Valentine S’more Muffins

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If you’re a Valentine’s Day hater, let me apologize now. Today, I’m going to perpetuate the hype and share s’more.

These s’more muffins are pretty in pink and just as delicious as they look.

S’mores (the Girl Scout concoction of roasted marshmallow with melted chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham crackers) is one part of camping you can re-create in your kitchen without the packing, unpacking, and mosquitos!

Still gooey, these are less messy and more contained than the classic sticky sandwich.

These muffins are the next best thing if you cannot make them by the campfire, in pink, for Valentine’s Day.

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Valentine S’more Muffins (makes 12)

1 ½ cups graham crackers, finely crushed (12 full sheets or 24 square crackers)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 (4.4 oz) extra large milk chocolate bar, broken into rectangles (or 12 miniature milk chocolate bars)
12 large pink marshmallows (or heart shaped)

Topping:
1 (4.4 oz) extra large milk chocolate bar, broken into rectangles
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease muffin pan with cooking spray.
2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and butter.
3. Evenly divide crumb mixture into each cup of a 12-cup muffin pan. Use your finger to press an indent into the center of each muffin cup.
4. Bake 7-10 minutes or until edges are bubbling. Pull out and immediately place one mini chocolate bar on each cup.
5. Place one marshmallow vertically in the center of each muffin and push it into the melted chocolate/graham cracker crust.
6. Return muffin pan to oven for 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows are slightly softened.
7. Place muffin pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before carefully removing cups from pan. After 5 minutes, gently press marshmallows to flatten them slightly.
8. Transfer muffins to cool completely on wire rack.
9. To prepare topping: place milk chocolate in a small bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute-1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.
10. Dip the top of each marshmallow into the melted chocolate. Turn top-side up and let stand until set.

*Notes:
Store the cups in a single layer in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Freezing is not recommended.

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If You Give Your Love a Muffin

This article was featured in Real Woman on February 12, 2015.

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The idea of Valentine’s Day makes me blanch. We all love love, but some of us are perplexed by the popularity of a national holiday that leaves singles bitter, promotes the exchange of tacky gifts, and encourages children to trade “statements of love.” I, for one, resent the pressure on couples, young and old, to indulge in prix fixe meals that they would not otherwise stomach.

I feel so strongly about it that when my older son was 3, I took a stand. His preschool teachers told parents to pack a dozen personalized valentines to give out on the Day of Love. Like most 3-year-olds, my child could not yet write his name, so the task was clearly intended for the parents to transliterate scribbles on cards.

I did not enjoy the homework assignment, nor did I appreciate the expectation placed on my preschooler to send so-called-love-notes to children who could not yet read.

So I complained.

The director of the preschool rescinded the “assignment,” and the mothers went wild with disapproval. The Chicago moms had no clue that I was the culprit (until now).

Regardless of that year’s freedom from insincere Hallmark greetings, I’m still baffled by how second nature it is for today’s youth to swap cheesy Sponge Bob and Spider-Man valentines and for grown men to scurry off to grab the remnants of red roses at the grocery store. I do wonder what I’m missing.

But since it feels cynical to shut out the best thing we humans do on Earth (love), I share this recipe, for Valentine’s Day, straight from my heart.

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Cream Cheese Chocolate Muffins (makes 18)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Filling
1 cup (8oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups chocolate chips (or 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 cup peanut butter chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin cups with cooking spray, or line with paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Mix well.
3. For the filling: In a separate mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, egg, salt, and chocolate chips. Mix well.
4. Use an ice cream scoop to spoon batter into muffin cups until half full.
5. Top each muffin cup with 2 Tbsp of filling.
6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
7. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to place on a wire cooling rack.

* Pair these muffins with a bottle of wine for a true Valentine’s Day