Valentine's Day Cocktail Party: Sandra Lee Style

Winter after the holidays has a tendency to be bleak and a little too quiet. So rather than spending it in hibernation, why not embrace it and take advantage of Valentine's Day as an opportunity to gather with others? I know it's traditionally a holiday spent with your one and only, but who is going to complain about an elegant cocktail party featuring festive cocktails, creative appetizers, and decadent desserts?

What's more, the recipes in this article can be put together without breaking the bank. In fact, you'll have an entire party put together for less than many of the expensive restaurant outings that take place on Valentine's Day. So why not enjoy an elegant party either the weekend before or the weekend after Valentine's Day and consider a lovely at-home celebration on the day itself. More on that next time!

The recipes presented below are from the cookbook, Sandra Lee Easy Entertaining at Home, by Sandra Lee. Enjoy!

Blue Cheese Pear Bites

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup frozen chopped onions
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 4 slices pumpernickel bread, toasted and each slice cut into quarters
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • ¼ cup white chocolate shavings
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the broiler on low.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add butter. When the butter has melted add the pear slices, onions, lemon juice, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook until the pears are warmed through and soft but still hold together, about 5 minutes.
  3. Place the toast squares onto a baking sheet. Lay a few slices of pear in a single layer on each toast square. Top with the crumbled blue cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute. Transfer to a platter, garnish with a sprinkle of the white chocolate shavings, and serve immediately.
  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 8 minutes
    Excerpted from the book, Sandra Lee Easy Entertaining at Home, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

Milk Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 (18.25-ounce) box milk chocolate cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • ⅓ cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1¼ cups chocolate milk
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided use
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Small silver dragées, for decorating
TO MAKE CUPCAKES:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line two 12-cup cupcake tins with silver-foil paper liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, cake mix, oil, and chocolate milk. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping until batter is well incorporated.
  3. In a microwave, melt ½ cup of the chocolate chips, stopping to stir at 10-second intervals. Add 1 cup of batter to the melted chocolate and stir well to combine. Place into a resealable plastic bag and snip off one of the bottom corners.
  4. Fill each cupcake liner with 1 small scoop of cake batter, to about a quarter of the way up the cupcake paper. Pipe 1 tablespoon batter with melted chocolate from the plastic bag into each batter-filled cup. Top each with another scoop of the remaining cake batter.
  5. Bake 12 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool 1 minute before removing and cooling completely.
TO MAKE DARK CHOCOLATE ICING:
  1. Heat cream in a saucepan over low heat to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in remaining chocolate chips until completely combined. While still slightly warm, dip the tops of cupcakes in the chocolate icing. Sprinkle with dragées, and allow icing to set.
  • Yields: 24 cupcakes
  • Preparation Time: 12 minutes
    Excerpted from the book, Sandra Lee Easy Entertaining at Home, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

Lovely Mousse

  • 1½ cups whipping cream
  • 1 (1.4-ounce) box instant chocolate pudding
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier orange liqueur
  • 2 (3.5-ounce) containers chocolate pudding cups
  • 6 ounces fresh strawberries
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat together cream and pudding mix with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
  2. Add Grand Marnier and pudding cups and beat until stiff. Transfer to a large plastic resealable bag. Snip off one of the bottom corners and pipe mixture into martini glasses.
  3. Serve garnished with fresh strawberries.
  • Yields: 6 servings
    Excerpted from the book, Sandra Lee Easy Entertaining at Home, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

Chocolate Strawberry Hearts

  • 1 pouch (17.5 ounces) sugar cookie mix, Betty Crocker®
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, Ghirardelli’s®
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • White, red, and pink sparkling sugar
  • 1/2 cup strawberry jam, Knott’s®
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together cookie mix, cocoa powder, butter, and egg until dough comes together. Shape mixture into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch heart-shape cookie cuter, cut out shapes. Reroll dough scraps and cut out more cookies until all the dough is used. Space half the cookies 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are light brown. Cool on cookie sheets on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack; cool completely.
  4. Using a 1 1/4-inch heart-shape cookie cutter, cut out the centers of the remaining cookies. Space cut-out hearts 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Arrange the heart centers on another prepared cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are light brown. Cool on cookie sheets on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool completely.
  5. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the strawberry jam on each of the whole cookies. Top with cut-out cookies. Spread half the cut-out heart centers with some of the remaining jam; top with remaining cut-out heart centers to make tiny heart cookie sandwiches.
  • Yields: 18-26 sandwich cookies
  • Preparation Time: 90 minutes
    Excerpted from the book, Sandra Lee Easy Entertaining at Home, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

Choco Martini

  • 1 ounce Baileys® Irish cream liqueur
  • ½ ounce Smirnoff No. 21™ vodka
  • 1 ounce espresso
  1. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add espresso, vodka, and Irish cream. Shake and strain into a martini glass.
  • Yields: 1 cocktail
    Excerpted from the book, Sandra Lee Easy Entertaining at Home, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

Manhattan Man

  • 1 ounce Crown Royal® Deluxe whisky
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash bitters
  • Maraschino cherries, for garnish
  1. To a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add whisky, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with maraschino cherries.
  • Yields: 1 cocktail
    Excerpted from the book, Sandra Lee Easy Entertaining at Home, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

I Love You

  • Pink cocktail sugar
  • 2 ounces cranberry juice
  • 2 ounces champagne
  • Maraschino cherry
  1. Wet the rim of a champagne flute and dip it in pink sugar. Add cranberry juice and top with champagne. Garnish with a cherry.
  • Yields: 1 cocktail
    Excerpted from the book, Sandra Lee Easy Entertaining at Home, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

XOXO Cocktail

  • 2 ounces Baileys® Original Irish Cream
  • 1½ ounces vodka
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 dollop whipped cream
  1. Drop 2 large ice cubes into a blender. Add Baileys® Original Irish Cream, and vodka. Blend until completely smooth. Mix in chocolate chips. Pour into a tall glass over ice and top with a dollop of whipped cream.
  • Yields: 1 cocktail
    Excerpted from the book, Sandra Lee Easy Entertaining at Home, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

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