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Every Feb. 14, across the United States and many other countries around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. By 1900, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s greetings.
Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second-largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) I was surprised to read that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.
Valentine’s Day is also a day many people cook or bake something special for those they love the most. Heart-shaped cookies, cakes and candies are sold in record numbers. Today I’ve gathered a number of Valentine recipes that are popular to serve on Valentine’s Day or any day or celebration for that matter!

Anniversary Cake
Dedicated to all of our readers who have been married 50 years or more!
From a 1980 Kitchen-Klatter recipe book
1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
3-1/2 cups cake flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
7 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream together the butter or margarine and sugar until the mixture is as smooth as whipped cream. Sift flour and then measure. Sift again with baking powder and salt added. Add alternately to creamed mixture with the milk. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add vanilla to them. Then fold very gently into cake batter. Turn into three greased and floured 8-inch layer pans and bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 25 minutes.

Seven-Minute White Icing
2 unbeaten egg whites
1-1/2 cups sugar
5 tablespoons cold water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine all ingredients, except vanilla, in top of double boiler and place over boiling water. Beat constantly with rotary beater or with a wire whisk for 7 minutes exactly. Remove from the heat, add vanilla and continue beating until the icing is the right consistency to spread.

Red Velvet Cake
(from www.yumsugar.com)
Makes a 2 layer 9-inch cake.
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
2 tablespoons unsweetened
cocoa powder
2 eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 ounce bottle red food coloring
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Set aside. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, soda and cocoa powder in a mixing bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
Combine the eggs, vinegar, vanilla and buttermilk in a glass measuring cup and whisk together until blended. Place the oil in a large mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium speed, slowly add the sugar and beat until mixed well, about one minute. Add the food coloring and beat until bright red. Alternate half of the dry and wet ingredients on medium speed.
Repeat with remaining ingredients ending with the wet ingredients. Beat until the batter is completely mixed together and there are no lumps. Pour the batter evenly between cake pans. Place on a baking sheet and bake about 34 to 38 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the middle of each cake. Remove and cool in the pans. When cool, carefully loosen the sides of the cake and invert onto cooling racks. Place one cake layer upside down on a cake platter.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces unsalted butter, at
room temperature
(2) 8 ounce packages cream
cheese, at room temperature
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
Beat the butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer on medium speed. Slowly beat in the vanilla and powdered sugar until mixed well; the mixture should be a thick frosting-like consistency.
Spread frosting over top and sides of first layer. Place the remaining cake right side up on top of first layer. Spread frosting over top and sides until all of the cake is covered. Try to evenly cover the cake.
Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving. This can be made up to one day ahead. Remove from the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving.

Best Ever Sugar Cookies
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup oleo
1 cup Crisco oil
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda (dissolve in a
tiny bit of water)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
4-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix all ingredients together and roll into small balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and press down with the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 375 degrees until lightly tanned around edges. This dough may be chilled before making into balls.

Heart-Shaped Sugar Cookies
Kids love to help decorate these.
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cream sugar and shortening. Add eggs, cream and vanilla and mix well. Add dry ingredients. Chill dough and roll out 1/4 inch thick and cut with cookie cutter. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Frost and decorate.

With so many versions of cheesecakes I’ve given you three today. This first one is baked in a 9x13 inch pan, nothing difficult. The second one is so simple you don’t even have to bake. The third one is a traditional one made in a spring form pan. Strawberry pie filling also is good and also is perfect for a Valentine’s Day treat.

Cherry Cheesecake
16 graham crackers, crushed
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
(2) 8 ounces Philadelphia cream
Pat crumb crust in bottom of 9x13 inch pan and pour filling over crust. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. When cold, cover with 2 cans of cherry pie filling.

Easiest Cheesecake
(2) 8 ounce packages cream
1 cup sugar
(2) 8 ounce containers of Cool
Enough graham cracker crust for the bottom of a 9x13 inch cake pan.
Blend cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip. Again, blend until smooth. Pour mixture over crust. Chill. Top with a can of pie filling, flavor of your choice.

Cheesecake in Spring Form Pan
1 individual package graham
crackers from box
1 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
Mix and pat in bottom of 9 inch spring form pan.
(3) 8 ounce packages cream
cheese, room temperature
5 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream the cheese one package at a time. Add 3 of the eggs, one at a time. Add the sugar and vanilla, then the last two eggs. Bake at 300 degrees for 60 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
1 pint sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
Mix and spread on hot cake. Bake 5 minutes only at 300 degrees. Cool in refrigerator for a half hour. Loosen sides of cake with wet knife. Release spring. Cool 1/2 hour more.

Valentine Strawberry Crepes
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
Combine all ingredients and let set for several hours or overnight.
To cook crepes, season a small skillet or crepe pan with melted butter. Pour a small amount (about 1/4 cup) batter onto the hot skillet and cook until brown on both sides. As you cook the crepes, stack and separate them with waxed paper until ready to fill.
Put filling on each and roll up. Cherry or strawberry pie filling works really well for the red holidays, but any pie filling may be used. After filled and rolled up dust the top with powdered sugar.

Mini Chocolate Cherry Cheesecakes
24 Oreo cookies
(2) 8 ounce packages cream
cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1/4 cup cocoa powder
(5) 1 ounce semi-chocolate
2 teaspoons instant coffee mixed
with 1 tablespoon hot water
21 ounce can cherry pie filling
Heat oven to 275 degrees.
Place 1 Oreo cookie in each of 24 paper lined standard size muffin cups; set aside. Melt chocolate squares in a double boiler, just until melted; cool to room temperature.
Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until combined; beat in eggs one at a time. Add cooled melted chocolate, instant coffee and cocoa and then mix on low until combined. Divide batter into 24 cookie lined cups. Bake 30 minutes, remove from oven and allow cooling to room temperature. Leave in the muffin tins and refrigerate about 2 hours until chilled. Spoon cherry pie filling over cheesecakes and serve or refrigerate.

If you are reading this, then you probably enjoy new recipes. If you would like to share some of your recipes with the community YOU could be Cook of the Week. Please contact me, Sally Cuthbertson, if you would like to be in this column some week. I can be reached by phone at 515-373-6346 or email me at sacuthbe@msn.com. I will be happy to email or send you my short questionnaire and set up a time to come and visit you at your convenience. I’m always looking for NEW Cook’s of the Week. Also if you are new in town, this is a good way to introduce yourself to Humboldt County and surrounding communities. I look forward to visiting with you.
The COOK OF THE WEEK 3rd Edition Cookbook is available. Cost per copy is $10.70, plus $4.80 shipping/handling. Order a copy today by sending a check or money order, along with name and shipping address, to: Humboldt Independent, 512 Sumner Ave., Humboldt, IA 50548.