Tuesday Talk: An Outside Valentine’s Day and Long-Standing Traditions

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I can’t remember the last time that I had a Valentine’s Day off, but this year it landed on a Friday. Ahhh glorious Friday! Alex and I both work for the school district where we live and, because it costs so much to run the school buses all over the large county, we only have school four days a week. Fridays are our decompression day, whether that means hanging out at home or getting outside to play. After a scrumptious Valentine’s Day breakfast of Blackberry Chocolate Chip Waffles,

Blackberry Chocolate Chip Waffles.

Blackberry Chocolate Chip Waffles.

we decided to go on a quiet cross-country ski up to Meadow Creek Reservoir near our home. We spent about 3 hours in the quiet woods, stopping for a quick picnic and bit of exploration at the reservoir. Just the two of us, and the mountains. I can’t think of a better way to spend V-Day.

 

Cross-country ski to Meadow Creek Reservoir.

Cross-country ski to Meadow Creek Reservoir.

For Valentine’s Day evening, we upheld our long-standing traditions. Ever since our first V-Day together- 8 years ago when we were juniors in high school- Alex has cooked a nice dinner and I’ve made a nice dessert. Or at least attempted to; on one of our first Valentine’s Day’s together I totally botched an ice cream cake, presenting to Alex a mushy, half-frozen mass with part of it’s top ripped off (it froze to the freezer rack…zoinks). Just for the record, I did make a successful ice cream cake last V-Day!

Anywho, this year Alex started us off with baked brie with apricot jam.

Baked Brie with Apricot Jam.

Baked Brie with Apricot Jam.

For dinner he made a baby kale salad, steamed broccoli, zesty apricot-glazed pork chops, and pasta carbonara.

“Oooo is it pancetta in there?” I asked him about the pasta.

“Well, it’s supposed to be, but we live in Fraser…so it’s bacon,” was his reply. 🙂

Baby kale salad, broccoli, zesty apricot pork chops, and pasta carbonara.

Baby kale salad, broccoli, zesty apricot pork chops, and pasta carbonara.

Now, to be sure I had enough time to get things right on the dessert side, I started on Thursday night. My choice of treats? Mini salted caramel cheesecakes, with the original recipe from Handmade in the Heartland. It was quite the labor of love, taking me close to four hours total to complete these babies! If you want to try this recipe, here are a few tips from my experience.

My biggest problem with making these cheesecakes was the crust. I’ve made graham cracker crust from scratch before, but for some reason these crusts wouldn’t quite set up. It seemed that there was maybe a bit too much butter, and when I tried to take the crusts out of the muffin tin a few them crumbled apart completely.

Problems with crumbly cheesecake crusts!

Problems with crumbly cheesecake crusts!

One batch of the filling was enough for about two batches of the crust so, lucky for me, I got a second chance to perfect the crust. I still didn’t get them quite perfect, but I found that using a cupcake paper helped tremendously. I baked some of the crusts in cupcake papers, let them cool completely and then peeled the paper off for better aesthetics of the final product! This seemed to help the crusts stay together much better. I also didn’t use a food processor for the crust, which was what the recipe suggested. I don’t have an electric food processor, so I crushed the graham cracker crumbs and melted the butter, mixing the two ingredients together in a bowl. The course-ness of my graham cracker crumbs probably contributed to the crust’s crumbliness. I think if the crumbs had been finer, the crusts would have stuck together better.

After baking the crusts I added the cheesecake filling, which I mixed with an electric hand mixer. I then baked them according to the recipe. I didn’t have any issues with the “success” of this step of the recipe. They came out beautifully! Even the ones that turned out to be more of ‘cheesecake toppers’ because the crust crumbled off…

That was it for Thursday night. I put the cheesecakes in the refrigerator overnight. On Friday, I hesitantly began the last step: making the caramel topping. Doubting my abilities and wanting to make sure it was perfect, I made a back-up plan and bought a jar of caramel ice cream topping just in case. I’m pleased to say I didn’t need it! This was my first time making caramel, but with a fair amount of attentiveness, stirring, and swirling it turned out perfectly. After it cooled, I topped the cheesecakes with generous dollops of my homemade caramel sauce, sprinkled some sea salt on top and, voila, the labor of love was complete, and my hours-long effort was worth it. Alex loved them!

My labor of love: mini-salted caramel cheesecakes.

My labor of love: mini-salted caramel cheesecakes.

Another lovely bit of news right before V-Day was that Alex and I will soon have another nephew! Matthew James is due June 30, and we will have another niece or nephew coming at the end of April! I made these chocolate shortbread cookies for my two sisters, who are both pregnant right now 🙂

Chocolate shortbread cookie treats.

Chocolate shortbread cookie treats.

This was a great V-Day for us. What did you do for Love Day?

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