Cherries And Chicken For V-Day

Pssssst. Just a reminder to those who might not have looked at a calendar or ventured into a store that sells greeting cards: Valentine’s Day is just a few days away.

Valentine’s Day ranks right up there in my favorite holidays, probably because I was almost a valentine baby — born Feb. 13. As a kid, my birthday parties — for which DotMom went all out — often had a season-appropriate theme.

One year, for instance, all the invitees were asked to come as their favorite storybook character. I, of course, was the Queen of Hearts, and the invitations had a picture of me pulling heart-shaped “tarts” (cookies) out of the oven while decked in a frilly white dress to which hearts had been pinned and a heart-shaped crown on top of my head. That’s the kind of picture that can come back to haunt someone in their teens.

But I wasn’t scarred for life, and those crazy-but-wonderful birthday parties didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for Valentine’s Day. Nowadays, it’s not so much about the birthday connection as knowing that winter is on the downhill slide when the date rolls around. Valentine’s Day is a bright spot in an otherwise dreary month, a reason to celebrate love and friendship and do something special for the special people in your life.

Since a birthday celebration comes with an obligation to bring treats for co-workers here at the Daily Globe, I’m on the lookout for goodies with a red or pink hue. Last year it was red velvet cupcakes; this year I haven’t decided, but this cheesecake bar recipe from Pillsbury might be a possibility.

Choco-Cherry Cheesecake Bars

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In an ungreased 13- by 9-inch pan, break up one 16.5-ounce roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough. With floured fingers, press dough evenly in bottom of pan to form crust. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat 1 egg white until frothy. Brush egg white over crust. Bake 3 minutes longer or until egg white is set.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat one 8-ounce package softened cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth. Add the egg yolk, 2 eggs, one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, ¼ teaspoon almond extract and 3 drops red food color; beat until well blended. Stir in one 10-ounce jar maraschino cherries that have been finely chopped and drained on paper towels.

Pour cherry mixture evenly over crust. Bake 16 to 20 minutes or until set. Cool completely, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, heat one 12-ounce bag (2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips and ½ cup butter or margarine over low heat, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Cool 20 minutes.

Stir ½ cup whipping cream into chocolate mixture until well blended. Spread over cooled bars. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until chocolate is set. Cut into bars. Store into refrigerator.

If you plan to cook supper for your sweetheart, here’s a recipe that comes highly recommended from Kari Wasmund of Sibley, Iowa, an advertising rep for the Daily Globe. It’s color appropriate, with the red tomatoes, and heart healthy. For a less-healthy version, Kari sometimes mixes the tomatoes with a package of cream cheese and puts that over the top of the chicken breasts in a slow cooker.

Tomato-Basil Chicken

Using 1 can diced tomatoes, pour half the tomatoes into a Pyrex baking dish. Top with 2 or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast. Pour remainder of tomatoes over top of chicken.

In a pan on top of the stove, brown ½ of an onion, chopped. Put onions on top of tomatoes, then sprinkle with basil, garlic or Italian seasoning to taste. (Kari uses Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic seasoning.)

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes for sauce to thicken.