Happy Valentine’s Day. Here are a few recipes to help make the day special.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Here are a few recipes to help make the day special.


Bibb Lettuce Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts

1          head Bibb lettuce, torn into bite size pieces

½         cup sliced English seedless cucumber into ¼ inch slices

1/3       cup feta cheese, crumbled

½         cup dried cranberries

1/3       cup walnut pieces ( toasted, if desired)

            Raspberry vinaigrette, your favorite

            In a clear glass salad bowl toss together Bibb lettuce pieces, cucumber slices, feta cheese, cranberries, and walnuts.  Serve on salad plates and drizzle some raspberry vinaigrette over the top.

            Toasted or candied walnuts will give n added flavor to this salad.


Candied Carrots with Balsamic Vinegar

1          8-ounce package small baby carrots

3          tablespoons brown sugar

2          tablespoons butter, melted

1          tablespoon balsamic vinegar

            In a saucepan place carrots and cover with water, cook until just tender; drain and pour into a bowl.

            In saucepan mix together brown sugar, butter, and balsamic vinegar.  Cook over medium heat, melting butter, stir and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring.   Add cooked carrots and toss to coat, heat through and serve.


Beef Stroganoff with Mushrooms

6 ½      cups water, divided

4          ounces uncooked egg noodles

1          pound sirloin or flank steak, trimmed

            Cooking spray

1          medium sweet onion, chopped

2          bay leaves

            Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1          8-ounce package white button mushrooms or baby portabella mushrooms, sliced

1          cup beef broth, divided

½         cup dry white wine (Optional)

¼         cup all-purpose flour

1/3       cup sour cream

1          tablespoon butter

2          tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley chopped

            In a large saucepan bring 6 cups of water to a boil.  Add noodles and cook for 5 minutes until al dente.  Drain.

            Cut the steak across the grain into ¼ inch wide strips then cut into 2-inch long pieces.

            Heat a large skillet with cooking spray over medium high heat.  Add steak to pan and sauté for 4 minutes or until browned.  Remove steak from pan.  Add chopped onion, mushrooms, salt and black pepper.  Lower heat to medium.

            In a small bowl whisk together ¼ cup beef broth and flour.  Add this mixture, the cooked steak, remaining ¾ cup beef broth, wine, bay leaves, and ½ cup water to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits, stir to mix well.  Cover and cook about 7-8 minutes or until sauce thickens.  Remove from heat, remove bay leaves and discard, stir in sour cream and butter, mix well.  Serve over egg noodles and sprinkle with chopped parsley.


Parmesan and Garlic Bread Slices

Serves 4 to 6.

1          small loaf Italian bread, cut crosswise on a diagonal into 1-inch slices

            Butter, softened

            Dried parsley flakes

            Garlic powder

            Parmesan cheese, grated

            Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

            On a foil lined baking sheet place bread slices.  Spread each piece of bread with softened butter, sprinkle with garlic powder and parsley flakes, then top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 7-10 minutes until a golden brown.  Serve warm.


Raspberry and Almond Shortbread Bars

½         pound butter (2 sticks), room temperature

¾         cup granulated sugar

1          teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/3    cups all-purpose flour

            Pinch of Kosher salt

12        ounces good quality raspberry jam

2/3       cup rolled oats

¼         teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼         cup sliced almonds

            Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

            In a bowl with an electric mixer combine butter and sugar.  With mixer on low add vanilla.

            In another bowl whisk together flour and salt.  With the electric mixer slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture, until it comes together in a ball.  Turn the dough out onto a board.  Place and pat down 2/3 of the dough on the bottom of a 9 x 9-inch baking pan and push the dough about ¼ inch up the sides.  Spread raspberry jam over surface leaving ¼ inch border around the edge.

            Mix the oats together with the cinnamon and then with your hands mix into the remaining 1/3 of the dough.  Break the dough into small bits and sprinkle on top of the jam layer, covering most of the surface.  Sprinkle the almonds on top.  Bake the bars for 40-45 minutes until lightly browned.

            Cool completely on a wire rack and cut into bars.


Valentine Chocolate Coconut Candies

It’s hard to eat just one candy.

1 ¾      cups confectioners’ sugar, more if needed for consistency

1 ¾      cups flaked coconut

1          cup chopped almonds or pecans

½         cup sweetened condensed milk

1          tablespoon rum or orange liqueur (Optional)

2          cups or 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

2          tablespoons shortening


            In a large bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar, coconut, almonds or pecans, rum, and milk.  Shape into 1-inch balls.  Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

            In a microwave, melt semisweet chips and shortening on high for 1-minute, stir.  Microwave an additional 10 to 20 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

            Dip candy balls into hot chocolate, allowing excess to drip off.  Place on waxed paper; let stand until set.  Store in an airtight container.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival, winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012, and placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing; and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.