Valentine brownie

Chocolate desserts have to be the ultimate choice for Valentine’s Day.  Sometimes making a favorite recipe in a special serving dish can make the dessert seem extra special.

I have found over the years that I prefer to make my own Valentine’s Dinner.  I control the ingredients and the timing of the meal.  I can set the table with special dishes and even save some money.  I love to cook and by taking the time to make a nice meal for my husband, I show him how much I really care about him.

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And, usually if I set the menu with his favorite dishes, I cannot go wrong. This year, I made a couple of different desserts to celebrate the day.  I did not serve this dessert for our special dinner, but had it for him to enjoy at another time.

This brownie recipe was featured on the blog back in 2013, but is one of my all time favorites by Martha Stewart.  If you have not tried it yet, give it a try.  It can be frosted with your favorite chocolate icing, or simply use powdered sugar or whipped cream to accompany.

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Here is the recipe:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Next, place a double boiler or glass bowl over boiling water and melt one stick of unsalted butter with six ounces of bittersweet chocolate.  Remove the bowl from the heat and gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups of sugar with an electric mixer.  Then, add three large eggs and 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 plus 2 tablespoons of flour and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the selected baking dish.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until firm without crumbs.  Test with a cake tester.  Cool at least 15 minutes before cutting or cool completely before icing with chocolate frosting.

Specialty chocolate for a Valentine celebration

Are you thinking about a special gift for your Valentine?  I know one of my favorite gifts is always chocolate.

I was so happy this past Christmas when a dear friend sent us a box of Holl’s chocolates from Vienna West Virginia.  These chocolates are made from a family business in a small West Virginia town.  They are Swiss chocolates, made from raw chocolate purchased from Switzerland.

It is obvious when tasting these chocolates, what the excitement is about.  The taste is both creamy and rich with flavor.  The other difference is that Swiss chocolate is fashioned with less sugar content.  That technique lends to the smooth and full flavor of the chocolate during tasting.

Each box comes with a guide to the description of each piece of chocolate.  They are freshly made and gift recipients are encouraged to eat within two weeks of purchase.  I loved every piece I tasted and think this would be a great gift for your Valentine.  For more information, please follow this link:  https://www.holls.com/

Easy Holiday Petit Fours

Years ago I found this recipe for easy petit fours.  This is a “go-to” recipe that can be made for just about any holiday.  It uses the standard frozen pound cake, which is thawed overnight in the refrigerator.  Then, after cubed, the pound cake squares are glazed with a typical confectioners’ sugar mixture.  During the hardening process, the petit fours can be decorated for any holiday occasion.

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For St. Patrick’s day, I chose to use sparkling sugar to give a bit of Irish green to their appearance.  I could easily have made a frosting to pipe polka dots or stripes on the tops of each square.  The ideas are endless for decorating petit fours.

To make this simple glaze, which is gradually drizzled over the cake, mix these ingredients with a hand mixer together:

2 pounds of confectioners’ sugar, with 2/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water, and 2 teaspoons of any flavored extract.  Suggestions would be almond, lemon, coconut, or orange.  Then, begin the drizzling process.  I generally use an iced teaspoon for best control.  Then, I gradually drizzle over the pound cake squares which have been placed on a wire rack over a pan.  The squares will need several coats, so this process may take 20 minutes to complete.  The left over icing can be gathered and re-used during the drizzling process if necessary.  This recipe will make more than needed for about 34 squares.

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This is a very easy petit four recipe which can be used for many celebrations.

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Valentine’s Day Tea

How wonderful that Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday this year.  It was an all day celebration at my house with my sweetie.  It was a day filled with time spent together, which is better than anything else in this world.

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And for something totally different, we had an afternoon tea, complete with walnut and cheese tea sandwiches.  Now, you would think that my 6 foot 4 inch husband would not be the afternoon tea type, but he told me that it was one of the best days he had spent with me.  I think it was the attention and time I took to make the couple of hours special for us.  It was something very different and reminded him of afternoon teas we have had in years past.  We had a special tea at the Royal York hotel in Toronto many years ago, and of course at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island Michigan.

The Republic of Tea offers a wonderful selection of teas appropriate for Valentine’s Day.  I used their online website to choose individual tea bags.  It was easy to choose a selection of teas that sounded romantic for the day.

It does take a bit of time to drink a small pot of tea, and that is the idea.  Slow down, have a great conversation, look at each other and share a moment together.  The tea sandwiches were delicious too.

To make the walnut and cheese tea sandwiches:

Using 4 ounces of block cream cheese which was at room temperature, add 1/3 cup chopped walnuts.  Mix well.  Trim crusts from bread, and spread the mixture evenly.  Slice into halves diagonally.  Stand some of the sandwiches upright on the plate. These sandwiches could be prepared with pecans as an alternative.

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candle light for Valentine’s day

One of the best ways to improve a meal is to improve the presentation. Beautiful dishes, flatware, glassware and lighting can make even the most simple meal feel special. Serving a meal to those you care about is a gift. Often our everyday lives are so hectic, that we may not have time to do something special for every meal. However, making a special meal on Valentine’s Day could become even easier with just a few tricks.
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I have decided this year to add many small flameless candles to my dinner table. I have been looking at these when the lights are down and these flickering candles simulate real candlelight. They create just the right atmosphere and light for a darkened room, leaving the real candles in place in their taller holders. This set came with the batteries installed and the on/off switches allow for ease of use. I have been practicing with them in many combinations, and find that placing them in various candle holders looks the best.

Even if you plan to just bring home something from take-out to share with those you love for Valentine’s Day, try bringing out special dishes and add these candle lights. I promise you that your spouse or friend will say the dinner feels so special.
For more information, please follow this link:

http://www.amazon.com/GetCandLED-Flickering-Furnishings-Decorations-Restaurant/dp/B00K29VX1Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423513650&sr=8-1&keywords=getcandled+24+flickering+led+tea+lights

waffles from a can

I must admit that I do take shortcuts in the kitchen on some days.  When I find a product that I really like, I tend to use those “semi-homemade” time-saving steps.

I have found that the Stonewall Kitchen mixes are time savers and equally tasty.  I tried the Strawberry and Pancake waffle mix recently with great success.  The mix is full of flavor with a burst of strawberry appeal.  Made in the USA and distributed by Stonewall Kitchens of Maine, the waffles are perfect with every bite.

Using a Belgian waffle maker, I was able to make four large waffles with one recipe on the can.  The mix uses wheat flour and buttermilk for that home-made waffle feel and taste. I added fresh strawberries, sliced almonds and real whipped cream.

Drizzled with pure maple syrup, this mix is a real treat. This would be a wonderful surprise for someone you love on Valentine’s morning.

#Stonewall Kitchen

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Double Chocolate cookies

Are you ready to try a gooey creamy chocolate cookie?  This recipe from Cooking Light magazine, November 2014 is wonderful. The secret to this recipe is not to over bake the cookies.  For the rich, creamy soft cookie, only bake this one 8 to 9 minutes maximum in the oven. And then, allow to cool on the baking sheets. The cookie has a brownie taste, rich with chocolate.

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In fact, I added some extra chocolate drops to the tops of the cookies right out of the oven, and they melted just perfectly enough to have an added layer of double chocolate taste.  I am sure that Cooking Light magazine wanted to keep the calories down, but I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to turn up the taste with this recipe.

Gather the following ingredients.  1 1/2 cups flour, 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, 3/8 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup softened unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons canola oil, 2 eggs, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Next, place sugar, butter, and oil in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well blended.  Add eggs, and vanilla.  In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and salt.  Mix.  Then, while beating the wet ingredients, add the flour mixture until well combined.  Add chocolate.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill the batter for one hour.

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Drop the cookies with a cookie scoop onto cookie pans covered with Silpat or parchment paper. Space two inches apart.  Bake for ONLY 8-9 minutes.  Allow to cool on the pan.  While the cookies are beginning to cool, add additional chocolate pieces to the top of each cookie.   These are truly YUMMY. Be careful when transferring to a plate or to a storage container.  Use a firm spatula, since these are softer cookies.