From the Heart
On Valentine's Day, it is customary to exchange small love notes called valentines. The holiday is named after a third-century priest, St. Valentine, who was jailed for performing secret marriages against the wishes of the Roman Emperor Claudius II. The emperor believed that single soldiers were more likely to enlist in the army. Imprisoned and soon to be executed, St. Valentine fell in love with the jailer's blind daughter. It is said that he gave her back her eyesight and then signed a farewell message with, "From your Valentine." And the phrase has been used ever since. In 1573, King Henry VIII, an admirer of love himself, declared St. Valentine's Day an official holiday.
Valentine's Day is celebrated on February 14 with symbolic hearts, roses and cupids decorating traditional gifts such as cards, flowers and chocolate. With all the commercial hype, Valentine's Day has become a multibillion-dollar industry. In 2009, 187 million flowers were purchased, 58 percent by men and 42 percent by women, along with 1 billion Valentine's cards and more than 35 million boxes of heart-shaped chocolates!
Why so big? No longer just about romantic love, Valentine's Day now includes parents, siblings, friends, anyone special or close to you, teachers and, of course, let's not forget the whole grade at your kid's school.
- Try Cristina's recipe for Super-Duper Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Try Cristina's recipe for Chocolate Cake
I love Valentine's Day, but I always feel like I've just barely recovered from the stress from the Christmas and New Year's holidays when it gets here. How can I face eating chocolate once more? (I am kidding—that part I can deal with.) I do like the idea of taking a whole day and thinking about love. For sure, I always love to receive flowers from my honey and beautiful notes from my kids.
Not too long ago, a nice friend sent me some custom M&Ms with my name printed on them. I thought it was brilliant—my name on M&Ms! What's sweeter than yummy chocolate and a special message rolled into one? Wanting to know more, I went to MyMMs.com and found out that you can personalize any message and even put a photo on them!
If you are looking for something sweet and thoughtful to make for that special someone, friends or teachers, you might try my Super-Duper Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookies. You may even decide to give the raw cookie dough as a gift. Just place it in a container, wrap it in a beautiful ribbon (why not red?!) and write your love note on one side and the baking instruction on the other. There is nothing quite like homemade, warm chocolate cookies fresh out of the oven with an ice-cold glass of milk, now is there?
Now that our kids are out of the house, I want the evening to be quiet, romantic and special—just for us. A romantic dinner for two doesn't have to begin with no kids, no phones and no dogs, but it does help. For my Valentine's Day dinner this year, I am starting with a light pasta dish followed by a fresh wild arugula and mâche (lamb's lettuce) salad garnished with goat cheese, red ripe pomegranates and a shallot vinaigrette with either marinated grilled chicken or shrimp. I want to keep the meal light and easy to prepare so I can spend time with my husband, talking to him face-to-face at the dinner table rather then yelling back from the kitchen! There is another reason to keep it light—leaving room for my ooey-gooey Valentine's Chocolate Cake from the Heart!
Sending "A Big Bowl of Love" for Valentine's Day!