VALENTINE’S DAY DINNER – FILET MIGNON IN CHAMPAGNE SAUCE

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Filet mignon in champagne sauce is a dish my mother used to make on special occasions. I’d watched her make it many times, and after I got married, I made it also. I never used a recipe. Observing Mom was enough for me, and the method was easy to remember without resorting to a recipe. But for some reason, I hadn’t made it in several years. Maybe because it’s on the rich side and calorie laden, or it could be simply that other favorites replaced this one.

One of my daughters pointed out that I hadn’t made it in a while and she would like to have it again, so I decided to make it for Valentine’s Day. Each year, I make a special dinner for the four of us, including a decadent dessert. I set a pretty table and we exchange token gifts. This year, my girls are off to sunny California, so we celebrated our Valentine’s Day a day early. Lucky for them, they get out of the zero degree New York weather and fly into a heat wave in L.A.

When my mom passed away, my dad gave me a box with my mother’s handwritten recipes and her “cooking bible” – The Tselementes. This food-splattered, masking taped repaired cookbook is a treasure. This was my mom’s go-to book for anything she needed to refer to. She brought this cookbook with her when she came to this country in 1953, and I think it was the ONLY cookbook I ever saw her open.

Mom never cooked with recipes. She instinctively knew what to add to her food and when, and how long to cook it for. This is how I learned to cook. She would hover over the stove, turn to me, breathing in the aroma and say, “You never rush your food. You must love it. Hug it and kiss it.” That is the secret ingredient to deliciousness!

So when I looked in the box with the handwritten recipes, I was not surprised to find lists of ingredients with no measurements! I remembered what was in the champagne sauce, but I wanted to refresh my memory on the amount of each ingredient. There was nothing to refresh. It was all done by feel. Recipe after recipe was written the same way—a list of ingredients, the method, but no measurements.

To share this dish with you, I made an effort to be aware of how much of each ingredient I was adding. It might be too late for Valentine’s Day, but try this for the next special occasion.

Filet Mignon in Champagne Sauce

 4 1-inch thick filet mignon steaks

8 large stuffing mushrooms, whole. Stems off

3 shallots, sliced

5 tablespoons butter

½ cup champagne

1 cup heavy cream

Salt & pepper to taste

Sprinkle meat with salt & pepper. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and pan fry the steaks on both sides until cooked to your preference. When you flip the meat, add the shallots and mushrooms. When the steaks are done, remove to a platter and cover to keep warm. Place the mushrooms on the same platter with the steaks.

Add the champagne. When it starts to boil, add the heavy cream. Lower heat and simmer for a minute or two. Shut off heat and add the last tablespoon of butter. Add the steaks and mushrooms back into the pan. To serve, pour sauce over steaks and garnish with two mushrooms.

 

 

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY! CINNAMON CHOCOLATE CAKE

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Happy Valentine’s Day! If you are looking for an easy last minute dessert to make for a special dinner tonight, this cake is the answer to your prayers. It couldn’t be simpler to make and requires very little time. I can assure you it will impress the special person or people you are serving it to.

Although I love solid dark chocolate, I am not a chocolate cake lover. Many times, I find it way too rich and sweet. This cake has a nice balance of sweetness and chocolate, and is not too heavy or rich. Yet it will satisfy that chocolate craving. The cinnamon adds another interesting dimension of flavor.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to enjoy this dessert. Indulge anytime the mood strikes you. You can whip it up so quickly, it’s practically magical!

 

CINNAMON CHOCOLATE CAKE

1 cup flour

½ cup dark brown sugar

½ cup sugar

4 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons white vinegar

¾ cup whole milk

5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350º

Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk, melted butter, vinegar, vanilla and egg whites together.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and beat using a mixer on medium speed for two minutes.

Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool and flip over to serve pan side up.

**Garnish – You may simply dollop each slice with fresh whipped cream and dust with cinnamon, or add a drizzle of raspberry sauce or Crème Anglaise.

 

 

VALENTINE’S DAY TREATS – HEART SHAPED LINZER TART COOKIES

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During the Christmas season, I had posted this recipe for Linzer tart cookies. I’d added these requested favorites to my assortment of cookies and pastries that I handed out to friends and neighbors.

This isn’t a cookie I make often, but why make everyone wait a year when the heart-shaped Linzer tart cookie is a delicious treat for Valentine’s Day? I prefer the cherry preserves rather than the standard raspberry. What goes better with cherries than chocolate? Nothing! And of course, there must be chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Dip one end of the cookie in melted chocolate and garnish with pink and red nonpareils.

Serve for dessert, arranged on a platter, or hand them out individually wrapped in clear cello bags!

 Linzer Tart Cookies

 16 ounces pecans

1 cup cornstarch

6 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

5½ cups flour

Cherry preserves

Preheat oven to 325°

In a food processor, pulse pecans and cornstarch until pecans are finely ground.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until blended, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla, salt, and eggs. Slowly add flour and then the pecan mixture until fully blended. Divide into 6 balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in saran wrap. Refrigerate for at least1 hour.

On a floured surface, roll out cookie dough and cut out desired shape with a cookie cutter, making equal amounts of tops and bottoms. The tops have the extra cutout in the middle.

Bake about 17 minutes. The edges should just be starting to golden a bit, but the cookie should not brown. Cool on a wire rack. Spread cherry preserves on bottom half of cookie and place top half carefully over the preserves. When each one is assembled, dust powdered sugar generously on each cookie.

Yields about 40 cookies

 

VALENTINE’S WEEK TREATS!

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I never let an occasion pass without doing something to commemorate it. Most of the time, food is involved in some way. Valentine’s Day is the day to show your love for the ones you care for. We naturally think of romantic love, but the love for your children, extended family and friends may also be displayed. Each year, I make a special Valentine’s dinner. Something a bit more elaborate than the average meal, but I place my main focus on creating a mouth-watering dessert. More times than not, chocolate is involved.

I’ve made chocolate soufflés, chocolate lava cakes and chocolate truffles. But some of my favorite recipes use no chocolate at all.

Heart shaped Linzer tart cookies filled with dark cherry preserves is a favorite amongst the family and friends I deliver them to. I sometimes dip one corner in chocolate and garnish them with nonpareils. I packaged each cookie in a cellophane bag and tie it with a pink ribbon.

Red velvet cupcakes are another crowd-pleaser. No need to wait for Valentine’s Day, though. I get requests for these all year long.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

2 ½ cups flour

1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ vegetable or canola oil

1 ounce red food

1 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cocoa

1 teaspoon vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350º F. Sift flour, cocoa and baking soda together. In a large bowl, beat sugar and eggs. In a separate bowl, mix oil, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. Add to egg mixture until combined.  Add the flour and Greek yogurt, alternating dry and wet ingredients, starting with the flour. Pour batter into paper cupcake liners. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on baking rack.

Cream cheese frosting

1 cup unsalted butter

2 – 8 ounce packages of cream cheese

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 pounds confectioner’s sugar

1 vanilla bean (optional)

Cream softened butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and vanilla. If using the vanilla bean, slice the bean longwise and scrape out beans. Mix well into frosting. Fill a pastry bag to frost cupcakes then have fin decorating. Simple sprinkles or chocolate shavings are perfect.