Valentine Gift Ideas with Dennis Dean

Homemade treats make the sweetest Valentine gift ideas. They’re perfect for friends, coworkers, clients and your kids’ teachers. Of course, the presentation can bring just as much delight as the treat itself when packaged in a beautifully embellished container or bag.

Our favorite caterer, Dennis Dean, shares two heart-melting spreads and creative ways to dress them up for the perfect presentation. This Valentine’s Day, go ahead and spread the love.

Raspberry Jam


  • 8 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 12 cups sugar
  • 3 ounces powdered pectin
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Zest of one lemon, medium-sized
  • 10 sterilized 1/2 pint jars


Place raspberries (thawed if previously frozen) in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Begin to crush the berries with a wooden spoon, or if a finer texture is desired, with a potato masher.

Once the berries have been sufficiently crushed, stir in the pectin, lemon juice and lemon zest. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Once it starts to appear slightly foamy, begin stirring in the sugar, about a half cup at a time until all of the sugar is dissolved in the berries. Once the sugar is completely incorporated, remove the jam from heat.

Ladle the jam into the sterilized jars, filling each to 1/3 inch below the top, placing a top and threaded screw band onto each.

Bring water to a simmer in a large stock pot, and put jars in so that they do not touch each other, or the side of the pot. Bring the water to a slow boil, and boil the jars for 10 minutes. The jars may have to be boiled in batches. Carefully remove each jar from the water with tongs and place them on the counter or a sheet pan to cool.

You will know that the jars have been successfully sealed when they make a popping noise as they cool, and the lids do not “give” or spring back when pressed. If a jar has not sealed, replace the lid and repeat the boiling process.

If properly sealed, the jam will keep in the cupboard for a year or more.

Dennis Dean Valentine Gift Idea

Homemade Nutella

Adapted from the LA Times


  • 2 cups raw hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil (can substitute canola oil), as needed


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toast them for about 10 minutes, or until they begin to take on a golden brown appearance.

Let the hazelnuts cool slightly, then rub them vigorously in a dampened tea towel to remove the skins. Place hazelnuts in a food processor and grind them until they become a smooth paste, a similar consistency as peanut butter. Be sure to periodically scrape the sides of the processor so that the hazelnut butter is an even consistency.

Once the hazelnuts are fully ground, add the hazelnut oil, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt, and process until the ingredients are fully integrated. If the mixture seems a bit dry, add more hazelnut oil, about 1 teaspoon at a time until the desired texture is achieved.

Store the hazelnut spread in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Let the spread warm to room temperature before consuming. If the oil separates from the spread, simply stir it until it is reincorporated.

Hazelnut spread will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Have other Valentine gift ideas? Leave us a note in the comments below.


  1. Reply


    February 5, 2013

    looks so easy!

  2. Reply


    February 5, 2013

    I’m taking a crack at making this Nutella. Homemade crepes with Nutella. What could be better? Or more fun for Valentine’s dinner at home?