Greeting cards are pretty handy most of the time. They're short and sweet and usually you just have to sign your name at the bottom before passing it off to the lucky recipient. And while a picture of President Bush in a cone-shaped party hat holding a balloon may say "Happy Birthday" or "Get Well Soon," it certainly does not say "I Love You."
Spare your sweetheart the cheesy Hallmark rhyming and give him something to really sink his teeth into. Edible valentines are the perfect way to show you care. It can be as easy as buying a heart-shaped cookie cutter and letting your imagination run wild. Here are a couple of our personal favorites that you might want to try. You can still sign your name at the bottom, but now you can do it in chocolate.
Cookie Cake Valentines Why pay Mrs. Fields a hefty sum when it's so simple to make these adorable "cakes" in your own kitchen? It's actually easier than making regular cookies because you don't have to drop them or cut them out. You can try to find a heart-shaped pan or cookie tray, but it's not necessary.
Whenever I make cookie cakes, I stick with the classic Nestle Toll House recipe on the back of the bag. It's a no-fuss cookie that comes out perfectly every single time. Start by following the directions to make regular chocolate chip cookies. After the cookie is baked, you get creative! Here are a few decorating ideas to get you started:
Melt chocolate chips in a resealable bag and write a love message on the cookie
Pick up some store-bought icing in red and white to decorate the border
Add your favorite candies and "glue" them with icing
Use M&Ms to write a message
2 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 C. (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 C. granulated sugar
3/4 C. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 C. (1 12 oz. pkg.) Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 C. chopped nuts (optional)
Additional toppings and decorating ingredients
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts, if using.
Grease one large cookie sheet. Scoop out all of the batter onto the cookie sheet so it is centered. You may want to flour your hands slightly if the dough is sticky. Pat the dough until it is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, shaping into a heart as you go. This may take some patience, but it keep working the dough until it reaches the right shape. Put in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Let it cool enough to be handled and decorated.
Note: If you don't want to make one large cookie, you can make individual-sized cakes and cover them with icing. You can freehand the heart shape or you could purchase a pan like this one.
Cookie Cutter Valentines No longer do you have to search for the cookie cutter of your dreams, in these modern times you can make cookies in any shape you can think of, whether it is a baseball mitt or the state of Florida (no joke). Lucky for you, Valentine's Day only requires a simple heart shape that you can find almost anywhere (I particularly like this set of 6 for a measly $10).
The beauty of cookie cutters is that they'll cut through most foods, so you can basically make heart-shaped anything! Try it with sugar cookies, Jell-O, sandwiches or pancakes - the heart-shaped cookie cutter will become your new best friend on February 14. Here are some basic recipes that work well:
Valentine's Sugar Cookies - Decorate with candies, drizzled chocolate or anything else you feel like. You can also make "sandwiches" and put melted chocolate or cream filling in between two cookies.
Valentine Cutouts - Use Jell-O to jiggle your way into their hearts.
Absolute Best Pancakes - Add some fresh strawberries on top for that special Valentine's flair
Sweetheart Sandwich - PB&J, grilled cheese or anything else in sandwich form. A large, heart-shaped cookie cutter makes this an easy way to say "I love you" at lunchtime.
Pizza Valentines Pizza in the shape of a heart? Why not? With Wilton's Non-Stick Heart-Shaped Springform Pan, it's easy to make your favorite deep dish pizza for Valentine's Day. Use our recipe for Deep Dish Pizza and let the pan put you in the mood. If you really want to spell out your love, write a note to your sweetie in olives, mushrooms or another one of his favorite toppings. If you're lucky enough to live in the Chicagoland area, pizza mogul Lou Malnati's will deliver a heart-shaped pizza to your home!
2 3/4 to 3 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C. warm water (120 degrees-130 degrees)
2 Tbs. cooking oil
3/4 C. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. olive oil, margarine, or butter
1 14 1/2 oz. can tomatoes, cut up
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
1 Tbs. snipped fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1 Tbs. snipped fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 tsp. fennel seed, crushed (optional)
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 lb. ground beef
1 C. chopped onion
2 medium tomatoes, very thinly sliced
6 slices bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces, crisp-cooked, and drained
3 C. shredded cheddar, American, or Cojack cheese (12 oz.)
Cook 3/4 C. chopped onion and garlic in 1 Tbs. oil. Stir in tomatoes; tomato sauce; bay leaf; basil; oregano; fennel seed, if desired; sugar; and pepper. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or to desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine 1-1/4 C. of the flour, the yeast, and the salt. Add warm water and 2 Tbs. oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic(6 to 8 minutes total). Divide dough in half. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Grease two 11- to 13-inch pizza pans or baking sheets. On a lightly floured surface, roll each half of dough into a circle 1 inch larger than pizza pan. Transfer dough to pans. Build up edges slightly. Prick generously with a fork. Do not let rise.
Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook ground beef and the 1 C. chopped onion until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain fat. Spread pizza sauce over hot crusts. Sprinkle with ground beef mixture. Top with tomato slices and bacon pieces. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake about 12 minutes more or until cheese melts and sauce is bubbly.
Yield: 8 servings
Pretzel Valentines If your icing skills aren't up to par and you don't trust yourself enough to write a love note in chocolate, homemade soft pretzels are an adorable (and creative!) way to say, "Be Mine." Simply roll out the pretzel dough into letter shapes before baking and let the pretzels do the talking.
3 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 package active dry yeast
1 C. water
1 Tbs. margarine
1 Tbs. water
1 egg yolk, beaten
Coarse salt for topping
Mix 1 C. flour, sugar, salt and undissolved yeast. Heat 1 C. water and margarine to 120 to 130 degrees. Gradually add to dry ingredients; beat 2 minutes at medium speed of mixer. Add 1/2 C. flour. Beat at high speed 2 minutes. Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. On floured board, knead 5 minutes. Set in greased bowl; turn to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm, draft-free place 40 minutes. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each into a 20-inch rope. Shape into pretzels or other shapes. Place on greased baking sheets. Cover; let rest 5 minutes. Mix egg yolk and 1 Tbs. water; brush on pretzels. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 375 degrees 15 minutes or until done. Cool on racks.
Still haven't had enough of the heart-shaped ideas? Check out these kitchen gadgets and accessories for more heart-thumping fun.
For Valentine's Day menus, romantic meals and more: Stupid Cupid, Valentine's Day Mush and How to Spoil Your Loved One A Romantic Valentine's Day Dinner for Your Sweetheart Little Love Bites