Monday, February 14, 2011
Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies, and my love story ...
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Shauna James Ahern over at Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef has encouraged people to share their love stories on this day. She is compiling them for today, and I already shared mine over there, but thought I better share it with you, as well. Included with our story is a recipe for chocolate covered cherry cookies. They are a perfect Valentine cookie, but they are also especially good at Christmas or any other time you are craving cherries and chocolate. I hope you enjoy them!
My husband and I dated for four years before we married. I was in college when we started dating, but he had already graduated. He moved to a town four hours away the second year we were dating, but we kept things alive with many phone calls and a visit once a month or so. The third year, he joined the military. It was very hard - we saw each other only once in a time of almost a year while he was literally across the country in basic training and then AIT. The phone calls were few and precious, but there were many, many letters. We got to know each other even better that way.
The fourth year, we were together again. In the military, he had ended up choosing a field of training in technology that ultimately became a very wise decision because a couple of years later, he was employed in a job where he used that exact training and still has that job today.
Our strong relationship was put to the test when I became pregnant with our first child, and lost that baby in the beginning of my second trimester, right before Christmas. I kind of lost it for a while and the depression was unbearable. I have a strong Christian faith, but that was challenged with the "why's" and I was very angry with God at the time. I had an extremely demanding, stressful job as a newspaper reporter but until then I'd loved my job. I started losing the passion for my work, though, along with nearly everything else. Everything seemed to be falling apart, but my husband was my rock. He stood by me through the darkness and my anger and resentment at the world and encouraged me to get some help, which I ultimately did.
I became pregnant with our second child, our oldest daughter, and had complication after complication from the beginning of the pregnancy. She was due a little after Valentine's Day, but after being on strict bedrest for two months due to pre-term labor, she was born a month early and was such a tiny little thing. When Valentine's Day came, my husband bought her a little Valentine's bear covered in hearts (it was about the size of a beanie baby, maybe just a tad longer). She wasn't much bigger than the bear. I took a photo of her asleep next to the bear, and now when people see that photo and then I show them the bear, they are amazed at how tiny she was then.
We have since had another daughter, as well as two more losses, which is why all-too-common infant and miscarriage loss and support, as well as pregnancy complication awareness, are things I am deeply passionate about (along with gluten-free living!). We have been through a lot of things together, both happy and sad, and are even more in love now than we were then.
God has blessed me with this family of mine, and I am very thankful. And that, readers, is my ultimate Valentine. God never promised things would be easy, but he did promise to never leave us. Life still happens and it's hard to believe he's still with us, loving us, when things get bad, but he is. I basically left God for a while (and I hate to say it wasn't the first time), but he continued to love me and didn't leave me, and gave me the gift of my family. My husband and I will celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary next month. I am proud to call him my Valentine, along with our two little Valentines.
And I feel very blessed. Happy Valentine's Day!
I've adapted this recipe from the Buried Cherry Cookies recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Our Best Recipes cookbook.
Projected prep time (when you don't have a child tugging on your apron strings): 35 minutes; Projected bake time: 9-12 minutes
1 16 oz. jar maraschino cherries, undrained
1 1/2 level cups Pamela's bread mix & flour blend (not the baking mix)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (level) plus 2 rounded tablespoons organic sugar
1/4 tsp. gluten-free, aluminum-free baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda, with a tiny pinch removed
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup regular sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Drain cherries, reserving juice.
Combine cocoa powder, flour blend, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl.
In separate bowl, beat butter at medium speed for about 30 seconds and then add sugar, beating until mixed. Scrape bowl a couple of times to make sure it's all incorporated.
Add egg and vanilla, and beat again to mix into butter mixture.
Gradually add the flour mixture, continuing to mix at a lower speed until it's all incorporated. The dough will be stiff.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls.
Press down in the center of each ball with your thumb, making a well in the center of each cookie.
Place a cherry in the center of each cookie.
In a small saucepan, combine the chocolate pieces and condensed milk.
Heat and stir over medium heat until chocolate is melted, then stir in approximately 4 teaspoons of the cherry juice.
Spoon a little of the glaze over each cherry, just enough to cover each one. Thin with more juice if needed.
Bake at 350 degrees (top rack if gas oven), and check at about 8 minutes. They may need up to 12 minutes depending on your oven. They are finished when the edges are firm.
Let them sit on baking sheets for a couple of minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.
Store in an airtight container between layers of wax paper. These cookies freeze well, just let them thaw at room temperature.
Happy Valentine's Day!