Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. It is usually billed as a romantic holiday, filled with cards, flowers, and chocolate. This celebration often brings quite a bit of income to retailers who specialize in those areas.
For the most part, my late husband didn’t participate in adding to the coffers of stores that sell gifts that appeal to the heart. The Valentine’s day before Bob graduated to Heaven, my “present” was a box of Dulcolax that I needed for a procedure I was having on February 14th. When he told me, “Happy Valentine’s Day” as he gave it to me the night before, I figured he had purchased something else that I would receive the next day. That was not the case. Sometimes, though, he surprised me. A couple of years before the laxative incident, he managed to do just that.
It had been a cold, snowy winter. I didn’t enjoy taking Waldo (Bob’s beagle) outside to do his business. Waldo had to be on a leash; if I just let him out the door, he took off running and didn’t come back until he was cold and shivering. We purchased a retractable lead so that Waldo could wander further away from us without being able to escape. When Bob was at work, it was my job to see to Waldo.
I remember a particular day that the snow was fairly deep, and the temperature was in the frigid zone. Waldo insisted that he needed to go outside again and again. He loved to romp in the snow. One time, I grabbed Bob’s coat instead of mine. It was made for outside work, and much thicker than my own outerwear. I bundled up in it, pulling its hood securely over my head.
As Waldo and I walked to the spot where he usually liked to “go,” I thought to myself, “This coat is really heavy!” I wondered what Bob had stashed in its pockets, knowing that it could be any number of tools or an assortment of hardware parts. Just then, Waldo spotted something he wanted to chase. There was a strong yank on the leash, which was somehow wrapped around one of my ankles, and I found myself lying on the ground. As I struggled to get up, I was thinking, “I can’t believe how difficult this heavy coat makes it to stand up!”
When Bob arrived home that evening, I described my winter adventure with Waldo. I informed him that his heavy coat had made it almost impossible for me to get up out of the snow. “Are you carrying around lead weights?” I inquired. Bob was thankful that the main harm I had suffered was to my pride, although my hip was sore from where I landed on it. He ignored my reference to the heaviness of his jacket.
A few days after the snow incident, it just happened to be Valentine’s Day. I did get a present that year – a red tea mug filled with quarters. I used to ask my family for those particular coins. It started when I wanted an item that cost quite a lot. I decided it took too long to save my pennies, so I began collecting quarters instead. That item had been purchased years before this; however, the quarter ritual went on indefinitely.
Once I received my money-filled mug, Bob told me what caused the heaviness in his coat. He visited the bank in order to obtain the quarters he needed to accomplish his mission. They were hidden in his coat, which had several inside pockets. He stated that he had been holding his breath when I talked about all the weight in his jacket, hoping that I would not be curious enough to find out what caused it. He couldn’t believe that I had decided to grab his garment instead of my own. Bob breathed a sigh of relief when it was finally time to transfer ownership of all those coins.
Even though many people love to receive chocolate on Valentine’s Day, no one who knows me will give me something I am allergic to. However, I have gifted it to others, knowing they don’t have the same problem. Bob loved it when I made him something chocolate; here are some recipes he enjoyed.
Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
48 maraschino cherries, blotted dry
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 to 3 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture (batter will be very firm). Shape into 48 balls, about 1-inch round; place on ungreased baking sheets. Push one cherry halfway into each ball. For frosting, melt chocolate chips in condensed milk in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add cherry juice and stir until smooth. Spoon 1 teaspoon of frosting over each cherry (the frosting will spread over cookie during baking). Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
Yield: 4 dozen.
Rocky Road Brownies
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for pan
1 bag (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped nuts, such as cashews, pecans, or walnuts (I used walnuts)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper.
In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water, combine butter and 1 cup chocolate chips. Heat, stirring occasionally, just until melted, 3 to 5 minutes. (May melt in microwave.)
Remove mixture from heat; stir in sugars and salt, then eggs, and finally flour, stirring just until combined. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove from oven, and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips, then marshmallows and nuts. Bake until chocolate is shiny and marshmallows are puffed, about 5 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface; cut into 16 squares.
Fudge Chip Cookies
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; set aside. Cream sugars and butter or margarine. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla until well combined. Stir in flour mixture just until blended. Add chocolate chips. Drop by level tablespoonfuls onto ungreased, foil-line baking sheet. Bake 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on wire rack completely before peeling foil from cookies. Makes about 4 dozen.