Cherry Almond Oatmeal Cake
If you woke up this morning and were shocked to realize that it's Valentine's Day and you haven't planned anything close to a Valentine's message for your favorite person, it's not too late.
The solution is in your kitchen cupboards, and you should start by pulling out your heart-shaped baking pans or your heart-shaped cookie cutters.
You and your valentine will be quite surprised at what you can accomplish in a short time, and you can keep it secret that these ideas are inexpensive.
For breakfast or brunch, use the cookie cutters to make Gingerbread Scones with Lemon Breakfast Cream. Most of the ingredients can be found in your pantry, and don't worry if you don't have the fixings for the Lemon Breakfast Cream because the scones are just as delicious without the topping.
Scones are Scottish quick breads. The original scones were made with oats and griddle-baked, according to the Food Lover's Companion. Today's versions more often are flour-based and oven-baked. They come in various shapes including triangles, rounds, squares, diamonds, and even hearts. Scones can be savory or sweet.
They are typically made with butter, cream, and whole eggs, which can make them higher in fat and cholesterol. To decrease the fat and cholesterol, use a margarine that is low in trans fats, substitute skim milk for cream, and use egg whites instead of whole eggs.
The addition of whole-grain oats increases the fiber while providing B vitamins. Note that oats can be substituted for up to one-third of the all-purpose flour in breads and other baked goods.
Gingerbread Scones are heart-shaped scones flavored with molasses and spices. They are best served warm with the low-fat, lemony spread made with ricotta cheese combined with thawed frozen lemonade concentrate.
The scones are pretty and light brown; the texture is lighter than may be expected. Serve with or without jam or jelly.
Or pamper your valentine with heart-shaped pancakes. Combine the pancake batter with mini semisweet chocolate morsels. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto a hot griddle into the shape of a heart using a 3-inch heart-shaped metal cookie cutter. (For perfectly shaped pancakes, brush the inside of the cookie cutters with oil, place the cookie cutters on the griddle, and pour the batter into the cookie cutters and cook until the bubbles begin to burst. Remove the cookie cutters, turn over the pancakes, and continue to cook 1 minute longer or until golden. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.)
Use those heart-shaped cookie cutters when making sandwiches for lunch boxes. Any type of sandwich lends itself to this idea, even a Peanut Butter Heart Sandwich made with peanut butter and strawberry preserves.
For an added touch on the Peanut Butter Heart Sandwich, cut the end of a stick of red licorice (6 inches long) in the shape of an arrow. Place it between the two heart-shaped slices of bread on top of the filling.
(If you don't have a heart-shaped cookie cutter, make a paper pattern and then lay it on the slice of bread and use a sharp knife to cut out the pattern on the bread.)
Bake Cherry Almond Oatmeal Cake in a heart-shaped cake pan and take it to a breakfast or evening meeting. Most of the ingredients are likely to be found in your pantry with the exception of cherry pie filling and an eight-ounce container of cherry low-fat yogurt.
This recipe is also lower in fat, thanks to cherry low-fat yogurt, oats, and egg whites. The whole-grain oats impart a nutty flavor to both the cake and the crunchy topping. Ribbons of cherry pie filling make each slice moist and bring a surprise flavor.
When The Blade tested this recipe, the batter seemed thick, but it baked up fine.
A new piece of heart-shaped cooking equipment is a silicone mold that can be used to make heart-shaped ice cream. The Mini-Heart Mold with eight heart-shaped wells is available from the Williams-Sonoma catalog for $22.
Make two-layered hearts using bittersweet chocolate ice cream in half the mold, freeze for three hours, then spoon semisweet chocolate ice cream on top and freeze for another three hours. To serve, invert the mold and pop out each dessert onto a plate.
In the absence of heart-shaped pans and cookie cutters, there are other ways to make a special valentine dessert.
●Use organic sugar to dip strawberries or decorate the rim of a champagne glass.
●Dip strawberries in melted chocolate.
●Make or buy a chocolate or regular pound cake. Serve with Whipped Berry Cream garnished with raspberries. (See recipe at right.)
As you can see, it's never too late to make or bake a delicious valentine.
Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.
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