February 13, 2013 11:21:10 AM
Jan Swoope - firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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 fincon.net/kindnessraiser 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.
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.
HEART SHAPED STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE
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)
SWEETHEART BERRY PIES
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
CUT OUT HEART PANCAKES
Makes 8 pancakes
1 cup packaged pancake & waffle mix
3/4 cup 2 percent milk
1 tablespoon oil
Red food coloring
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.