I am a total sucker for holidays…any holiday. From childhood I have driven my parents crazy insisting we follow all sorts of family traditions for each holiday on the calendar. Of course we had to have the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas meals with all the trimmings, for breakfast as well as dinner. The Fourth of July was not a proper celebration without the obligatory Flag Cake – white cloud frosting with blue berries and strawberries in a flag design. Halloween was always accompanied by cut-out cookies in cute shapes with orange and black sprinkles. On March 17th we could not skip a proper Irish meal as a shout out to my Irish heritage, even though my Mom is Dutch and English. Not to mention she hates corned beef and cabbage. Enter Valentine’s Day – with homemade paper hearts for my parents, classmates, and even pets; and of course heart-shaped cookies. I was hooked on the fanfare. The abundance of chocolate did not hurt either!
Since smooch day falls on a Saturday this year, it offers the perfect chance to make breakfast a little more special. Instead of the typical weekday breakfast I always ate at my office (I started at 5 a.m), or shoving a bowl of cereal in front of your kids so they can make it to school tour de suite, why not give your valentines a special treat. This special french toast is good anytime, but cut in heart shapes and decorated with nice red berries, it just says “I Love You.”
Heart Shaped French Toast
2 tablespoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
½ loaf of unsliced French bread or sourdough bread that is at least a day old. Slice the bread into thick slices.
1 teaspoon fiori di sicilia* or substitute zest of one orange and one teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whole milk or cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
Grease a 9’ x 13” baking pan.
Prepare glaze: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan covering evenly.
Place slices of bread in the pan on top of the glaze.
Prepare the custard: whisk the flavoring, milk, eggs, and salt together in a bowl. Pour the whisked mixture evenly over the bread in the pan.
Cover the pan and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and remove the pan from the refrigerator. Combine the nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar together and sprinkle over the top. Place in oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Note: To make a special valentine’s day treat, use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut the bread into heart shaped pieces.
*Fiori di Sicilia is a wonderful, citrusy flavoring that is available online at King Arthur Flour.
A special treat for dessert on Valentine’s Day – these brownies will win the heart of everyone in your family. They are really ooey-gooey delicious. This is a great way to use up those candy canes left over from Christmas – the ones that you hang on the Christmas tree but no one eats!
Double Chocolate Brownies
¾ cup butter, softened
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup flour
½ cup baking cocoa (not Dutch processed – such as Hershey’s or Ghiradelli)
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¾ cup mini chocolate chips
Crushed candy canes or peppermint candies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 8”x8” baking pan with parchment paper and spray bottom and sides with cooking spray.
Beat together butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until incorporated.
Measure dry ingredients into separate bowl and stir well to combine. Add gradually to egg mixture and beat until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
Spread in prepared pan and sprinkle with crushed candy. Bake for 40 minutes, or until brownie begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool and cut into bars.
From breakfast to dessert, treat you Valentine’s Day sweethearts to something delicious to show them that you care, and to help say “I Love You.”