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One More Valentine Post

In case you didn’t noticed I tend to get obsessed with “fun” food at various holidays throughout the year.  Case in point, are these heart-shaped comestibles for Valentine’s Day: Red Quinoa Loaf; Watermelon Hearts; and Chocolate Cherry Truffles.

You’d think that would have been enough heart-shaped food for any rational person to make.  But I must admit to having a few more hearts up my sleeve.  

Just to show that Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about expensive dinners, or even chocolate and champagne (not that there’s anything wrong with that, Jon…are you reading this, Jon?), I wanted to take a humble recipe and dress it up for V-Day.  So here is Red Flannel Hash:

Red Flannel Hash
This recipe is very flexible: substitute cooked rice or quinoa for all or part of the potatoes; use crumbled or finely chopped tofu, tempeh or seitan in place of the beans.  The little hearts in the photo are roasted potatoes, beets, and tofu.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 pound russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, cooked and diced
2 red beets, cooked and chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained, rinsed and mashed
Salt and black pepper

1. Heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, cover and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the cooked potatoes and cook until lightly browned, then add the beets, soy sauce, and beans.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix to combine well.  Cook until slightly browned, turning frequently with a metal spatula.  When hot, serve as is, or for a fancy presentation, pack the hash into ring molds and unmold onto plates.

Heart-shaped garnishes:
For beets: Use a heart-shaped cutter to cut out sliced cooked beets and set aside.
For potatoes: Cut a well-scrubbed russet potato into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Use a heart-shaped cutter to cut the potatoes into heart-shapes.  Arrange the potato hearts on a greased baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees until soft and nicely browned, turning once, about 30 minutes total.
For tofu: Use a heart-shaped cutter to cut slices of tofu into heart shapes.  Saute until golden brown.

You thought I was finished with Valentine ideas, didn’t you?  Almost…but I have to tell you about a couple more fun ideas for breakfast or brunch:
1. If you’re into oatmeal or other hot cereal, spoon some red (raspberry or strawberry) jam into a heart-shape on top.
2. This is what I made for brunch today: Heart-Shaped Tofu Benedict with Blushing Hollandaise (made with sun-dried tomatoes) and Crispy Kale “Bacon.”

This was really amazing, but I don’t have the recipe written up yet, nor did I take photos because the camera batteries needed charging). Maybe I’ll just save that recipe for NEXT Valentine’s Day!

Here’s My Heart Chocolate Cherry Truffles

If you have a small heart-shaped cookie cutter, you can transform your favorite truffle recipe into a special Valentine treat.  To make these, I adapted the Chocolate Cherry Truffle recipe from Quick-Fix Vegetarian to include bits of toasted almond and some cherry preserves. The truffles on each end in the photo are uncoated; the one in the center is coated with finely shredded unsweetened coconut.  I’ve included my recipe adaptation below, with instructions for making both heart-shaped and round truffles. The recipe is very flexible — as are most truffle recipes — use more or less of any of the ingredients to get the texture and flavor you prefer.
I plan to post a couple more Valentine’s Day ideas between now and Tuesday, but in the meantime, check out my heart-shaped Red Quinoa Loaf on One Green Planet  — (you can also see it on the Huffington Post).  And if you’re in a location where watermelon is available, you can make some watermelon hearts with sweet mint pesto from a previous post.
Here’s My Heart Chocolate Cherry Truffles
If dried cherries are unavailable, use dried cranberries.  Adapted from Quick-Fix Vegetarian by Robin Robertson (c) 2007, published by Andrews McMeel.
1/2 cup dried cherries 
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
2 tablespoons cherry preserves
1 tablespoon almond butter 
1/2 cup high-quality unsweetened cocoa 
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Coating of choice: cocoa, crushed toasted almonds, toasted coconut, or melted vegan chocolate

Combine the cherries and almonds in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the cherry preserves and almond butter and process until smooth.  Add the cocoa and confectioners’ sugar and process until well combined.

For heart-shaped truffles: Transfer the mixture to a sheet of waxed paper, film wrap, or parchment on a flat work surface and flatten evenly to about 1/2-inch thick. Top with another sheet of waxed paper, film wrap, or parchment and use a rolling pin to flatten evenly to about 1/3 inch thick.  Remove the top paper and refrigerate or freeze until firm. 
Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut the truffle mixture into heart shapes and arrange on a plate. Refrigerate to firm up again, if needed.  Roll the remaining scraps from the cut-outs into balls (for a few round truffles) and refrigerate.
For round truffles: Shape a small amount of the mixture into a ball, rolling with your hands into a 1-inch ball.  Repeat until the mixture is used up.   
To coat truffles: Place the truffles on a shallow plate containing cocoa, coconut,  almonds, or melted chocolate.  Roll the truffles in the coating to cover completely. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate until firm.


Easy Valentine Appetizer and Dessert… and a Cookbook Winner!

If you want to make something fun for a Valentine’s Day dinner but are short on time, try these: a simple appetizer and an easy dessert for a festive start and finish to your special meal.

The appetizer is Tapenade Pastry Hearts. Simply thaw a sheet of vegan puff pastry and use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to make little pastry hearts. I made two sizes for both one- and two-bite appetizers. For the larger ones, I pressed the smaller cutter partially into the dough of the larger hearts so that a “lid” would form when baked.

Just arrange the pastry on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes, then carefully remove the smaller heart-lids from the larger hearts. For the tiny hearts, just carefully slice off the top layer of pastry and set aside. Carefully fill each pastry heart with a small spoonful of a red tapenade (made with tomatoes, red bell peppers, green olives, and capers). If you don’t have time to make homemade tapenade, you can use a store-bought variety. Arrange on a platter and pop the champagne!

For an easy dessert, try this simple ice cream cake with strawberries. Finely grind vegan chocolate cookies and mix with some melted Earth Balance. Press into a small springform pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Soften your favorite flavor of vegan ice cream and spread it evenly on top of the cookie crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refreeze for a few hours or overnight.

About 30 minutes before serving time, wash, hull, and slice some fresh strawberries and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with a small amount of sugar and set aside at room temperature to bring out their flavor.

When ready to serve, slice the ice cream cake and arrange on dessert plates. Top with a cascade of sliced strawberries and garnish with one or two whole strawberries. A drizzle of chocolate sauce or a dollop of vegan whipped cream are great additions to this quick and easy dessert. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cookbook Giveaway Winner: The winner of a copy of Vegan Fire & Spice is: Andrea of “Easy Vegan Cooking.” Congratulations! (Andrea: Please e-mail me with your mailing address so I can get the book in the mail to you.)

A big thank you to everyone who participated in the ‘chili poll” — it was great to discover so many delicious ways to enjoy chili!