Posted in Cooking, Home

Red Velvet for Valentines, Part II by Donna Everhart

In my family we have a cookie baking tradition. Since I can remember, my mother and I have baked at Christmas time, and this has continued with my daughter, and now my granddaughter too. Four generations were in my kitchen this past holiday season, my granddaughter’s very first time, while for my daughter, my mother and myself, we can count these special times by the decades. There was one year we baked from seven a.m. until eleven p.m., and the next morning when I woke up, my hands ached from kneading so much dough. That was the year we made eight different types of cookies, doubling or tripling recipes, so by the time it was all said and done, we had to have baked hundreds upon hundreds of cookies. We are not that ambitious now, and usually do about three kinds. The dough is made ahead, so all we have to do is roll, drop, or cut. This is much more manageable, and enjoyable time for all considering we now have an eighty-two year old with a cane and a four year old with enough energy for all of us.

By the time Valentine’s Day comes around, the holiday overload of sugar has waned, and if I’ve been careful, my New Year’s resolutions are still intact. Valentine’s Day is about showing our love for those we care about, and what better way to do this than to offer up something homemade to go along with a card? In a previous post, I talked about red velvet cupcakes, and hinted I had a recipe for red velvet cookies. I don’t know what it is about cookies, but they hold such nostalgic feelings for me. I have memories of cookies and milk for an after school snack, and how there was always a filled cookie jar on the kitchen countertop when I was growing up. It wasn’t uncommon for me and my brother to try and sneak one before supper, dodging Mom’s watchful eye. Continue reading “Red Velvet for Valentines, Part II by Donna Everhart”

Posted in Cooking, Home

Red Velvet for Valentines by Donna Everhart

I don’t mean bows, dresses, or shoes – although red velvet shoes would be stunning, now that I think about it. No, I’m talking about Red Velvet cake – or in this case, cupcakes!

The history behind this baking concept which truly earns the name of Red Velvet if done correctly, is a bit convoluted. Velvet cakes, in general, are thought to have been created during the Victorian era. The term “velvet” was used because the cake would be soft and crumbly from ingredients like incorporating cocoa into flour, which gives it a finer texture. At some point, chocolate was used, and those cakes became known as Devil’s Food cakes, and there is the thought this is where the Red Velvet cake originated.

The Adams Extract Company has claimed to also have a hand in the creation of this famous cake trend. They’re the creators of red food coloring and in the 1920s, the company declared they made the first Red Velvet cake. They can certainly take credit for having brought it into households across America during the Depression, as one of the first to use point of sales posters and tear off recipe cards for their food coloring and other flavors.

Then there is the famous Waldorf Astoria in New York City who considers it their own creation, and introduced it in the 1950s. Here, to this day, the cake actually goes under the name of the Waldorf Astoria cake.

Even Canada has a stake in it. In the 1940s and 50s, Red Velvet cake was served as a popular dessert at Eaton’s Department store. Employees were bound to secrecy over the recipe, which some thought was devised by the Lady Eaton herself.

But, while all of the above may be true, many consider it a Southern recipe. This is likely due to the resurgence in popularity after the 1980s movie, Steel Magnolias, which featured a Red Velvet armadillo cake as the groom’s cake. Y’all remember that scene don’t you, with “Ouiser” whacking off the tail end and serving it to Drum Eatenton? (played by Tom Skerritt) He followed up that serving with a classic line I can’t repeat here.

I know in my own family, there isn’t a year that goes by where we don’t have Red Velvet cake, cupcakes or a version made into cookies for the holidays, Valentine’s, or even a birthday celebration. If you’ve never tried this cake before, I feel certain it would become a favorite with your family too. There is a very light, delicate hint of chocolate, and it’s a true centerpiece for a special celebration due to its brilliant color.

The traditional icing for a Red Velvet cake is called ermine frosting. You create a roux and slowly add confectioner’s sugar, beating it all the while. The taste is creamy sweet, and a perfect addition. Ermine frosting takes time, but is oh so worth the effort. However, if you’re a bit intimidated by it, there is another very good icing using cream cheese that is often used, and has become perhaps even more popular than ermine.

Red Velvet cakes have become so popular once again, there are other creations that use the idea of Red Velvet as a flavoring or scent, sort of like the Pumpkin Spice rage that is so popular in the Fall. There are Red Velvet Pop-Tarts ™, protein powders, teas, waffles and Red Velvet scented air fresheners and candles. Personally, I’m not crazy about cross-over products. I much prefer to have the cake (and eat it, too), but I think if I had to choose something else that is Red Velvet flavored, that isn’t the cake or cupcakes, Red Velvet Crackle cookies come in a close second.

That’s the post for the next time! Continue reading “Red Velvet for Valentines by Donna Everhart”

Posted in Creativity, Home

Messages For Your Bookish Valentine by Michelle Frances

Messages For Your Bookish Valentine

Valentine’s Day is one of those specials days of the year where you can express your love openly, and loudly, for the world to see. If you’re like me, you might have an obsession with those little Valentine’s cards and their adorable messages. Even if you don’t, I hope you take a minute to share a sweet note for the people you love, and don’t forget—friendships deserve love notes too!

So here are a few quick and fun messages you can send to your bookish Valentine this year:

  • Dear Valentine, like a good book, I just can’t take my eyes off you.
  • Dear Valentine, you have the longevity of a classic and the intoxication of a thriller.
  • Valentine, like a good book I don’t want this to end.
  • Valentine, you’re more than a good front cover.

And, of course, I couldn’t resist turning an old classic on its head:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
A good book is a gem
And so are you. Continue reading “Messages For Your Bookish Valentine by Michelle Frances”

Posted in Cooking, Home

Valentine Donuts by Ginger Bolton

1 7/8 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
½ cup milk
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter

Vegetable oil with a smoke point of 400º or higher, or follow your deep fryer manufacturer’s instructions

Confectioners’ sugar

In one bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt with a fork or whisk until blended.

In another, whisk together the egg, milk, sugar, and butter.

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir until blended, adding flour if necessary to make the dough firm enough to handle.

Chill the dough for ½ – 1 hour.

With a floured rolling pin, roll dough on a floured board to 1/3 inch think.

Using a large floured heart cookie cutter, cut out the doughnuts. Cut smaller donuts out of centers with a smaller floured heart cookie cutter.

Place the donuts on silicone baking sheets, parchment paper, or floured waxed paper.

Knead the scraps together and roll out and cut more donuts. Continue until all the dough is cut out.

Allow the donuts to rest 5 or 10 minutes.

Heat the oil to 360º.

Fry the donuts a few at a time. When the first side is golden, turn them over. When the second side is golden, remove them and drain them on paper towels.

When the donuts are cool, decorate them with pink or white icing and sprinkles.


Emily Westhill runs the best donut shop in Fallingbrook, Wisconsin, alongside her retired police chief father-in-law and her tabby Deputy Donut. But after murder claims a favorite customer, Emily can’t rely on a sidekick to solve the crime—or stay alive.

If Emily has learned anything from her past as a 911 operator, it’s to stay calm during stressful situations. But that’s a tall order when one of her regulars, Georgia Treetor, goes missing. Georgia never skips morning cappuccinos with her knitting circle. Her pals fear the worst—especially Lois, a close friend who recently moved to town. As evening creeps in, Emily and the ladies search for Georgia at home. And they find her—murdered among a scattering of stale donuts . . .

Disturbingly, Georgia’s demise coincides with the five-year anniversary of her son’s murder, a case Emily’s late detective husband failed to solve before his own sudden death. With Lois hiding secrets and an innocent man’s life at stake, Emily’s forced to revisit painful memories on her quest for answers. Though someone’s alibi is full of holes, only a sprinkling of clues have been left behind. And if Emily can’t trace them back to a killer in time, her donut shop will end up permanently closed for business . . .