Wednesday, February 09, 2011

how to have a great valentine's day, part two

This is the food edition of "How to have a great Valentine's Day".  The principle is simple: if you want to have a great day, make yummy treats and give them to other people.  They will smile at you and say thank you and you will feel great.  And you won't be able to "accidentally" eat all the treats by yourself.  Win-win. 

The first recipe is a dip that I made up that is based on a dip mix that we bought one time and loved.  I think that a sweet and salty combination is fun and unexpected for Valentine's day.  Plus, pretzels are fat free and some people might be into that kind of thing. 

Key Lime Cheesecake dip

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
3/4 cup sour cream
1-2 Tbsp. lime juice (I just used regular lime juice, but I'm sure actual key lime juice would be terrific)
3/4 cup sugar

Mix all ingredients together with an electric mixer.  Serve with pretzels or graham crackers. 

This next recipe is from Southern Living, as is the picture of it.  Although I have made it many times, I don't think I've ever photographed it.  Probably because it gets eaten so fast.  I'll give you their recipe as is, but also add my own variations. 

Mississippi Mud Cake

1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 (10.5-oz.) bag miniature marshmallows

Chocolate Frosting
1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup milk
1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Frosting Preparation
1. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until slightly thickened; remove from heat. Beat in powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth.

Cake Preparation

1. Place pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet.

2. Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted.

3. Microwave 1 cup butter and semisweet chocolate in a large microwave-safe glass bowl at HIGH 1 minute or until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. (Be careful!  Chocolate is easy to burn!)

4. Whisk sugar and next 5 ingredients into chocolate mixture. Pour batter into a greased 15- x 10- x 1-inch jelly-roll pan. (I use a 9 x 13 glass Pyrex dish)

5. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle evenly with miniature marshmallows; bake 8 to 10 more minutes or until golden brown. Drizzle warm cake with Chocolate Frosting, and sprinkle evenly with toasted pecans. (Although I'm sure it would look prettier to have the pecans on top, mine tend to fall off.  So I put the pecans on first and then drizzle the chocolate frosting over them to anchor them in.)

Now for the big guns.  This recipe was born last February, after a coworker returned from lunch at Dean and Deluca with a brownie pop.  The brownie pop looked delicious and was the subject of much lunchroom discussion, especially the price of $5, which seemed a bit steep.  I was convinced that I could make a similar pop for a much lower price.  I ended up making, what I was told was a superior pop, but had to admit that the $5 price tag seemed much more reasonable to me after making them myself.  It was a really fun project and I think that it would also be great to do with kids.  You can see from the picture how much fun Steve is having. 

Brownie Pops
1 family sized box of brownie mix (plus eggs and oil to make them as directed)
1 container chocolate frosting
chocolate candy melts*
white chocolate candy melts*
pink and red sprinkles
white paper candy sticks*
clear plastic candy wrappers*

*I got all the candy making supplies at Michael's

1. Prepare the brownie mix as directed.  Watch it carefully as it bakes and take it out when the center is just set.  You want the brownies to be fully baked, but very moist. 

2. Cut all the edges off of the brownie and save them for later.  Or snack on them while you work. 

3. Take the rest of the brownie out of the pan, in chunks, and put it in a large bowl.  Mash it up with your very clean hands.  Add chocolate frosting as needed to make a dough-like consistency that will lump together.  I did not end up needing to use much of the frosting because my brownies were already pretty moist. 

4. Shape the brownie mixture into balls that are about the size of a ping pong ball, maybe a bit smaller.  Set the balls on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. 

5. Put a candy stick into each ball and and put the whole cookie sheet in the freezer to set. 

6. Meanwhile, melt your candy melts in the microwave in two separate bowls.  We covered half of our brownies with milk chocolate and half with white chocolate. 

7. Once the brownies are firm enough that you can pick them up and they will stay on the stick, take them out of the freezer.  Dip each brownie into one of the melted chocolates.  Then sprinkle the sprinkles on while the chocolate is still wet.  This was definitely a two person job.  I would dip the brownies, then pass them to Steve who put on the sprinkles and held them until they were set.  We had to regroup several times throughout the process to either re-freeze the brownies or re-melt the chocolate.  Keeping everything at the correct temperature was the biggest challenge. 

8. When the outside chocolate has hardened, you can set the pops back on the wax paper.  We stored them in the refrigerator until we were ready to give them out.  I put a clear plastic cover on each one and tied it shut with a pink ribbon. 

I think that we calculated our materials cost per pop to be somewhere around $2, making a $5 retail price seem pretty reasonable. 

So there you have three ideas to get you started!  I actually haven't decided what I'm making this year, but I have a baking date on Friday, so I will choose something by then. 

The new scarf fabric is here and I am sewing away the afternoon in hopes of getting some in the shop over the weekend.  Can't wait to show you what I picked!

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