A Valentine’s Day treat for your Sweet

I will be honest with y’all – I have mixed emotions about Valentine’s Day. When I was a kid I hated it. I never had a boyfriend, so I was never one of the lucky girls who got to walk through school carrying a big box of chocolates and a bud vase of carnations with a little mylar balloon pic that said “Be Mine” on it.

As I got into college I discovered that Valentine’s Day was a great holiday because I was making up for lost time in high school. I had lots of boyfriends in college, so I was flooded with cards and flowers and chocolates and balloons. My poor roommate wasn’t so lucky, and I felt bad for her – I’d walked many miles in her shoes, so I shared my chocolates with her.

After college, I worked in a floral shop. During this time I develop a deep-seated loathing for Valentine’s Day. It was affectionately referred to as “dooms day” by those in the floral business. We started preparing for it before Christmas. It is after all the biggest flower giving day of the year (followed by Mother’s Day). We’d have red vases, gushy Love balloons, and buckets and buckets and buckets of roses everywhere. I’ve never snapped so many thorns off roses in my life – my poor thumbs were sore for weeks afterward. During that time you learned how to speed arrange – I could put together a dozen roses (or carnations if that’s what you preferred) with filler in less than 3 minutes. Cut, cut, cut, “That’ll be $75 please”, and out the door they’d go.

When I got married I told my husband that I didn’t need flowers – that I’d rather have something more original than that (like diamonds *hint, hint*). He decided on the most original route of all…………..nothing. I quickly informed him that option was no longer available, and that if he really loved me he’d put more effort into it than that (like diamonds *hint, hint*). I was young, what can I say.

Now days, I think Valentine’s Day is great, but it’s not something that I get myself all worked up over. If Sam gives me a gift, great. If he doesn’t, that’s great too. Because I know that deep down, I’ve got the best gift of all – his love (and diamonds would be nice too *hint, hint*).

Anyway, enough about me. Lets talk about the reason for my post – cookies! Oh, cookies are the best kind of treat you can give. Everyone loves cookies (and diamonds too *hint, hint*). They’re portable, multi-flavored, some are small, some are big (like diamonds), some have nuts or chocolate or fruit in them, they can be dropped, rolled, spread, made into bars, or shaped (like diamonds). Cookies just ROCK (like diamonds *hint, hint*).

The cookie I’m showing you today is a Toffee Bar, and the recipe comes straight from the Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book – you know, the one with the red and white checked cover. I love this cookbook. It’s vintage and fun, and full of recipes that people don’t eat anymore; like Chicken Cassoulet from the 70’s, Hungarian Goulash from the 50’s, India Curry Chicken from the 30’s, Macaroni-Cheese Puffs from the 60’s, Spinach Loaf from the 30’s, and Black Cherry Dessert Cake from the 40’s. All good stuff, I’m tellin’ ya.

But back to the cookies. Instead of frosting the cookies with melted chocolate chips and cutting them into bars as the recipe suggests, I used a small heart shaped cookie cutter and made bite sized cookies. I also dipped half the cookie into melted chocolate for a more interesting look. These are easy, fun, and a great way to get the kids in the kitchen with ya. Give ’em a try.

Toffee Hearts

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened-condensed milk
3 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium mixing bowl beat the 1/2 cup butter, granulated sugar, and salt with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Lightly press the mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are just slightly golden brown.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium sized heavy bottomed saucepan heat the sweetened-condensed milk and 3 1/2 tablespoons butter over medium heat until bubbly, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Cook and stir for an additional 5 minutes more. Mixture will change texture a couple of times during this process, but keep stirring – it will become a light brown, thick, and smooth. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla. Spread over baked crust layer and bake an additional 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

4. Allow the bars to cool for an hour or so. Turn cookie bar out of pan, and place on a cutting board, crust side down. Spray a heart shaped cutter with non-stick cooking spray and cut cookies removing excess as you go. Place cut cookies on a sheet of waxed paper.

5. Once all the cookies are cut out place a half a bag of chocolate chips, 3 tablespoons prepared coffee (optional), and a teaspoon vanilla in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 20 second intervals until nearly melted – stirring after each interval to keep mixture from burning. Once all the chocolate is melted and combined, dip the cookies half way into the chocolate mixture and place back on the waxed paper to dry.

Enjoy!

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