The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

February 13, 2013

Sweets for the Sweetheart in your life

Karen's Kitchen
Karen Freeman

ROCKY MOUNT — Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you don’t want to give your honey drug store candy, you might think about something more unusual and tastier! These homemade treats are sure to win someone’s heart. If you want them to look like Valentine’s Day treats, put them in red cellophane paper or sprinkle them with red candy hearts. But, homemade treats are always better than drug store candy!

The first recipe is blueberry cheesecake cups. These cupcakes are soft and delicious.  I don’t care for blueberries so when I make them for myself so I substitute strawberries or other fruit. You can make them out of any fruit that you like. I have heart-shaped cupcake pans and that makes these even better.

The second recipe is chocolate pecan pie bars. What could be better than chocolate AND pecan pie? These take about 5 minutes to mix up and 35 minutes to bake and then just have to let them cool.

The third recipe is a Valentine treat for the kiddies, both big and small. It’s Smore’s made with peanut butter and brownies! Yay! Easy as pie. Bake the brownies and top with Reece’s and marshmallows. The kids will love you!

Blueberry Cheesecake Cups

1 1/ 2 cups mascarpone cheese, softened

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup plus about 2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for the pan

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons gluten free all-purpose flour

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed

Whipped cream (store-bought or homemade) for garnish; optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the middle. Line a muffin pan with liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the mascarpone, cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour, scraping the bowl to make sure it is incorporated.

Pour the batter into the lined muffin pan, about 1/2 - 3/4 full.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the top of the cake is a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow cheesecake cups to cook in the pan for 5-7 minutes before transferring them to cool on a wire rack.

While the cheesecake cups cool, in a medium bowl, combine the blueberries with the 2 tablespoons sugar and the remaining 1 teaspoon lemon zest. If using fresh berries, crush a few with the back of a spoon to encourage juices to form. Taste the fruit and add additional sugar as needed for the proper sweetness.

When ready to serve, spoon the blueberries over the cheesecake cups and dollop of whipped cream.

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups light corn syrup

1 package (8 squares) semi-sweet chocolate, divided

4 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter, flour, 1/2 cup sugar and salt with mixer until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press onto bottom of 15x10x1-inch pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 20 min. or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, microwave corn syrup and 6 chocolate squares in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2-1/2 min. or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring after 1-1/2 min.; stir until completely melted. Add remaining sugar, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Stir in nuts. Pour over warm crust; spread to evenly cover crust.

Bake 35 min. or until filling is firm around edges but still slightly soft in center. Cool completely. Melt remaining chocolate squares as directed on package; drizzle over cooled bars. Let stand until chocolate is firm.

Peanut Butter Smore Brownies

25 Mini Reese’s Cups (halved)

1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

6 sheets graham crackers (broken into small pieces)

Brownies (I used a boxed mix)

Mix brownies according to directions on box. In a bowl, combine marshmallows, graham crackers, and halved Reese’s. Bake brownies, removing 10 minutes before they are done. Spray sides of pan, and add marshmallow mix to the top of the brownies. Bake for the remaining 10 minutes. Let cool for at least an hour before serving (I recommend letting it cool overnight, but if you’re anything like me that is definitely not happening).

I don’t think I can really explain how delicious these are. Try them out, and let me know what you think. Be sure to have a glass of milk handy!!