There's something innately seductive about red velvet. Maybe it's just the lush word "velvet," but I'm like Pavlov's dog when I hear the words "Red Velvet Brownies" or "Red Velvet Hot Chocolate." I want them, and I want them now.
Come Valentine's Day I know won't be able to wait until later in the day to get my red velvet fix so I'm going to start the day with Red Velvet Pancakes.
Now I'm not the mom on the block who cooks a hot breakfast for her kids before they race off to school. Toasting a bagel and pouring milk over Rice Krispies is more the norm. But I'll get up a little earlier to make these for Valentine's Day.
The pancakes start with a box mix, which you can mix with the other dry ingredients the night before and leave on the counter. If you stir together the cream cheese topping and add the spices to the syrup before going to bed you can put a plate of hot pancakes on the table in less than 20 minutes.
If you like red velvet, check out McCormick's Red Velvet, My Way page on Pinterest for other recipes.
Barking up the right tree: Pastry artist extraordinaire Alain Roby is at it again. Just two months ago he created the World's Longest Candy Cane reaching 51 feet, and now he invites people to enjoy his 20-foot tall enchanted chocolate tree perched in the middle of his All Chocolate Kitchen, 33 S. Third St., Geneva.
The 1,200-pound arboreal creation is just the latest chocolate sculpture to be showcased. His life-size likenesses of astronaut Neil Armstrong and Blackhawk legend Eddie Olczyk also are on display.
So stop in to see the whimsical tree and stay for a bite to eat -- seriously, once you're there you won't be able to leave without trying something! The gelati (that's plural for gelato) are amazing -- I haven't found a flavor I didn't like -- as is the savory quiche Lorraine.
For Valentine's Day, A.C.K. is offering dessert and coffee for two that includes raspberry crème brûlée with a sugar rose for $14.99. Reservations are available at (630) 232-2395.
Speaking of bark ... Now I don't expect you to carve a chocolate tree in your living room, but you can create Valentine's Day Bark in your kitchen in just 20 minutes. This recipe comes from Alison Ladman, a recipe developer for The Associated Press.
Start by lining a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper. Carefully chop 1 pound of dark, milk or white chocolate (do not use baking chips). Transfer the chocolate to a large glass measuring cup or bowl, then heat in the microwave on medium, stopping to stir every 20 to 30 seconds, until completely melted.
Pour the chocolate onto the prepared pan, then tap the pan on the counter to level the melted chocolate. Immediately sprinkle your choice of toppings over the surface of the chocolate. Allow to cool completely and then break into pieces. You'll get about 12 servings.
You can top the bark with just about anything ... I think my boys might like crushed red hots or cut up mini marshmallows and crumbled graham crackers. Ladman suggests the following combos:
• Large-flake coconut, toasted sliced almonds, cocoa nibs
• Chopped dried cherries, shelled pistachios, chopped chocolate wafer cookies, large flake sea salt
• Honey roasted peanuts, chopped extra-crispy cooked bacon, ground black pepper
• Crushed toffee pieces, toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped dried apricots
• Chopped candied ginger, chopped macadamia nuts, toasted coconut
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