CHOCOLATE ROSES

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Make 10-12 edible chocolate rose garnishes like pastry chefs using this simple recipe.

To make edible chocolate clay:
Ingredients:
10 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 ½ cups)
1/3 cup light corn syrup

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for about one and a half to two minutes in 30-second intervals, stirring each time. If you don’t have a microwave, use a double boiler.

Add the corn syrup to the melted chocolate. Stir. The lovely smooth mixture will turn into a clay consistency.

Put a sheet of waxed paper on a cutting board or kitchen counter and scoop the chocolate mixture onto it. Spread it out evenly with your fingers until it is about
½- inch thick.
Cover loosely with waxed paper and let it rest for at least 2 hours. The clay will become pliable.

To make a rose:
-Roll ten smooth balls of chocolate clay a bit smaller than the size of a marble and line them up an inch apart on waxed paper. Cover the little balls with a sheet of waxed paper. Press down hard on the paper with your thumb to spread out the clay. Aim for the size of a half-dollar.

-To create petals for a rose, remove one clay disk and curl it into a tepee shape, narrow at the top and wider at the bottom. Wrap the next disk around the opening of the tepee as if you were making it a little door. The third disk goes at the back of the tepee. The fourth along the side. Layer as many of these clay disks as you’d like. Bend back the edges of the disks ever so slightly. Don’t worry if little slits appear because they will make the petals look more natural.

-Set finished rose on a cupcake or other dessert.

Note: Use up the clay the same day while it is pliable. Candy melts (available at craft stores) and/or butterscotch chips may be substituted for the chocolate chips.

CREAM-PUFF HEARTS

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Cream puffs look so fancy, but they are easy to make from scratch with your kids. Really! Give them a try for a special occasion, such as Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. This heart-shaped version with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream between the layers is a delicious treat for celebrating with your family.
CREAM-PUFF HEARTS
Makes 12 hearts.
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving
Strawberries or raspberries, for serving (optional)
Chocolate sauce or confectioners’ sugar, for serving
To prepare oven, baking sheets: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Let your school-age child draw 12 (3-by-3-inch) heart shapes with a pencil on 2 sheets of parchment paper cut to fit 2 cookie sheets. Tell your child to press hard enough as she draws so you see the hearts on the reverse side. (If you need a pattern for drawing the hearts, cut out a heart from an index card or use a similar-size cookie cutter.) Turn parchment over and lay it on cookie sheets.

To prepare dough: An adult should place water, butter and salt in saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to low. Stir in flour until mixture is smooth and forms a ball. Remove from heat. Let stand for 3 minutes. Place in a mixing bowl. Let your child crack eggs into small bowl. Pour eggs into flour mixture. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth and shiny. (Note: Initially, mixture will look like scrambled eggs.)

To form each heart: Drop large spoonfuls of dough onto center of each heart shape on cookie sheets. (Note: I use an ice-cream scoop.) Let your child spread dough with fingers to form each heart shape. (Note: I discovered top “V” of the heart should be extra-wide and low to compensate for expansion of dough. The bottom “V” shape of the heart should be narrow and pointed.)
To bake: Bake for 25 minutes or until slightly puffed and golden. Remove from oven. Cut small slit in sides to release steam. Set aside to cool completely.
To serve: Slice each cream-puff heart crosswise. Spoon whipped cream or small scoop of ice cream on bottom half. Set top half over filling. Top with raspberries or sliced strawberries (cut vertically to make thin heart shapes). Drizzle with chocolate sauce. Or let child use strainer to dust with confectioners’ sugar.

GRAPEFRUIT BAKED ALASKA

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I like making this wintry dessert billowing with snowy peaks to eat. Each serving is showy, and elicits ooh’s and ahh’s even on a dark, dreary day.

It’s a take on traditional Baked Alaska you may have enjoyed at a fancy restaurant. This mini version is much easier, using fresh grapefruit in it’s own “bowl” instead of cake. But it still keeps the wow factor with warm meringue on top and chilly ice cream nestled inside.

Timing is everything with this dessert. Do some simple prep work beforehand. Then, as the table is being cleared after your main course, heat the oven and whip the egg whites while your child or friend spoons fruit into the grapefruit bowls and tops each one with ice cream and mounds of sweet meringue.

GRAPEFRUIT BAKED ALASKA
Makes 6 servings

4 grapefruits
6 scoops vanilla ice cream
3 egg whites (1/2 cup) at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

One hour or more before serving:
Cut each grapefruit evenly in half crosswise. Using grapefruit knife, cut out fruit sections. Place fruit in bowl. Drain juice (enjoy drinking it for a snack). If grapefruit is tart, add some sugar. Cover. Refrigerate fruit.
Remove and discard membranes in 6 grapefruit halves to form hollow “bowls.” (Note: Discard 2 remaining grapefruit halves. You need halves from 3 grapefruits for dessert, but fruit from 4 grapefruits to have ample servings.)

To prepare ice cream:
Line tray with wax paper or plastic wrap. Scoop ice cream into 6 rounds. Place on prepared tray. Return to freezer..

15 minutes before serving:
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

To fill grapefruit bowls:
Ask one of your kids to spoon chilled grapefruit pieces evenly into 6 grapefruit bowls. Set bowls on prepared baking sheet.

To make meringue:
In a mixing bowl, use electric mixer set on low speed to beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar. Increase speed. Beat until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while continuing to beat. Let your kids watch as mixture changes and enlarges and glossy, stiff peaks form.

To assemble:
Set one ice cream round in center of each fruit-filled bowl. Immediately spoon glossy, stiff meringue on top. Using butter knife, seal edges around cut grapefruit rim.

To bake:
Bake in the middle of the oven for 5 minutes, or until meringue is golden. Place on dessert plates. Serve Immediately.

Tip: For a special occasion such as a birthday party, top each one with a candle and light.

Note: Use pasteurized eggs, if you prefer.

HEART-SHAPED COOKIE CUTTER BIRDSEED TREATS FOR THE BIRDS

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I like to give a little heart or two, or three, to my backyard feathered friends on Valentine’s Day with this birdseed treat shaped with cookie cutters. An ideal kitchen craft to enjoy with preschoolers when the big kids are off to school, it’s also super fun for older kids to do with the whole family on a weekend afternoon.

Pick up a bag of birdseed, packets of unflavored gelatin and root through your cupboards for cookie cutters, and you’re all set to go.

BIRDSEED COOKIE CUTTER TREATS FOR BIRDS
Makes 4-6 bird treats

Here’s the stuff you’ll need:
2 envelopes (1/4 ounce each) unflavored gelatin, such as Knox brand
½ cup boiling water
1 ½ – 1 ¾ cups birdseed
Baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper
4-6 heart shaped cookie cutters, roughly 3 inches by 4 inches.
2 straws, cut into 3-inch pieces
String or twine.

Here’s the fun:

In a large bowl, an adult should pour the boiling water into the gelatin. Stir until dissolved, and then add 1 ½ cups birdseed. Stir until birdseed is coated, adding more seed if mixture is too watery.

Meanwhile, arrange the cookie cutters on the lined baking sheet.

Spoon the mixture into the cookie cutters. Press down with the back of a spoon, or compact the mixture with fingers using a piece of waxed paper between fingers and the mixture.

Insert a straw piece into each shape to create a hole for hanging and leave in place.

Set the baking sheet of filled cookie cutters in the refrigerator for two hours. Remove and let stand in a dry room overnight or until hard, turning the filled cookie cutters occasionally.

Carefully pop each treat out of its cookie cutter. Remove straws, thread string or twine through the holes, and hang from a tree branch, fence or deck railing.

Tip: Extra birdseed in your bag? Take a pine cone, roll it around in peanut butter until it’s completely covered, then roll it once more in birdseed. Tie a string around it and hang it outside.

HOLIDAY CARD TOWER

Boxes and bins filled with holiday decor are taped shut, and lids are snapped on tight. Up to the attic they went. Only select items remain on display, like the string of white indoor mini lights framing my kitchen windows that boost our moods through cold and gloomy wintry days.

A hodgepodge of December’s Christmas cards spilling out of a cookie tin also are day brighteners. It’s so much fun to browse through them again, especially with my adult kids.

Here is an idea for enjoying the greetings in new ways when recycled into DIY fun for your young kids or grandkids. If some are photo cards, the children will become more familiar with faces and places as they create.

HOUSE OF CARDS
Create a construction toy for school-age kids and build structures of all shapes and sizes.
For a basic set of interlocking cards, cut 20 cards in equal sizes such as 4 inches by 7 inches.
Now you are ready to cut slits, either six or eight. For six slits, with a card upright in front of you, find the midpoint at the top. Make a dot to mark the spot, then use scissors to cut a 1/2-inch vertical slit. Measure down 1 inch from the top right corner. Make a dot and cut a 1/2-inch horizontal slit. Measure down 1 inch from the top left corner, mark and cut a horizontal slit. Now cut slits the same way at the midpoint of the bottom of the card and the two lower sides.
If you prefer eight slits on your cards, measure 1 inch in both directions from each corner and cut slits.
Start construction by sliding cards into each other at the slits in a perpendicular fashion to create a house, tower or imaginary structure.
Note: Vary construction possibilities by cutting some slits at angles, or cut cards into geometric shapes such as a circle, half moon or square. Cut slits on them and begin assembling your structures.

 

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