Another TBT from the Falmouth Bulletin. "Lessons from Val's Kitchen" appeared once a month on a Thursday (whenever I could manage to get the story to the editor!...thanks for your patience!) This one features my all time favorite Valentine's Day/holiday cookie recipe.
Cookies, cocoa, straight from the heart
February 7, 2008
I never did like Valentine’s day, that is until I began dating my husband. Finally, (it took until I was almost 30) I had found someone thoughtful and romantic who brings flowers, gifts in small boxes and remembers to make the dinner reservations.
The teenage years were the worst: full of unrequited love and hormonally charged crushes on fellows who did not even know of my existence let alone my name. A long tradition at FHS always magnified my feelings of lovelessness and teen angst. The kind illustrated so well in all of those John Hughs movies of the 1980’s. Take your pick: Pretty in Pink, 16 Candles, Say Anything…you get the picture. I think it was called, “Flower Day”-the Honor Society raised money by selling flowers during the week before “black (fill in the day of the week here) day” as my friend Ted put it, so pained by this event that he actually remembers that it was on a Friday in 1986. You could choose a red carnation for love, pink for like and yellow/white for friendship. According to my sister Karyn, there was some unwritten rule that red was reserved for official boyfriends/girlfriends but I don’t remember that. Anyway, back to the flowers. They would be distributed during home room on Valentines day so that you would end up in a cold sweat as the smug delivery geek called out the worthy people’s names in the front of the class room. All the world would be a twitter as no one “knew” who sent the flowers until they got an opportunity between classes to visit the 6 foot table manned by the Honor Society and payed a dollar (double dipping??) to receive the message attached to the flower order. Scandals were abundant as they always are during the high school years. My friend Debbie recalls a fight between two suitors who both sent her red carnations (ignoring Karyn’s rule mentioned above) that ended in the much smaller of the two being thrown down the stairs into House B cafeteria. Her boyfriend at the time was not bothered by the suitors at all and seems to have won in the end as he is now her husband.
If flower day caused stress, there was always something that made it better. My mother, Val would have a funny card at each of our places at the dinner table. (At least my parents loved me during those awkward years!) She also would have made her traditional heart cookies. She had sent us to school during all of our elementary years with the yummy heart cut out sugar cookies covered in light pink frosting with a single red hot in the middle for an extra flair. As the years went on, she made two sizes of hearts, some small and some large to fit any appetite and always leaving a few unfrosted for my father, Dick who never liked things to be too sweet. I could always count on those melt in your mouth cookies stored in the large square Tupperware on the kitchen counter to make me feel the world was still o.k. after a long day of teenage drama.
I remember Valentines day in 1987 (my senior year of high school) was on a Saturday. (Don’t worry, Flower Day still happened on Friday the 13th!) It was icy, cold and snowy as lovely February can often be. Earlier that evening, I had been to a party with my best girlfriends: Jen and Jenny. It was pretty uneventful. The only thing I recall about the soiree was the family dog: it had 3 legs and we called him,“Tripod”. Around midnight I was home and standing in the kitchen with Val who was always awake to make sure we arrived home safely and in the proper state. As I talked about the night, the last week, whatever (it didn’t really matter), I savored those divine heart cookies out of the square Tupperware and drank a large glass of cold milk while Val listened and drank her usual: specially made hot cocoa with real chocolate and milk. The comforts of home trump a wilted carnation any day.
Val's Special Hot Cocoa
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened Dutch cocoa
1/2 teaspoon sugar
In a small saucepan, heat milk slowly over medium high heat. (Do not let milk boil!) In a mug, combine cocoa and sugar until well mixed. Pour hot milk over cocoa mixture and stir until all cocoa and sugar dissolve. Enjoy immediately with your favorite "sweet". (Sweet= cookies, cake, etc.)
Valentine's Day Heart Cookies
(makes 5-6 dozen)
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 3/4 cup flour, plus extra for rolling
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
5-7 tablespoons milk
red food coloring, red hots, sprinkles, etc
To make cookies:
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well. In another bowl, combine baking powder and flour. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and combine until smooth. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or freeze until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment or grease pans.
Roll out a small portion of dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-1/4 inch thickness. (Leave the rest of the dough in the refrigerator until ready to use.) Cut out dough using floured cookie cutters. Place cookies on prepared cookie sheets and bake 8-10 minutes until cookies are just golden on edges. Remove from baking sheet and cool cookies on wire racks. Once cookies are completely cooled (about 45 minutes), frost and decorate as desired.
To make frosting:
In a mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth. Add 1 cup of sugar, and blend together. Add vanilla and remaining sugar alternating with a tablespoon at a time of milk until desired consistency is met. (The frosting should not be runny, but also not quite as thick as cake frosting.) Stir in 2-3 drops red food coloring for pink frosting. Combine until all food coloring is incorporated. Frost cookies and add red hots and/or sprinkles while frosting is still wet. Let frosted cookies air dry for at least 4 hours before storing them in an airtight container.