Valentine’s Day, a day for romance, a day when many people express their love with cards, candy, chocolate, flowers, hearts and special treats. It is said to be named for a Christian martyr dating back to the fifth century.
Its origins really date from the Roman holiday Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and though this festival survived the initial rise of Christianity, it was outlawed at the end of the fifth century as it was deemed “un-Christian.”
Today, Valentine’s Day contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. Valentine gifts were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400.
This year I’ve chosen easy-to-make recipes for kids, teens or those new to the baking experience, to guarantee them success. The first dessert is simple enough for a child to make for Dad or Mom, with a little help, and is especially appealing to the eye with favourites like sugar cookies and cherries. There is a delicious trifle, easy strawberry pancakes and peanut butter cups, always a favourite. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day Dessert
1 (18 ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 (21 ounce) can cherry pie filling
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Roll the cookie dough to 1/4- inch thick and form it into a heart shape. Place the heart shape on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 minutes, or until the cookie is lightly brown on the edges.
In a large mixing bowl, mix cream cheese with confectioner’s sugar. Spread the mixture on cooled cookie dough. Cover with cherry pie filling and whipped topping.
Death by Chocolate Trifle
1 (19.8 ounce) package brownie mix
2 (3.9 ounce) packages instant chocolate pudding mix
3 (1.4 ounce) bars chocolate-covered English toffee
1 (16 ounce) package frozen whipped topping, thawed
Prepare brownies according to package directions. Let cool. Mix pudding according to package directions.
In a glass punch bowl, layer in the following order: 1/2 of the brownie, crumbled; 1/2 of the pudding; 1 toffee bar, crushed; 1/2 of the whipped topping. Repeat layers in the same order. Save the last toffee bar to crumble and sprinkle on top before serving. Refrigerate. Best if made the day before you serve it.
Strawberries and Cream Pancakes
3 cups (750 mL) sliced strawberries
1/4 cup (50 mL) sugar
2 cups (500 mL) Bisquick mix
1 cup (250 mL) milk
2 tbsp. (25 mL) sugar
1 tsp. (5 mL) vanilla
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) whipping (heavy) cream, whipped
Mix strawberries and 1/4 cup sugar; set aside.
Heat griddle or skillet over medium-high heat or electric griddle to 375 F; grease with cooking spray, vegetable oil or shortening. (Surface is ready when a few drops of water sprinkled on it dance and disappear.)
Stir Bisquick, milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, the vanilla and eggs until blended. Pour by slightly less than 1/4 cupfuls onto hot griddle. Cook until edges are dry. Turn; cook until golden.
Keep pancakes warm while you finish flipping. Wrap pancakes in aluminum foil and place in a 300 F oven. Makes 12 pancakes. To serve, layer pancakes, strawberries and cream.
Variation: With so many fresh fruits available year-round, you don’t have to limit yourself to strawberries. Imagine the possibilities: blueberries and cream, peaches and cream, bananas and cream. The choices are endless!
Homemade Peanut Butter Cups
2 cups milk chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
30 mini (1-3/4 by 1-1/4 inch) paper cups for filling
In 1-quart saucepan combine chocolate chips and shortening. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth (3 to 5 minutes).
Loosen top paper cup from stack, but leave in stack for greater stability while being coated. With small paint brush, coat inside top cup evenly with about 1 teaspoon melted chocolate to about 1/8-inch thickness, bringing coating almost to top of cup, but not over edge. Repeat until 30 cups are coated; refrigerate cups.
In 2-quart saucepan combine butter or margarine and peanut butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until melted (4 to 6 minutes). Stir in confectioners’ sugar and graham cracker crumbs.
Press about 1/2 tablespoon filling into each chocolate cup. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon melted chocolate on top of filling; spread to cover.
Freeze until firm (about 2 hours) carefully peel off paper cups. Store in the refrigerator.
Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.