Valentine’s Day Desserts

or Love and Cream Cheese

Here it comes, another Hallmark holiday. Maybe you like it, maybe you don’t. God knows it has possibilities to be sublime, or really tank. In the past, when I bothered to celebrate it, I did the traditional stuff … heartfelt, romantic notes and poems, chocolate, music, thoughtful, sensitive, meaningful gifts, etc. You know the drill. These days, the only thing I do is make Mr. GG a “Coeur a la Creme”.

In my family, food = LOVE. And cream cheese is one of my essential food groups. I put it in desserts, appetizers, vegetables, and just about anything you can think of. I’m talking stuffed mushrooms, decadent mashed potatoes, cream cheese brownies, spanokopita, cheese balls, and cheesecake. For starters.

Personally, when it comes to romance, I like a nice champagne. Veuve Clicquot, if you really want to make me happy. However, if you want to impress a significant someone, I highly recommend the following recipes. The first one is foolproof.

Claudia’s Cherry Cheesecake

1 8 ounce brick of softened cream cheese
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 small container of Cool Whip (and don’t even bother to buy the reduced calorie stuff – I mean it!) Remember, you have to let the Cool Whip defrost in the fridge for several hours or overnight… plan ahead
1 can of cherry pie filling
1 pre-made graham cracker pie crust, preferably Keebler.

Put the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a bowl and whip it up until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, and mix that in. Then dump the thawed Cool Whip in and blend it all.

Take the plastic cover off the graham cracker crust and pull off the sticky label on the inside of the lid. Carefully spread the cream cheese mixture into the crust with a spatula. If you get too vigorous about this, you can break up the crust, so be gentle. Then open the cherry pie filling and dump that on top of the cream cheese mixture. If you want to get fancy about it, use a fork to scoop out the cherries and make pretty designs on the surface. Make sure you use all the red goo in the can, though. Then take the plastic cover from the graham crust, flip it over, so the convex side is up and put it over the whole thing. You will have to crimp the foil edges up over the plastic to really seal it. Sometimes the red goo oozes out at this point. Wipe it up with your finger and then swipe your finger through the dabs of cheese mixture left in the bowl. Yum.

Let the cheesecake sit in the fridge overnight if you can. If you are pressed for time, let it chill at least 4 hours.

For a little more effort, you can make a similar, but way more sophisticated dessert. It has to sit in the fridge overnight, too, and you should make the Melba sauce to pour over it the day before. Traditionally you make this in a ceramic heart shaped mold with a perforated bottom (I bought mine at Big Lots, years ago), but if you don’t have access to one, then you can use a colander or sieve or big strainer. You also need to buy some cheesecloth. Oh, and the sauce calls for a jar of currant jelly. A lot of stores don’t carry currant jelly, but I am giving you two weeks notice here, so you have time to score some.

Coeur a la Creme

12 ounces of softened cream cheese
2 cups of whipping cream, the heavier the better
3/4 cup of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Beat the cream cheese till light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and incorporate that. Slowly add the whipping cream, and beat the whole thing till it all looks like whipped cream. Add the teaspoon of vanilla.

Prepare your mold, or colander or big sieve. Dampen a couple of sheets of cheesecloth in cold water – enough to line your mold, and fold the ends over the top. Squeeze the water out of the cheesecloth and line your mold, and then spoon in the cheese mixture. Fold the ends that are dangling over the edge of the mold across the top. Put the mold on a plate, because stuff is gonna drip out of the thing. I think it is called whey. You know, like Little Miss Muffet? Curds and whey, the spider thing with the tuffet? If you use a big strainer, set it over a bowl, so the handle keeps the strainer off the bottom. Refrigerate overnight.

Melba Sauce

This stuff is like raspberry crack. The recipe makes a lot, but you will use it over ice cream or pound cake, or you can fold it into whipped cream to make a dessert called Raspberry Fool. It keeps a really long time. I don’t know exactly how long it keeps, because we always use it up in short order. Except for that time I forgot it behind the pickles and sauerkraut in the back of the fridge. I don’t know how long it had been back there, but it was still good.

1 10 ounce package of frozen raspberries
1/2 cup of red currant jelly
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of grated lemon peel (use a microplane grater, if you have one)
dash of salt

Thaw the raspberries. Put them in a covered saucepan and simmer about 15 minutes or so, until it makes a lot of juice. Then get a fine strainer, and press the stuff from the pan into a measuring cup. You want to get as much juice as possible, without any seeds. Throw out the seeds and pulp left in the strainer. You should have somewhere around 2/3 cup of juice in your measuring cup. If you don’t, add water. A lot of times I use way more than 10 ounces of raspberries, just to make certain I have enough undiluted juice.

Put the juice in a clean saucepan and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve, and then add the jelly, lemon peel and salt. Simmer over low heat, stirring pretty constantly. When the jelly dissolves, and the mixture is smooth, take it off the heat. I always let it sit for a bit, and skim off any bubbles or foam that rises to the top. Then, put it in an airtight jar or covered container and refrigerate.

To assemble the Coeur a la Creme, just before serving, peel the cheesecloth off the top of the mold and gently upend it onto a plate. Then remove the cheesecloth from the rest of the cheese. There will be a fine gingham looking pattern all over your dessert, but that gives it character. If you want to get really special, garnish the mold with a few perfect raspberries and maybe a sprig of mint.

If you want to go all nouveau cuisine on me, drizzle some Melba sauce over the dessert plate before you scoop out a chunk of Coeur. Or pour the sauce on after you plate up the cheese stuff. Or heck, do both. Myself, I always serve a small pitcher of Melba sauce on the side, so people can adjust things to their own taste.

If you serve up either of these recipes, there is a slight possibility that you could end up with a marriage proposal. But even if you don’t, the servee will definitely feel the love.

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