Those fancy boxes of candy can be pretty expensive. A Valentine dessert from the corner bakery or in a restaurant can cost you almost as much a nice meal.
So why not tell your loved ones how you feel with homemade treats and desserts? They’re less expensive and they’re tailored to their tastes. What else says “I love you” more than some thoughtful effort?
I have a friend who can only eat gluten-free foods. For the holidays, I made her these sweet treats, which are so easy, it’s almost criminal to claim you “made” them. And they work just as perfectly for Valentine’s day.
Chocolate fruit-nut patties
Melt 20 ounces of good dark chocolate either over a double boiler or slowly in the microwave. Stir in one cup of dried cranberries or dried cherries, plus one cup of nuts such as cashews, macadamias or almonds. Stir to combine. Drop by the tablespoonful onto foil or waxed paper (sprayed with nonstick spray) and let cool at room temperature till firm, or cool in refrigerator for about 10 minutes. Slip each patty into an individual cellophane sack (available at craft stores). Decorate if you like.
If you have one of those flexible individual heart-shaped molds, you also could pour the mixture into it and refrigerate till cool.
If you have a heart-shaped baking pan, consider making your favorite brownie mix and baking it in that. Then melt ¼ cup chocolate chips and mix with two-three tablespoons of heavy cream and drizzle it over the whole brownie. Add a side of ice cream to serve. This makes a great family dessert for Valentine’s Day.
If you’re looking for a romantic dessert that takes no time and costs way less than the pre-made confections, consider creating your own chocolate dipped strawberries. Just melt three four-ounce bars of good dark chocolate in a double boiler. Find at least eight large strawberries and dip each one just more than half way. If you like, roll them n chopped nuts (optional.) Place them on waxed paper- or parchment-lined cookie sheet and refrigerate. Allow them to come to room temperature at least ½ hour before serving. Lovely and delicious.
Truffles in a candy shop are outrageously expensive — $2 or more per yummy morsel. You’ve seen how easy it is to make chocolate truffles on those TV cooking shows. But how about switching things up with some treats flavored with your favorite sandwich spread? Try these:
Peanut butter truffles
One teaspoon plus 1/4 cup butter, divided
1/4 cup honey
Two cups creamy peanut butter
1-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
One teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups finely chopped honey-roasted peanuts or miniature semisweet chocolate chips
- Line an eight-inch square pan with foil; grease foil with one teaspoon butter.
- In a small saucepan, combine honey and remaining butter over medium heat; stir until blended. Stir in peanut butter until smooth. Remove from heat; whisk in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Spread into prepared pan. Refrigerate, covered, two hours or until firm.
- Place peanuts in a shallow bowl. Using foil, lift candy out of pan. Remove foil; cut candy into 64 squares. Shape squares into balls and roll in peanuts. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Yield: 64 truffles.
That’s a lot of truffles — enough for your child’s whole class with some leftover for family munching.
Taste of Home magazine has a great website with tons of recipes. Try one of their 20 Decadent Chocolate Desserts just for fun.
Remember that scrumptious flourless chocolate cake you had at that pricey restaurant? It’s not that hard to make at home, it’s a lot cheaper, and it’s just as good. Try this recipe from the test kitchens at Food Network:
Flourless chocolate cake
12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon fine salt
Six large eggs, room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-2-inch spring form pan with nonstick spray.
- Put the chocolate, butter, and salt in a large microwave safe bowl. Melt in the microwave for one minute. Stir and microwave again for one minute, then heat again until completely melted, about two minutes more. Alternatively, put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl on the pan without touching the water. Stir occasionally until melted.
- Beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until light and thickened, about eight to 10 minutes. Fold the melted chocolate into the whipped eggs until evenly combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out wet but not gooey, about one hour and 25 minutes. Remove cake from the oven and cool on a rack.
- To serve, remove ring from spring form mold. Dust cake with confectioners’ sugar. For a pretty Valentine’s cake, use a paper doily to create a pattern on top of the cake. Place the doily on the cooled cake and sprinkle with the powdered sugar. Remove the doily and serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.
For a kids’ party, how about chocolate cream-filled cupcakes? They’re as easy as making a box mix and adding your own flourishes. Or tackle the seemingly difficult abut easier-than-you-think molten lava cakes. Boy, will your guests be impressed or what?
Enough chocolate, you say?
Not everyone loves chocolate (hard to believe) and some people are actually allergic to it. Poor things.
If so, think about your favorite strawberry shortcake for dessert. You can make your own shortcake, of course, of you can just buy a good angel food or pound cake at the grocery store bakery, top it with sweetened fresh or frozen thawed berries and a dollop of whipped cream. Who wouldn’t love that?
Or make cream puffs. They’re pretty easy and always a hit. The Betty Crocker recipe featured here has several options for fillings, or you can just use sweetened whipped cream. The website has lots of other ideas for desserts using shortcuts, such as cake and pudding mixes.
If you’re desperate to make something yourself but have no baking talent, you can always buy a roll of sugar cookie dough, roll it out and use a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Sprinkle the cookies with red-colored sugar and center each with a cinnamon heart. It might not be fancy but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?
So get cooking and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!
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