It's that time of year again!  That pesky little leprechaun runs all over our house in search of gold!  Little does he know there is NO GOLD in this house! He always leaves a little mess behind, but since I caught him a few years back and told him to STOP making a mess or I will OFF him, he has obliged!  Now he only turns things green in our house leaving only the slightest of hints that he has been here!  Some of the things he turns green around here are: the toilet bowl water, milk, water, my EYELASHES, mashed potatoes, eggs, and our pancakes!
St. Patty's Day CAKE Pancakes
1 1/2 cups cake flour 
1 cup white cake mix
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Heat griddle to 400 degrees.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined well. Turn your back for 2 seconds to get a drink of coffee, turn back and the Leprechaun will have turned your batter green.  It is the craziest thing!
Just like any other pancake cook until tiny bubbles start to pop, then flip!  Cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute more AND....
If you have ever read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman you may have noticed that "Acts of Service" is my Love language. It LOVE doing things to make people happy.  Feeding people make people happy, and since I love to cook it is a win/win. 

On Valentine's Day we always have pink/red everything - I ALWAYS make heart shaped pink pancakes and chocolate covered strawberries and I ALWAYS serve smoothies in 'fancy' glasses.  I can't believe I forgot to pull the heart shaped plates out for breakfast?  What was I thinking?!?!  (Barista class...that is what I was thinking....)
Our traditional Valentine's Day dinner is surf and turf!!  Crab legs and steak! This year I threw in lobster tails!  Mmmm GOOD!
We don't have a set dessert for Valentine's day well, other than chocolate covered strawberries. This year I made a chocolate covered strawberry cheese cake - OH BABY!!  (Recipe to come.)  Happy Valentine's Day!! 
I anticipate New Year's Eve fondue even more than Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and that is saying A LOT!  I just wish these three holidays with such HUGE meals were spaced a little further apart from each other.  Each holiday season I gain about 5 pounds then have to shed it off in January.    On New Year's Eve we start the first course at about 3PM ~ CHEESE fondue, my personal favorite! OH baby!  Typically we have a beer based cheddar cheese fondue, but this year we opted for a wine based Swiss cheese fondue.  I don't know which one I like better.  I think I need to try them side by side!  ;o)   

One thing to keep in mind while fonduing...(you like that word, don't you? I think I just made it up) is that if you drop any piece of food in the fondue pot you have to kiss a person of the opposite sex at the table!  AND you have to do this EVERY time you drop a piece of food.  Now let's get cooking!

Swiss Cheese Fondue

I used a recipe I adapted from Tyler Florence.  The original recipe is here.

½ pound Swiss Cheese, shredded (the better the Swiss, the better the fondue!)
½ pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bottle of white dry wine, reserve 1 cup for the fondue while drinking the rest.  (In my experience in cooking with wine you need to use a wine you like to drink.  I used a moderate priced Sauvignon Blanc for this recipe.)
1 TBL lemon juice
½ tsp dry mustard
Pinch of nutmeg
Assorted dippers

Over medium heat add 1 cup white wine, lemon juice and garlic and bring to a gentle simmer.  Gradually stir in cheese into simmering liquid.  Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue.  Once smooth, stir in mustard and nutmeg.

Cut all your dippers into bite size pieces.  Dippers we use are:
Assorted breads
Granny Smith Apple

Be creative and use anything your family likes!  This is a GREAT way to get those veggies into your kiddos!  
After stuffing ourselves on cheese fondue we hang out, play a few games, watch a little TV - whatever the day brings and then about 4 hours later we hit the main course, MEAT FONDUE! This Boy 1's FAVORITE course!  The main course is pretty simple & we like the oil fondue better than the broth fondue.  (I know, broth is healthier, but whatever, this is New Year’s Eve - back off! )

Meat Fondue

This is what you need:
1/2 gallon peanut oil
1 block cream cheese – room temperature
Tempura batter, make 2-3x’s thicker than the package says 

This is the tempura batter I like to use.  You can get it on the International food isle of your grocery store or go to the Asian market.
Heat oil to about 400 degrees (if you have an electric fondue pot, which is what we use, this is super easy to do, just turn the dial)
Next mix together cream cheese and chives
Clean mushrooms, remove stems
Cut all meats into bit size pieces
Shrimp should be peeled, cleaned and deveined
If you want you can season your meats, but we like them as is.  No seasoning.
We use the tempura to dip the shrimp and mushrooms in.
Before coating the mushrooms we fill them with the cream cheese/chive mixture, then coat with tempura.  Stab the mushrooms through the side all the way, not from the top or bottom.

Make sure you have separate plates for raw meat....
Shrimp only takes about a minute to cook.  You can cook the shrimp with or without tempura batter.  
Chicken & steak take a longer to cook- 2-3 minutes, just check the first couple of pieces then you will get the hang of it.   
Mushrooms take the longest, I would guess 3-4 minutes I like them to be nice and soft and the cream cheese all melted!  The mushrooms are my FAVORITE!!  My mouth is watering just thinking of them!
During the meat course DO NOT EAT OFF YOUR FONDUE FORK!!  They are super-hot & you will burn yourself!  Have a separate plate with a fork and knife. 

Oh, and dipping sauces!  I almost forgot!  Use anything you like for dippers!  We use:
Soy Sauce
BBQ Sauce
Teriyaki Sauce
Cocktail Sauce
Honey Mustard

Obvious you can change your meats up and cater to your family.  Scallops are really good as well -any seafood is good dipped in the tempura batter.  You can also do different veggies, sweet potatoes are good, and broccoli... you get the idea.
You can't forget dessert!  Chocolate fondue is a favorite among the little kids!  Typically we do white chocolate fondue, but this year we mixed it up and did milk chocolate fondue and WOW was it sweet.  I could only handle a couple of bites of this fondue, but since I have three little ones that LOVE anything chocolate, this was GONE in no time.

Milk Chocolate Fondue

2/3 cup half-and-half
1 package milk chocolate chips
2 TBL Grand Marnier

Bring half and half to a gentle simmer, add chocolate chips and Grand Marnier to warm half and half, stir till chocolate is fully melted.  Keep fondue pot on low to avoid burning the chocolate.

Dippers we use:
Angel food cake (pound cake is good as well)
Have fun & Happy New Year to all of you!!
(Yes, Boy 1's hand is missing from the toast, he bolted right after the meat fondue. He thinks getting too old for stay at home on NYE.)