Arguably, Valentine’s Day is a day where one reflects on what you’ve got and what you don’t have. It should be a time to celebrate romance and love. It makes you wonder, how such an enlightening holiday with a history of darkness came about the pomp and circumstances of candy, cupids, chocolates and 2 or 3 carat rings. It has been known that it also can ruin relationships, as its celebrations can result in problems because it comes with expectations and pressure. A kissy-face reality? So, how did it all become about love?

The root of our modern holiday is a glorious fiction historical story. February 14th seemed unchristian at the turn of this century associating blood and fertility with the color red, and today, scientifically linked to passion and sexuality, so unlike the Roman Emperor who was without love and romantic feelings. This period was when the persecution of Christians was common. Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus, (circa 209-270 AD) was no God or amorous patron of love, more a curio-hitler like figure. The many repast exploited to celebrate the decapitation of 3rd century Christian martyr or two, executed during his reign was fancied up in the courtyards where whippings and torture occurred to woman and young men. So how do we get from beheading to betrothing on Valentine’s Day?

An order of Belgian monks spent three centuries collecting evidence of the lives of Saints from manuscripts archived around the world. It finally ended with stories of three of the most notable saints named “Valentinis”, and “St. Valentininus” of which at the hand of Emperor Gothicus were all ordered executed. Gothicus made the mistake of releasing into custody to Asterius, a preacher by the name of Father Valentinus. Over time, the Roman priest went on and on about “Christ leading pagans out of the shadows of darkness into the light of salvation”. The exchange and dialogue between Valentinus and Asterius, led the news getting back to the Emperor, and it didn’t sit well with him and he ordered them to be executed. Ahh

…The loveless Emperor…

Nevertheless none of the early “Valentinus” whether Roman, African or Umbrian seem to have any romance in their bones. Hardly nothing special for lovers! In an agonizing twist of fate, the youngest Valentinus to be executed, had been said to have sent the first romantic greeting. He fell in love, possibly with a young girl, thought to have been a jailers daughter who visited him regularly before his death. He poured his feelings for her in a letter and signed it “From Your Valentine”. He appeared sympathetic, heroic and most importantly, his words represented a romantic figure. The term is, nowadays still being used as the sentiment that carries a feeling of love and gratitude for a most loved one with not so many words. Charles, Duke of Orleans also wrote a love letter to his wife from capture, but his words were more in a form of a poem. This love connection came about thousands of years later. Chaucer and Shakespeare, both poets with many great words increased common consciousness of love, as both of them were considered very romantic in their own way with few words! Shakespeare beautifully and eloquently composed words that sang and dripped with romance, as in the letter that Romeo wrote to Juliet that turned into a most beautiful love story ever. Chaucer and Shakespeare both had a hand in glamorizing romance and as valentines’ tradition became popular throughout the years and made its way into the new world, Feb. 14 hasn’t been the same since. Due to this reputation, Valentines became more popular as a day for showing your love, exchanging small tokens of affection even if just with a single rose, expressing a direct feeling of affection for one another.

Hey, I don’t want to kill the mood of valentines, but we have succumbed to the commercialization of that holiday as well. Hallmark began mass producing Valentines cards in 1913, and according to the JBIS World Trade Journal, sales last year reached $18.2 Billion and with your contribution this year, sales will top $19.6 Billion. We have ourselves to blame for the intense commercial value, many of you will spend on the average $143.56 with your last minute panic decision. So spend on, and with this day, many of you will share the glorious excuse to dwell on love and romance associated with the 14th,. As matter of fact, even singles and unattached people view this holiday differently and have carved a niche for dining alone, binge movie watching, having “Gal-Entines Parties, eating chocolate and drinking obscene amounts of wine, all for “self-love”. Love yourself. Bring on the chocolate! All for self love!

The recipes

Things you can make together, adding more love to your day. These can be made with cashews, pecans, mini pretzels, popcorn.

~Chocolate Turtles

Makes about 12 pieces, so you may want to double up!

Ingredients:

½ cup toasted pecans

½ cup salted, roasted cashews

10 store-bought caramel squares

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine nuts in a bowl. Use a tablespoon to scoop nuts and make small piles in the sheet.

2. Place the caramels in a small microwaveable bowl, add a couple tsp. of warm water. Cover, microwave on high in 10-15 second intervals, stirring, until melted. Stir until smooth and place a teaspoon full on top of the nuts.

3. Melt chocolate soft the same way, but cook on half power for 30 seconds, stir and cook in small increments, stirring often until chocolate is melted. Spoon on top of the caramel.

4. Place baking sheet in freezer for 30 minutes or until chocolate hardens.

5. Place a couple in small decorative bag or box, bow, tag and give as a Valentine’s treat.

 

~Red Mug Muffins

A special treat to begin the sweet day, kind of like a muffin in a cup and easy to make in only 20 minutes!

Ingredients:

¼ cup of low fat milk

½ tsp. white vinegar

6 tbsp. flour

¼ cup of sugar

2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ tsp. baking powder

pinch of salt

3 tbsp. of oil, canola or vegetable

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. red food coloring

confectionery sugar for dusting

Directions:

1. In a small cup, combine milk and white vinegar.

2. In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, combine oil, egg, vanilla and food coloring. Add milk mix, oil mix to the flour mix. Stir until well combined. Divide batter between two microwaveable safe mugs, not filling more than halfway.

4. Microwave mugs individually on high for 1 ½ minutes. When done the muffins should be firm and springy, not doughy. If they are not done, place back in for another 15 seconds up to only 2 minutes total. Check every 15-20 seconds. Let cool for 3 minutes while you prepare a stencil for the top.

5. To make a stencil: Cut a circle of parchment paper that will fit inside the rim of the mug and covers the surface of the muffins. Cut a heart out of the center of the circle. Place your stencil on top of the muffin and shake on the confectioners’ sugar.

~Again building on simplicity but memorable, one last treat that is super, super different, an airy melt-in-your-mouth meringue like, but will deliver the perfect “I love you message” insanely crazy!

~Valentines Cloud Cookies Yields 30 cookies Total Prep. 1 hour 20 min.

Ingredients:

3 egg whites

¾ cup of sugar

½ tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. lemon zest or 1/8 tsp. lemon extract (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oxen to 200*. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Place egg whites and sugar in a double boiler or a 2 qt. Saucepan set over a larger pot of simmering water, where upper pan should not touch the water. Whisk briskly until sugar dissolves and a candy thermometer reads 130*, about 6 minutes.

2. Remove pan from heat; add vanilla and lemon zest or extract, if desired. With hand mixer on medium speed, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, about 12 minutes.

3. Transfer meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a ¼ inch plain round tip. Pipe shapes like hearts, kisses and hugs, letters on the parchment paper.

4. Bake for 45 minutes or until your creations feel dry and firm. Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.

~Easy make-together recipes by Stacie Bills, who is inspired by her 3 year old little cupid, Gabriel. She is sponsored by Green Giant and Amazon and I love her cookbooks.

As always, your love, comments and story ideas and recipes are always welcomed to share. Drop me a line at: [email protected]

And for the last words, for you lovebirds~Love makes your soul crawl out from it’s hiding place.~Zora Neale Hurston. Happy Fooding! Happy Valentines Day!~

and for you MaMa, I love you too much and love you morer!~Young love is a flame: very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep burning, unquenchable.~Henry Ward Beecher.~

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