Mary Ann Swanson creates scrumptious desserts for Valentine’s Day

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By Ann Cipperly

On Valentine’s Day, what better way to express love and caring than with a homemade confection. Mary Ann Swanson has a love for cooking and enjoys creating special desserts for her family and friends. Whether she is hosting bridge or her Bible study group during the month of February, Mary Ann creates an attractive presentation of yummy desserts with a Valentine theme.

Mary Ann enjoys entertaining and does it with ease, whether it is dinner, brunch, luncheon or an afternoon of bridge. When arriving at her home for an occasion, the table is always elegantly set with intricate linens purchased on travels to Europe. Silver and crystal accruements enhance the ambience.

For creating centerpieces and arrangements, Mary Ann will select flowers from her garden or combine purchased flowers with fresh greenery. When she held a graduation party for a granddaughter, she ordered 100 peach and cream roses for creating several lavish floral arrangements throughout the house.

Mary Ann’s family believes she is “the hostesses with the mostest.” When her granddaughter, Lindsey Beno Aiken, who inherited her love for cooking, was 10 years old, she cross-stitched a little plaque with “The Greatest Cook on Earth.”

When Lindsey was a student at Auburn University, she organized a cooking club. She placed notices around campus, and 75 students attended the first meeting. Lindsey invited local chefs to speak at the meetings, but the first speaker was her grandmother, who spoke on cooking for family and entertaining.

Mary Ann grew up in Columbus, Ga. where her father was a patternmaker at the Iron Works. When she came home from school, her mother would use pans her father made for baking tarts.

“My mother was a fabulous southern cook,” says Mary Ann, “but she enjoyed it so much that she never taught me.  I did lots of telephoning after I married and developed a style much like my Mother’s.  She was very talented with cooking and sewing.

“She did not have the resources that I have, but she always set a lovely table and was a great hostess. Every mouthful of food from her table was to be savored.  I owe her so much.”

For Valentine’s themed desserts for a bridge group, Mary Ann assembled plates with Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Strawberry Pretzel Dessert, Strawberries Romanoff and Heart-Shaped Sandwiches. Roasted pecans, heart-shaped chocolates and cheese straws completed the delightful tasting.

On another occasion, Mary Ann made Chocolate Chimichangas, which looked like stuffed crepes, for a Bible study. A chocolate bar was placed in the center of flour tortillas and then folded. The warm tortillas were topped with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. The dessert was easy to prepare and delicious.

Recently, she treated friends to French Cream Crepes with Raspberry Sauce.

If you don’t have time to make crepes for a Valentine’s dessert, Mary Ann’s Chocolate Covered Strawberries can be prepared in a few minutes. If you are in a hurry, you can place the chocolate dipped strawberries in the refrigerator to set.

The strawberries can be decorated without a pastry bag. Simply melt white chocolate (or dark if the strawberries are dipped in white chocolate) in the microwave. Place in a plastic bag and cut the end of one corner, then quickly drizzle over dipped berries.

While we want to celebrate loved ones every day, Valentine’s is a time to do something special for those you love. Children and grandchildren can help dip strawberries or bake brownies, and it creates happy memories.

Make this Valentine’s Day memorable with a scrumptious dessert. Don’t forget to share your homemade treats with others, including a shut-in, who would receive much joy for being remembered.

Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com.

Recipes:

Strawberries Romanoff
2 pints strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)
Rind of one orange
Combine ingredients in a bowl; marinate for 2 hours.
Place strawberries in a parfait glass. Top with whipping cream.
The strawberries are also good served over ice cream.

French Cream Crepes with Raspberry Sauce
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
4 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
8 – 10 crepes
In a saucepan, combine sugar and flour.  Stir in milk.  Cook on  low heat, stirring constantly until thick.  Remove from heat .  Stir small amount off mixture into beaten eggs, then return to the saucepan.
Cook over low heat, stirring for about 2 minutes.  Stir in butter and vanilla.  Cool.  
Make crepes and then shape each into a loose roll.  Serve with raspberry sauce.
Sauce:
10 oz. pkg. frozen raspberries
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
Whipped cream
Thaw berries.  In small saucepan combine sugar and cornstarch.  Stir in raspberries with juice.  Cook over low heat until thick.  Cool.
Spoon over crepes and top with whipped cream.

Heart-Shaped Sandwiches
Loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, strawberry bread or favorite nut bread, sliced
Cream cheese, softened
Make sandwiches with cream cheese. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut into small sandwiches.

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert
¾ cup butter
¼ cup brown sugar
2 ½ cups crushed pretzels
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. carton Cool Whip
1 cup sugar
6 oz. pkg. strawberry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
10 oz. pkg. frozen strawberries
Melt butter and add ¼ cup brown sugar and combine with the pretzels. Press into bottom of greased 9×13 inch baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 7 minutes. Cool.
Combine cream cheese, Cool Whip and 1 cup sugar; spread over cooled pretzel crust.
Combine Jell-O, water and strawberries; mix well. Cool in refrigerator for about 30 minutes and pour over cream cheese layer. Chill until set. Cut in squares.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Strawberries with stems
Semisweet chocolate, chopped
Rinse strawberries and pat dry. Do not remove stems.
Melt chocolate in the microwave on high for one minute. Remove, stir and microwave a few seconds more until melted.
Hold strawberries by the stem and dip bottom half into melted chocolate, twisting the strawberry. Place on waxed or parchment paper. Allow chocolate to set before serving.

Chocolate Molten Cupcakes with Powdered Sugar and Strawberries
Mary Ann’s granddaughter, Lindsey Beno Aiken, enjoys making these special cupcakes.
5 eggs
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1¾ cups extra-dark chocolate
1 pinch salt
Chopped strawberries
Melt butter and chocolate together on stove. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, sugar and salt. Mix butter-chocolate and egg mixture together. Slowly add flour through a sifter while continuously mixing.
Pour mixture about 3/4 full into a cupcake holder.
Put in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes (keep an eye on it, these are extremely easy to over-cook).
When cooked, place on a tray and add powdered sugar onto the cupcakes through a sifter. Add chopped strawberries to top.

Lindsey’s Raspberry Tiramisu
1 pkg. ladyfingers
¼ cup seedless raspberry jelly
1 Tbsp. orange liqueur
½ cup whipping cream
¼ cup sugar
Melt jelly in microwave for about 20 seconds and stir in liquor. Beat cream and sugar with electric mixer until fluffy.
Use any type of parfait glass and put two ladyfingers at the bottom of each glass.
Drizzle jelly mixture on top of ladyfingers, then put whipped cream mixture on top.
Add one ladyfinger on top of whipped cream, drizzle jelly and add whipped cream as the final topping. Refrigerate until serving.

Chocolate Chimichangas with Raspberry Sauce
6 milk chocolate candy bars
6 10-inch flour tortillas
Vegetable oil
Raspberry Sauce
Vanilla ice cream
Place each candy bar just below the center of each tortilla. Fold bottom of tortilla up and over candy bar just until partially covered. Fold, left to right sides of tortilla over, roll up and place seam side down on baking sheet. Freeze 30 minutes.
In a skillet, place two tortillas at a time, seam side down in 1-inch hot oil; fry 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Serve with ice cream and Raspberry Sauce.
Can prepare tortillas ahead and reheat in oven for a few minutes.
Raspberry Sauce
10 oz. pkg. frozen raspberries, thawed
½ cup sugar
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. orange liqueur, optional
1 tsp. cornstarch
Combine first 3 ingredients and orange liqueur, if desired, in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat; cool.
Press mixture through wire-mesh strainer into a small saucepan, using the back of a spoon to squeeze out juice.
Whisk cornstarch into juice; bring a boil and cook 1 to 2 minutes until thickened. Can store in refrigerator up to 3 days.

Mocha Pecan Mud Pie
½ cup chopped pecans
Vegetable cooking spray
1 tsp. sugar
1 pint regular or light coffee ice cream, softened
1 pint regular or light chocolate ice cream, softened
1 cup coarsely chopped cream-filled chocolate cookies, divided
1 ready-made chocolate crumb piecrust
2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
Place pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with sugar. Bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool.
Stir together ice cream, cookie chunks and 1/3 cup pecans. Spoon into piecrust. Freeze 10 minutes.
Press remaining cookie chunks and pecans evenly on top. Cover with plastic wrap; freeze 8 hours. Drizzle slices with chocolate syrup.

Raspberry and Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
12 (3/4-inch thick) slices day old brioche, challah or other egg bread
1 cup fresh or frozen berries
3 eggs, beaten
¾ cup half and half or milk
3 Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
Dash salt
Maple syrup or maple flavored syrup, optional
Spread cream cheese evenly over one side of each slice of bread. Top half of slices with raspberries. Top with remaining bread slices, cream cheese side down to make sandwiches.
Combine half and half, sugar, vanilla and salt in shallow bowl. Dip sandwiches into mixture, turning to coat both sides.
Place sandwiches in greased 15 by 10 inch baking pan. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes or until golden brown, turning after 10 minutes.
Serve with maple syrup, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

Strawberry Bread
For Valentine’s Day, cut into heart shapes.
2 cups chopped strawberries
3 cups flour
1¼ cup sugar
4 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
2/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
In one bowl add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix together. In another bowl whisk together eggs, canola oil, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Gently add strawberries.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Place batter in two greased 4 x 8-inch baking pans in 350-degree oven for one hour or until done.

Chocolate-Strawberry Crepes
When the batter has cooked for about 15 seconds, sprinkle miniature chocolate chips down the center. Be aware that a little goes a long way. Remove crepe from pan and roll up like a taco. Pour just a little Karo syrup across crepes and top with strawberries and whipped cream.
Basic Crepe Batter
1 cup flour
1½ cups milk
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
¼ tsp. salt
Combine flour, milk, eggs, oil and salt. Beat with a whisk until blended well.
With a ladle, pour batter into a thin circle on greased pan and quickly spread in circular motion to the size crepe you want. Let sit for about 30 seconds. Remove from pan and let cool.

Champagne Floats
Lindsey Beno Aiken
1 bottle Champagne
1 qt. strawberry or raspberry sorbet
Fresh strawberries or raspberries for garnish
Place one scoop sorbet in glass and pour Champagne on top. Garnish with berries. Serve immediately.

Seaside Brownies
1 cup butter
4 (1-oz.) unsweetened chocolate squares
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional
Powdered sugar for garnish
Melt butter and chocolate squares in a heavy saucepan over low heat.
Beat eggs and sugar at medium-high speed with an electric mixer 8 minutes. Gradually add chocolate mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Gradually add flour, beating until blended. Stir in nuts, if using. Pour into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch pan.
Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares. Dust with powdered sugar to garnish, if desired.

Baked Brie with Raspberry Jelly
8 oz. round Brie
2 Tbsp. raspberry jelly
1 piecrust dough
Place Brie in center of piecrust. Spread jelly on side and top of Brie. Pull up sides of the piecrust and wrap Brie until it is fully covered. Bake in oven for 40 minutes on 350 degrees.

Creamy Lemon Cheesecake Yogurt Cupcakes.
Lindsey Beno Aiken
12 vanilla wafers
8 oz. regular or 1/3 reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
6 oz. vanilla Greek yogurt
2 large egg whites
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
24 blackberries
Line cupcake tin with liners. Place a vanilla wafer at the bottom of each liner.
Gently beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth using an electric mixer. Gradually beat in yogurt, egg whites, lemon juice, lemon zest and flour. Do not over beat. Pour into cupcake liners, filling halfway.
Bake 25 minutes or until center is almost set on 350 degrees. Cool to room temperature. Chill a few hours in the refrigerator. Garnish with blackberries.

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