It’s Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines Day!

I’m actually not sure yet what I’m going to do for our meal tonight. Can you say “last minute”? I like to at least acknowledge Valentines Day each year with a meal, but for tonight I’m kind of thinking regular food with Valentine décor and dishes. I’m really in the mood for Parmesan Chicken and I don’t know how to make that heart-shaped without being too corny and chicken-wasting with a large cookie cutter and chicken breasts.

I’m not even sure why I said the corny part… that ship already sailed. Half of the stuff at Valentines is corny because we use our imaginations and anything goes as long as it involves hearts and red and love and “awwww”. I think you’ll see what I mean if you keep reading this post. ;)

Today I’m posting a meal that I made on a previous Valentines Day. So, if you’re looking for some last minute ideas for tonight, here you go.

valentines meal

The menu was:
-Meatloaf
-Amish noodles
-Salad
-Biscuits
-Red velvet cake

Meatloaf
I used this recipe because it’s THE *personal opinion alert* best meatloaf ever!! And I baked it in a heart-shaped pan. My mom used to always do that with meatloaf on Valentines Day.
valentines meatloaf

Amish Noodles
I made regular noodles and cooked a couple pieces of lasagna in with them. After it was cooked, I took a heart cutter and cut hearts out of the lasagna pieces and threw them back in with the noodles. When I dished it up, I pulled some of the hearts up to the top.
Here is the recipe for the noodles in case you’d like it:
1/4 c. butter
1 1/4qt. chicken broth
1 Tbsp. chicken base
1/2 tsp. Lawry’s
8oz. homemade egg noodles
1/3 of a can of cream of chicken soup
Brown the butter. Add the broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 10 minutes. Add the cream of chicken soup, stir, put on lid, and turn off the burner, and let set 20 minutes.
valentines noodles

Salad
Another one from my childhood that Mom did… it’s simply lettuce salad with little heart-shaped cheese tossed in it.
valentines salad

Biscuits with jam
I made regular biscuit and cut them out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter, and then just for extra color, piped a heart shape of jam on top before baking them (we ate more jam and butter with them at mealtime). The jam kind of got messed up in the baking process, but you could still tell what I was trying for.
valentines biscuits

 

Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting
I used this recipe, made only a 1/2 recipe and 1 layer, and made it heart-shaped instead of round. The rose is red and green candy melts. The rose tutorial is here and then I just sorta winged it with the stem and leaves.
valentines rose cake

For the décor:
We put red ribbon around on the table and the girls used a heart punch to cut out hearts to sprinkle around.
We used goblets, dipped the tops into colored sugar, and tied red ribbon around the stems.
We had a red centerpiece (you can see the base of it on the first picture up there) that looked more or less like an explosion of spikes and hearts. Festive, but we didn’t end up using it because the table was too full.
Lexi sneakily made Valentines for each of us and put it on our plates.

I really wish I’d have seen this Valentine note that I made to myself earlier because now it’s too late because I don’t plan to (or feel like) going anywhere today, but here is an idea I had tucked away for this Valentines Day and just found a bit ago. I’ll put it on here though, because we’re in the Valentine mode.
Remember what I said up there about corny? Well, here’s a huge *corny alert*!
The idea was to put these on each plate:
For my husband: chocolate candy from our local bulk foods store that looks exactly like rocks, along with a note that says ”You ROCK my world”
For Lexi (11): Starbursts and “I’m BURSTing with happiness that you’re my girl”
For Tiffany (7): Gummy bears with “I love you BEARy much”
For Megan: (3): Suckers or smarties or anything sweet with “You’re my little SWEETie”

Wishing all of you a wonderful Valentines Day, and thank God for all the ones you love!

valentines rose

Drizzled Chocolate Fruit Kabobs, plus How to Keep Banana Slices from Browning

These fresh fruit kabobs drizzled with chocolate are the perfect item for adding a bit of beauty and pizzazz to the table without a lot of time-consuming work. You can’t beat that, right? So, keep it in mind next time you need to take food somewhere. It doesn’t even require a fork so it works for “bring finger food” occasions. These particular ones were made for my husband Shannon to take to a company potluck at his office at Keller Williams Real Estate.

chocolate drizzled fruit kabobs1

There is no recipe, just use any kind of fruit you want to… They all work great. Well, except apples. Apples sometimes split when you put them on the skewers. If you’re using apples, the thinner the skewer the better. Just for the record, apples and chocolate go together awesomely! Is awesomely a word? I figure as long as you know what a word means, it doesn’t really matter if it’s technically not a word. ;)

Chunk up/slice all the fruit that gets chunked or sliced. Take stems off of fruit that gets de-stemmed. Toss fruits that get brown with lemon juice (more on that later).

In other words, before I start threading them on skewers, I like to have them all ready to go.
Then, start poking fruit on until: 1. Fruit is gone, 2. Skewers are gone, or 3. You have the desired amount.

fruit kabobs

After the fruit is all on the skewers, put about a half cup of chocolate chips or candy melts in a sandwich bag, but don’t seal shut. Put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Flip it over and microwave it for 20 second. Work the bag with your hands and put them in for 10 seconds. Do this until all the chocolate feels smooth and no chunks are left.

I need to get back in my zone… that zone where I automatically remember to take pictures at each step! I was having too much fun and just kept rolling instead of stopping for pictures.

Now, you’re ready to drizzle. Put the kabobs all really close together so less drizzle lands on the table. Snip a little corner off of the bag and just scribble back and forth over the fruit. Then immediately separate them or else the chocolate will harden and pull drizzles off of its neighbor.

Put them on a plate. Garnish if you want to.
lemon rose chocolate leaves
Here are tutorials on the rose and leaves, in case you want to make some:
RoseChocolate leaves
The rose tutorial is actually for making a tomato rose, but it’s the same technique.

Now, about the bananas and keeping them from browning.

Lemon juice is the secret here. I did a little test where I checked them after 3 hours and after 6 hours. A little after the 6-hour mark, my girls came home from school and I let them eat my experiment for an after school snack… and then thought of it later that I should’ve tested the bananas longer, like 24 hours. But what I did learn is that lemon juice works its magic for at least 6 hours, and that was the info I needed because unless they have to set/freeze/marinate/etc, I rarely make things more than 6 hours ahead of time. Maybe that’s because I’m a procrastinator.

So here we go, the experiment. The pictures above were taken right after I made it, where even a fresh banana would still be looking good. The pictures below were taken 3 and 6 hours afterwards.

3 hours after being tossed with lemon juice:
banana slice browning2
From left to right: uncovered room temp, covered room temp, uncovered refrigerated, covered refrigerated, covered frozen, and a fresh slice.
The fresh slice is NOT 3 hours old, it’s just there for comparison. The frozen one is thrown in there for fun… it actually has no lemon juice on, it was peeled and put into the freezer right away and is probably more like 3 months old.

 

6 hours after being tossed with lemon juice:
banana slice browning3
The middles are starting to get a little brown, but are still fine.

What I was surprised was that between all the lemon-juiced ones, there was pretty much no difference! I’m glad about this tidbit because it gives flexibility. Here is a closer up. They all stayed firm too, no mushiness.
banana slice browning1

chocolate drizzled fruit kabobs

Here come the Holidays… make some of these pretty things!  It’s a delicious, healthy snack to set out on the snack table (with the chocolate covered Ritz crackers, cookies, red-green-silver-foil-wrapped Hershey kisses, and party mix).

Chipotle Deviled Eggs

Is this recipe made up, you wonder?
Yep, it is.
All because I fell in love with some chipotle mayo from Yutzy’s Farm Market and I use it on everything that I think it might possibly go with.

We had a fish fry last night. One of the couples from church (Jr. and Darla) go up to Lake Erie to fish every year. Then, they clean the fish. And then, they GENEROUSLY share them with us. I know. We’re privileged. And we realize it and are very grateful.

They and their kitchen helpers fry/bake the fish (there’s some of each) and make a big roasterful of scalloped potatoes and do pork chops for anyone who doesn’t like fish. Then, the rest of us bring salads and desserts. It’s quite a spread… the row of food tables is roughly the length of an airport runway (give or take a few hundred yards) and is lined down both sides with food food food. Good stuff! I’m wishing right now that I’d have taken my camera along to take a picture of it.

So, anyway, I was trying to decide what to make in the salad category. I just got a new Dessert Decorator, and it HAD to be something that I could use that for. The decorator was a just-for-anyhow gift from my husband, which are THE best kind of gifts.

So now, we’re only eating soft foods that can fit thro the decorator… but hey, at least we’re eating pretty stuff. ;)  

I made twice-baked potatoes a couple days ago and piped them into the shells with the decorator, but then I had a problem. I hadn’t thought of the cheese. So it was forfeit cheese and see the beauty or have potatoes with yummy melty cheese on top. The cheese won. Oh well. I still had fun doing it.

Anyway, back to what to take to the fish fry, I thought of Deviled Eggs.

deviled-eggs.jpg

And while I was getting the yolks out of the whites, I thought of my beloved Chipotle mayo and decided to throw some of that in there. Next time, I’d add more… it adds a little kick and I didn’t want to add too much kick for some unsuspecting person at a church fish fry who doesn’t like kick.

Chipotle Deviled Eggs

12 eggs
3/4 cup mayo (use less if you prefer a stronger egg yolk taste)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. Roasted Chipotle Mayonnaise (more would be better ;) )
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Hard boil the eggs. Peel and cut in half. Put yolks in a food processor; set whites on a serving tray.
dev-eggs1.jpg

Running the yolks thro’ the food processor makes for a creamier filling. After there are no chunks left, add the rest of the ingredients. Pipe the filling into the egg white shells. (Side note: sometime, try piping egg filling into an egg white with one hand WHILE holding still enough to take a picture with the other hand :) )
dev-eggs2.jpg

Here’s a little tip: when you’re getting the last of the filling out of the bowl, it’s nice to have one hand to hold the bowl and one hand to use the scraper, putting the filling right into the decorator as you’re scraping. This leaves no hand to hold the decorator so… prop it in a cup.
dev-eggs3.jpg

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If you want to garnish the tray with tomato roses, but don’t know how, this link is for you: How to Make Tomato Roses.

Coming up in the next few posts: Tiffany’s ladybug birthday cake, Fun play-with-your-food Spring-themed stuff, and Donut Muffins.

How to Make Chocolate Roses

roses4.jpg

Valentines Day… Chocolate. Roses. What a perfect time to merge the two and make Chocolate Roses! Actually, it isn’t just a Valentines treat, it’s timeless decor for any table or dessert year-round.

I’ve been wanting to try these for awhile. But they always looked so complicated. But they still intrigued me. So, I finally made some…

roses6.jpg

This is all you do:

Take about 2/3 cup of chocolate chips and melt them. Add about 3 Tbsp. light corn syrup.
roses1.jpg 

Stir until mixture starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl and starts balling up. It’ll be kinda like taffy. Dump it out onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten. Cover with more plasic wrap and refrigerate for a half hour or so.
roses2.jpg

Get it out and pull a chunk off, about a tsp., and roll it around with your fingers till it’s a smooth ball, then flatten it into a petal. Make 6 -10 petals, depending on how big you want your rose.
roses7.jpg

Take one of the petals and roll it up loosely. Use your finger to bend the top back just slightly.
roses8.jpg

Take the next petal and start it just behind where the first petal ended.
roses9.jpg

Continue like that until all the petals are used up, bending the tops back slightly as you go. When your rose is done, cut off the stem (which will have gotten quite chunky) so the rose can sit flat. Or, go ahead and try making it thin and having a long-stemmed rose! I might try that next time.
roses10.jpg

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I tried a rosebud by using only 2 petals. After making 2 roses and 1 rosebud and the leaves, I had some chocolate left yet, so I just made a heart with it. So, what you see on this plate is how much 2/3 cup chocolate chips makes.

roses31.jpg

Now what I need is a nice dessert to put them on. ;) But, I don’t have one, so I’m just gonna keep them in the freezer and whip ‘em out sometime when I need some quick dessert decor!

So, what do you think? You gonna try them? :)

Pumpkin Cookies

I’ve made these twice now… both times they were inhaled in a short amount of time. They are great with applesauce. Have you ever tried cookies with applesauce? I hadn’t until my husband introduced me to that combo after we were married. The girls LOVE the frosting. When I saw that these cookies take caramel frosting, I thought ‘No way. It’s gotta be cream cheese frosting’, but I decided to try them with caramel frosting after all and it turned out to be a good decision.

By the way, it’s nearly Thanksgiving… are you cooking a Thanksgiving dinner at your house? I’m not. We’re going away for dinner. I’m just planning to bring something to go with the meal, like a salad. I just went to put a link to the post with the recipe of one of my favorite salads and realized I have not featured it yet! It’s the Robust Italian Salad pictured on this post. It’s SO good and you DO need to have the recipe, so be looking for it within the next week or so! It’s got homemade croutons, and just before serving, you toss it with Italian dressing. I’m also planning to make a pumpkin pie this week. I want to try a Custard Pumpkin Pie from a ‘blank’ cookbook that my grandma hand-wrote recipes in for me. This pumpkin pie recipe was given to her from my great grandma. Mixing my nostalgia with my cookbook collection, a couple of the cookbooks I own are PRICELESS. The pumpin pie recipe is in this cookbook next to the Brown Sugar Pie, which is also passed down from my great grandma. Mmmm, just seeing that brown sugar pie again makes me hungry for it!

Ok, back to the pumpkin cookies with caramel frosting…

pumpkin-cookies7.jpg
I got this recipe from my friend Freida… This recipe is 1 cup of this and 1 tsp. of that for most of the ingredients… if you ever want to memorize recipes, this would be a good one! ;) Is there any recipe that you make so much that you’ve got memorized (I don’t mean made-up stuff, like you dump-and-bake cooks do ;) )? From age about 12-17, it was pancakes for me. Not sure if I was the chief pancake-maker or what, but I knew the recipe. Now, it’s Raspberry Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls and Red Lobster Biscuits and maybe a couple others, but that’s all I can think of right now.

Pumpkin Cookies

Printable recipe

1 cup Crisco
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream shortening and sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. Blend in dry ingredients.
pumpkin-cookies1.jpg

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. (Freida said, “I only baked them for about 12 minutes and they were perfect.” And now I add, “Me too.”) Spread caramel frosting on top. Also good with cream cheese frosting.
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Caramel Frosting
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Combine brown sugar, butter and milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.
pumpin-cookies2.jpg

Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Cool to lukewarm, then gradually beat in the powdered sugar until frosting reaches spreading consistency.
pumpkin-cookies3.jpg
The more powdered sugar you add, the faster it will harden. I made the frosting while the first batch of cookies was in the oven. It took forever to cool to lukewarm… next time, I’ll either make the frosting ahead of time or make the cookies while the girls aren’t around! “Mom, is the frosting ready yet?… 20 seconds later… “Is it ready now?”… :)

My mom gave us some little leaf sprinkles, so we used them on the cookies for a bit of garnishing. We (er, they) sprinkled them on right away before the frosting hardened.
pumpkin-cookies5.jpg 
Lexi was explaining this picture to someone and here’s what she said, “We were sprinkling sprinkles on pumpkin cookies with delicious frosting. At first, I sprinkled a little bit so I needed more and then Tiffany came and she wanted to sprinkle some on too. At first she was sprinkling on too many sprinkles, but then she got better at it. And then she patted it down and got her hands all messy.” Yup. That’s pretty much how it went. 

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