Valentine’s Day, Shmalentine’s Day

I’m completely and totally not into Valentine’s Day.  My children usually hate it.  The whole forced to bring in something for everyone in the class even the person who makes you feel awful day after day part of the equation can be overwhelmingly upsetting when you’re in elementary school…or high school.  However Lucy (and her Boyfriend!) have plans for Valentine’s Day.  She’s been cooking up some plan for a movie date and making him a box of treats.  She also mentioned making him brownies.  Young love!

The real kicker though is that for some inexplicable reason Ella is actually looking forward to it as well.  Despite her love of all things hearts and pink she’s never been too enthusiastic about this holiday.  She says it always makes her feel left out.  Awwww, my baby!  Well this year, the year of the Fenniken (for those that follow the Pokemon astrological calendar), I found her just the Valentine Poem:

Charmander is Red(ish-orange),

Squirtle is Blue,

If You were a Pokemon,

I would choose You!

And for the last 11 years Kevin and I have had more to celebrate on February 11th rather than the 14th.  February 11 is the day that we got engaged.  He kneeled on a rock out on Olmsted Island in Great Falls MD, sang me a beautiful song and asked me to be his wife.  Of course I said yes!  Greatest Not Valentine’s Day Ever!

So in honor of Valentine’s Day and Not Valentine’s Day we’re having a very pink, red and strawberry day.  Starting with strawberry friands adapted from a similar recipe from one of the most beautiful blogs/cookbooks of all time “What Katie Ate” by Katie Quinn Davis.  So what the heck is a Friand?.  Friands are similar to muffins, but they’re made with almond meal instead of wheat flour (so already heading to a Paleo Place of Happiness!).  They’re originally a French food, known over there as financier, although they are super popular in Australia and known there as friands.  Any which way, they’re very tasty and make an excellent dessert or can stand in as a paleo breakfast muffin.

For dinner we’re still having Tacos…’cause its still Tuesday, but I thought I’d make a special dessert in honor of the day.  And since Ella is still undecided about chocolate, (sometimes I wonder where we went wrong…honestly how can she NOT like chocolate?) I decided to make panna cotta with strawberry elderflower compote instead.

Panna cotta is like grown up creamy jello/pudding.  The first time I can recall having panna cotta was at River Cottage (see, there it is again!).  We harvested the little yellow flower buds from a Scottish Broom Hedge (which incidentally has an almost tropical smell to it) and steeped them in milk before adding gelatin and sugar and letting them set up to a seductively wobbly texture.  Yes, wobbly can be seductive.  But for Valentine’s Day I think I’ll add a wee dram of elderflower cordial (found at Ikea of all places!).  It’s very sugary and not very Paleo but come on…it is Valentine’s Day!  You could skip the cordial and add a bit of vanilla extract and or vanilla seed pod to be more paleo.  I should also mention that while this recipe can be made with almond milk (behold a recipe from nom nom Paleo) I plan on making mine with milk and cream.

Here is my adaptation of the BBC Good Food Recipe for Elderflower Panna Cotta but in approximate US measurements and with out the vanilla, I think it competes too much with the very delicate elderflower flavor.

Elderflower Panna Cotta

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

3 oz (by weight) pure cane sugar

4 tbsp elderflower cordial (they call for elderflowers but cordial works fine too)

2 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin powder (such as Great Lakes or Knox, see my note about gelatin below)

Note about Gelatin: the recipe originally called for 2 leaves of gelatin…see this website for information on how to convert the amount of powdered gelatin to leaf gelatin.  The information on the website is for making a hard set gelatin, and that’s not what we’re going for here, so take this advice with a measure of salt…er gelatin.  We’re making panna cotta…remember we want a seductive wobble not knox blox or jello jigglers that can withstand the abuse of a toddler before being consumed!)

Scald the milk, cream and sugar in a small sauce pan.  Add the cordial and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.  Then add the gelatin (the liquid should still be hot enough to melt the gelatin) and stir until the gelatin is dissolved.  Allow to cool to room temperature before pouring into ramekins (or a heart shaped silicone muffin mold).  Place them in the fridge for at least 4 hours until set.

When ready to serve, dip the ramekin into hot water briefly before turning out onto a plate.  You may need to use a knife to break the suction at the side of the ramekin.  A slightly damp plate will help you position the panna cotta as you wish (freezing plates and allowing the resulting frost to thaw will give you just the right amount of water).  Garnish with a fruit compote and mint leaves if you want to get fancy.

Or just eat them with a spoon straight from the ramekin.  But you won’t get to see the seductive wobble if you leave them in the ramekins 😉

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Or if you’re like me and mine and mostly give this day a miss, at least have a Happy Two-Desserts-in-One-Day Day!

Photo Credit: BBC Good Food Website,


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