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Chocolate Treats Perfect For Any Valentine
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With 2009 behind us, it's time to gear up for the most romantic day of the year--Valentine's Day! I don't know about you, but I really enjoy getting into V-day.  Chocolate-covered strawberries, champagne, romantic music, flowers, chocolate...Ahhh! I can't wait.  It all comes easy when you're married to the greatest guy in the world!  Will you be my Valentine, Jeremy?

Even though the girls are still young, they already LOVE Valentine's Day.  In addition to making special treats for their Valentines, they also get visited by the Cupid, who leaves chocolate and other yummy treats for them.  The Cupid never visited me...I guess I was on his "naughty list"?

To keep it simple, we traditionally make chocolate-covered strawberries or chocolate-covered pretzels for the girls to share with their teachers and friends.  However, we wanted to try something different this year.  Why not try cookies?  It's quick (compared to hand-dipping little pretzels), and one recipe makes more than enough for everyone.  It's perfect!  Be My Valentine Cookies for everyone!!!

Reminiscent of my favorite cookies (Thin Mints from the Girl Scouts), these cookies sport the same peppermint-chocolate flavor.  I can't even describe how incredible they make my kitchen smell!  What's better is how simple the recipe is... 

In a large bowl, add everything but the flour.  Mix on medium speed until it's creamy. 

 all-ingredients-in-bowl

To be sure the ingredients are incorporated well, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula or spoon, and continue to mix for a little bit.

scrape-down-sides

When it looks smooth and creamy, scrape down the sides once more before adding the flour.

ready-for-flour

With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour.  After you've added all three cups, continue to mix until the dough comes together.  Be careful not to over mix. 

add-flour

Now comes the fun part...dividing the dough in half (so you can wrap and refrigerate it).  There's really no easy way to do it.  The method I traditionally use is to dump it onto a piece of plastic wrap.

dump-onto-plastic-wrap

Then I fold one edge of the plastic wrap over the entire ball of dough.  Using my hand, I make a line through what looks like the middle of the ball.  Using a separate sheet of plastic wrap, wrap up one of the pieces.  Then you can wrap up the other piece using the original piece of plastic wrap.

divide-dough-in-half

Voila!  Put the dough into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

wrap-up-and-refrigerate

When you're ready to bake the cookies, take the dough out of the refrigerator, and let it rest for a few minutes.  While you wait, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Using a generous amount of flour, dust the surface you will be using (so the dough doesn't stick to it).  Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, begin cutting out the hearts.

cut-out-cookies

Gently transfer the hearts to a non-stick baking sheet.  To help with clean-up, you can also use parchment paper or a baking mat underneath the cookies.

place-on-baking-sheet1

Bake the cookies for 7 to 10 minutes or until they begin to brown along the edges.  Because I prefer softer cookies, I baked mine for 7 minutes.  After you take them out of the oven, transfer them to a cooling rack, and allow them to cool completely.

place-them-on-rack

While the cookies cool, melt the chocolate and shortening in a small saucepan over low heat.

 melt-chocolate

When the chocolate is completely melted and velvety smooth, remove the pan from the heat.  I also poured it into a small bowl to make dipping easier for the girls.

melted-chocolate-ready

With a little help, begin dipping the cookies into the melted chocolate.  To be sure they don't stick, place them onto a piece of waxed paper to cool.

 dip-cookies

When you're finished dipping, allow the cookies to cool completely so the chocolate hardens.  After about 10 minutes, the cookies can be transferred to an airtight container to store in the refrigerator.

cool-chocolate-cookies

Wrap them in a collectible Valentine's Day tin or a heart-shaped box, and you have a gift sure to steal the hearts of Valentines everywhere!  Sydney opted for a simple box with pink tissue paper and curly ribbon. 

With love...

final1

I'd love to hear how the sweethearts in your life enjoyed Be My Valentine Cookies by leaving a comment below.

Looking for a decadent Valentine's dessert?  On Thursday Amanda serves up a chocolate, caramel dessert you'll LOVE!

Julie is paid to write for the Land O'Lakes Recipe Buzz® Blog.

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