Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day - part two -

Valentine's Day is upon us, and when I think of love and all the sweet sticky feelings that come along with the handwritten cards and secret love letters, I think gooey treats. What better way to enjoy the day than to whip up a batch of sticky sweet marshmallow popcorn treats, alone or with little ones, to be enjoyed by the whole family! I recruited the help of my very special assistant, Tiny Hands, who is never far away when it comes to cooking up special treats in the kitchen. Donning our aprons, we set to work making a mess of the kitchen!
I took care of the hot stuff first, opting to complete the more dangerous steps before Tiny Hands could get her hands on the popcorn mixture. We would not want to have an accident and end up with burnt Tiny Hands, now would we? In a medium pot over low heat, I melted together 1/4 cup butter with 6 cups miniature marshmallows. Once the mixture turned smooth, I mixed in 1 package of cherry gelatin powder. This is step one to transforming regular popcorn balls into Valentine's popcorn balls! I poured the hot mixture over 12 cups of plain popped popcorn in a large bowl.
 Using a wooden spoon, I mixed the hot marshmallow goo into the popcorn. Tiny Hands then poured in some Valentine-themed add-ins: 1/2 cup each of red candied peanuts, dried cranberries and yogurt-covered raisins. We added these after the initial mixing, since the mixture has cooled down enough not to melt the yogurt coating.
The mixture will be quite sticky at this point, but there is enough marshmallow in the mix to keep it malleable. This will give Tiny Hands plenty of time to fashion the popcorn balls into a heart-shaped cookie cutter, a second step to making these treats very Valentine's-esque!
We made sure to butter our hands as well as the mold, and worked on a sheet of waxed paper to keep the mess to a minimum. Freshly greased, Tiny Hands and I dove into the popcorn with both hands, grabbing at the stuff and balling it up. I portioned out a good handful of mixture, which Tiny Hands then jammed into the heart-shaped cookie cutter, with a little help. When we were happy with the look, we pushed the heart through the cutter onto the waxed paper to cool, and moved onto the next popcorn ball.
Using up all the popcorn mixture, we managed to make a dozen 4-inch long hearts, minus a few mouthfuls, of course! Sometimes Tiny Hands just can't help herself and has to taste everything. Sometimes I can't help myself, either. Yum.
I wrapped each popcorn heart in cellophane for easy gifting, and left the rest of the decorating in the capable hands of Tiny Hands.
 Early, Tiny Hands had painted up a few sheets of paper with her finger paints(today is a messy, messy day!). Using the same cookie cutter as a template, I cut hearts out of red-painted paper. She "wrote" messages and signed each one, then added a heart sticker for added impact. We taped a Valentine on each of the wrapped popcorn hearts and voila! a tasty, handmade dessert  for Tiny Hands to gift to every member of the family.
Tiny Hands and I had a great time mucking around in the popcorn ball mix, but mostly because we got to spent time together. Make sure to share a moment with your family today, whether it be over sticky gooey Valentine's treats, or just over a cup of tea, and let them know you care. 

Happy Valentine's Day.  <3

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