Monday, February 13, 2012

Easy Treats for Valentine's Day

I was busy this morning, preparing for tomorrow's Valentine's Day celebrations. I was making cookies and my son's box of chocolates when it occurred to me that there may be some newly diagnosed people that may need to know how to prepare some fast and easy goodies. After all, I didn't know in the beginning and you have to learn somehow, right?

I made two things this year- heart-shaped sugar cookies and (as I mentioned) my son's box of chocolates. Both are fairly easy and don't take much time to make. I feel this is helpful, especially for those of you that are just starting to find new foods to make. Fast and easy in the beginning helps. Since I have been making cookies that have to be gluten free, peanut free, dairy free and egg free, I have always used the same box mix for almost any cookies that I make. I use Cherrybrook Kitchen (picture above). I apologize for the dark pictures in advance- my appliances and my counters are all dark and this does not present very well.

The cookies come out well, even using substitutes for rice milk or margarine. I also find that since I am unable to perfect a cut-out cookie recipe, this mix allows me enough flexibility to add in other items and to mold them pretty much as close to a cut-out cookie as I need. I suggest that if you are molding the cookies into shapes, it helps to put the batter in the refrigerator to cool down a little and it holds together better.

To make a heart-shaped sugar cookies, simply roll 2 small balls of prepared cookie dough (about the size of a quarter). Place them next to each other on an ungreased cookie sheet.





Then, using two fingers (clean and dry), gently push down on the dough balls and slightly press and drag the dough downward to make a point. You will need to go back up and make a larger indent for the heart shape because as the cookies bake, the dough does expand and if there is not an exaggerated "dip" for the heart, it will look more like a circle..which is fine, because it still tastes just as good.

Next, using a small bowl of your choice of colored sprinkles, use a flat bottomed glass that is wet. Dip the glass bottom into the bowl of sprinkles and gently press first on one side of the heart cookies, then the other. If you just push down on the entire cookie, it may take away from the heart shape. Bake as per the directions on the box. When removing the cookies, they will be VERY flexible while they are still hot. Let them sit for a minute, then gently lift off
 the cookie sheet, using a flexible plastic spatula. Let them cool on a wire rack.

When they are done, keep them in an airtight container. They should last for up to 4 days (if they make it that long before being eaten). Remember, if these are your first batch of cookies they do not have to be perfect. I'm willing to bet that your children will not even notice if the hearts don't look like perfect hearts. And, if you have any cookies that do crumble into pieces, save the crumbs for toppings on ice cream, yogurt or some muffins. Do you see the love?


Next, I began the project of making my son's box of chocolates. Keep in mind that there are a few great companies to order from, such as Premium Chocolatiers http://www.premiumchocolatiers.com/ . However, if you are willing to be adventurous and you need to keep the budget in line, making a box of chocolates is just as easy and (I feel) is more personal. You can start by visiting your local dollar store and choosing a plain, heart-shaped box to fill with your chocolates. Open the box and trace the bottom of the box twice on some parchment paper or waxed paper.  You will use one heart on the bottom of the box because, as an allergy mom, you may want to cover the bottom just to be safe..who knows what was in the box, even at the store. The second heart will be glued to a piece of heavier, colored paper of your choice to sit on top of the chocolates before you put the lid on. You will also need a sheet of paper that is sturdy to make the separators. Simply cut out 2-3 strips and bend them as needed. I also used scissors that cut with a design at the top. You can also use paper mini muffin cups but these may not offer you as much space.

Next, prepare your workstation. Get everything that you might need to make your chocolates so that you don't overcook the chocolate while searching for the items and to avoid leaving chocolate smudges all over your kitchen. I try to set everything out on the counter, including a board covered with waxed paper so that I can make the chocolates quickly.

Be adventurous and choose foods that you might not normally find in a package of chocolates- try using tortilla chips, mini marshmallows, dried fruit, gluten free pretzels, granola, popcorn, whatever you think would be yummy and unique. You can also use squares of an already-made chocolate bar, such as Enjoy Life Foods by breaking the squares up and wrapping them in a small amount of foil.

Melt your chocolate (I use Enjoy Life Foods chocolate chips) on medium, stirring constantly so as not to burn or overcook the chocolate. When the chocolate is done, it should have no more chip-bumps (is that even a word?) and it should be smooth as seen in the picture.

From there, you remove the chocolate from the heat and you proceed to cover anything that you can in chocolate, leaving it to cool on the waxed paper. You may also want to use a mini muffin tin to form some chocolates. Simply insert a small piece of waxed paper into a few of the muffin indents and add chocolate. I made a few by doing a layer of chocolate, a small dab of Sunbutter and then another layer of chocolate...sort of an allergy-friendly peanutless butter cup. Don't be afraid to use waxed paper- just make sure that when you are peeling it off of the cooled chocolates that no pieces stay behind.

You can leave the chocolates on the counter over night to cool or, you can place them in the refrigerator for a few minutes. Both ways work but I have found that putting them in the refrigerator tends to turn them a lighter color after a few days. This does not effect the taste at all, it just doesn't look as nice when presenting the candies.

While you are waiting for the candies to cool, go back and finish your box to put them into. The top paper should be glued and ready to insert. Your paper dividers can be put into the heart box. You may need to crease the paper dividers to keep them in one spot but they will also stay once you have inserted the chocolates. Once your chocolates have cooled, simply insert them into the dividers or paper mini muffin liners. I group them together ( 2-3 of the chocolate covered chips, 2-3 of the peanutless cups, etc.) but you can do whatever you feel looks and works best for you.

Happy Valentine's Day and may it be a safe one for you and your family.

2 comments:

  1. This year I made Dairy Free Rice Krispie Hearts drizzled in melted Enjoy Life chocolate chips. I know what you mean about the chocolate smudges everywhere! lol I discovered Gluten Free Rice Krispies at the grocery store yesterday...have you seen them? In the past, I have also made our own version of Allergen Friendly Sugar Cookie Hearts for Valentine's Day. Lovely half dipped in the melted chocolate. Everything tastes better dipped in chocolate...don't you think!

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    1. Yes, thank goodness for the allergy-friendly chocolates. I feel it's been a life saver at times!

      - Tracy

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