Kids’ Valentine Cooking Project Gets A Jewish Twist

Our family likes to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which I realize isn’t a Jewish holiday, but makes for harmless fun, especially when the grandkids are involved. Some of the best times are when we cook together. The children feel proud of their efforts and wind up with something delicious. I get to pass on a zillion bits of wisdom and, hopefully, some good memories of their Grandma for down the road.

Besides, there are always ways to give even this most secular of holidays a Jewish twist.

Once, one of my granddaughters and I made chocolate covered strawberries, one of the easiest recipes for kids. First we shopped and I showed her how to pick good fruit. (The smaller, red local berries are better than the huge, orange ones from who-knows because they have a more sugary flavor and juicier texture.)

When it came time to buy the chocolate, she was amazed at how many kosher brands there were (including parve, semi-sweet (dairy) and milk chocolate).

I taught her how to melt chocolate in a double boiler and told her why it’s best not to use a regular pan on the cooktop. (Chocolate burns easily over direct heat.) Sure, a microwave oven would have been fine too but I’m “old-school” and it gave me the opportunity to talk about this nifty pot-combo for other recipes.

Of course chocolate candy experts go on to temper chocolate, but frankly, that’s a bit fussy for kids, so we took a shortcut that works just fine, even if the resulting candy isn’t as upscale or glamorous: I added vegetable shortening to the chocolate because that helps it to dry firm.

Finally, I showed her how to dip one berry (make sure the fruit is dry on the surface!) and she did the rest. My recipe is enough for about 24 strawberries. But here’s what else you can dip in that chocolate to make Valentine’s Day more culturally appropriate and special:

Halvah chunks
Mandelbread
Macaroons
Hamantaschen
Dried fruit; candied fruit; crystallized ginger
Matzo strips

You can serve these as is, but before the chocolate dries you can also dress them up by sprinkling on some ground nuts, flaked coconut, sprinkles and what have you.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Makes 24

24 medium strawberries
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (one cup) or chopped chocolate
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

1) Wash and dry the berries but leave the hull intact. Set aside.

2) Melt the chocolate and vegetable shortening in the top part of a double boiler over medium-low heat, stirring until the chocolate and shortening melt. Whisk ingredients to blend them into a smooth, silky sauce.

3) Dip the berries in the chocolate, about ¾ way up the sides of the berries. Place them on waxed or parchment paper to dry (about 2 hours).

Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher in Stamford. She is the author of The Modern Kosher Kitchen and Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

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