Valentine Treats to Make & Eat

These Valentine Marshmallow Pops from A Mom’s Take are colorful and delicious!

I love sweet treats, but I don’t waste time or calories & fat grams on subpar desserts. That said, here is my list of “must make” recipes for homemade Valentine goodness.

  • Martha Stewart’s Valentine Cookies are sugar cookies cut into heart shapes, and made into sandwiches filled with jam. Delicious!
  • Go with easy, but yummy and make the Valentine Marshmallow Pops from A Mom’s Take (pictured above). These are fun to make, and easy enough for kids to make, with supervision.
  • Impress your loved ones with a chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream that looks like a professional iced it, with expert tutorial by Handle the Heat.
  • Your chocoholic sweetheart will savor every nibble of Sally’s Baking Addiction’s Chocolate Sugar Cookies. Instead of plain sugar cookies, crank it up a notch with chocolate! Sally gives you tons of tips, and a choice of icing to make for these cookies.

Mi hijo, la luz de mis ojos. He’s my Valentine.

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Somms Under Fire Wine & Food Pairing Competition

One of my favorite annual events is Keeper Collection’s Somms Under Fire wine and food pairing competition, in which acclaimed sommeliers first create a craft cocktail using Citadell Gin de France, then move on to the main event. The fun is in full swing as the audience tastes the wines that the somms have available as choices to pair with a multi-course meal. Every time I’ve attended this competition, the table discussion is lively, with everyone opining as to which wine should be chosen. Not only is it entertaining, it’s educational, as I’ve picked up key information that helps me choose wine to pair with the foods I cook at home.

#SommsUF goes through rounds for each course, awarding the best pairing each time, and ultimately crowns an overall sommelier winner. Top prize? An ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime internship in Burgundy, France with travel money, and a oh-so-very cool champagne saber. Because saber. Who doesn’t dig using a sharp calvary sword to open a bottle of bubbly? There’s also the Fan Favorite winner, with a sweet wine education trip to Washington state, and an internship at the 2018 TexSom conference.

Buy your tickets now, because it always sells out! VIP ticket holders enjoy early check-in, a wine education and tasting program in addition to the cocktail challenge and main competition. Tables are also available, to ensure your party is seated together.  This year you may, in advance, request a vegetarian dish in lieu of the competition dish — do so in the notes field of the ticket form.

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Dirty Rice is my comfort food

It’s not the prettiest side dish, but the taste will knock your socks off!

I am a native Texan, born into a multi-ethnic family in San Antonio and come by my love for cooking Tex Mex foods naturally. My first thoughts for dinner almost always involve something from my childhood: tacos, chalupas, enchiladas, flour tortillas. When I was 8 years old, my father’s job with the FAA moved us to Louisiana, where I promptly embraced Cajun and Creole foods in addition to my beloved beans, barbacoa and carne guisada. One of my comfort foods is Dirty Rice, that ubiquitous side dish found on every good Southern cook’s table. I use Emeril Lagasse’s recipe, as it is the closest to authentic as I’ve found. Yes, chicken livers feel yucky when you work with them, but they are essential to the dish, so put your squeamishness to the side and dive on in to what will surely become a requested food in your home. The livers impart an essential flavor to the rice, and gives it the “dirty” look that inspired its name. Dirty Rice is an excellent side dish for any type of grilled chicken or meat, and I often make Maque Choux to pair with it.

Dirty Rice

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound chicken livers, chopped fine
  • 1/2 pound pork sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Emerilís Original Essence
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cups cooked rice, chilled
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

In a large, heavy sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken livers and sausage and cook, stirring, until the meat is browned, about 6 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, the onions, bell peppers, celery, garlic, Essence, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the stock and bay leaves scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir thoroughly. Cook until the rice is heated through, about 5 minutes.   Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and serve.

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