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Friday, August 18, 2017

Valentine’s Day—Or Any Day—Good for Food with Loved Ones

Every February across the country, flowers, chocolates, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. The history of Valentine’s Day is mysterious, but we do know February has long been a month of romance.

One legend contends Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II decided single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine realized the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret (Very romantic). When his actions were discovered, Claudius ordered Valentine put to death (Not romantic).
 
Yet another legend says Valentine actually sent the first valentine greeting. It is believed that he fell in love with a girl who visited him while he was in prison, and she may have been his jailor’s daughter. It is alleged he wrote her a letter before his death that he signed “From your Valentine,” an expression we still use today (Very romantic). Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is not clear, the stories certainly show St. Valentine as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure.
 
But what about Cupid? The Roman god of love and the son of Venus is usually depicted as a small, blindfolded, naked little boy with wings who carries a bow and arrow. If he strikes you in the heart with one of his arrows (not romantic), it makes you fall in love (romantic). In Greek mythology, Cupid is known as Eros, son of Aphrodite. The name Cupid is derived from the Latin cupido, which means desire (romantic). Incidentally, roses also speak of love and if you rearrange the letters in the word “rose” you get “Eros.” Hmmmmm.
 
Currently an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, with about 2.6 billion cards sent for Christmas. Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. Hmmmmm again.
 
But enough historical information and Valentine trivia … let’s talk about food that says “I love you.”
 
How about chocolate covered strawberries and champagne? Sounds great, but melted chocolate can be difficult to work with, so try this instead: go to your local farmer’s market and purchase the most beautiful strawberries you can find. Then go to Trader Joe’s and purchase a jar of Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread). Heat the Nutella in a fondue pot, dip a strawberry, sip some champagne, dip a strawberry, sip some champagne . . . and be sure to share with your significant other.
 
How about a valentine for the kids? Make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, put a couple of cookies and a special note in a plastic storage bag, tie with a red ribbon, and hide it in their lunch boxes. Nothing beats surprise chocolate chip cookies, or a special note, from a parent.
 
How about a valentine dinner for the whole family? The food doesn’t have to be fancy or difficult to prepare. The most important thing is that the family unit participates together in planning and/or preparing the meal. Then, sit down together to enjoy the repast.
 
Come to think of it, why wait until Valentine’s Day to do something special for those you love?
 
Rosemary Truffles
5 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
½ cup cocoa powder
¾ cup chopped hazelnuts
Heat cream and rosemary over medium heat. Simmer gently as the scent of rosemary fills the air the flavor of rosemary infuses the cream, about 10 minutes.
 
Remove rosemary sprigs. Add chocolate over very low heat and stir until melted, being careful not to burn the chocolate. Allow mixture to cool, then refrigerate to harden. Scoop a teaspoon of chocolate, roll into a ball, then roll in cocoa powder or chopped hazelnuts. Continue scooping and rolling, using all the chocolate. Makes 18-24 truffles.
 
From The Farm at South Mountain Cookbook
 
Chocolate Chip Cookies
2-1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 oz.)
Optional: 1 cup chopped nuts
 
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Combine butter or margarine, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla; beat until creamy. Beat in 2 eggs. Add flour mixture; mix well. Stir in one pkg. chocolate chips; stir in nuts (if desired). Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreaded cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Makes 36 to 48 cookies.
 
From Nestle’s Toll House
 
Chocolate Chip Macaroons
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg white
1/8 teaspoon salt
3-1/2 cups coconut
1 cup chocolate chips
 
Mix all ingredients gently until incorporated. Spoon or mound cookies onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for approximately 25 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Makes about 15 cookies.
 
From The Farm at South Mountain Cookbook
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