Thinking about Valentine’s Day appropriate music, I think about two genres: bubblegum pop, and Divas. Two of my specialties. I didn’t feel the need to stick to pure love songs, because sometimes the break up songs are the best. Here are some tracks for your consideration.
And if you’re not feeling the V-day vibes, might I suggest the entire Jagged Little Pill album by the almighty Alanis Morissette. A timeless classic.
What’s on your playlist this week?
On the one hand, Valentine’s Day is all about the date night, but on the other hand it’s all about classroom card exchange and an excuse to baking everything in the shape of red and pink hearts. As we know I love an excuse to bake with a theme or season in mind, so I have done a lot of the latter over the years. If you’re thinking about baking this week, I have three ideas at three different difficulty levels.
Heart Shaped Pink Rice Krispie Treats
This options wins when you think about effort vs. reward. You just take the standard recipe, add a little red food coloring, and presto- Valentine’s Day Rice Krispie Treats!
- 4 Tbs butter
- 1.5 10 oz. bags of mini marshmallows
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- red food coloring
- 6 cups Rice Krispie Treats
- Themed mix ins- sprinkles, white chocolate chips, etc.
- Heart shaped cookie cutter
- Melt the butter in a sauce pan or small stock pot over the stove on low/medium heat.
- Add 1 bag of marshmallows to melted butter and allow to melt together. Add vanilla extract to melted mixture. Add drops of food coloring until you get the color you want (less is more for food coloring, take it easy).
- Have the six cups of Rice Krispies and half bag of marshmallows ready in a large bowl.
- Add warm butter and marshmallow mixture to the cereal and leftover marshmallows. Stir until uniform. At this time you can add in sprinkles or any other mix-ins you would like. I add the sprinkles later on so they don’t melt completely.
- Transfer to a 9 x 13 baking pan and allow to cool. Then use cookie cutters to create heart shapes!
Heart Shaped Shortbread
Shortbread sounds a little boring, but you bring these to work and your co-workers have one with their morning coffee and you will be their best friend forever. You can dip half the heart in chocolate and add pink or red sprinkles to make them fancy. I use Ina Garten’s classic shortbread recipe for this. It says is makes 20 cookies, but my guess is that you get more than that.
- 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature (three sticks)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (you can use chocolate chips)
- Sprinkles or nuts for decoration
- Cream butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add vanilla extract to mixture.
- In a separate bowl sift together the flour and salt. Then slowly combine the wet and dry mixtures, trying not to over mix.
- Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes to overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Roll the dough out to quarter to a half inch thick depending on how thick you would like the cookies. Use your heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out the cookies and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
- Bake cookies at 350 for 20-25 minutes until just slightly golden brown. They shouldn’t get too much color.
- Melt the chocolate in 30 second increments in the microwave. Once it’s shiny you can just stir it until it’s all melted together.
- Use a spoon to paint half of the baked and cooled cookies with chocolate. If you would like you can dip the chocolate part in sprinkles or chopped nuts to add a little je ne sais quoi. Allow chocolate to cool and solidify before storing.
Heart Shaped Marshmallows
Here’s where the degree of difficulty gets ramped up a little. This is for when you’re baking to impress. If I were you, I would not start making these on a whim because they take some time, effort, and a serious clean up. The plus side is you get major bragging rights, because you just made marshmallows from scratch!
- 3 packets of unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
- red food color gel (optional)
- powdered sugar for dusting
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup white chocolate chips
- Prepare a 9 x 13 brownie pan with parchment and dust the bottom with powdered sugar.
- In a mixing bowl combine the gelatin with a ½ cup of water. Allow the gelatin to “bloom” (I think it’s called) while you cook the other mixture. Some recipes recommend a full half hour.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the corn syrup, sugar, and a half cup of water. After the sugar melts, turn the heat up to high, and cook until it reaches 240 degrees (use a candy thermometer).
- Once the mixture has reached the correct temperature, remove from heat. Use an electric hand or stand mixer to mix the gelatin on low as you pour in the warm mixture in very slowly. Once the mixture has been completely poured in, mix it on high for about 15 minutes until the “fluff” is pretty thick.
- Add vanilla, salt, and food coloring and mix until well distributed.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula smooth it out. This process will be a little sticky and difficult, but you will persevere.
- Dust the top of the fluff with powdered sugar (it is easy if you pass it through a sifter). Allow the fluff to “dry out” overnight.
- The next day, lift the large marshmallow out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Use a knife or a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out the marshmallows.
- Microwave the semi-sweet chocolate chips for 30 seconds at a time until mostly melted. Use a fork to stir the chocolate until smooth. Dip the marshmallows in the chocolate, and allow to dry.
- Microwave the white chocolate similarly and place in a pastry bag with a fine tip or a Ziplock bag with a small corner snipped off. Once the semi-sweet chocolate has set, use the white chocolate to drizzle a design on top of the layer of chocolate.
- Allow to set at room temperature or place in the freezer to speed up the process. Enjoy!
What are you making to celebrate?
Happy New Year!!
Call me corny, but I think the New Year is as good a time as any to set some new goals. Here goes:
- I’m always always trying to be a little more financially savvy. In 2015 I made some strides with organizing my bank accounts and credit cards to be more centralized and use deals like “cash back” and points to my advantage. In 2016 I’m planning to get more savvy about my retirement and investment situation so I know I’m making the most of it.
- Tying into the financial goals, I want to up my travel game in 2016. I took the standard trips in 2015 plus a couple fun long weekends in new places. I have a couple trips in the planning phase right now, and I’m hoping for some more opportunities to pop up this year. I know I’m going to have to be savvy with my budget and vacation days and I won’t be able to make every trip or destination wedding work, but I guess that’s just being an adult.
- Speaking of weddings, my best friend is getting married this year! I want to be the best Maid of Honor I can be. As we all know, wedding planning can be complicated and I’m going to do my best to be helpful and honest, but above all- supportive. I will not contribute to drama. I repeat. I will not contribute to drama.
- I have a bad habit of declining social invitations and skipping work related happy hours. To my credit, however, I did start attending more happy hours in the second half of 2015. My two general issues are: 1. I’m an introvert and socializing in certain settings can be very draining or stressful, and 2. I don’t like to drink very frequently (maybe five times a year total) which happens to be the opposite of DC culture in general. I would like to try to say yes to more invitations in 2016. No promises because this is one of the scarier ones for me, but I will try.
- Lastly, as usual, I want to do my best to be healthy. I’ve had some recent challenges that I’m anxious to resolve. Nothing serious, just some kinks that I have to work out with my doctor. So I need to keep communicating with my doctors, and do my best to hold up my end of the bargain with my own choices.
What are your goals this year?