Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Hearts

It wasn’t that long ago when I was utterly impressed by a dinner of pre-made bacon-wrapped chicken grillers and twice-baked potatoes.

My now-husband Dan and I were 19, young and in love. I could barely hard boil an egg, much less cook a special dinner. Ever the romantic, Dan told me he would prepare a home-cooked meal for me, and when I arrived I was incredibly impressed that he could stuff a chicken breast and prepare twice-baked potatoes. For a college girl living primarily on McDonalds and cafeteria food, it was heaven.

It wasn’t until about halfway through the meal, as I gushed and raved about his prowess in the kitchen, that he admitted that the entire meal was, in fact, made at the store. All he did was put it in the oven. But to him, that qualified as cooking a home-cooked meal!

Today, we’re both much better cooks – in fact, he’s much better than I at improvising ingredients and balancing flavors. We’ve become a great team in the kitchen, and have found that once you start cooking from scratch, nothing else can compare. That’s why this Valentine’s Day, we’ll be celebrating with a real home-cooked meal, one prepared with love and care.

Of course, no special-occasion meal is complete without dessert. And what is more appropriate for Valentine’s Day than chocolate-covered strawberries in the shape of a heart? Fresh, juicy strawberries coated in a rich, decadent chocolate- it’s a treat with which no store-bought candies can compete.

Don’t worry about kitchen time interfering with romance time. These holiday-themed goodies are a snap to prepare. The trickiest part is finding strawberries that resemble a heart when placed together, not a plumber’s backside. Toothpicks work best for smaller strawberries, but can be tricky to remove from larger strawberries, which is why I suggest using shortened skewers. The original recipe, which came from blogger Jasmin at 1 Fine Cookie (1finecookie.com), suggests hollowing out each strawberry and filling with a homemade marshmallow cream. Not being a fan of marshmallow cream, I chose to stick to simple chocolate-covered strawberries, but you might try marshmallow cream, cheesecake filling, chocolate or flavored cream cheese if you want to add another level of flavor to your dessert.

While I’m typically not a fan of using shortening in recipes, I find that a couple of tablespoons can make melted chocolate smoother and improve its consistency. Even though I don’t care to use it often, I am a big believer that almost anything is OK in moderation, and I try to follow that rule in my daily life.

Key word here: Try. For some reason, I can’t exercise moderation with these chocolate-covered strawberry hearts. For these treats, on this one day, there is no such thing as moderation. Enjoy responsibly, folks!

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Hearts

16 oz. high-quality chocolate (like Ghirardelli)
2 Tbsp. shortening
Strawberries

In a small pot, melt chocolate and shortening over very low heat, stirring often. (Alternatively, use the double-boiler method – put a glass bowl on top of a small pot of simmering water and place chocolate and shortening in the glass bowl and stir until nearly melted). Once nearly melted, remove from heat and continue to stir until smooth.

Hull strawberries using a small teaspoon or knife. Cut in half lengthwise. Place strawberry halves side by side, forming a heart. Insert toothpick or skewer into two halves. Dip in chocolate, gently shaking off excess chocolate. Place on cooling rack, decorate if desired, and let dry.

Source: Modified slightly from http://www.1finecookie.com/2012/01/marshmallow-filled-strawberry-hearts-happy-valentoons-day/

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