One of my great pleasures in life is feeding people, so know how happy I am to be writing “Cooking at the Cove” where I will provide Coastal Journal readers with food-chat and recipes every week. As I go about this delightful task, I’ll be imagining you all hanging out with me here in my kitchen at the cove.

With St. Valentine’s Day falling on a Wednesday this year, I thought you might enjoy an easy menu that’s subtly special, but not too fussy. Most of these preparations can be accomplished in advance, giving you more time to snuggle up with your favorite someone.

With each column, I’ll always include a few notes about the recipes and why I’m sharing them. For example, the amount of butter used in this Baked Shrimp Scampi can be modified depending how decadent you’re feeling and what’s going on with your cholesterol level. One stick of butter is a happy medium, or at least I think so. This dish can be prepared ahead then slipped into the oven while you stir-fry the broccoli and put together a crisp salad. There will still be room for dessert, a must-do on Feb. 14!

I’ve probably made 1,000 Chocolate Pots in my life and have the ingredients for this “truffle-in-a-dish” in the house at all times (for chocolate emergencies and such.) Heavy cream or whipping cream can be used for a more dense dessert; however, I prefer the silky consistency that results from using light cream. These pots can be topped with whipped cream if you really want to go all out, but I suggest you make a slight hollow in the center of your chocolate pot with your spoon then pour in a little trickle of plain cream instead. Yum!

Little Hearts, with just a dusting of confectioners sugar, are perfect for dipping in those Chocolate Pots. The recipe for these delicate shortbread cookies was given to me by my friend, Cindy. It’s a favorite, and are the cookies I make most often. The dough is simply buttercream frosting with flour stirred into it. These are easy, versatile, and addictive. Have fun experimenting with different flavorings.

When I made my last batch, I used about seven drops of doTERRA Wild Orange Essential Oil and was very pleased with the results.

If you’re feeling fancy, you can dress these buttery morsels up with tinted sugar, dip them in chocolate ganache, or sandwich them together with icing, jam, or a little of each. They will most definitely become part of your regular repertoire.

Now go cook and share a meal with someone you love!

Baked Shrimp Scampi
2 lbs. large raw shrimp (12-15 count per pound)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. white wine
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 stick butter, softened
4 tsp. minced garlic
1/8 cup finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary or thyme
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup coarse homemade bread crumbs
Lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel and devein shrimp but leave the tails intact. Butterfly shrimp by cutting a deep slit around the outer edge and spread them open. Combine oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add shrimp and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine butter with garlic, onion, herbs, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and juice, egg yolk, bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Butter 6 individual shallow ramekins or a 14-inch oval baking dish or comparable shallow casserole dish. Arrange shrimp in a single layer. Pour marinade over shrimp. Spoon and pat butter mixture evenly over shrimp. Bake for 10-15 minutes. For further browning, broil 1 minute. Garnish with lemon wedges. Yield: 4 servings

Broccoli Stir-fry
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped green onions
4 cups broccoli florets
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Heat oil in wok or skillet. Add walnuts and onions; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add broccoli; stir-fry for 3-4 minutes. Add red pepper and soy sauce; cook 1 minute longer. Yield: 4 servings

Chocolate Pots
1 1/4 cups light or heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1 cup chocolate chips
2-3 Tbsp. liqueur such as Kahlua or Bailey’s Irish Cream or Grand Marnier or Amaretto

If you don’t want to use alcohol, other options are: 1/4-1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract or mint extract or 2-3 Tbsp. strong coffee

Heat cream in a glass measuring cup in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stovetop. Do not allow to boil.

Place chocolate chips and egg yolks in blender; slowly add warmed cream and blend until chocolate is melted and ingredients are combined. Add liqueur or extract and blend 30 seconds more. Pour into serving dishes. Chill at least 3 hours. If made a day or two ahead, cover with plastic wrap. Yield: 4 4-ounce servings.

Little Hearts
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar, plus a bit extra for dusting
Dash of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
A few drops almond or lemon extract or food-grade essential oil, to taste
2 cups flour

Cream together butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and other flavoring with electric mixer. Mix in flour, one cup at a time. Chill dough for at least 1 hour.

Roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut with cookie cutter. Place on baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until just browning on the edges. Cool on rack and dust with confectioners sugar. Yield: Approximately 56 cookies.

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