I really do “love” Valentine’s Day.
My babies’ daddy and I are celebrating our 23rd Valentine’s Day together. In all these years we’ve only been apart one time on V-day when he was out of town for business. Needless to say, things are getting a little routine in the gift department. He has taken to getting me the same thing every year and I don’t mind at all. (chocolate is really a girls’ best friend) But it’s a little tougher this year. This is the first V-day in our history that he’s been out of work, and I won’t lie, things are getting pretty tight around here. So tight that a bag of Hershey’s Kisses may have to suffice in place of the good Swiss chocolate. But my feelings won’t be slighted in the least if I don’t receive “hoodie/footie” pajamas or a stuffed teddy bear from Vermont…
One tradition we’ve had in our family is to have a “Love Dinner” together with our kids and our parents. A time to enjoy a special meal and show our love to each other.This year we had our dinner the night before Valentine’s Day.
This was the most challenging year I’ve had setting the table. Usually I grab a couple of bouquets from Costco and make a huge centerpiece then pick up some cute gifts for everyone’s plate and the rest is just fluff. The trick this time was to build a table scape without spending money on flowers or gifts. I decided to let the food be the centerpiece. More specifically, the dessert(s). Yes, we had five different desserts. Only because I ran out of time to make the sixth.
I started with a lovely Irish linen table cloth that’s been in our family for generations and usually only gets used for weddings and other special occasions. Then I picked this lovely 3-tier silver server my good friend Susan gave me years ago to showcase our very easy and inexpensive bite-sized sweets. It has a gorgeous ornate dome for the top layer, but we opted to see the tasty treats instead. On the top you probably recognize the familiar texture of Rice Crispy Treats – this time, cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. This batch was made with Strawberry Jet Puff marshmallows and Wilton heart sprinkles. (When you are planning to melt them down, just buy the less expensive plain pink mallows, not the heart-shaped ones…)
The other familiar item up on top is Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies. I dressed these up with piped on pink hearts made with pink candy melts using a round cake decorating tip.
In the middle are mini red velvet cupcakes (from a mix) with homemade cream cheese frosting and more heart sprinkles surrounded by “white chocolate” dipped strawberries. The dipped berries were probably the most expensive dessert here. But I split the cost of berries with another penny pinching friend and dipped them in white “candy coating” (in the baking aisle) instead of expensive chocolate. (plus, the store was out of dipping chocolate and I didn’t have the patience to temper any…) The stripes are more of those pink candy melts (also by Wilton) using that same cake decorating tip.
On the bottom is the tried and true fudge brownie. Add a cup of chocolate chips to your batter and they’re extra good with little extra effort! These are super thick, made with the “cake like” recipe (as opposed to fudgy) in a 9x9 inch pan and cut into heart shapes with a brownie cutter. A brownie cutter is taller than a cookie cutter for cutting those extra thick brownies. The topping is just powdered sugar shaken over a paper doily.
We started the “Lovely” meal with Strawberry Soup* (a recipe my sis-in-law finagled away from the Carnival Cruise lines years ago…)garnished with a mint leaf and strawberry halves trimmed to look like hearts, then moved on to 9 Vegetable Lentil Soup*, Mock Tropical-Chicken Salad* sandwiches on mini croissants and salad greens.
See the little carrot hearts? Those are so easy to make… Peel your carrot and chop it into lengths of about 4 inches. Make the point of the heart by standing the carrot on end and carefully cutting away two slices to square off one side. Next use the pointy end of a bottle opener (you know, the end you used to open cans of Hawaiian Punch in 1974…you might want to wash it first…) and drag it down the carrot opposite the point you made. Keep dragging it until your v-shaped groove is deep enough to make that familiar heart shape. Then just slice your hearts. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
The table is set with a mix of old and new china and silver. I much prefer mixing it up rather than having everything all matchey-matchey. The dinner plates are Corning French White and the bowls I used for the soup are Ikea. The fruit bowls, cups, saucers, dessert plates and utensils are the spoils from 15 years of antiquing to beef up my tea accoutrement collection. That white teapot is one of 3 “plain” white teapots I purchased at Home Goods a couple of years ago. They seem to have then in stock all the time and they have all sorts of uses. Today their job is to hold hot chocolate.
The linens are all antique, the cake plate (piled with sandwiches) was a treasure from my great grandmother’s collection. The tiara napkins rings can be purchased at Hobby Lobby in the bridal department (watch for a sale!) and the mercury glass votive cups are available at Laurie Anna’s Vintage Home online (or her shop in Canton.)
*Tomorrow I’ll give you recipes for the Strawberry Soup, 9 Vegetable Lentil Soup and the Mock Tropical Chicken Salad. If you just can’t stand it and need them right now send me an e-mail and I’ll hook you up ♥.
I hope, irrespective of your current relationship status, that you have a LOVELY day. Never forget that Jesus is the lover of your soul and that He loved you so much that He gave His life for you (John 3:16) and is, right now, preparing a place for you to live with Him (John 14:1-3)forever! I can’t WAIT to sit down at His table!