Staff writer Clint Cooper has a drawer full of unused recipes in his kitchen. Once a month in Tossed & Found, he's pulling some out and giving them a try.
Roses are a natural, diamonds are forever and candy is dandy, but how about surprising your loved one with a special dessert on Valentine's Day?
The bonus is that he or she will know you made it, and you'll have done so without taxing yourself or spending all day doing it.
This month's Tossed & Found installment offers up four desserts from the recipe drawer, at least one with some ingredient bound to please your significant other.
The Strawberry Tunnel Cake starts with a lighter angel food cake that you can make from a mix (or buy already made) and includes always-romantic strawberries. It takes a little effort in creating the tunnel effect, but the resulting dessert is worth it. And won't your loved one be pleased with your creativity?
The Peppermint Patty Cheesecake seems like something you'd only get in a visit to an out-of-town Cheesecake Factory, but you can do this yourself in a few minutes. It came from one of the Times Free Press' Thanksgiving cooking booklets we produced several years ago.
The Triple Chocolate Pound Cake is one you and your valentine can finish privately - and decadently - over Valentine's Day weekend. Cocoa, mini chocolate chip morsels and a rich buttercream icing give the cake its name. There's just enough for the two of you, though, according to the source blog, there are other applications of the cake for families or groups.
Carol's No-Crust Coconut Pie is the quickest to make of all four and just the ticket if you have a coconut fix and don't have the time for a complicated coconut cake or other recipe with the fruit.
None of the desserts is too difficult to make, so take an hour or so to show your valentine how you thought of them in a special way this weekend.
And just to cinch the deal, according to a recent Harris poll, 57 percent of people said they preferred to cook at home (or order in) rather than going out on Valentine's Day.
STRAWBERRY TUNNEL CAKE
1 package (16 ounces) angel food cake mix
2 packages (3 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional
6 drops red food coloring, optional
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 carton (12 ounces) frozen whipped topping
Prepare, bake and cool cake according to package directions. Slice the top fourth off the cake; set aside. To make tunnel, use a sharp knife to carefully hollow out bottom of cake, leaving a 1/2-inch shell. Tear removed cake into 1-inch cakes. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in milk and lemon juice until smooth. Stir in extract and food coloring if desired. Stir in cake cubes and strawberries. Fold in 1 cup whipped topping. Spoon into tunnel; replace cake top. Spread remaining whipped topping over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
• Cook's changes: It's hard to find 3-ounce packages of cream cheese anymore; I cut down an 8-ounce bar. Similarly, it's hard to find a 12-ounce tub of whipped topping; you have to buy a 16-ounce tubs or two 8-ounce tubs if you want them to fit in your freezer.
• Result: This is a light and tasty dessert. The recipe made more filling than my cake would hold. If I made it again, I might use more strawberries and a little less cream cheese. I'm not a huge fan of whipped topping as an icing, either, so if you're like me, it would probably be just as good without it. Or you could make real whipped cream and put a dollop on each piece.
- Janis Borstad, Ponsford, Minn., via Taste of Home
PEPPERMINT PATTY CHEESECAKE
1 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs (5-10 crackers)
2 tablespoons reduced-fat butter, melted
2 (8 ounces) packages fat-free cream cheese
1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
12 chocolate-covered peppermint patties, divided
1 teaspoon flour
In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and butter; press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool on wire rack. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheeses until smooth; beat in milk and extract. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Coarsely chop 8 peppermint patties; toss with flour and stir into batter. Pour over crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 32 to 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Cut remaining peppermint patties into quarters; arrange on top of cheesecake. Remove outer ring of pan before cutting.
• Cook's changes: I accidentally used two packages of reduced-fat cream cheese and one of fat-free instead of the other way around, but I'm not sure it made much a difference. I didn't have reduced-fat butter, either, so I used regular. Interestingly, this recipe as printed called for 3/4 cup of peppermint extract. Alarmed, I checked online for a similar recipe and found the exact one with just 3/4 teaspoon of peppermint. The recipe didn't specify what size the peppermint patties should be. The ones I used were about an inch and a half round.
• Result: I like cheesecake in small doses, and this was a good one, especially with the peppermint flavor.
- Celeste Smith
TRIPLE CHOCOLATE POUND CAKE with RICH CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened (overnight, if possible)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tablespoon half & half (light cream)
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup mini-chocolate chips
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan; set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sour cream, sugar, and half and half, blending ingredients well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder. Add half the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and blend well; then add the remaining flour mixture and blend everything well. Fold in the mini-chocolate chips, stirring to distribute the chips evenly in the batter. Pour or spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and bake at 325 degrees for 70 to 75 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Be careful not to overbake or loaf may be a little dry. Cool in loaf pan 10 to 15 minutes; then remove from pan and cool completely. When loaf is completely cool, frost with Rich Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon half & half (light cream)
1/4-1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, for garnish
Cream the softened butter and powdered sugar. Then add in the cocoa powder and blend well. Add 1 tablespoon half and half and mix well; if you'd rather have a thinner consistency, just add more half and half. When pound cake is completely cool, spoon all of the frosting on top of the cake and spread out to cover the top with a thick layer. Then garnish with the mini chocolate chips, sprinkling down the center of the cake.
• Cook's changes: I think I accidentally misread the ingredients for the icing and had a hot mess on my hands before adding more butter and more half and half to, more or less, end up with the same icing I would have if I'd have followed the directions.
• Result: This makes a very dense, very chocolatey, very good cake. The blog from which the recipe came suggests the cake can be eaten without icing, but I like the addition. It also suggests the recipe can be doubled for a bundt cake or for a layer cake with two 8-inch round pans and an extra 6-inch round pan.
CAROL'S NO-CRUST COCONUT PIE
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup self-rising flour
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
7 ounces flaked coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix the ingredients together in the order listed. Bake in greased pie pan at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.
• Cook's changes: None.
• Result: This is a very simple recipe, and the result is a decent coconut pie. It's not as rich as coconut cream pie, but it will satisfy your coconut jones. If I make it again, I may sneak in some more coconut.
- Impera Magna via Food.com
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at6 Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.