Calgary·RECIPES

Wine gummies, giant cookies and Dutch babies help show love this Valentine's Day

Food has always been associated with love, with being cared for and nourished, with socializing and celebrating. Here are a few ideas to mark Valentine's Day, from food columnist Julie Van Rosendaal.

Food columnist Julie Van Rosendaal has a few ideas to shake up the annual holiday

Homemade wine gummies are fun and bit different than more traditional Valentine's Day treats. Columnist Julie Van Rosendaal says they're as easy to make as a batch of Jell-O. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Food has always been associated with love, with being cared for and nourished, with socializing and celebrating.

We instinctively cook for people who are sick or going through a rough time, and bake when we want to cheer someone up, acknowledge an achievement or even make our coworkers happy.

Food is personal and emotional. It's a way of demonstrating affection on a regular basis, a means of showing people how important they are in our lives. There's a deep connection between food and memories, which is why food — the idea of it, taste and smell of it — can be so nostalgic.

When it comes to Valentine's Day and cooking for the people you love, it doesn't matter as much what you make. It's the point of making it.

It's a good excuse to go beyond your usual repertoire, and enlist kids to help. They're as into Valentine's Day as grownups, if not more so.

It's nice for kids to be able to do something for the important people in their lives, which of course reinforces the connection between food and love and that cooking can make the people around you happy.

If you're looking for something beyond your usual, here are some of my go-to recipes.

Chewy chocolate chunk cookies with a crispy edge, made with chopped dark chocolate instead of chips, to which you could really add just about anything: chopped peanut butter cups, bashed pretzels or toasted nuts.

For morning festivities, a Dutch baby is perfect but really could be served any time of day. It's like a big Yorkshire pudding, fancy looking but simply a thin batter of milk, flour and eggs whisked together and baked in a hot pan. 

And if you're looking for something fun and different, jiggly pink rosé wine gummies are as easy to make as a batch of Jell-O.

Happy love day!

Chocolate chunk cookies

There are a million formulas for chocolate chip cookies out there; all vary slightly in their ratio of butter, sugar, egg and flour. This is the formula I've settled into over the years. It has a thick, chewy middle but crunchy edges.

You can add anything you want to these: all manner of chocolate or chocolate bar bits, chopped nuts, anything you can imagine.

Just be sure not to overbake them. They should still be soft in the middle when they come out of the oven. Remember they'll firm up as they cool.

Use this as a base to come up with an over-the-top cookie for yourself or your sweetheart. You could even make a double chocolate version by swapping about 1/3 cup of the flour with cocoa.

To make one giant cookie, bake the dough in a pie plate or skillet, then serve it with scoops of ice cream and tons of chocolate sauce. Kids are particularly thrilled by this.

These chocolate chip cookies have thick, chewy middles and crunchy edges. Make a big one in a pie pan for fun. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Ingredients

¾ cup butter, at room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup sugar

1 large egg

1-2 tsp vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

8 oz/300 g dark or semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugars, egg and vanilla for a few minutes until pale and fluffy. Add the flour, baking soda and salt.

Stir or beat on low speed until almost combined. Add the chocolate chunks and stir just until blended.

These chocolate chunks make for extra chocolatey cookies. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Drop dough by the large spoonful onto a parchment-lined sheet.

Bake for 10-14 minutes, depending on their size, until golden around the edges but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serving: Makes about 1½ dozen cookies

Dutch baby

If you have a larger cast iron skillet or want a larger Dutch baby, use three eggs and ¾ cup each milk and flour. If you don't have an ovenproof skillet, warm a pie plate in the oven before pouring the batter in.

The Dutch baby puffs up all dramatically light and crunchy. You can serve it with butter and syrup, lemon and sugar. Or fill the bowl it creates with berries, ice cream or something savoury — think saucy butter chicken or tender beef with gravy.

Dutch babies puff up to be light and crunchy. You can top them with anything from sweet syrup, lemon and sugar, or savoury butter chicken or beef and gravy. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Ingredients

2 large eggs

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup milk

1 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp butter

Icing sugar, maple syrup and/or whipped cream, for serving

Preparation

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, and milk. Set aside while you preheat the oven to 450 F.

Heat the oil and butter in a medium (eight-inch) cast iron skillet. When the foam subsides, pour the batter into the skillet and slide it into the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the pancake is puffed and golden. Cut it into wedges and serve warm, sprinkled with icing sugar and drizzled with maple syrup, or topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

Serving: Two to four.

Rosé wine gummies

Although pink is fun, any kind of wine works here. It's a great way to use up the last of the bottle or some sparkling wine that has gone flat.

Use the last of a bottle of wine, rose or prosecco to make these yummy gummies. You can roll them in a shallow dish of sugar to coat. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Ingredients

1 cup rosé. Red or white wine works, too.

½ cup sugar

2 pkg unflavoured gelatin

1 drop red food colouring, optional

Sugar, for coating, optional

Preparation

In a medium saucepan, stir together the rosé and sugar and sprinkle the gelatin overtop. Let stand for a few minutes to soften.

Set over medium high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar and gelatin are dissolved. Stir in a drop of food colouring if it's not quite pink enough for you.

Pour into a loaf pan or small silicone candy moulds, if you have them. Refrigerate until firm.

Cut into ½-inch cubes and, if you like, roll in a shallow dish of sugar to coat.

If you do this, serve them right away because the gummies are so fresh, the sugar will start to melt.

Serving: Makes about 60 gummies.

About the Author

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.

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