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Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

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While I usually boycott Valentine’s Day on principle (it’s a materialistic holiday that makes my gender look like a bunch of Vermont Teddy Bear hungry fools), I will go so far as buying Dan a stupid card (this year’s featured a matchbook and the phrase “burning love”) and making a nice dinner.  If nothing else, it’s an excuse for us to make a nice meal and drink champagne.

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This year we made Black Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa, and to follow it, I made chocolate dipped strawberries.  I chose to do strawberries because they are light, romantic, and perfectly complimentary to champagne.  Now maybe its because a large chunk of my romantic insight comes from either the Brat Pack or Julia Roberts, but strawberries and champagne are the ultimate romantic dessert (how many of you are currently imagining Julia lying on the floor, eating strawberries and champagne and watching I Love Lucy?).

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Plus, they’re super easy.  And they’re perfect to make ahead, which means there’s one less thing you have to worry about while you’re preparing dinner/getting dressed/lighting candles/lending your panties to a friend so he can earn 9th grade street cred.  You can make them hours or even a day or two ahead, they refrigerate nicely, and then pull them out when you need them.

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Another reason that I boycott Valentine’s Day is because it’s a holiday that alienates half the population.  Believe me, I have spent many a February 14th single, and on nights when your friends are cooking with their significant others or out to a fancy dinner, being showered by roses and bears with magnetic faces, you want to murder someone.  My advice is to make yourself a nice meal, pop an eighties classic in the DVD player, and remind yourself how awesome you are.  With wine, there should always be wine in self-pampering evenings.  And probably a bubble bath.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

8-12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate

1 box of whole strawberries

Coarsely chop your chocolate and melt in a double boiler.  When the chocolate is smooth, remove from heat.  Coat each strawberry 3/4 of the way in chocolate.  Place on wax paper or tin foil and allow to cool, at least thirty minutes.

We recommend you serve these with a glass of dry champagne.

Serves 2-4. (But why would you want it to serve more than 2? ;) )

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Black Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa

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As I mentioned in a previous post, Dan and I spent this Valentine’s Day at home, away from the overbearing decorations and crowds.  But, since we’re romantics at heart, we couldn’t do away with all celebration, so we made a nice dinner and popped a bottle of champagne.  We even held off on the next episode of Battlestar Galactica and ate dinner at the table.  Which was a big commitment because the last episode was a cliff hanger (thank the gods for Netflix).

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This recipe is a time honored favorite in the Rosemond-Hoerr household.  It is also a great dish for a romantic holiday like Valentine’s Day.  It’s rich enough that your portion can be small, which is important because this is not the kind of occasion where you want to be stuffed after dinner.

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The flavors in the salsa are unique yet very complimentary.  The sweetness of the honey and the bell pepper compliment the garlic and the poblano pepper, giving you a range of flavors.  We paired it with a simple salad and champagne, and followed it with chocolate dipped strawberries, another holiday favorite.

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The only tricky thing about this recipe is actually getting the poblano to stay submerged.  The first step includes soaking the pepper in hot water for an hour.  Unfortunately, the pepper is naturally pretty buoyant, so my solution is (as you can see in the photo) to weigh it down with another pot/bowl.  It works like a charm and there’s a very satisfying gurgling noise as the pepper fills with water.

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Black Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa
Source: Food Network

2 filet mignon steaks

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

4 slices aged white cheddar cheese

1 red bell pepper, roasted and sliced

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 poblano pepper

2 tbsp pine nuts

Boil two cups of water.  Pour over your poblano pepper, and let soak for at least one hour.  If you need help keeping it submerged, place another bowl/pot on top of it.

Slice and core your bell pepper.  Drizzle with oil and roast at 400* for twenty minutes.

Coarsely chop your poblano and place it in the food mixer, along with 1/4 cup of the water it was soaked in.  Add honey, garlic, and pine nuts.  Blend until smooth.  Place salsa in a mixing bowl and stir in vinegar, red bell peppers, and cilantro.  Cover and let sit at least thirty minutes.

Pat your meat down with a paper towel.  Sprinkle salt on one side.  Turn the steaks over and sprinkle salt and pepper on.  Grill, pepper side down, for five minutes.  Turn and grill an additional five minutes.  Flip one last time and place cheese on top of the steaks so that it can melt.  Cook for an additional five minutes and then plate.  Top with red peppers and salsa, and serve.

Serves 2.

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Lavender Fairy Cupcakes

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I have to tell you that I adore cupcakes.  I think that they are precious, such fun to eat and make, and liven things up.  If we were having a smaller wedding, say with only about 40 people, I’d have cupcakes in a heartbeat.  Its been a while since I made cupcakes, but on Monday I made these for a friend’s birthday, and that got me in a cupcake mood.  I opened up a book of cake recipes and tried to find one that would be fun and festive.

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I spend my days with an almost three year old named Marin.  She’s delightful and I enjoy our time together.  She is also very, very into princesses and fairies.  So when I noticed a recipe whose title included the word fairy, I figured she’d be hooked.  She’s also gotten a lot more interested in cooking/baking recently, so I figured it would be a good day activity for us.

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The recipe called for fresh lavender, which for the life of me I could not find.  I actually went to two grocery stores and a florist and could not find fresh or dried lavender.  I was about to give up when I stopped into one of the higher end food markets on my way home, and they had both.  However, a fresh lavender plant two days before Valentine’s Day runs $50 at Balducci’s, so I settled for dry lavender.  The recipe also called for drugees, but since they’re not FDA approved for eating and I was making these with a child, I opted for purple sugar crystals instead.

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The cupcakes turned out miserably.  They were salty (they had no salt in them), and tasted more like biscuits.  So, because I can’t stand to disappoint a two year old, I put Marin down for a nap and made different cupcakes.  I used my go to vanilla cupcake recipe, which is Amy Sedaris’.  There wasn’t any vanilla in the house though, so I used maple syrup.  Thankfully the lavender overthrows any other flavor, so you can’t really tell.  Still, the whole process of having to throw out a dozen cupcakes is frustrating.  This is also the third recipe from that book that has failed, so it will also be the last that I try.  Hello, recycling.

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Even after I made a new batch of cupcakes, the flavor was still… well off.  After Dan ate a couple we decided that they’re good, they’re just not what you’d expect.  The flavor is very strong, and, frankly, herbal.  They taste a little more like muffins than they do cupcakes.  They’re tasty, and the flavor is unique, they just don’t taste like you’d expect.  If I made them again I think I’d leave the lavender out of the icing, so that the sweet icing could balance the cupcake more evenly.

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Lavender Fairy Cupcakes
Source: Adapted from Amy Sedaris and inspired by Cakes and Bakes

For the cupcake:

1 1/2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tbsp maple syrup

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 cup flour

1 1/4 cup milk

Sparkle sugar

2 tsp lavender, dried or fresh

For the Frosting:

1 stick butter, softened

2 cups confectioners sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp sparkle sugar

1 tsp lavender, dried or fresh

Preheat oven to 375*.  Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Cream butter.  Add in sugar and beat until well incorporated and fluffy.  Beat in eggs.  Beat in remaining ingredients and mix until creamy.  Fill cupcake liners 2/3 the way and bake for 20 minutes.

To begin the icing, cream butter.  Add in confectioners sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until it’s thick and well creamy.  Add in milk, sugar, and lavender.  Scoop into your icing bag and pop in the fridge.  There’s a delicate balance between too warm buttercream and too cold buttercream, so watch out.  If it starts getting runny, it needs to be cooled.  But at the same time you don’t want it to be rock solid, so check it every 5 minutes or so.

When the cupcakes are done, allow to cool on the rack.  They must be room temperature before you put on the icing.  If you’re in a hurry you can pop them in the freezer, but that can make them stale.  When they’re cool, ice, and top with sparkle sugar.  Serve to the very excited children who helped you make them!

Makes 18-22 cupcakes, depending on how you distribute your batter.

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