Tuesday 22 January 2013

Creative Ways To Say "I'm Nuts About You."

We used to make a big thing about holidays.  From New Years right through to Christmas, we celebrated them all.  We decorated the house, sent cards to our loved ones, made special meals.  If a holiday didn't present itself, we'd celebrate the season, with a new wreath on the door and new plants in the pots by the front door.

Then things changed.  We had a number of hard years, financially, and - just when we were getting back on our feet - I got sick.  It's been a challenge to make ends meet and, in the process of providing for necessities, holiday celebrations fell by the wayside.

It's been interesting to me.  I've learned just which traditions mean the most to us, and why.

You won't find a Valentine's wreath on our door, or heart strewn banners or bunting in our home, but - perhaps surprisingly - we do still make a special occasion of Valentine's Day.

After so many years together, with the challenges that recent years have brought our way, my husband and I have come to value each other more deeply than ever.  We appreciate the opportunity Valentines Day affords us to celebrate our good fortune in finding, and keeping, each other.

Our Valentine's celebration is usually a homemade affair and, with Valentine's Day less than a month away, I've been giving this year's projects some thought.  

There's so much great inspiration out there!  

Here are some ideas that have caught my fancy.

I made this photo box for my husband a while ago.  It's a lovely way to share happy memories with a loved one, and you can easily adapt the colours and motif to suit your personal taste.

I haven't decided on a card yet, but this 3-D valentine from The Creative Place is awfully cute.  It folds flat, too, so there would be no extra postage required should you wish to send it in the mail.

I want to make these bacon hearts from The Paper Mama for my fella on Valentines Day morning. I know my guy'll will be delighted by them.

I might even serve this egg in a basket from Reclaiming Provincial along with the bacon. 

I'll leave my guy a couple of his favourite chocolate bars on Valentines Day, hidden somewhere for him to discover while I'm at the office for the day.  These chocolate bar wrappers from Jeanne Winters Inspiring Ideas will give him a chuckle.

Valentine's Day dinner is usually a co-operative effort at our house.  My fella cooks the protein (often steak, which is another huge treat for both of us) and I prepare the vegetables and dessert.  I think that these little heart shaped roast potatoes from Haniela's; from my kitchen to yours will make an excellent side dish.

Of course, it wouldn't be Valentine's Day dinner without some sort of chocolate dessert.  I'm going to make Hammer Cookies this year.  Instead of slicing rounds, I'll roll the dough out and cut heart shapes.  The pretty red and white tops will make a lovely finishing note to our meal.

So, that's the plan.  

How do you celebrate Valentines Day?  Any special traditions at your house?  

I'd love to hear about them.

Related posts:
Folded Heart Bookmark
A Valentine For Grandma
The Gift of a Letter

Saturday 5 January 2013

Eggnog Latte Tartlettes

When I make a recipe I enjoy, I find myself looking for new ways to use it.  So, when the coffee cookies I made before Christmas turned out so well, I wanted to find another way to enjoy them.  

I also really liked the eggnog pudding I used in my apple and eggnog trifles.  

Eggnog is on sale right now, so it seemed a good time to play mad scientist in the kitchen.

These little bites of heaven were the result.

The shells for these little tartlettes are made with the dough for my coffee cookies and they're filled eggnog pudding.  I finished them with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

So good!

Begin by making the shells for the tartlettes.  You'll need:  

  • 2 Tablespoons instant coffee
  • 2 Tablespoons boiling water
  • 180 grams butter (when I scaled this out it came to 7 ounces - 1-3/4 sticks - of butter)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons instant coffee
  • 2 Tablespoons boiling water (not pictured)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg white (not pictured)
  • 1 teaspoon cool water (not pictured)
  • a small amount of granulated sugar for sprinkling on the cookie tops

Begin by dissolving the instant coffee into the boiling water.  Set it aside and let it cool to room temperature.

While the coffee is cooling prepare a couple of mini muffin pans.  Butter each muffin cup even if the pan is non-stick, otherwise you'll have a difficult time getting the baked shells out of the pan.

When the coffee has cooled, cream together the butter and sugar.  

Mix the coffee into the butter and sugar until it's been completely incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.

Add the flour mixture to the coffee/butter/sugar mixture and stir to make a stiff dough. (I ended up kneading it a three or four times in order to get all of the flour to absorb.

When the dough is prepared press it into the individual cups in the mini muffin pan, forcing it up the sides of the cup and making fairly thick walls.  Don't worry about perfection here.  You're only going to see the outside walls of the tartlette shells.  The rest will be filled or covered up.

Bake the tartlette shells in a 350F oven for about 15 minutes, just as you would bake cookies.  They'll puff up a little bit.  It's okay, the thicker walls will help the shells hold together when you remove them from the pan.

Allow the shells to cool completely in the pan before removing them for filling.

While the tartlette shells are cooling, make the filling and topping.  You'll need:

  • 2 cups of ready made eggnog 
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons extra fine sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a little nutmeg for garnish

Whisk the eggnog, cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg together in a small saucepan. Stir them over medium-low heat until the pudding comes to a boil and thickens.

As soon as the pudding thickens, remove it from the heat.  

Cover the pudding with plastic wrap, making sure that the plastic was sitting right on the surface of the pudding (this prevents a skin from forming).  Set it aside to cool to room temperature.

When both the shells and the filling are cooled, it's time to assemble the tartlettes:

Spoon or pipe a little of the filling into each shell.  Fill only as many shells as you are likely to use in a single sitting.  

Put the filled tarts in the fridge until they're chilled through.  Store the rest of the shells in a cookie tin until you're ready to serve them.

When the tarts are chilled through and you're ready to serve them, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks.  

Add in the extra fine sugar and vanilla extract and continue whipping until the cream holds stiff peaks.

Pipe some whipped cream onto the top of each filled tartlette.  Garnish each one with a little sprinkle of nutmeg.

Enjoy your eggnog latte tartlettes with a good cup of coffee, or package them up on a pretty plate and give them as a gift.