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Some last minute ideas for a heart-shaped holiday


No symbol is more associated with Valentine’s Day than the “heart.” With a few heart-shaped cookie cutters or cake pan, you can spread the love with everything from this luscious strawberry cheesecake to pepperoni.

No symbol is more associated with Valentine’s Day than the “heart.” With a few heart-shaped cookie cutters or cake pan, you can spread the love with everything from this luscious strawberry cheesecake to pepperoni. Photo by:


Launch Photo Gallery


This true quick-fix dessert is a combination of Twinkies and raspberries.

This true quick-fix dessert is a combination of Twinkies and raspberries.
Photo by:


Cut-out heart pancakes say Be Mine.

Cut-out heart pancakes say Be Mine.
Photo by:


Sweetheart berry pies, a down-home treat.

Sweetheart berry pies, a down-home treat.
Photo by:



Jan Swoope



So, the day of love is almost upon us. The sentimental side of you would like to bring a smile to those you care about, but you've put off making any special plans. Don't fret. This doesn't have to be complicated. For instance, if you have a heart-shaped cookie cutter, you're good to go. 


Ever since Americans began exchanging handmade valentines in the early 1700s (so historians believe), it's safe to assume "hearts" played a role. There's sure no lack of them on the approximately 150 million Valentine's Day cards we exchange annually. Never underestimate the many ways we can bring the hallowed heart into our kitchens, either. Heart-shaped toast, pancakes, poached eggs, pizzas, pepperoni, sandwiches, beets, kiwi -- even sushi -- are pretty simple to create with various sized cookie cutters.  




Twinkie treat 


No cookie cutter? All is not lost. You can make a sweet dessert out of Twinkies. Yes, Twinkies. For this great quick-fix idea from Woman's Day, all you need are two of the snack cakes, 1 cup of fresh raspberries (or strawberries) and 3 tablespoons of seedless red raspberry (or strawberry) jam. 


Stir the jam and 1 tablespoon of water in a bowl until smooth. Add berries and toss the mixture gently to coat. Cut Twinkies in half diagonally, starting about 1 inch down from the top left to 1 inch from bottom of the opposite side. For each heart, put two halves together on one serving plate. Spoon the berry mixture over and around the hearts and voila. Add a garnish of mint, if you like.  




Spread the love 


Of course, Valentine's Day isn't all about romantic or familial love. Admiration of another person is also something to celebrate. Think of it as a chance to say "thank you" to a friend, a co-worker, to someone who makes a difference in your life or your community. Deliver a homemade card or heart-shaped cookies to the sick or elderly, and don't forget their caregivers.  


In addition to Valentine's Day, this week marks Random Acts of Kindness Week. You might choose to buy someone a coffee or lunch, offer to babysit, volunteer at soup kitchens in Columbus and Starkville, or walk dogs at the animal shelters.  


The Washington, D.C.-based Case Foundation, established by AOL co-founder Steve Case and his wife, Jean, in 1997, suggests getting a head start on spring cleaning: Dig out clothes, toys, furniture, household items, even old computers, you can donate to nonprofits.  


On the local level, go to to learn about participating in the acts of kindness campaign spearheaded by Financial Concepts in Columbus. It's a fitting way to spread some Valentine's love. 




Treat yourself 


As the hours count down to Cupid's big day, there is still time to make it a special occasion, without a lot of fuss and prep. How about spreading a blanket on the living room floor for an indoor picnic? A wedge of Brie, some sliced black forest ham and baguettes, paired with strawberries and your favorite wine or sparkling juice, can make the evening memorable.  


But keep in mind that nowhere is it written that a significant other is required in order to enjoy Valentine's Day. Treat yourself to that delicious dish from your favorite restaurant you've been wanting to try, or a favorite at-home flick while indulging in chocolate-dipped strawberries. Treat yourself well.  


Remember, U R Gr8t. 








3/4 pound strawberries 


2 bars cream cheese, (8 ounces each ) 


1 envelope unflavored gelatin, (1/4-ounce) 


2 tablespoons water 


1 teaspoon vanilla extract 




For the crust: 


1 cup graham cracker crumbs, (made from 6 1/2 sheets graham crackers) 


1/2 stick butter, (1/4 cup, melted) 




  • Halve the strawberries and put in a saucepan with the sugar and water. Simmer over a low heat until the berries are soft and the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle over the gelatin, stirring until dissolved. Pass the mixture through a strainer into a bowl and let cool. 


  • To make the base, put the crackers into a resealable bag and crush using a rolling pin, then mix with the melted butter and spoon into the bases of four heart-shaped springform pans. Press the crumbs firmly into the bases. 


  • Put the cream cheese and vanilla extract into a mixing bowl. Slowly add the cold strawberry mixture and whisk until smooth, then carefully spoon the mixture into the pans. 


  • Transfer to the refrigerator and leave to set for about 4 hours, or preferably overnight. Decorate with extra strawberries on top. 








    Makes 6 pies 




    1/2 pint fresh strawberries (or blueberries) 


    1/3 cup sugar 


    1/2 teaspoon ground Cardamom 


    2 refrigerated pie crusts 


    1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water for egg wash 


    4-by-4-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter 


    Wax paper, parchment paper 




  • Thoroughly wash berries and make sure there are no stems. Pour them in to a medium sauce pan. Put a small plate into the freezer. 


  • Add the sugar and cardamom, stir well. Cook over medium heat for approximately 15 minutes. The berries will lightly burst and the sugar will start to melt at this point. 


  • To test if the filling is firm enough, remove the plate from the freezer. Spoon a dab of the filling on to the plate. Run your finger through the filling, if it runs back together, it is not firm enough. If it stays apart on the plate, it is ready. 


  • After the filling is firm, set aside to cool while you work with the dough. 


  • Line your baking sheet with parchment paper. 


  • Unroll the pie crusts on a sheet of wax paper. Carefully cut out six hearts out of one of the crusts. Dab the filling into the center of three of the hearts, leaving an inch of space around the edge of the heart. 


  • Carefully pick up the empty hearts and use them to cover the filled hearts. Use a fork to lightly press down the edges of the hearts and seal the dough. 


  • Mix together the egg and water, lightly brush over the hearts. Sprinkle with dusting of sugar. Lightly prick with a fork to let steam escape while baking. 


  • Bake at 400-degrees for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Let cool completely before serving. 


  • Store up to three days in an air-tight container, on the counter. 








    Makes 8 pancakes 




    1 cup packaged pancake & waffle mix 


    3/4 cup 2 percent milk 


    1 tablespoon oil 


    1 egg 


    Red food coloring 


    Pancake syrup 


    Sliced strawberries 




  • Prepare pancake mix according to package directions. Divide batter evenly into two medium-size bowls. Set one bowl aside. 


  • Gently stir red food coloring into the second bowl until the batter turns a deep pink color. 


  • Prepare a flattop griddle or pan; pancakes turn out better when cooked on a flat surface. Rub the pan with a little bit of oil; using butter may scorch and could affect the look of the pancakes. 


  • Set griddle to the temperature indicated on the package. Sprinkle a few drops of water in the center; if bubbles skitter around the pan, it is ready for cooking. 


  • Cook pancakes according to package directions until you have used all of the batter from both bowls. Make sure you make an even number of pancakes and that you have the same amount from each bowl. 


  • When pancakes are finished, place them on a wire cooling rack or a sheet of foil for two minutes. Then, transfer to a clean cutting board. 


  • Cut a heart out of the center of each pancake using a two-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter. 


  • Place a red mini-pancake heart in the center of each white pancake and a white mini-pancake heart in the center of each red pancake. Serve with warm syrup and sliced strawberries. 




  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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