CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Valentine's Day prompts an annual gift-giving conundrum for the romantically involved. People who are single aren't expected to mark the Hallmark holiday, as some dub it, with the perfect gift or celebration, but some choose to embrace it, anyway.
My mother, who is a widow, told me she thought it would be fun to invite some of her women friends, many who are divorced or widowed, to watch the movie "Chocolat," while eating appropriately chocolate-themed treats.
Sweet chocolate recipes abound, so the dessert portion of the menu is easily planned. Savory recipes that include chocolate or cocoa might include chicken with mole sauce or chili seasoned with cocoa chili powder. Hershey's Cocoa Web site, www.hersheys.com, includes recipes for those and hundreds more, including Cocoa Sloppy Joes and Chicken Satay Skewers, listed below.
A chocolate chip cheese ball fits in either the appetizer or dessert category.
A friend who works at a nursing home said Valentine's Day is tough on widowed residents who miss their sweethearts. A plate of decorated heart-shaped sugar cookies or a platter of brownies dusted with red sugar might cheer them, especially if accompanied by a visit from the baker.
Gazette photographer Kenny Kemp volunteered his wife, Diana, to bake and decorate some heart-shaped cookies from her favorite sugar cookie recipe. She's used this recipe for years. Not only does it produce a buttery, not-too-sweet cookie, but the recipe doesn't require any chilling. Most sugar cookie recipes call for some time in the refrigerator before the dough can be rolled out. With five children in their family, Diana has to work fast to keep up with demand when she's baking cookies.
Diana made a simple confectionars sugar and water icing to decorate the cookies. Her beautifully decorated cookies didn't last long after the children came through the door, looking for an after school treat. Good thing their father is a photographer, who also works quickly.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
HEAT oven to 400 degrees.
CREAM butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Beat in egg and vanilla.
MIX baking powder and flour in separate bowl. Add one cup at a time to the creamed mixture, mixing after each addition. Dough will be very stiff. Blend in last bit of flour by hand. If dough is too stiff, add a teaspoon of water at a time to moisten.
DO not chill dough.
DIVIDE dough into two balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball into a circle about 12 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick. Dip cutters in flour before each use.
BAKE cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet on top rack of oven for 6 to 7 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned.
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons water
SIFT 2 cups of powdered sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons warm water. Beat on high with a hand mixer until smooth and creamy.
ADD sifted sugar by spoonfuls if the icing is too thin. Beat well on high following each addition.
ADD warm water, 2 drops at a time, to thin the icing if you are making a glaze to drizzle over a dessert.
Use the icing immediately, or store in a tightly sealed plastic container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Beat it again before using following a period of storage.
Cocoa Sloppy Joes
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Hershey's cocoa
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
COOK ground beef and onion in large skillet on medium heat until beef is browned and onion is tender. Drain excess fat.
STIR in ketchup, cocoa, mustard, chili powder, pepper and salt. Heat 10 to 15 minutes on low heat or until hot. Serve in buns.
Chicken Satay Skewers