The Post-Valentine Valentine’s Day

2015-12-23-14-17-18-1How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day when you are post-valentine? Slasher movies come to mind. Wine bottle with a big straw, perhaps. Swiping right? Or maybe Russell Stover yourself into a sugar coma? All would be appropriate I suppose, and hey, I’m never going to be one to judge. But before you get out that big stock pot and rent Fatal Attraction for pointers, might I suggest one of the following two approaches. The first provides ample opportunity for exorcising the ex, the second just reminds you that love isn’t limited to just one recipient.

Whichever one you choose, one thing is certain. There will be great food, and there will be love in the room. ❤

The S.O.A.B.R.B. Dinner Party

That’s Amore too…

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Love Bites

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Yes gentle readers, it’s here. Again. That day named after a saint, filled with flying fat babies with arrows, and “officially sanctioned” by Hallmark as a retail holiday. There’s no getting away from it – we are in the post-Super Bowl, pre-Mardi Gras holiday slump, and retail and TV alike are desperate to tag our attentions to something.  And when it comes to observing, this holiday always seems particularly well-set with land mines as it relates to what to and not to do.

Of course, if you aren’t “coupled” and you want to be, the options lean towards a blue possibly kleenex filled day, which isn’t helped much by airwaves filled with sappy rom-coms, tear-jerking love stories, modern day fairytales and the like. There are even channels devoted to nothing else for the weeks following the end of Santa-themed TV. Funny how Rambo is never scheduled for Valentine’s week, isn’t it? I mean, there should be at least one channel devoted to things blowing up, slashed, or hacked. You know, maybe to commemorate the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. For me, when the infamous day rolled around at a time I was “non-observant”, I’d definitely select pyrotechnics over boy-meets-girl. Unless Dirty Dancing was on. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been a sucker for Dirty Dancing, having never tired of Baby being rescued from that corner. And if you’re paired-up, the path isn’t necessarily rosier. Let’s face it, due to all the hubbub and folderol associated with the heart-shaped box and rose-filled festivities, there’s a good shot at disappointment rather than loving joy filling the day.

Over many years of both V-Day options, I’ve realized the best way to avert disaster is the simple approach. I’d much rather cook something luscious (and easy) than pay exorbitant prices for a limited menu of someone else’s ideas of what makes romance. Simple pasta with cheese and butter, a great bottle of wine and your pjs can be the most romantic night with the right person. Add in a great pint of ice-cream and two spoons… heaven! Can’t find a card that says what you want? Make one. Seriously. Wouldn’t you rather get red construction paper and doilies than something mass-produced and $3.50? Remember how excited you were in 4th grade when you got one? You’re smiling right now aren’t you? Go with that.

Don’t have a special someone? Get together with special someones. You know an evening with great friends will end in laughter induced sore sides. Order a pizza and spend the big bucks on a fabulous bottle of wine to go with it. I guarantee it will be an evening you’ll never forget! And if your sweetie is far away? A package of homemade treats will remind them of your love, with every sweet love bite.photo

dsc06139To honor that saint, those chubby weapon-wielding flying babies, and countless greeting card dollars, I’ve compiled a bunch of my favorite V-Day love bites. These are all pretty simple, and any of them is guaranteed to bring a blush to the cheek and a flutter to the heart. ❤

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

A Mere Truffle…

Lest you thought I’d leave my musings of Valentine’s Day to just pasta fagioli, I too have a romantic heart. And a love. A great love. A burning, passionate, undying love that I’ve carried pretty much since I left the womb. It’s chocolate. I always come back to my first love, in times of joy, in times of heartbreak, in times when it’s, well, there. I know I’m not alone in this love, but that’s ok. I’m willing to have an open relationship.

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

Making your own chocolate truffles isn’t as crazy or arduous as you may have thought, especially considering the price some shops charge for them. The basic recipe or template is simple ganache – just cream, chocolate, a little butter and you are pretty much good to go. But, when you start to play around a little, well there’s no telling what magical seductive powers you can bring to them…especially if you make them with a partner 😉

Chocolate Truffle Template

Makes a dozen or so truffles, depending upon how generous you are

The Basics:

  • 6 oz. chocolate – I like a 5oz. bittersweet to 1 oz. milk mix, but you can use all semisweet, bittersweet or milk depending on your preferences. Using a block or bar is better than chips for this.
  • 1/3-cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp butter
  • Tiny pinch of salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Making the Ganache

Chop the chocolate and melt* either in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between, or over a double boiler.

(*Some truffle recipes call for pouring the hot cream over the chopped chocolate to melt. Since this is a small batch, I find sometimes it doesn’t do the trick and you wind up with pieces of chocolate in the final ganache. It still tastes fine, but defeats the purpose of the smooth, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth character of truffles.)

Add a tiny pinch of salt to the cream and heat until bubbles form around the edges (DON’T BOIL). Add the hot cream, vanilla and butter to the melted chocolate and stir until everything is well mixed. Cool to room temperature, and then cover with cling wrap, pressing the wrap to the surface if the ganache. Place in the fridge until it is firm enough to roll into balls and hold its shape, a few hours,  but overnight is fine too. If you leave overnight, you’ll have to let it sit on the counter to soften up a bit before forming.

 

2. Forming the Truffles:

The set up:

  • A shallow bowl for the cocoa powder
  • A scooper of some sort (I like to use the smaller end of a melon baller)
  • A mug of hot tap water to dip scooper between truffles
  • A large plate or pan lined with cling wrap or wax paper to put the finished truffles on and store the fridge.

Dip the scoop into the hot water first, then scoop out a ball of ganache. Place the lump of chocolate in your hands (very clean hands) and roll around to a ball. These don’t have to be perfect. After all, truffles are called that because they look like the mushroomy ones.

Drop the formed truffle into the bowl of cocoa. Form another 3 or 4 and drop into cocoa. Carefully shake the bowl back and forth (or you could roll these guys around using a fork or your hands) so each truffle is coated. Place on the pan. Repeat with the remainder of the ganache. Once all your little babies are formed and blanketed in cocoa, cover the pan and place in the fridge to firm up again.

Truffles taste best if they aren’t cold, so let them warm up a little before serving. Calories: basic recipe is approximately 105 calories per truffle if you make a dozen. Calories will vary depending upon yield and variations.

3. The Variations

This is when the imagination can run wild, as long as you keep it subtle. This isn’t a Dagwood sandwich; it’s a tasty one-bite morsel. Too many add-ins or ons and you lose the star of the show, the chocolate.

Here’s some of the things I found make for an interesting bite. I’ve separated them into three categories: Flavoring the cream, flavoring the ganache, and coatings & sprinklings.

Flavoring the cream:

The basic technique is to bring the cream up to heat with something in it that will steep and infuse its flavor. Once the cream is hot, turn off heat, cover and let sit for 15-30 minutes, depending on the strength of flavor you like. Then you strain the infused cream into the melted chocolate and go from there. A few of my favorites are:

  • 1 tsp ground espresso or coffee
  • 1 tsp earl gray tea
  • 2 crushed cinnamon sticks
  • 1 crushed cinnamon stick, two crushed cardamom pods, 2 crushed whole cloves (Chai truffles)
  • Orange peel (making sure it’s just the peel and not the white pith)

Flavoring the ganache:

These you would add into the melted ganache when you add the cream.

  • 2 TBSP Tawny Port and ¼ cup dried tart cherries, roughly chopped
  • 2 TBSP Cointreau
  • ¼ tsp ground ancho chili pepper (or your favorite chili pepper)

Coatings & Sprinklings:

First you dip in 4 oz. of melted chocolate (semi, bitter or milk), then sprinkle or roll away in:

  • Chopped salted pistachios, almonds or hazelnuts
  • Toasted shredded coconut
  • Chopped candied orange peel
  • Flaky sea salt like Maldon or fleur de sel

I found the best way to dip is to drop the truffle in the melted chocolate, roll around with a fork, then lift out and gently tap the fork on the rim of the bowl so excess chocolate drips off between the tines. Place dipped truffles on a clean wrap covered plate or pan. You can now sprinkle any of the toppings above or others you come up with on the wet chocolate. If you are using the flaky sea salt, a flake or two is all you need.

If you want to roll instead of sprinkle, let the truffles sit for about 5 minutes and then roll in the chopped nuts or coconut. Place truffles back in fridge, covered, until the chocolate has set.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button). Thanks! 🙂