Boys like candy better than poetry, it seems


I love Valentine’s Day. I know some dismiss the holiday as another ploy for retailers to steal our hard-earned cash, but I really can’t find fault with a day designed to celebrate love. I mean, who doesn’t want it? Who doesn’t need it?

As adults, Valentine’s Day is a chance to ply our significant others with chocolates, cards and flowers. We share a smooch over a romantic dinner; we talk about the years gone by, experiences we’ve shared. It can be as crazy or as low-key as we want. Last year I was sick as a dog, so our plans included me mustering up the strength to go out for sushi and then falling asleep on the coach with some chocolates. And Spencer.

When we’re young, though, Valentine’s Day is a crisis waiting to happen. And if you think it’s no big deal whether you receive valentines in school, you’ve never been a 7-year-old.

I totally have. In second grade, Mrs. Brown orchestrated a way for us to leave each other notes: in the pink and red mailboxes we designed. Like many little girls, I had a massive crush on a classmate. He was blonde and blue-eyed. We met in the first-grade classroom next door, our hands touching over a shared bottle of Elmer’s Glue (or some such). His name was Daniel.

After loving him from afar for more than a year (a whole year!), I somehow decided that Valentine’s Day in Mrs. Brown’s class was D-Day. No more hesitation. Time to get bold and do something crazy. Looking back, it’s funny to see shades of who I am now in that tiny body. If there’s one way I have always hoped to win a man’s heart, it’s through a letter — or poem. I’m all about seduction through the written word, baby.

Daniel couldn’t have known what was in my heart of hearts, of course. The night before Valentine’s Day, I sat down with an array of cards my mom picked out. In the early ’90s, we’d reached a point of equality: each student was to bring a valentine for every member of the class. Regardless of how we feel about it, no one was left out.

But which valentine to assign to which kid was vitally important, you know — the wrong message to the wrong kid could prove lethal. I mean, what if you gave a “Be mine, Valentine!” to the boy who throws rocks at you on the playground? He could think you like him. And that is so gross.

Choosing Daniel’s valentine was tricky. After writing out every card but his, I had to find the perfect one. Valentine’s Day is all about love, I figured; how could I do anything but express my feelings for the boy with whom I was irrationally obsessed? Um, as a 7-year-old?

After much deliberation, I finally chose a card featuring Barbie with arms outstretched to Ken, her face split into a smile. “I Love You,” it read. My heart was pounding as hard as it ever had, but I wrote his name and signed my own. Our fates were sealed.

Passing out our valentines the next day, I crept up to Daniel’s mailbox and slipped the life-changing note inside. This was my chance to open up to him! To let him know how I felt! He’d see Barbie and Ken, read that “I Love You” and think . . .

Nothing. From the corner of my eye, I watched as classmates sifted through their sparkly bounty, enjoying the lollipops other kids had dropped in their mailboxes. If Daniel read my card, I couldn’t tell; he was probably too busy eating candy.

An early lesson learned: poetry’s great and all, but the way to a man’s heart is actually through his stomach.

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Peanut butter paradise!

I can scarcely believe this myself, but I actually made peanut butter blossoms on Sunday! All by myself! From scratch. And I had to use a mixer! A real mixer, with moving pieces that could have potentially hurt me!

But they didn’t hurt me — everything went beautifully. They even artfully “cracked” the way they were supposed to when I pulled them from the oven. I did have a few terrifying moments of, “Oh my God, am I going to splatter dough all over myself?!” but those passed.

The recipe I used is here, and I’ll gently recap . . .

img_4790As with most cooking, I’m sure, I had to gather together my ingredients before I could start anything. I read and re-read the recipe a few times to make sure I had everything within grasp, then set about getting everything together. The peanut butter and shortening had to be combined first and, in a moment of sheer terror, I actually took out the hand mixer and held it for a few seconds in my hand. While I gathered the courage to turn that baby on, I set about unwrapping all of my Hershey kisses — hot cocoa flavor! And I may have stolen a few . . .

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And made a mess in the process . . .

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Once I felt confident enough to tackle the mixer and my peanut butter/shortening combo, I took a deep breath and went for it. Everything blended together pretty easily and I didn’t sully my borrowed apron!

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I mixed in the remaining wet ingredients — including brown and white sugar and vanilla extract — and, somehow, this all began to blend into something vaguely resembling dough. Adding in the flour, salt and baking soda and it really liked like dough. I was already feeling proud of myself!

I recruited my sister to help me roll up our peanut butter mixture into one-inch balls, then rolled them around in a bowl of sugar; that was probably my favorite part of the experience. Kate suggested we do sugar shots when we were finished, but I passed — for now.

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Once they were all rolled up and onto an ungreased baking sheet (two, actually — this made a ton of cookies!), the blossoms had to bake for about eight minutes. We could smell them after only five, so I watched them like a hawk! And rescued them just as a few were starting to brown a little too much around the edges.

After the sheets come out of the oven, the kisses have to go right into the center of the cookies. As the recipe warned me, they did “crack” — but that’s part of what gives them such a cool appearance! The chocolate started to melt immediately, and I carefully transferred them to separate plates to cool down. Our cooling racks were MIA.

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And then we just had to be patient! It wasn’t easy to do with the lovely peanut buttery aroma wafting all over the kitchen and living room . . . but I set about cleaning up the massive mess I’d made until they were ready. An entire sink-full of dishes later, I couldn’t take it anymore! And yes, they were quite delicious. I feel ridiculously excited that I pulled this off!

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Peanut butter blossoms ahoy!

Oh. My. GOD. I found the recipe for my favorite cookie ever! I’m sure I could have easily scoped this out months — if not years — ago, but I stumbled across it in my Internet travels today. My mother usually makes these around Christmas, and I pretty much begged her to whip up a batch this year. I had no idea this is what they’re called — I usually just call them, “Mom, you know that cookie with chocolate in the middle I like?” — but I’ll roll with it.

I present to you . . .

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Yield: 4 Dozen Cookies

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Ingredients:
• 1/2 cup Crisco® Butter Shortening
• 1/2 cup Jif® Creamy Peanut Butter
• 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 large egg
• 2 tablespoons milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 3/4 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• Sugar
• 48 foil-wrapped milk chocolate pieces, unwrapped

Directions:
1. HEAT oven to 375°F.
2. CREAM together shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar and 1/2 cup sugar. Add egg, milk and vanilla. Beat well.
3. STIR together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Beat on low speed until stiff dough forms.
4. SHAPE into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
5. BAKE 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
6. TOP each cookie immediately with an unwrapped chocolate piece, pressing down firmly so that cookie cracks around edge. Remove from cookie sheets to cool.

Recipe courtesy JIF

UPDATE 12/15: I made them!