Valentines

chocolate_fondue.jpgLee's biggest complaint regarding my cooking is that I "never repeat", meaning I never make the same thing twice. Which isn't true of course, but I know what he means. I'm always looking to improve upon recipes and try something new. So for Valentine's Day I let him choose the menu, something new or a repeat of an old favorite.

For celebratory meals it seems eating in is at least as romantic as eating out, maybe more. And with a few possible exceptions, no matter what ingredients you buy, you'll be hard pressed to spend more than you would dining out. One year I even made platters of seafood--oysters on the half shell, poached shrimp, mussels, smoked salmon, etc. But the biggest hit was the time I made cheese fondue followed by chocolate fondue. So after deciding we'd rather do Valentine's Day dinner at home this year, Lee expressed his desire for "Fondue x 2", which is our menu du jour.

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ImageAh, to be dead and in love. Sounds strange but why can’t love transcend dimensions as seems to be the curious case at Idyllwild’s Strawberry Creek Inn. The proprietor and chef, Rodney Williams, sometimes felt a warmth, a caress, an alarming brush of passion when alone in one particular room. He ignored it at first but as the sensations continued and he found himself oddly aroused, his curiosity grew. Finally, he called on a group of psychic experts and discovered that in fact, (for those who believe that parapsychology is fact), there was someone or something swooning about the place. Further investigation led to a ghost named Jade. According to the psychics, and there were several in concurrence, Jade, was the spirit of an ancient indigenous woman who occupied the land in life, and she was hanging around because she had fallen madly in love with the handsome Williams. It’s a strange romance that he finds comforting.

“She’s here to help,” he says, “I believe she may be responsible for our extraordinary success.”

Jade’s infatuated spirit seems to infuse the inn with romance. The award-winning bed and breakfast is a labor of love for Williams and his life-partner, Ian Scott. “So far Jade has not shown any signs of jealousy,” laughs Williams, “she seems happy to share me.”

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From the Joyofbaking.com 

shortbreadwwhitechocnraspfront.jpgFebruary 14th is named after the patron saint, St. Valentine, and we celebrate this day with the exchange of candy, flowers, cards, and gifts as a token of affection to our loved ones. The history of this day is very sketchy but it does appear to derive from Christian and Roman traditions. The story I like dates from the third century when Rome was ruled by the Emperor Claudius II. The Emperor outlawed marriages for young men as he felt single men made better soldiers than men who were married. 

A priest, named St. Valentine, didn't agree with the Emperor and married young lovers in secret.  When the Emperor discovered what St. Valentine was doing, he sentenced him to death. While St. Valentine was in prison, waiting to be put to death, he met and fell in love with the jailor's daughter. Before he died he sent her a love letter and signed it "From your Valentine". 

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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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