Earlier this week, LaCreta Holland’s plans to celebrate her 32nd wedding anniversary at a nice restaurant were put on ice — literally.
At times like these (winter in State College), it’s good to be the proprietor and sole instructor at Happy Valley Learn to Cook, a name that does most of the legwork toward explaining the services Holland provides to both experienced cooks and novice chefs looking to branch out into recipes more complex than “just add water.”
Holland and her spouse greeted the big 3-2 from the comfort of their own kitchen, which is something that she would normally advocate for anyway.
“It’s cheaper, it’s more cozy,” Holland said.
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She might have a point. According to the National Restaurant Association, Valentine’s crowds fall second only to Mother’s Day when it comes to dining out on the holidays. A story published Thursday on the Washington Post’s site highlighted complaints from readers about cramped tables, lackluster food and inattentive waitstaff.
Then the calendar had to go and get involved.
“(Valentine’s Day is) also in the middle of the week. It’s not even on a Monday,” Holland said.
For Holland, food is about connecting to family and loved ones. She’s putting together Valentine’s Day care packages for her four grown children and grandkids — mostly cookies and other assorted sweets.
To her, the utility of food — especially around the holidays — is that it brings people to the table.
“It’s worth everything stopping for a little while in order to connect as a family,” Holland said.
If you can’t reserve someone else’s table this Valentine’s Day, if you’re not sure what to prepare for your family/significant other/dog, if you’re just a girl and/or a boy standing in front of a stove asking it to stop smoking, check out Holland’s recipe for easy chocolate mousse.
Easy Chocolate Mousse
4 oz. sweet cooking chocolate ( I used 72 percent chocolate from Trader Joe’s)
¼ cups water
¼ cups sour cream
8 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed
Combine chocolate and water in saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Slowly add chocolate mixture to sour cream in mixing bowl. Set aside ½ whipped topping; fold rest of topping into chocolate mixture, blending well.
Spoon into 8 small serving dishes. Chill until ready to serve.