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Valentine's Indulgence

Here is your official excuse to indulge a little--or a lot--this Monday.

Yay, it's Valentines Day! Excuse me? Oh, sorry. Gross, Valentines Day is here again. No matter what your feelings toward this particular holiday are, it is hard not to indulge a little bit.

Or a lot.

Desserts and candies are rampant. Even if you absolutely hate Valentines Day, you have to admit, those little pink cupcakes are adorable and look delicious. Who wants flowers when you can have a box of chocolates instead. Don't forget those sugar cookies with the pink, white, and red icing.

However, while the stores are bombarding us with treat after treat, I feel the best desserts are the ones made at home. They show that you put in a little extra effort this Valentines Day. Also, they can be a lot of fun to make. So let your creative side free and decorate your own treats this year. If all else fails, just cover everything with sprinkles. That is what I always do.

Here are a few recipes to try at home this Valentines day. They are all very easy and very yummy.

Child-friendly desserts

*Please use adult supervision

 No Bake Heart Cakes (will need a 2-inch and/or 2 1/2-inch heart-shape metal cookie cutters)

 -One 16-oz frozen pound cake, not thawed

 Icing

-5 1/4 cups (about 11/2 lb) confectioners’ sugar

-1/2 cup milk

-3 Tbsp light corn syrup

-2 tsp almond or vanilla extract

-Red liquid or paste (icing) food color

-Decorations: tubes of white, red and pink decorating icing, each fitted with round piping tip; red crystal sugar; and tiny candy hearts (available in many supermarkets, crafts stores and cake-decorating and party-supply shops)

Using a long, sharp knife, trim rounded hump off pound cake so top is flat. Trim crust off sides. Slice cake horizontally in half. Cut hearts from each half. Put hearts 1-1/2 inches. apart on a wire rack set on wax paper to catch drips. To make the icing: Stir ingredients, except food color, in a bowl until smooth and as thin as maple syrup. Divide between two bowls; cover one bowl with plastic wrap. Tint icing in other bowl pink. Spoon pink icing over half the cakes, completely covering tops and sides. Let icing set 30 minutes. Meanwhile repeat with white icing on rest of cakes. Thin remaining pink and white icings with a little water as needed; give cakes a second coat. Let set at least one hour.

To decorate: With decorating icing, pipe designs and words on cakes (I love you, Be Mine, etc), or create your own designs. Add red sugar and candy hearts.

Note- with the next two desserts you can use chocolate chips and shortening or the chocolate bark. If you do not have a double boiler you can melt the chocolate bark for the strawberries instead. Also, white chocolate is pretty and delicious too.)


Chocolate Covered Strawberries (my all time favorite!)

 -16 ounces milk chocolate chips

-2 tablespoons shortening

-1 pound fresh strawberries with leaves

Insert toothpicks into the tops of the strawberries. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally until smooth. Holding them by the toothpicks, dip the strawberries into the chocolate mixture. Turn the strawberries upside down and insert the toothpick into Styrofoam for the chocolate to cool.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

-A bag of rod pretzels

-1/2 bar (or 6-8 squares) Chocolate Bark (it melts really well in the microwave) Follow the instructions on the bag to melt.

-Valentines day sprinkles

Melt the chocolate and dip the pretzels in the melted chocolate. Prop them up in a cup to dry. Sprinkle them while the chocolate is still soft.

Bite-sized treats

Mini Red Velvet Cheesecakes

-24 mini Nilla Wafers

-1 (8-oz) package reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature

-1/2 cup powdered sugar

-1 egg white

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

-1/4 cup pureed beets, canned or steamed

-2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven at 300°F. Line a 12-cup mini-muffin tin with paper liners. Place a Nilla Wafer into each muffin cup. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the egg white and vanilla, and mix well. On low speed, beat in sour cream until just combined. Reserve one cup of the batter and set aside for the swirl or simply beat in the beets and cocoa powder for an all-red cheesecake. For the swirl, fill each muffin cup halfway with the white batter. Spoon a dot of the red batter on top of each, and with the tip of a knife, swirl the red batter in. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges of the cheesecake begin to firm while the center is still soft. Remove cheesecakes from the oven and cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Cover and chill at least one hour before serving.

Brownie Kisses

-1 package fudge brownie mix (13-inch x 9-inch pan size)

-48 striped chocolate kisses

Prepare brownie mix according to package directions for fudge-like brownies. Fill paper-lined miniature muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350° for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Immediately top each with a chocolate kiss. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely

Easy and Delicious

Valentines Pie

-1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese

-1 cup confectioners' sugar

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

-1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust

-1 (16 ounce) can cherry pie filling

In an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and the powdered sugar until combined. Add vanilla and beat two minutes. Gently fold in whipped topping. Transfer mixture into the pie crust. Top the filling with the cherries. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

A Classic Favorite

 Red Velvet Cupcakes

 Prepare red velvet cake mix from a box and bake into cupcakes. I liked the Duncan Hines mix the best. Let cool completely.

 For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

 -1 pound cream cheese, softened

-2 sticks butter, softened

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

-Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish

 In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

 Ice the cupcakes using a butter knife. Top with garnish.

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