Valentines' Day is Friday. Do you have plans to make it special? Flowers, candy, dinner out, - all are great, but diamonds are better. They last forever, don't add pounds, look good on everyone, and all her friends will admire them. Great for brownie points. A special meal on the home front does wonders, too, especially if the weather outside is nasty and you want to stay home by the fireplace. A prime rib roast is a magnificent entree, but a chuck roast that has been marinated can taste as good. The flavor of chuck is about the best on beef, but it is a tough meat and needs that marinade to tenderize it. Same with chuck steak. Of course, if your other half has a favorite meal, that is the one to go with. The kids need to feel special, too. Even red gelatin hearts can be special for them, and so easy and budget-wise. If you don't have heart molds, make the gelatin in a flat pan and use a cookie cutter to cut out hearts.
I have heart-shaped cake pans, but one doesn't need special pans to make a heart. Just bake the cake (or brownies) in one square pan and one round one. Cut the round layer in half and place each half on adjoining sides of the square layer to make the heart shape. Kids like to "help" make a special dessert for Mommy or Daddy like that, too. Their frosting decorating might be a slight bit strange, but they will get great enjoyment out of doing something like this. (Just don't give them all the colors of food coloring you have and it doesn't get too weird.) A pan of homemade fudge is a gift for the entire family or that special boyfriend, too. Use the Million Dollar Fudge recipe - it is easy and doesn't fail for even teenage cooks who are new in the kitchen.
The day is celebrated for lovers because of the monk of Roman times who became St. Valentine. The ruler noticed that married men didn't like to spend years away from their wives while they conquered territories for Rome, so it was decreed that young men couldn't marry. Valentine, a monk, married them anyway so they didn't have to enter the roaming army. That displeased the ruler. If a Roman ruler was displeased, he cut off the head of the offending party. The moral of the story is not to get involved in the love life of others, even if you are a monk. Anyway, out of it we got a nice holiday on which to let our special one know we love 'em.
It is still "soup or stew in the crockpot" weather. Anything cooked or baked in the oven helps warm the house and adds nice aromas that warm the heart, too. Spring will come eventually, and can't be too far off. We will enjoy it even more when it comes because of this unusual winter. Put on an extra sweater, enjoy the beauty of snow when it covers the trees, keep yourself and your family warm, and count your blessings. If you are stuck at home, the teapot and a good book will let you like this season. Do what you can to help those who need some assistance like the elderly and those unfortunate folks who are homeless through no fault of their own. God Bless.
MILLION DOLLAR FUDGE
Five cups sugar
One can evaporated milk
One jar marshmallow cream
Three packages (6-oz. size) chocolate chips
Two teaspoons vanilla
Boil sugar and milk together for four and one-half minutes, stirring constantly. Combine marshmallow cream and chocolate chips in a bowl or pan. Pour milk-sugar mixture over marshmallow cream and chips mixture. Stir until creamy and chips are melted. Stir in vanilla. Pour into a foil-lined pan.
NOTE: The original recipe called for any size jar of marshmallow cream, but I usually use the larger size. It makes the candy a bit creamier.
CROCKPOT POTATO SOUP
Two cans (14 oz. each) chicken broth
Four medium baking potatoes, pared and cut into inch cubes
One large onion, diced
Two celery ribs, diced
One large carrot, diced
One-fourth cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
One cup half-and-half
One tablespoon butter
Fresh parsley for garnish
Combine broth, potatoes, onion, celery, carrot, flour, salt and pepper in slow cooker. Mix well. Cover and cook on LOW for about six or seven hours. Stir in half-and-half and cook another hour. Remove lid and slightly mash potatoes with potato masher (or immersible blender). Continue to cook, uncovered, for another thirty minutes or until slightly thickened. Just before serving, stir in butter. Garnish each bowl with chopped fresh parsley.
HINT: Make a slurry with the flour and some of the broth, and then add that to keep from having "flour balls."
PINEAPPLE POUND CAKE
Two cups butter, room temperature
Three cups sugar
Three cups flour
One teaspoon vanilla extract
One small can (8 - or 8 -oz.) can crushed pineapple in syrup
Extra sugar for sprinkling on top
Cream butter and sugar for 10 minutes - must be light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla. Add flour, a little at a time, beating all the time. Mix everything well together and remove beaters. Fold in pineapple, juice and all. Put in greased and floured tube pan. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for one and one-half hours, or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool and sprinkle sugar on top.
CROCKPOT SLOPPY JOES
Four pounds lean ground beef
One and one-fourth cups chopped onion
One cup chopped green or red peppers
Two ribs celery, chopped
One can (28-oz.) tomato sauce
Two cans (10 oz.) condensed tomato soup, undiluted
One cup packed brown sugar
One-third cup catsup
Three tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
One tablespoon ground mustard
One tablespoon prepared mustard
Two scant teaspoons chili powder
One teaspoon garlic powder
Brown beef in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Stir to break up meat. Drain and discard all fat except about one tablespoon.
Add onion, peppers and celery.
Cook and stir five to ten minutes or until vegetables are translucent. Transfer mixture to crockpot. Add remaining ingredients and stir well until blended. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 to 6 hours. Serve on toasted hamburger buns.
(Welcome hot drink after playing in the snow or just out in the cold)
One cinnamon stick
One tablespoon whole cloves
Two quarts sweet apple cider
One (46-oz.) can pineapple juice
Two cups orange juice
One cup lemon juice
One-half (14-oz.) package red hot cinnamon candy
Tie up cinnamon and cloves in spice bag (or cheesecloth) for easy removal.
Mix the cider, pineapple juice, orange juice, lemon juice and cinnamon candy together in a large sauce pan.
Add spice bag and bring to a boil Reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove spice bag and serve. Keep hot in a crockpot.
Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.