Blueberry Hand Pies

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Okay everyone. It’s time to prepare yourselves. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It’s that time of year when we’re bombarded with candy hearts, stuffed animals, red roses, and cheap champagne. I’ve never been a big fan of the holiday myself, and Matthew and I never do anything overly extravagant to celebrate. This year we’re opting to cook a romantic dinner for two at home. This is exactly the type of low-key Valentine’s Day celebration that I can appreciate.

After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I’ve just started finding my way back into the kitchen to do some baking. I decided to start with a simple recipe that I’ve done many times before. A couple of summers ago, I took a pie baking class at Sur La Table with a friend where they taught us how to make hand pies. Using the same recipe, I simply swapped out my circular cookie cutter for a heart shaped one! You can use any filling that you’d like, I just chose blueberry jam because it is what we had in the refrigerator. Regardless of my feelings about Valentine’s Day, one thing I definitely can support are these homemade heart shaped treats!

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Blueberry Hand Pie Recipe

Pastry Dough Ingredients
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup ice water

Egg Wash Ingredients
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

Jam Filling Ingredients
3/4 cup jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

Directions
To make dough, combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture forms a ball. Separate into two balls, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Place racks in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Line to baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Remove pie crusts from the refrigerator and roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness. Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut approximately 10 hearts from the crust. Place these hearts on a tray in the refrigerator while you’re working on the second crust. After rolling and cutting out each crust, you should have approximately 20 hearts.

Beat your egg and water together to form the egg wash and lightly brush half of the hearts with the egg wash. Place a small amount of jam in the center of each heart. Gently place the remaining hearts over the top and use your fingers to seal the edges. Go over the edges with the tines of a fork for a final seal. Use a paring knife to cut three small vents on the top and brush each heart with the beaten egg.

Place the hearts on your prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes. You want the tops to be golden and the filling to be bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
There is a fine art to rolling out pastry dough that only comes with practice. I’m still learning as I go along but have found two things that always help with the process. First, always work with well-chilled pastry; otherwise, the dough will stick to the counter and tear. Second, never roll out dough by rolling back and forth over the same section. Each time you press on the same spot, more gluten develops that can toughen the dough.

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Valentine’s Rice Krispies Treats

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Winter has arrived in full force here in Ann Arbor. We received 15 inches of snow last week, and the forecast is still calling for more. It’s easy to be glum about the short days and bitter winds. Especially when Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, portending six more weeks of winter. However, there is so much to love about the season! Here are just a few of my favorite things about winter, which will hopefully have you embracing the next inch or two of snow that arrives in your driveway.

1. Tights and leggings
2. Cold, crisp air
3. Hot apple cider
4. Justifiable hibernation
5. Snow days and snow emergencies
6. Seeing your pets reaction to the snow
7. Winter sunrises
8. The first snow of the year
9. Fuzzy socks
10. Comfort food

Speaking of comfort food… a chilly winter day is all the motivation I need to do some serious baking. One of my favorite snacks growing up were the pre-packaged Rice Krispies that came in a little blue package. My mom and I used to buy them in bulk at Sams Club. While I don’t snack on them that often these days, I still enjoy one from the vending machine now and then. This week in the Sweet Precision kitchen, I decided to be a little creative and make some Valentine’s Day inspired Rice Krispies. All you need is a cookie cutter, red or pink candy melts, and some red sprinkles to take this every day dessert to the next level.

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Valentine’s Rice Krispies Treats
Makes approximately 24 treats

Ingredients
1/4 cup butter
4 cups miniature marshmallows
5 cups Rice Krispies cereal
red or pink candy melts

Directions
Melt margarine in large sauce pan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted and well-blended. Cook 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add cereal. Stir until well coated.

Using buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture evenly and firmly in buttered 13 x 9 inch pan. Cut the treats into heart shapes with a 2- 3-inch cookie cutter when cool.

Melt the candy melts according to the package directions. Transfer into a plastic bag with a corner cut off for piping. Decorate with sprinkles and let chocolate set before serving. Enjoy!

Heather’s Helpful Hints
When making your treats, don’t crank the heat on the stovetop too high. I get it, you want to get these quick-to-make treats set as soon as possible so you can dig in. High heat is the prime culprit for rock hard Rice Krispies. It will take a few more minutes of cook time, but melt the butter and marshmallows over low heat. You’ll be rewarded with delicious, soft and chewy treats!

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Red Velvet Cupcakes for Two

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When someone typically thinks of Valentine’s Day thoughts of love, adoration, and roses will float through their mind. But this year I engaged in a little self reflection over the years and came to the realization that there is one word that I have come to associate with the holiday… stress. Although it might seem counterintuitive, let me explain my reasoning to you.

In elementary school, Valentine’s Day wasn’t about love—holding hands with a boy was still considered icky. Instead it symbolized an exciting day full of cards and candy received from my fellow classmates. But, that also meant I had to sign my name in each of my cards which amounted to a whopping 30+ signatures. My mom firmly put her foot down asserting that she would simply not assist me with my signing duties. For a seven or eight year old kid, this amounted to a certain level of stress associated with Valentine’s Day.

By junior high and high school boys weren’t icky anymore, but by then there were new stresses associated with the day. There were Valentine’s Day dances and kissing booths. On top of that, roses and anonymous love notes were delivered to people in class, and your popularity was judged by the amount of flowers you were carrying around by the end of the day. Stressful yet again.

Once I finally had a boyfriend, you would think my problems would be solved. Not the case. I had no idea what to buy him for the special day. Overwhelmed by the amount of commercialism surrounding the holiday, I didn’t know if I should be getting him chocolate, a nice watch, or a booklet of love coupons as a gift. Once again, stressful.

This Valentine’s Day I’m approaching the holiday with a slightly less stressful mindset. Since Matt and I won’t be together, we’re having a phone dinner date to celebrate. No chocolate, no teddy bears, and no love coupons. This is the type of stress free Valentine’s Day I can do.

I don’t know what the holiday holds for you this year, but if you’re considering spending it with a loved one, I have the perfect idea for you. If I was going to be literal, the name of this post would have been red velvet cupcakes for four. But if you’re like me, a one-person serving for cupcakes is more likely to be two. As much as I would love to scarf down an entire heart shaped cake (and believe me I would) I wanted to find something individually tailored for two people. After doing some brainstorming and internet searching, I came up with the idea of cupcakes for two. And what better flavor for Valentine’s Day than red velvet!

The heart shaped chocolate decorations were actually inspired by a visit that I made to an Ann Arbor cupcake store. I asked the lady behind the counter how she made them, and she explained that she just used a piping bag with melted chocolate. What a simple idea for a fun garnish. So if you’re looking for a fun, easy, and NO stress dessert for Valentine’s Day, give these a try!

Red Velvet Cupcakes for Two
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

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Cupcake Ingredients
1/3 cups and 1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cups canola oil
1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 whole egg white
1 teaspoon red food coloring
1/8 teaspoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients
3 ounces, weight cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
6 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon milk
1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions
Place 4 cupcake liners in a muffin tin. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. In another bowl, beat together the canola oil, sugar, buttermilk, egg white, red dye, vinegar, and vanilla using an electric mixer. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing all the while. Divide the batter between the four cupcake liners and bake for 20-22 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Beat together all icing ingredients using an electric mixer. Frost cupcakes when cool. For chocolate hearts, melt chocolate in a double boiler and transfer to a piping bag. Working quickly pipe heart shaped decorations onto a piece of waxed paper. Allow to cool completely and garnish cupcakes.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Since this recipe only call for four cupcakes, place them on the outer edge of your muffin tin to bake. This will allow them to rise higher and more evenly.

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