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Valentines

The Little White Box

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by Laraine Newman

laraine_newman_cameo_lg.jpgwhitebox.jpgI’m sorry to say that my husband is much more romantic and sentimental than I am. He’s a better gift giver and a better surprise planner. That’s why I was completely unsuspecting when our family went to one of my favorite restaurants for Valentine’s Day several years ago.  I loved Prego, in Beverly Hills, and to use a quote from Jerry McGuire “they had me at the breadsticks”.

Another thing I should mention is I’m not much of a jewelry gal. I appreciate the beauty of it, but I can’t navigate decorative rings, necklaces and earrings.  I work too much with my hands and everything else is just a nuisance.

So, there we were, the four of us, actually dressed up nicely for a civilized evening out. The girls seemed agitated and I just chalked it up to the usual fussiness that stopped us from taking them out in the first place. When they were much younger they used to love The Daily Grille in Brentwood. 

What's the Perfect Valentine's Day Gift?

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by David Latt

3d-shadow-box-art-ssThat’s the question of the moment. Ads on TV, in newspapers, on line, in magazines, on billboards, buses, subways, just about everywhere you look, make suggestions about what to give your lover to show how much you treasure her: romantic dinners, cruises, hot air balloon rides, diamonds, earrings, pearl necklaces, chocolates, spa treatments, cakes, pies, tarts, sweaters, and of course, flowers.

Years ago when I lived in Rhode Island I had a friend who refused to buy any of her gifts. For Christmas or a birthday, she’d knit a gift, create a handmade card, or construct a collage. Risa was an enthusiastic practitioner of the hand-made movement because she felt that making a gift was a more emotional way of connecting to someone you cared about. To her, going into a store and plunking down a fist full of cash wasn’t as intimate and personal as making something.

I took Risa’s lesson to heart. Many Valentine’s Days I baked. Apple pies with crystallized ginger crusts. Flourless chocolate cakes with roasted almonds. And banana cakes with chocolate chips and roasted walnuts, one of my wife’s favorite desserts.

For this Valentine’s Day I was presented with a problem. I couldn’t bake Michelle a cake because she had sworn off dairy products and sugar. No matter how much she used to like my desserts, a beautiful cake wouldn’t tell her “I love you” the way it used to. So what could I make or do for her that would show her I love her?

Cupid's Arrow Misses Target

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by Cathy Pollak

cupid-with-tamborine.jpgLooking back fifteen to twenty years ago, I am amazed at the weighted significance I placed on Valentine’s Day gift giving.  It was forever the holiday filled with potential of making or breaking a relationship.  Those feelings all seem so ridiculous and childish now, but then, with very little relationship maturity under my belt, it all made logical sense.

When it came to giving the “right Valentine’s gift” I placed a lot of energy and time concocting my gift giving plan of attack.  I completely lost sight of what the celebration was about. Love. Right?

I distinctly recall dating a “certain guy” at the young and clueless age of twenty.  We had only been going out for a short time and Valentine’s Day was quickly approaching.  I know…the pressure.  There is nothing worse than an impending holiday like Valentine’s to put a young relationship to the ultimate test of failure or success.  At least that’s what I thought.

I was of course ecstatic.  I made this “certain guy” a very clever card, had a picture of us framed, made him my, “Yes, you will fall in love with me Chocolate Chip Cookies” and bought him a shirt.  I know the shirt sounds lame, unimaginative and pathetic, but believe me when I tell you it was a very cool shirt.  It. Really. Was.

Man-Catcher Brownies

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by Amy Westerman

ManCatcherBrowniesWhen I was 7 my mother, Susan, met my future stepfather, Larry. They had been dating for about a month when she made him a batch of caramel nut brownies—a recipe she’d come up with herself. Larry took one bite and blurted, “Oh my gosh, I love you!” It was the first time he’d said anything like that, and it was sort of a joke—but then he followed up with, “Actually, I really do love you, and I’ve been wanting to tell you that.” After they got engaged, Larry renamed the recipe “Man-Catcher Brownies.”

Mom taught me how to bake when I was 12, and these brownies were one of the first recipes she shared with me. “Remember, Amy, whoever eats these will fall in love with you,” she said. I knew she was teasing, but the brownies still took on magical properties in my mind. My friends and I would have sleepovers and bake batches of them for boys we had crushes on. Sometimes we’d be sneaky about it and bring the brownies to the whole class, just so that a particular guy would be sure to eat one. When one of us had a steady boyfriend, we’d make up a nice little bag for him and tie it with a bow. Larry was on to our schemes. “Those man-catcher brownies work, so y’all be careful,” he’d say. “Don’t give ’em to anyone who won’t treat you right for the rest of your life.”

Blood Orange Parfaits

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by Joseph Erdos

bloodorangeparfairtRather than a chocolate dessert for Valentine's, I prefer one that's creamy, light, and airy, just like this parfait. Not the layered yogurt concoction in a glass topped with granola and fruit, a parfait is a frozen treat of whipped egg whites and whipped cream flavored with fruit purée. French in origin, the dessert's name, parfait, translates to 'perfect.' Its texture resembles that of mousse, but since it is frozen, it eats much like an ice cream. For this dessert a citrus sponge cake provides the base on which the parfait sits. The blood orange syrup, which is the flavoring and coloring for the parfait, also serves as a drizzle over or alongside the dessert.

A few years ago I tried a parfait for the first time at Pigalle restaurant in New York. In fact it was a blood orange parfait. I was pleasantly surprised that the dessert menu offered this seasonal option as well as a good selection of French classics. I clearly remember it was the dead of winter, so a frozen dessert might not have been most diners' first choice, but for me it was. The parfait was made in a ring mold with a sponge cake bottom and served with syrup. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Ever since then, a blood orange parfait has been on my list of recipes to create. Here I make it for Valentine's Day in heart-shaped form using the most beautiful blood oranges.

My (Foolish) Hearts

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by Ann Nichols

heart_tree1327423453.pngIt is, perhaps, telling that my two favorite holidays are a) non-religious and b) associated with the acquisition of large amounts of candy. I love the autumnal, supernatural-tinged crispness of Halloween, and I adore Valentine’s Day’s pink, and red, and sparkles, and lace, and…hearts. I could live forever without the mushy sentiments. When I was single the romantic aspects of the holiday left me anguished, desperate and anxious for the relief that came on the 15th of February. Now that I am old and married, I am largely of the opinion that if you express your love only (or even mainly) because of Hallmark, you have some work to do on the home front. It is not the sentiment, but the trappings that “send” me.

Although real, anatomical hearts are not particularly prepossessing as objects, they are beautiful in their own way. It would be hard to live without one. What I love, though, is the shape as old as the ice age, a shape that probably came from the combining of an ancient symbol for fire and that of the astrological sign Aries. It is, to my eyes, a perfect shape. It combines gentle curves for those who like curves, and they suggest other things that are rounded, erotic, comforting and otherwise love-worthy. For those who prefer straight lines and pointy things, there is everything below the curves, all straight lines and an exquisite point. Pentagrams are nifty, but they have nary a curve if the scribe is sober. The infinity symbol has two lovely, looping curves but what if one needs the crunchy edginess of a line or an acute angle?

2014 Valentine's Day Gift Guide

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by Maia Harari

While we don't agree on the validity of this holiday, we still wouldn't refuse any of these items it they showed up on our doorstep. Love should be celebrated and we don't mind being spoiled.:)

shavekit

Van Der Hagen's Shave Set
For the metrosexual in your life, this set (complete with soap, badger brush, stand and bowl) is the perfect gift. And at $20 a pop, how can you resist?

  heartspoon

Big Love Ice Cream Spoon
We know, not another heart, but these heart shaped spoons are impossible to resist.

  50cars

50 Cars To Drive
An all-star panel of car enthusiasts, including Jay Leno, select the 50 most memorable cars in the world. The 50 cars in this book could change your entire perception of the automobile.

 
chocolates

Vosges Noir Truffle Heart
It may seem cliche to give chocolates, but this is no ordinary heart shaped box. Inside are the best chocolates the internet has to offer. If you live near one of their Purple House Boutiques, it's a must stop for the free samples and zany, stay-a-while decor.

  pukkalovetea

Pukka Herbal "Love" Tea
A unique blend of rose, lavender, elderflower, chamomile and marigold petals. Love tea was made by Pukka’s herbalist for his then girlfriend on the day he asked her to marry him. She said yes of course.

  givenchy

Givenchy Le Soin Noir Set
For that super special someone worth splurging on. Complete with miracle creams that make you feel like a million bucks (probably because they're made from the rarest deep sea algae and gold flakes).

 
vdayflowers

Bejewled Beauty
Flowers are an obvious choice to be sure, but we'd still like to receive some anyway.

 

heartwafflemaker

Five of Hearts Waffle Maker
Say "I Love You" with a little, holiday-themed breakfast in bed.

  starwarscufflinks

Star Wars Cuff Links
Suprise the geek in your life with these poignant cuff links that capture their moment of true love. Han & Leia forever!

Bleeding Heart Chocolate Chip Bars

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by Cathy Pollak

Bleeding-Heart-Chocolate-Chip-BarsI have two boys. At the ages of eleven and one that's moments away from turning thirteen, it's getting harder and harder to impress them. Or maybe it's better to say, it's getting harder and harder to do things together they think are cool.

Take for instance baking, when they were little pulling out the sprinkles got them excited about spending time in the kitchen. Now, it's getting challenging to keep their attention when it comes to helping. So I asked them to hang out and help me make these chocolate chip bars. Big yawn. Then I told them, how about we make chocolate chip bars with chocolate hearts that bleed red blood right on top? Magically, I had their attention. Boys. Of course they would think a bleeding heart is the perfect Valentine's Day treat!

These little hearts are Junior Mints made especially for Valentine's Day. Their insides are either red or white. The colors are mixed in a package so you do not get all reds in one box. I explained to the boys I could only get maybe half of them to bleed. The white ones also bleed, you just can't see them when they do.

A Classic, Simple Home-Cooked Dinner for Valentine's Day

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by Joseph Erdos

filetsThere's no other holiday like Valentine's Day when lovers are given the chance to express their affection in many ways, be it something as simple as flowers or as fancy as a restaurant dinner. Here in New York City and there are many Valentine's Day dinner specials soon to be available. There is always an opportunity for couples to dine out and have a great, albeit, expensive time. But a private dinner at home can be just as special and a lot less pricey. I don't think there is anything more romantic than cooking for your other half. A meal that's made with love has so much more meaning than anything a restaurant could offer.

I have a simple dinner in mind. This entrée is simple and easy, using basic cooking techniques, so you don't have to spend too much time at the stove. It's uncomplicated, unfussy, hearty, and familiar in flavors: it's steak, potatoes, and spinach. These petite filet mignon make an elegant dinner for two and, with the side dishes included, come in well under 20 dollars, 30 if you include a good bottle of red wine. Celebrate your Valentine with this easy and affordable meal.

Red Velvet Valentine Cupcakes

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by James Moore

redvelvetcupcakesRed Velvet is popular around Christmas but in the south you will usually find it served all year long. The bright red cake and white creamy frosting make it perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Americans spend around $655 million each Valentine's Day on candy, making it the fourth biggest holiday of the year for confectionery purchases, after Halloween, Christmas and Easter. But why buy candy when it’s so easy to bake up a batch up red velvet cupcakes.

This is a pretty fool proof recipe and they are best frosted with Easy Vanilla Buttercream. I like to use a large start tip to pipe the frosting on, but feel free to keep simple and use a frosting spatula. Rustic techniques guarantee your Valentine will know it’s homemade.

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