley and a touch of sweet sherry. The cauliflower should be tender, almost creamy, inside and just charred on the outside. There are so many great textures in your mouth.

In moments of humility and mistakes often come our greatest success and sweetness. Dessert comes from one of those moments. I misread a recipe that called for teaspoons of flour and sugar as tablespoons and the result is more like a rich, incredible brownie than cake. It won’t look so pretty when you first turn it out, so decorate with abandon. You can try whatever fresh berries in season. For a more elegant presentation, sift some powdered sugar through a lace doily and add some fresh herbs. I always say if it smells good together it will taste good together so get creative; how about some tarragon or thyme? If you are short on time a dollop of fresh whipped cream will work too.

Here’s the truth, I did not take pictures the last time I made this and don’t want to use stock pictures from the internet. I promise to post pictures as soon as I can. Finally, it appears I can only do one recipe per post so I will send the recipes one after the other.

I wish you and your loved one a very meaningful Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Melt chocolate and stir until smooth. Whisk in vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. While whisking continuously, drizzle in oil until thickened and combined.
  2. Divide arugula/spinach among plates. Top with pear, cranberries and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
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Valentine’s Day is Red Hots!

Valentines Day is approaching quickly. I admit that my love of the holiday comes and goes. This year I am looking for something simple to do. It seems that this year we are very busy with all sorts of activities, holidays and sports going on.

Tradition says we should give and receive chocolate and other sweets. I think one of the most charming sweets is Red Hots. I love the cinnamon flavor of theses heart shape imperial candies. They are sweet but not super cinnamon-y and spicy. I thought it would be fun to add these cinnamon treats to a butter cream frosting. They add the flavor and a pink and red sparkle to the frosting.

The next question was what to put this fabulous frosting on. I decided on brownies. I really like the contrast of ooey, gooey chocolate with the sweet and spicy frosting. I also happened to dip chocolate chip cookies and even shortbread in the frosting. I don’t think you can go wrong with any baked good. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Red Hots Candy Frosting
Print Recipe
I crushed the heart shaped, cinnamon flavored candy and added it to a vanilla frosting. The result was a sweet, slightly spicy, pink and red spreckled frosting. I put it over brownies and love the way it tastes with chocolate but you use it on anything you would frost.
Servings Prep Time
12 cupcakes 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 cupcakes 10 minutes
Red Hots Candy Frosting
Print Recipe
I crushed the heart shaped, cinnamon flavored candy and added it to a vanilla frosting. The result was a sweet, slightly spicy, pink and red spreckled frosting. I put it over brownies and love the way it tastes with chocolate but you use it on anything you would frost.
Servings Prep Time
12 cupcakes 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 cupcakes 10 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: cupcakes
Instructions
  1. Using a hand or stand up mixer, beat butter until it is creamy and light.
  2. Add the vanilla and keep beating on a slow speed
  3. Slowly add confectioners sugar. You will need to scrape the bottom and sides. If you need extra moisture, you may add a teaspoon of milk at a time. Don't overdo the milk
  4. Once all the ingredients are breamed together, fold in the crushed red hots. Make sure they are completely crushed so they don't clog a frosting tip.
  5. Frost your treats
Recipe Notes

I had a hard time finding Red Hots in the grocery store.  I may have been too early.  However, you can usually find cinnamon imperials in the cake decorating aisle.  They are really the same thing.  You can really use ay cinnamon flavored candy.

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A Last Minute Valentine Toast to Love!

Okay calm down! It is the afternoon of Valentine’s Day and you haven’t planned anything yet. It’s never too late to put something together. Get a pen and paper and make your list.

Your first stop in your local grocery store. You’ll need:

a box of powdered sugar

whole milk

whatever red cake decorations or candy they have left

the best milk chocolate they have (bar or chips)

a bag of mini marshmallows

graham crackers

Your next stop is to your nearest donut shop, to get plain cake donuts. You may want to see if you can pick up flowers somewhere too. However, if you are going for the puppy dog, “I forgot” appeal, pick flowers from your yard or somebody else’s.

Now that you are home, get out whatever oven safe pan you have and grease it. If you bought a chocolate bar, chop it up and put it in the bottom of the pan. For the chips just pour them in and melt them in a 325 degree oven. Give them a little stir every so often. Melting should take about 10 minutes.

When the chocolate is melted, pour the mini marshmallows over top and put them back in the oven, except under the broiler. Watch them closely and let them get to a nice toasted brown. Remove from the oven and serve with graham crackers, broken into sections, as a dip. If you have strawberries put these out with the dip to add color and romance.
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You’ve got the first great surprise for your Valentine. For another cute gift, lets decorate donuts! Mix together ¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted, and 1 Tablespoon whole milk. You can add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, if you feel it is too thick. Just be careful, you don’t want it to thin out too much. You can also double the recipe if you need more. I like to leave the glaze white. You can add a couple drops of red food coloring, if you prefer.

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Dip the donuts, in a swirl motion, in the glaze and place on a rack to catch drips. While the donuts are still damp, sprinkle with your red decorations and let dry completely. I think it’s cute to package them in some sort of craft box. You can get them at Michael’s. You can even wrap an open shoebox in valentine paper. Just make it your personal creation.

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You are all set! Have a fabulous day or evening! And don’t forget to toast to love! XO.

Valentine’s Day – Decadence light

Valentines Day is coming and I would like to welcome you to stay home for dinner. There are a lot of different ways you can go when thinking about your menu. Some would say do all your most rich and decadent recipes. Others would tell you to make sure and have as many aphrodisiacs as you can. Still others would say cook what you know and do it well. Why not try and incorporate all of the above.

Let’s explore the concept of rich and decadent. Decadence is great and rich is even better but I don’t think I would build a whole meal around that. Let’s face it Valentines Day is suppose to incite love and intimacy. Think back, how intimate did you feel at the end of a heavy rich meal? Yep, you got it. So maybe we want to feature just one recipe that is rich & decadent. Dessert is always a good choice. Because it is at the end of the meal you won’t necessarily be tempted to over indulge.

For the rest of meal it is my humble opinion that you err on the side of lighter and cook what you know. So let’s delve into what I consider basics. These are the recipes that every cook should have in their repertoire. Food & Wine recently posted their list and it included roast chicken, risotto, and apple pie. You will eventually have you own list but I propose the following recipes be included. Have a great soup, a great cookie, and a great wow factor recipe. The wow factor is that one recipe you know people go crazy for, every time. It doesn’t have to be a hard, time intensive recipe just one you always get the reaction for. We’ll talk more about that in a future post.

Let’s start to build our Valentines Day menu. I love the idea of being cozy by the fire and sipping a soup and eating a sandwich. What is your favorite soup and sandwich combination? I love vegetable puree soups. You can make them with out cream and they can still have a rich quality. Even though soups are very popular, they still give the impression of being labor intensive and therefore, wow factor. Here is an amazing recipe for broccoli soup that is really easy to prepare but your guest will think it took hours.

 Broccoli Soup

4 cups of good quality (or homemade) chicken stock

2 cups water

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2 pounds (about 12 cups) of broccoli crowns, trimmed and chopped

¼ pepper salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 14-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed

In a large saucepan bring stock and water to a boil.

Add the broccoli; make sure the broccoli is completely covered. You can add more water if necessary.

Cook until tender. It usually takes about 8 minutes but keep an eye on it.

While your broccoli is cooking, puree the rinsed cannellini beans. You can use a blender or food processor. Set aside.

When broccoli is cooked, start pureeing in batches, with a little of the liquid at a time. Special note here: hot liquid expands and can be volatile. Pay attention to what your appliance recommends for maximum hot fill line.

Once you have pureed all the broccoli return it to the pan and whisk together with remaining liquid. Bring back to a boil.

Reduce heat and whisk in pureed cannellini beans.

Season with Salt & Pepper, adjust as desired

Serve immediately

This will serve about 6 people a good size portion

Of course you have to have a great sandwich to go with it. You can do a grilled cheese or pick your favorite. It’s up to you. You find that recipe and I will take care of dessert.

I love chocolate! It is the most sensuous of foods and of course it is an aphrodisiac. This recipe combines the richness of a chocolate brownie and the memory inducing taste of s’mores. I love serving this “deconstructed” but you can put it all together to make it yours, too.

S’mores Brownies

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 ounces unsweetened bakers chocolate

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup flourIMG_2388_2

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ chopped pecans (optional)

Melt together the butter and chocolate, let cool slightly

Mix the eggs and sugar together, until well blended

Temper egg mixture with chocolate and then blend mixtures together, well

Gradually add in flour, while mixing

Add in Vanilla then fold in nuts

Pour into a greased and floured pan. I used muffin tins but you could use a bread pan. (You can use muffin liners if so desired)

Bake in a low oven, 275 for 35-40 minutes. It will still be slightly “wet” when it comes out but will settle.

Cut marshmallows in half and place across the top of either each muffin or the loaf. You can brown the marshmallow under a broiler or with a kitchen torch. Serve over graham cracker crumbs and a garnish with a Hershey miniature.

I love this dessert. It is whimsical and decadent but not to rich. Don’t forget the wine or champagne and let’s raise a glass to love. Happy Valentines Day!

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