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Jan 21, 2017 1:46am

Julia Usher baking in her home kitchen
Blog Recipes and Tips From Julia Usher

An Affair of the Heart

We all have that certain someone for whom a box of chocolates doesn’t seem quite enough . . . that person who’s been there, done that, and seen it all! Am I right? . . . OK, now that we’ve settled that point, let’s get down to business. What on earth do you get that jaded someone? Is there any gift that will register as truly special?

I say: spread the love this Valentine’s Day in a uniquely sweet way (and I mean “sweet” in the most literal sense). When I’ve got the time, I like to throw a full-fledged dessert party, like the one shown here (top photo) from Cookie Swap, and to stock it generously with chocolate goodies and other aphrodisiacs. (Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day; you’ve got to have chocolate somewhere!) But, if time is scarce, even small treats can touch the heart when they’re handcrafted with passion and care.

For this affair of the heart, I pushed my imagination with every little detail, from the edible invitation and décor to the recipes shared with guests. Take my ideas below and shape them into your own party by applying a personal spin. Or choose just one of them to turn into a special gift for family and friends. Either way, your token of love is sure to make the Whitman Sampler (heck, even the finest box of artisanal chocolates) seem bland.

1 | Edible Invitation.

To make my sweet valentine (second photo from top), start with, yes, a regular old and empty candy box. Then simply glue plush velvet or other fabrics and scrapbooking papers to the tops and sides. (Spray adhesive works best for this task.) Baubles and ribbons (as shown here) can be used to jazz up the box tops, but they’ll stay more securely in place with hot glue. Finally, fill the box with an over-sized iced sugar or gingerbread cookie heart. I chose two iced gingerbread cookies, one marbled with contrasting colors of Royal Icing, to make a double-decker Valentine. But smaller cookies, assorted candies, or even the treats originally in the box all work fine. For marbling technique tips, see the link below.

2 | Delectable Décor.

A great way to avoid expensive party décor is to extend your food into the ambience. And decorated cookies - uniquely flavorful, colorful, and fragrant, all at once - are the perfect sweet for the task. Here, I used a combination of tall gingerbread cookie bouquets (third photo from top) and shorter cotton candy "cloud" and cupid displays (fourth photo from top) to create a multi-level tablescape. For details on my Cotton Candy Cupid Clouds project, see the link below.

3 | A Favor to Savor. . .

. . . or simply a gift to give in lieu of chocolates - your choice! Either way, friends will surely appreciate the sweet cookie message tucked inside this souped-up shadow box (second photo from bottom). See the link below for project details.

4 | Mood Food.

Whether served up as an individual gift or as a complete party spread, your Valentine’s food will please the palate all the more if it fits the holiday’s romantic mood. At my party, it was love at first bite, thanks to the intoxicating helpings of chocolate, berries, and other aphrodisiacs found in my famous Raspberry-Truffle Brownie Bars (bottom photo) and just about every other recipe. (If you’re wondering: yes, I used the same marbling technique on the bars as on the cookies above, except with chocolate ganache and melted milk chocolate rather than Royal Icing.) For the brownie and Royal Icing recipes, read the links below.

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I love your work-I featured you on my blog today: http://puertabella.blogspot.com/2011/02/julia-julia.html

By susan@pocacosas on February 03, 2011