Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Celebrate the ones you love

Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow to all who have touched my heart and life with love in countless ways.

Tomorrow is a day for lovers to express their feelings, but it can also be a day for a more general celebration of love and appreciation of people  important in our lives: our parents, children, friends. After all, love has its variances, from puppy love, to crazy love, unrequited love, jealous love, forbidden love, distant love, to true love and more. While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial, others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, the celebration of fertility. Regardless of what you believe, it is a fun day for expressing love, for eating chocolate, for receiving flowers and cards.

Try making something special for the family tomorrow. The recipe for mini cheesecakes is easy to make and simply delicious to top off any meal. Or if chocolate isn’t your favourite, try the ultimate shortcake; even with imported strawberries it still will be a hit this time of year.

Black Forest

Mini Cheesecakes

24 vanilla wafer cookies

2 pkg. cream cheese, softened (8 oz. each)

1-1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

3 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1/2 tsp. almond extract

Sour Cream Topping:

1 cup sour cream,

2 tbsp. granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Canned cherry pie filling, chilled

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line muffin cups (2-/2-inch/6 cm diameter) with foil liners. Place one vanilla wafer (flat side down) in bottom of each cup.

Beat cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, cocoa and flour; blend well. Add eggs; beat well. Stir in sour cream and almond extract.

Fill each muffin cup almost full with batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until set. Transfer from oven to wire rack; cool for 5 minutes.

Sour Cream Topping:

Meanwhile, blend sour cream with sugar and vanilla until well- combined. Spread a heaping teaspoon onto each cheesecake. Cool to room temperature on a rack; chill until ready to serve. Just before serving, garnish with cherry pie filling. Makes 24 mini cheesecakes. Yummy.

The Ultimate Strawberry Shortcake

1 quart fresh strawberries (or more if you like)

1/2 cup sugar

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping

1 (14 ounce) angel food cake, cut into cubes (I buy the cake already made)

Wash, stem and cut strawberries in half. Add sugar; toss to mix well. Chill.

Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar well. Fold in whipped topping and cake cubes. Spread cake into an ungreased 13x9 dish. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.

Cut cake into squares; top with strawberries.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star's longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.

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