Foodies’ Valentine’s Day Countdown

Married or single, when I think of Valentine’s Day, my mind still goes to romantic dinners.

As you may recall, last week I said you had plenty of time for Valentine’s Day food preparation. I shared a fondue recipe from my friend Karen.

I said don’t panic.

This week, if you have a sweetheart, and one of you hasn’t made Valentine’s Day dinner reservations, or planned a menu for a romantic dinner at home, then, OK, you can panic now.

But first, a word about Valentine’s Day responsibilities. It’s not just a day for women to sit back and wait for roses and chocolates and a fancy dinner to appear. IMHO, if two people are in love, for Valentine’s Day to be an equal opportunity holiday, it’s up to both parts of the couple to plan something nice. Guys like to be romanced, too.

Today, because Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us, I will also remind you about my trinity of chocolate recipes, which includes chocolate lava cakes, the best brownies in the world, and my trick for making chocolate leaves, a sweet garnish that takes a dessert from all right to Lord Almighty That’s Beautiful!

Case in point was a cake I made for my nephew’s 30th birthday last weekend (happy birthday, Aaron Shively). I adorned the cake with white chocolate leaves. Here’s the thing: For me, it’s easier to make a slew of chocolate (white or chocolate-chocolate) leaves and stick them on a cake than it is to use pastry bags to pipe roses and cursive words and butter cream borders and leaves.

If I were more proprietary, and wanted to hog all the culinary glory for myself,  I’d never teach you how to make chocolate leaves. Then I could continue to dazzle and amaze people with my chocolate-leaf covered baked creations.

Actually, this cake, above, would make a beautiful Valentine’s Day dessert. Just make your favorite cake and frosting, and stud it with chocolate leaves.

All this talk about dessert, and I completely about the main course.

As I checked online to see this week’s Tops Markets ads, I see that there’s a Valentine’s Day whole-meal option that even the most novice cooks could pull off: Creekstone Farms Blank Angus Rib Eye Bone-in Steak, $10.99, and 5 – 6-ounce lobster tails, $9.99 each, as well as asparagus $1.69 a pound, and for dessert,  suggestion of strawberry shortcake prepared with Tops’ own pound cake, topped with fresh strawberries, two 1-pound containers for $5.

Especially for this lovely occasion, Tops Markets in Redding and Weaverville offer assorted bouquets of flowers for $9.99, one dozen roses for $24.99, and even a tiny Valentine “love bug” with mini roses in a ladybug planter for $6.99.

That should take care of nearly all your Valentine’s Day needs.

But just in case you feel the need to prepare something special to begin your Valentine’s Day evening,  here’s a recipe for my new favorite cocktail, the Sidecar, made with brandy, triple sec and lemon juice. For this cocktail, serve it in a wide-mouth glass, such as either a martini or gimlet glass.

Photo credit:

Sidecar for Four

1 cup Cognac or good brandy
1/2 cup Triple Sec or Cointreau
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
For frosting the glasses (optional): Lemon wedges and sugar 
Lemon peel, to garnish
Run a cut lemon wedge around the rim of the glass to wet it. Then dip the rim into a plate of sugar to cover the glass edge.
Allow to dry for 15 minutes.

In a cocktail shaker, pour the Cognac, Triple Sec, and lemon juice. Add some ice. Shake well. Pour into the lemon-and-sugar frosted glasses. Garnish with a lemon peel.

 Serves 4

This recipe sponsored by Tops Market in Weaverville and Redding.

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Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.