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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Coke Date

My beloved, Andrew, a good German Lutheran, doesn't always display great passion for many things. There is one exception.  He pines for the bubbles, the first sip throat burn, the perfect ratio of ice. This man loves Diet Coke!  I can't say I'm thrilled with his carbonated caramel-colored chemical devotion, but Diet Coke love runs in the Koehneke line. Seriously, if the man has to have a vice, I could think of many far worse.  Most days I passively overlook this addiction, but today is Valentine's day and nothing will make my Andrew happier than a Coke Date!
I've had this Coke Date postcard longer than I can remember, but when I came across some Libbey glass Coca-Cola glasses last month, something pulled at the roots of my Glass City heart strings and a Valentine's theme was born! It just so happens that Diet Coke cans already come dressed for the party!  Aren't the big red hearts and stick fellow festive?  I began by simply cutting hearts from the empty cardboard case.  This thrilled AK, not because he loved the hearts, but he LOVED seeing the fridge so well stocked!
Next, Adelae and I got to work on a simple an fun project to make the little Diet Coke stick men our own.  I cut a little wedge from a piece of pressed sponge to use as a stamp for the figure's body.  (See my St. Michael and All Angels Day Post for more on my favorite method of instant stamp making.)  We quickly stamped black bodies all over red paper. 
Next with the tip of our baby finger we dotted on a black head.  Funny how much these little guys look like bottles of Coke!

After they were dry Adelae drew lines for arms and legs stemming from the figure's body using a thin black marker.
We gave each Coke bottle man a heart to hold in his hands! These little silver hearts were cut from scraps of box too.
Then, I cut the little guys out into big heart shapes.  Like with the hearts cut from the box, they were just free form and fun.  This is not an occasion for stuffy perfect heart!
With our centerpiece done, we dashed over to Publix to pick up some things for dinner. All I knew was that I was going to try to make some sort of Diet Coke sticky sauce for brushing on some type of meat. Also, we planned to try Diet Coke brownies, as seen all over Pintrest.  The Martha in me hated not having an exact menu and shopping list, but maybe since I've been spending time so much time with her sister Mary, while writing a unit plan about anointing Jesus' feet, her mellow trust has rubbed off on me a bit.  It's doubtful, but maybe! 

Andy enjoys drumsticks, so in the cart they went.  Cherries are a classic combination with Coke, so I thought I'd pick up a bag.  The idea of pitting a whole bowl of cherries before dinner was a killer; it was already 4:45!  Instead, we found a bag of frozen cherries.  Also going the easy route, I let the kids choose a vegetable - also frozen.  We found some cute crinkle cut carrots.
Once back at home, we started to make the Diet Coke brownies.  I had looked at several of the Pintrest postings for this recipe and the reviews were mixed.  Everyone agreed they were easy and yummy. Common complaints were a runny batter, longer cooking time and ugly presentation.  We added the Diet Coke a little bit at a time to avoid the runny batter problem.  In the end, I think we used about 3/4 of a can to one box brownie mix.
Easy to make, it was also a lot of fun watching the soda fizz as Adelae stirred it into the brownie mix.  To save time and avoid the ugly presentation, it was Stan to the rescue!  You don't know Stan?  Stan was the owner of the hoarder house my brother had to clean, and let me tell you we all hoarded a lot of great stuff from that house that would have otherwise been pitched.  From Stan, I had these darling little tin heart shaped molds.  With a hit of cooking spray then filled with batter, our brownies were in the oven!  I could now reduce the baking time, also the temperature a bit, from the box instructions and serve them directly from their cute little mold for pretty presentation AND no extra dishes!
Meanwhile I started reducing a can of Diet Coke over high heat.  That stuff comes to a boil rapidly!  In order to get the sticky gooeyness I was after, I added 2T brown sugar.  It's true, I wouldn't have to add the sugar if I was just using Coca-Cola, but as the connoisseurs like AK know, Diet Coke has a flavor profile all it's own.  I didn't want to mess with that.  For extra flavor I added a shot of Makers Mark to the pan.  Once the Diet Coke concoction had reduced to about half I reserved about 3T for later use.  Adding about a 1/3c ketchup added some body and extra stickiness to the sauce.  Finally, a I gave it a couple good splashes of Worcestershire.

Diet Coke Sticky Sauce
1 can Diet Coke (reduced)
2T brown sugar
1 shot good bourbon
1/3c ketchup
2t Worcestershire

I seasoned and pan fried the chicken legs for color and crunch then covered them in sauce and popped them in the oven to finish cooking for about a half hour.

While the chicken was baking, we raced against the clock to set the table and throw the sides together.  Remember that Diet Coke, Makers Mark, brown sugar sauce I reserved?  I added a splash of lemon juice and divided it over the carrots and cherries.  Carrots were nuked for 10 minutes, hit with sea salt and done!  The cherries were even easier!  The package said they are best served partially frozen, so I put them in a pretty bowl, tossed them with the rest of the reserved Diet Coke reduction and let them marinate in the fridge until the chicken was ready.
 Black and silver was my table cloth choice,  but the centerpiece was missing something.
So we surrounded it with cans of our love elixir in a heart shape!
For the final touch, we lined the ledge with cans of Diet Coke topped with a votive candle!  Our Coke Date was almost starting to look elegant!  By this time Andy was home and dinner was ready.
I got one shot of AK's plate while he generously filled our glasses with Diet Coke. Juicy and sweet, it really was a delicious and fun Valentine dinner!

Our little desserts turned out to be as darling as they were delicious!  Do you see that beautiful chocolate strawberry?  That was my valentine!  AK thoughtfully made these with Adelae - just for me! 
Any night is a good night for a Coke Date!

Want to know more about the real St. Valentines? Click here to listen and learn!

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