Happy Valentine’s Day!

You must know by now that I love traditions – especially holiday traditions!

Valentine’s Day just happens to be one of my favorites!

Somewhere around baby number three we realized that finding a sitter and heading out to eat on Valentine’s Day was more expensive and stressful then it was worth.

So I made a special meal for the entire family – and served it by candlelight.

A tradition was born.

This year was no exception! But since we had a church activity on Valentine’s day – we celebrated early.  Dagmar was our chef for the evening and decorated the table with candles and napkins.

It is amazing how beautiful 25 cent silk flowers from the thrift store look in candlelight! It’s also amazing how candlelight covers up the baskets of unfolded laundry, the piles of toys, and the school books that never got put away!

Notice the napkins? Over twelve years ago I bought some nice red cotton material, cut it into napkins and hemmed them up. We’ve used them for Christmas and Valentine’s Day ever since!

The menu varies somewhat from year to year – but always includes red jello with Cool Whip. This year Dagmar got fancy with a heart mold and conversation hearts!

An Italian dish – like cavatini or lasagna is almost always our main dish. This year it was a yummy sausage lasagna! She added a lettuce salad and freshly baked baguettes. We filled our garage sale stemmed glasses with pink lemonade to drink.

Dessert is always cream puffs – always!

They are filled with French vanilla cream and topped with chocolate ganache.  Yummy! This year we fancied up the plates a little with Smucker’s raspberry plate-scapers.

There is usually a card or two to open, maybe a small gift or chocolate treat.

It’s a simple, but very special way to celebrate with my Valentine’s.

What better way to say “I Love You” then with food!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day Tradition: Cream Puffs

Chocolate Filled Cream PuffsI love Valentine’s Day! All the love talk and chocolate, and hearts, and chocolate, and silly little valentine’s and chocolate. Oh by the way? Did I mention the chocolate?

The kids and I have been watching the Food Network’s chocolate specials every evening and I think I’ve gained 5 pounds just looking!

Of course I can’t let this holiday go by without some special desserts for the special Valentine’s in my life! Several years ago I started the tradition of making cream puffs for dessert for our special Valentine’s meal. I fill them with French Vanilla Custard and top them off with a rich chocolate ganache. They are a little more involved (as in more steps and take longer) than most of the recipes I share with you, but not very difficult.

Cream Puffs: Melt 1/2 cup of butter in 1 cup of boiling water. Add 1 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt all at once and stir vigorously. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixtures forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously after each one.

Drop by heaping tablespoons 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a very hot, 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the cream puffs from the oven and split them open. Turn the oven OFF and put the cream puffs in oven for 20 minutes to dry out. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

French Custard Filling: Mix together 2/3 cup of sugar, 2 Tablespoons flour, 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gradually stir in 3 cups of milk. Cook and stir until the mixture thickens and boils, cook and stir 2-3 minutes more. Stir a little of the hot mixture into 2 beaten egg yolks, then return to the hot milk, stirring constantly, bringing just to the boil. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Cool completely. Beat smooth with electric mixer. Whip up 1 cup of whipping cream and carefully fold in. (Or you can shortcut and use 8 ounces of Cool Whip)

Chocolate Ganache: Melt in microwave 2/3 cup of whipping cream and 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips. Stir till smooth.

To assemble: Open the cream puff and fill with French Vanilla Custard. Lay the top on carefully and drizzle (or dump, pour, drown) it with the chocolate ganache. Serve with a kiss and a smile and the Valentine in your life will thank you!

All of the components (cream puffs, French vanilla cream and the ganache) can be made ahead , then assembled the day you wish to serve them. I have on occasion used a box pudding mix instead of the custard. (I highly recommend the Jello White Chocolate Pudding!). I just mixed according to the recipe and then folded in Cool Whip.

Enjoy a delightful and chocolate-filled Valentine’s Day!