Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine Conversations

It’s just a couple of days now, until National Chocolate Day, uh, I mean Valentine’s Day… honest mistake.

There’s still time if you need to make a treat to share. Today I wanted to feature a product I found at my local discount grocery/underwear store, (aka, Wal-Mart), Brach’s Create Your Own Conversation Hearts. Up until now, if you wanted personalized hearts you had to buy a complete run of 1.7 million candies. I think this is a better deal…  AND, they can say anything you want – you personalize them with the food-grade, red marker included. Use standard block letters in all caps and folks will think you bought them that way.

Valentine Cupcakes with Custon Conversation Hearts via

I have fond memories, as many of you probably do too, of covering shoe boxes or oatmeal canisters with construction paper,  ribbons and paper doilies to make lovely “mailboxes” for receiving those dozens of special Valentine greetings so thoughtfully chosen. One can never be too careful about sending just the right message. Cursed was the mother that picked up a box of Valentine cards with sentiments that were too icky and mushy!

Custom Conversation Hearts on Valentine Cupcakes via

Being homeschoolers, this is one of those scholastic traditions my kids miss out on… like cafeteria food, bullying and wearing clothes to school instead of pajamas. To make up for it, I make cupcakes for them to share with their class. The recipe I found online (and tweaked ever-so-slightly) would make enough for the standard classroom… I got 24 regular sized cupcakes and 36 mini ones. That’s 12 mini and 8 regular cupcakes per student in this school. I haven’t had to make lunch for 3 days.

Valentine Cupcakes via

The “art” on my silver tray chalkboard is a complete and total (bad) copy of the chalkboard art of Rhonna Farrer that I saw on Facebook.

If you’re making just the regular sized cupcakes you should easily get 36-40 cupcakes. These are more dense than just a box mix and taste more “homemade”.

Valentine Cupcakes

  • 1 box Duncan Hines French Vanilla cake mix
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3 eggs

  • 1 1/3 cups water

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 1 can Duncan Hines Comstock cherry pie filling

Mix all of the dry ingredients then add the wet ingredients. Using an electric mixer for about 30 seconds to incorporate and then for a full two minutes.

I use a gallon sized Ziploc bag with the corner clipped off to fill my cupcake papers. Squeeze in enough batter to cover the bottom of each cupcake liner then carefully set the bag aside (or have an assistant hold it for you…) Spoon one or two cherries from your cherry pie filling into the center of each cupcake. (You will have pie filling leftover.) Continue filling each cup with batter to about 3/4 full, covering the cherries, and then bake at 350° F for about 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Cutom Conversation Hearts for Valentine Cupcakes via

Two-toned pink and white Wedding Cake Frosting tops these beauties – it’s a favorite around here..I especially like it because there’s not shortening in it – just basically butter, whipping cream and sugar. I used a 1M tip to make the big swirls on top. You can find my frosting recipe and piping tips here.

Brach's Customizable Conversation Hearts for Valentine's Day via

I loved being able to personalize my conversation hearts, the possibilities are endless here. The only other tip I would give is not to place the hearts on top of your cupcakes too early…they will absorb the moisture from your frosting and the ink will tend to “swell” or bleed just slightly.after a day or two.

Custom Conversations Hearts for Valentine's Day - Jesus - My BFF via

I was not compensated in any way for this product review – just found something I liked and shared my personal opinion.

Are you planning any special treats for your students on Valentine’s Day?

I’m linking up to this party at my friend, Lisa’s blog with more than 600 Valentine crafts, recipes and d├ęcor ideas and this Valentine link up at Project Inspire and also the

Hip Homeschool Hop Button

Friday, February 8, 2013

Make Your Sweetie Pucker Up

It’s upon us once again and as far as “made-up-good-for-little-just-a-sneaky-way-to-get-us-to-buy-greeting-cards” holidays go, this is probably my favorite. A holiday dedicated to LOVE (and chocolate) wins my vote every time.

For the first few years (in the 25 year plus adventure my babies’ daddy and I have been on) we tried to actually go “out” on Valentine’s Day.  We eventually got tired of the long lines at theme parks and 2 hour waits for a table at the nearest chain restaurant and started staying home on February 14th and going out another night.

Lemon Spaghetti with Basil from

Since we had our brood we’ve tried to do a little “Love” themed dinner for the whole family on Valentine’s Day and I try to come up with something that maybe we don’t usually eat.

This is a challenge, since, 1) my family is vegetarian,  2) I don’t really have a large repertoire of things that I make, and D) I’m really not a fan of standing around in the kitchen cooking all day (and then cleaning up). So just about everything I make is fast and easy.

I took some inspiration from my aunt Margaret this summer (when she made us vegetarians a yummy Lemon Spaghetti – she really rocks in the kitchen…) and from Rachael Ray.

Lemon Spaghetti 2 via The Other End Of The

Lemon Spaghetti


  • Salt
  • 2 pounds spaghetti
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper 
  • 4 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or 1 1/2 cups milk & 2/3 cups melted butter)
  • 2 cups finely shredded Italian Cheese blend (Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Romano, Fontina and Asiago cheeses)
  • 1 cup (20 or 24 leaves) fresh basil, very thinly sliced
  • black pepper, freshly ground


Boil a large pot of salted water and drop in the spaghetti..

Add extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and cayenne pepper to a large skillet over medium heat.

When the pasta is about half done (about 5 minutes into cooking), add lemon juice, 2 cups of the starchy cooking water from the pasta and the cream (or milk/butter mixture) to the garlic and oil. Raise heat a bit to bring sauce to a bubble.

Cook the pasta al dente and then drain. Add lemon zest and half of the cheese to the sauce. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Add pasta to the sauce and turn off heat. Toss the pasta with sauce allowing it time to soak up the sauce. Mix in about 2/3 of the basil.

Lemon & Basil Spaghetti via

Garnish the plates of pasta or the serving dish with remaining cheese, and basil.

This is an excellent side dish or even great for an interesting addition to a potluck.

What are you making for your honey this V-day or your next “meatless Monday”?Lemon Spaghetti via The Other End Of The

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