What's cooking: Valentine's Day and more

  • Article by: NICOLE HVIDSTEN
  • Updated: February 12, 2003 - 10:00 PM

SWEETS IN A JIFFY

It's Valentine's Eve, and you just realized you haven't bought gifts for a special someone. What should you do? Just whip up some truffles. Really. A quick trip through the pantry should be all you need to make these peanut butter-chocolate truffles (recipe courtesy of Jif), and within a couple of hours, you'll have three dozen homemade truffles ready to share -- or heck, just keep them for yourself.

Jif Chocolate Truffles: You'll need 1 (6-oz.) package of semisweet chocolate chips, 1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy), 1/2 cup evaporated milk, and coatings such as cocoa powder, chopped nuts, powdered sugar, flaked coconut -- whatever you like.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave, stir until smooth and creamy. Add peanut butter and stir to blend. Add evaporated milk and blend well. Chill for 1 hour.

Scoop mixture and form into balls. Roll in desired coatings. Refrigerate until serving.

SPEAKING OF CHOCOLATE . . .

If you're anticipating feeling remorseful because of your increased chocolate intake over Valentine's Day, here are some reasons not to. At a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society, scientists presented evidence that chocolate might have some redeeming health features. Among them:

Cure for heartaches: It seems too easy. Broken-hearted, you dive into a box of Fanny Farmer chocolates. This is healthy? Well, sort of. Scientists say chocolate contains polyphenols, chemical compounds known for their heart-helping properties. Polyphenols have been shown to prevent LDL cholesterol (the bad one) from changing into a form that damages arteries. Chocolate also can raise the "good cholesterol" by 10 percent, lowering the risk of heart complications.

Cancer-fighter: It's believed that antioxidants fight cancer, and cocoa has high levels of them. Dark chocolate has more cocoa content than milk chocolate, so it has more antioxidants.Scientists have found that not only does chocolate contain high levels of antioxidants, it also has high-quality antioxidants, which means they work particularly well.

There's just one thing to remember: Chocolate should be enjoyed in moderation.

A TASTE OF CHOCOLATE

Live entertainment, a silent auction and, of course, chocolate are highlights of this year's Taste of Chocolate Feb. 23 from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at the Radisson South in Bloomington to benefit the Bloomington Fine Arts Council. Chefs from 14 Twin Cities area businesses will put their best chocolates forward for the competition, where they can win one of three awards -- the artisan award, for the best of show, which must be an original recipe; the Sweet Delights award, for excellence in chocolate, and the people's choice award.

Participating restaurants are: a la mode!, Biscayne Bay, Carousel Restaurant, Kaffe Stuga, Lunds and Byerly's, Chocolat Celeste, Chokolat Moose, Magianno's Little Italy, the Marsh, Muddy Paws Cheesecakes, Sweet Celebrations, Taste of Scandinavia, Truffles & Tortes and Woody's Shady Oak Grille.

Patron-level tickets are $30 (this gets you in an hour early and includes a mayor's reception); general admission is $20. Tickets are available at Lunds and Byerly's or by calling 612-978-1542.

MIXING UP LOVE POTIONS

When you want a romantic cocktail with more pizazz than a rum and Coke, turn to these suggestions from mixologist John Poister, author of "The New American Bartender's Guide," who says, "What better way to express your love on Valentine's Day than by preparing something that is personal and imaginative?" There's always diamonds, but just in case you prefer his route, here are some suggestions (both make one drink):

Pink Pearl: Mix 2 1/2 ounces vodka, 4 ounces grapefruit juice, 1 ounce maraschino cherry juice and 1 1/2 ounces Rose's lime juice and cracked ice in a shaker or blender. Strain and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Sweet n' Silky: Mix 1 ounce light rum, 1 ounce triple sec and 1 ounce heavy cream with cracked ice in a shaker or blender and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

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