Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Little About Valentine's Day...

When the kids are in the kitchen it's a great time to teach them multi-tasking... cleaning up while goodies are baking... and reading while a special dish is baking... and sharing a little history about the time of year and the holiday that you're celebrating with food.

And, so... Valentine's Day is coming up pretty quickly and I wanted to give you a little thumbnail sketch about Valentine's Day. Come back soon as I'll have some fun recipes for you and the kids...

A Little About Valentine's Day...

Long ago Valentine’s Day was called “Bird’s Wedding Day”. It was then believed that birds selected their mates and began breeding the second week of the second month or February 14th!

The celebration of Valentine’s Day began many years ago with the custom of the Feast of Lupercalia in ancient Rome. This Feast was a celebration of fertility and was celebrated on February 15th. One of the ancient customs of this festival was a love urn. On this special day in February, young maidens wrote love messages and placed them in the love urn. The young, unmarried men then drew the messages from the urn and courted the young girl whose message he received.

As the story of Saint Valentine goes, there was a man in ancient Rome named Valentine who was a physician practicing medicine out of his home. Valentine was a kind hearted man taking great interest and care in his patients prescribing medicines of herbs and roots.

At that time in history, religion was a very controversial issue with many being persecuted for their beliefs. However, Valentine was a very spiritual man with religion being a significant part of his life. In his medical practice, Valentine would often offer prayer for the health of his patients and loved ones.

As the story goes, there was a jailer for the Emperor of Rome who had a blind daughter. The jailer heard of Valentine’s healings and brought his blind daughter to him for treatment. Valentine examined the small girl and prescribed some ointment for her eyes. The jailer faithfully continued to bring his little girl to Valentine for treatment with no improvement.

One day Roman soldiers arrested Valentine, destroying all of his medicines. Admonishing him for his religious beliefs, Valentine was taken to jail. When the jailer learned of Valentine’s arrest he was distressed but could do nothing! Valentine knew he would be executed and requested a paper, pen and ink. Valentine wrote a note and handed it to the jailer requesting that the jailer deliver the handwritten note to his blind daughter. Valentine was martyred on February 14, 270 A.D.

The jailer’s spirit ached as he arrived home. He handed the little blind girl the note from Valentine with the handwritten message, “From your Valentine”. Upon opening the note, the little girl found a yellow crocus tucked inside—at that moment a miracle occurred and the little girl saw beautiful color for the first time in her life—her eyesight was restored!

February 14th was named Saint Valentine’s Day in 496 by Pope Gelasius I. In the sixteenth century the paper Valentine appeared with sentimental verses. By the late 1800’s delicate lace papers accompanied sentimental verses for Valentine’s Day. Today all types of Valentine cards are exchanged showing love and affection of February 14th.

May the true miracle of Saint Valentine’s Day bless you! 

As Spring brings the little crocus popping their heads through the snow, may it be a reminder of the little girl in ancient Rome and bring a new meaning to your spirit and your heart of Valentine’s Day—Will you be my Valentine?

Note:  This is an excerpt from one of the Little Books of Tea that I wrote... 18 Little Books... soon to all be on Amazon in ebook format. I'll let you know when all 18 Little Books of Tea are available for download... they are fun and quick reads with great recipes!

Happy cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Instant Strawberry Hearts for Valentine's Day!

A great snack for the kids to create almost by themselves... it's a Valentine Muffin!

You'll need:
English muffins of your choice
Cream cheese (plain or strawberry would be "berry cool")
BIG strawberries

Let's do it!

The adult helper can split the English muffin in half and the kids can place them in the toaster or the toaster oven. Let the muffins cool slightly to touch.

While the are cooling a bit, the kids can rinse their BIG strawberry and pat it dry with a paper towel. Then let them use a "child safe knife" and cut the strawberry in half forming a magical heart!

Spread cream cheese on the muffin and place the "heart berry" in the middle. For extra pizzzazzz of the day, you might have some small heart-shaped paper doilies in the pantry. A perfect way make this snack a true Valentine celebration by placing the doily on the plate (let the kids do it!)... and then placing the Valentine muffin on the doily.

Who said that special treats have to be difficult?
Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Cooking,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach

Monday, February 10, 2014

Washington's Birthday Cherry Brownies

President's Day has become one of those "floating holidays" and we combine all of the past President celebrations on that day... however, I'm an old-fashioned girl and I still like to recognize Lincoln on his birthday and Washington on his birthday.

So, here's a a really easy way to make Washington's birthday special for the kids. While you're making these special Cherry Brownies, you might want to do a little research and give the kids some of the fun history of George Washington and the cherry tree.

Have fun with this and Happy Birthday, President Washington!

Washington's Birthday Cherry Brownies

1 package (21.5-ounce) brownie mix
1 cup cherry pie filling (canned)
1/4 cup oil (canola or your preference)
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, dump in the brownie mix. Measure and add the oil. Break eggs in a separate small bowl or cup. Add eggs. Stir well. Add cherry pie filling and stir until blended into brownie mixture.

Note: Reserve some cherry pie filling to use as a topping on the brownie, if desired.

Use a 13" x 9" baking pan. Grease the bottom only. Note: If you prefer a spray oil that will work or have the kids put a small amount of oil or butter on a piece of waxed paper and let them rub it all over the bottom of the pan... this on is much more fun!

Pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Be careful not to over bake and dry out the brownies! Insert a toothpick to test.

While the brownies are till hot from the oven (yes, the adult helper needs to do this!)... sprinkle the top of the brownies with the chocolate chips. Spread them around and they will melt.

Top the brownies with fresh whipped cream, or... if you want it to be very special, serve the brownies warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and top with a small amount of the cherry pie filling. Stick a small American flag in the middle for a real George Washington birthday celebration!

Happy Cooking with Kids,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Coach