How Valentine’s Day Is Celebrated Around The World

You know the drill in America; when you’re little, you hand out perforated cards and hope your crush gives you one of the good ones instead of the obvious “just friends” version. And as adults, the pressure is on to have a special date night and be showered with gifts, or be forced to acknowledge that you are completely and utterly alone in the world. But, just like any other holiday, every country has its own way of celebrating. (Or not celebrating—Valentine’s Day is banned in many countries because of its evil consumerist Western roots.) Here are a few other traditions that might be fun to try. READ MORE

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The History of Valentine’s Day

Like many holidays, Valentine’s Day is shrouded in mystery and is the result of merged customs and cultures.  The holiday, as we know it today, contains elements of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.

One legend maintains that St. Valentine was a third century Roman priest who defied Emperor Claudius II’s anti-marriage decree for soldiers. The brave Valentine secretly married soldiers until he was discovered and put to death.

Another version of the legend attributes Valentine’s Death to his efforts to free Christians from harsh Roman prisons.

READ MORE

Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950–1960 Wikipedia

Sweet Inspiration: Spotlight on Destined Image in Baltimore

Chocolate-covered strawberries are a favorite treat from Destined Images.

What does it take to start your own catering business? Just doing it, apparently. Monique Brownson is an entrepreneur with big plans for her Baltimore-based catering business, Destined Image. Although, she is still in the midst of her humble beginnings, Brownson takes a positive attitude, even when met with the challenges of being short-staffed, short on cash, working as her own marketing consultant, and planning events dependent on “word of mouth” support. By and by, the young entrepreneur is increasing her contacts and getting her name out, which is one of her biggest goals for her company.

Brownson realized her love for cooking at the age of ten, under the watchful eyes of her grandmother. She credits her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother for her love of cooking, but according to Brownson her grandmother was the first one to light the flame of this passion. “She started me out on frying chicken wings.” One might wonder where you go from there, but Brownson quickly answers, “…then it moved on to biscuits and baking cakes…” and as any child would acknowledge, her favorite part was licking the bowl. In 2006, after a brief stint of unemployment, Brownson put her cooking to the test by having bake-sales. She now coooks dinners, caters church affairs, and plans events. One of the annual events for Destined Image is “Jazz Poetic Love Notes,” a Valentine’s Day banquet, where Brownson’s culinary skills are front and center in an elegant display.

Destined Image chocolate covered pretzels

The signature food for Destined Images is chocolate, which speaks to the owners self admitted status as a “Chocolate-aholic.” However, this is not the only reason chocolate is the signature food. At first, her focus was on arts and crafts, center pieces and gift baskets, and although she still provides those services, she  changed her focus after conducting a little independent research. Brownson recalls looking on the internet and seeing how much companies charged for chocolate-covered strawberries. It was an eye-opening experience for the young entrepreneur. Now Destined Image gives their chocolate-covered confections top-billing.  “I’m gearing more to chocolate-covered lollipops and strawberries,” Brownson says. However, she admits she will pretty much dip anything her customers ask her to dip.

Destined Image carrot cake

It’s that kind of desire to please her customers that leads her to excel. Brownson acknowledges her baby daughter as her inspiration to branch out, and she attributes the key factor to her success to her will to keep trying. “Keep trying. Keep going!” Brownson urges, “When it doesn’t work the first time…try it again the next year. Make changes….do your best and put everything out there.” She advises, “Find out the shakes and the quakes and correct them for the next time and keep going.” She will take her own advice as Destined Image takes on some new events next year  — a Mother’s Day brunch and Christmas party are in the works. She is also equipping herself with additional training so she can begin to include wedding cakes in her list of services.  Moreover, Brownson is now making strides to cater for groups of 500 and over.

In the meantime, Brownson will keep on doing what she’s doing — providing delicious quality food and moving Destined Image towards the destiny she sees just over the horizon.

To contact Destined Image for your catering needs, email Monique Brownson at destinedimage@yahoo.com.

Article by Monica Johnson

MCCN Valentine’s Day Guide for Couples & Singles

Click the following choices below or Visit http://multiculturalcookingnetwork.com :

Baltimore: The 19th Annual Chocolate Affair

Thursday, February 4, 2010
6-9:30 p.m.

Join honorary chair Rick Dempsey, 1983 Orioles MVP, at M&T Bank Stadium for the sweetest night in town! Sample sweet and savory treats from over 50 of Baltimore’s best restaurants, caterers and chocolatiers; enjoy auctions, dancing, live music, spa treatments; all to benefit Health Care for the Homeless.

Learn more at: http://www.chocolateaffair.org/

Learn about the history of chocolate: https://multiculturalcookingnetwork.wordpress.com/2009/10/04/history-of-chocolate/

A Cupcake Tasting: Swirls Cupcakes

Cupcakes have been all the rage for the last few years with bakeries devoted to these tiny treats.  Swirls Desserts expands sweet offerings at their stores with fresh Belgian choolates made in Brusssels and flown in biweekly.  Furthermore, there is a cupcake bar where you can sit and sip on a Belgian chocolate mocha.  Sound decadent, it is. 

 It is likely that the word cupcake had you at hello so let’s start the conversation.  I employed the help of MCCN’s Spanish Language Content Consultant Eddie Zamora in conducting a graded cupcake tasting.  Swirls offered many choices of cupcakes for our consumption.  The best of the pack we found to be the Blueberry cupcake.  It bursts with blueberry flavor and is visually the most unique when biting into it with its soft purple to blue color.  Clearly, this garnered an A grade. 

Photo by Crystal Johsnon: Swirls Cupcakes

Learn what we thought of the Strawberry Milkshake cupcake, Carrot, German Sweet Chocolate, Red Velvet and more at: http://www.examiner.com/x-9408-LA-Comfort–Soul-Food-Restaurant-Examiner~y2010m1d4-Westfield-Fashion-Square-Sherman-Oaks-has-a-Swirls-Cupcakes

Serving Los Angeles, South Bay, San Fernando Valley, and Orange County. Swirls Official Website: http://swirlsdesserts.com/

How to Make A Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Sundae

Recipe by Nigella Lawson

Whether a decadent choice for a romantic dinner at home or to cool off on a hot day, this recipe is sure to please.

Ingedients

  • 175 ml double cream
  • 100 grams milk chocolate (chopped)
  • 100 grams smooth peanut butter (skippy for preference)
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 4 scoops toffee ice cream (or caramel ice cream)
  • 4 scoops chocolate ice cream
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 4 tablespoons salted peanuts (roughly chopped or left whole to taste)

Click for Recipe

See Metric Conversions

Photo credit: bordersstores.com

Pasadena, CA: Pop Champagne and Dessert Bar

The 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau made its much-anticipated debut at a special wine tasting and dinner at Pop Champagne & Dessert Bar organized by the Alliance Française de Pasadena on Sunday, November 22 from 4:00 to 10:00 P.M.    Alliance director Fanchon, shares that the organization is very old and one of the first in the Southwest dating back to 1924.  The French school opened 15 years ago and is located across the street from the restaurant.  Fanchon describes the event as  “…just an excuse to have fun.”  If fun is what you are looking for then Pop Champagne and Dessert bar is the right place.  They have an extensive wine and champagne list to accompany your small plates. 

 

(Scallops Cordon Bleu)

My meals were from a prefix menu for the event.  Everything eaten except for the ice cream was paired with wine or champagne.   Chef Ray Velasquez is wonderful in balancing flavor and has a since of humor when it comes to food.  He told us that his mother always told him not to play with food.  Among his unique creations are scallops Cordon Bleu and popcorn ice cream.  Yes, popcorn ice cream is on the menu.  What does it tastes like?  It has the smooth flavor of kettle corn.   In the picture below give us a unique approach to serving poached pear on a tart.

Pop Champagne and Dessert provides a romantic and fun environment for an evening out.

Photos by Crystal Johnson

Review by Crystal Johnson Restaurant Critic, Los Angeles Examiner and the Valley Scene Magazine

Liege Waffle Recipe offers a Belgian waffle not to be missed.

waffle(Article and Recipe from Waffle-Recipe dot Com)

Another waffle from Belgium. These guys really know their waffles. This Liege Waffle Recipe comes from tadaaaa – the city of Liege in Belgium. Again the Liege waffle recipe is almost the same as the ordinary Belgian waffle recipe, just sweeter. Liege waffles are also smaller, so you can hold them in your hands while Brussels waffles are eaten from a plate with a fork and knife. To make Liege waffles you have to add some extra vanilla sugar (What is vanilla sugar? – it is vanilla scented sugar. You can even make your own if you put a whole vanilla bean in a jar of white sugar for a week or so.) Liege waffles are a bit denser and also sweeter. A little piece of history before we start cooking, yeah it is always fun to learn new things – Liege waffles were invented in eighteenth century by one of the cooks of Prince-Bishop of Liege. I bet you did not know that, we sure didn’t.

Liege Waffle Recipe

For a Liege Waffle recipe we will need:
2 cups flour
1 cup pearl sugar
1 cup melted butter
3 eggs
1 (1/4 ounce) package yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (add some vanilla sugar)
1/8 teaspoon salt

How to make Liege Waffles in nine easy steps:
1. Take the lukewarm water and mix in yeast, 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar and salt. Let the yeast develop for 15 minutes. In the meanwhile you can melt the butter, but be careful – do not burn it.

2. Now take a large bowl and put in the flour, make a hole in the middle, pour in the yeast that you made in step one. Also add eggs and melted butter and knead until you get nice and even dough. Then let it rest so the yeast does it’s magic and the dough doubles.

3. Now take pearl sugar and gently mix it in.

4. Again, let it rest for 15 minutes, in the meanwhile you can turn on thewaffle maker so its nice and hot.

5. All there is left is to pour the waffle dough into the waffle maker and bake for 3-5 minutes. Because we mixed in the sugar late in the process it will melt and caramelize and give that special Liege waffle taste. Just be careful when you take them out of the waffle maker, caramelized sugar can make them sticky.

Creme Brulee French Toast with Drunken Strawberries

Ingredients:

  • * * * * Creme Brulee French Toast * * * *
  • 1 loaf Challah or Brioche Bread, sliced into 1 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup Butter, unsalted (1 stick)
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons Corn Syrup
  • 5 large Eggs
  • 3/4 cup Heavy Cream
  • 3/4 cup Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or Cointreau
  • Powdered Sugar (optional)
  • * * * * Drunken Strawberries * * * *
  • 1 quart Strawberries, hulled and sliced 1/4-inch thick (lengthwise)
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Preparation:

Make the French Toast

Butter a 9 by 13 baking dish.

In a small pot, melt the butter with the brown sugar and corn syrup. Stir together until the sugar is completely melted. Pour mixture into the baking dish.

Place the bread slices on top of the butter and sugar mixture in one even layer. Squeeze the edges slightly to make the bread fit.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, vanilla, salt, and 2 teaspoons of Grand Marnier. Pour this mixture over the bread. Tightly cover baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Let dish stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before placing in preheated oven at 350 degrees.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until french toast is golden and puffed.

Serve hot with drunken strawberries and powdered sugar sprinkled on top.

Drunken Strawberries

Combine sliced strawberries, sugar, and Grand Marnier in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate