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From our first Valentines together, my husband and I have always cooked at home.
Initially it was simple, luscious pasta dishes, both of us inhabiting the kitchen, easily and joyfully cooking together. Then, as we moved out of our cocoon for two, and included friends in our celebration, the dinners became more complicated, transforming into more elaborate, four course meals, but still maintaining the fun and intensity from those evenings early in our relationship.

Here is part of a menu from a previous Valentines dinner party.

BAKED GRAPES

Heat oven to 400F.
Place a bunch of grapes on a baking pan, lined with foil. Splash with about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, place in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
Serve with cheese, toasted walnuts and honey.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, January 2013
www.bhg.com/recipes/‎

BEET SALAD WITH BLUE CHEESE AND WALNUT VINAIGRETTE

SALAD
1 1/2 pounds beets, rinsed and scrubbed
1 tablespoon olive oil
salad greens
1/4 cup walnut halves, toasted
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

VINAIGRETTE

4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons walnut oil

Heat oven to 350F.
Place beets on a large piece of aluminum foil, rub each beet with olive oil and fold foil to enclose beets. Place on a cookie sheet and roast until a knife pierces center of beet easily, about 1 hour.
Remove skins with a paring knife. Slice beets.
In a small bowl, whisk together sherry vinegar, shallots, salt and freshly ground pepper, slowly whisk in oil.
Place greens on 6 plates, top with beets, walnuts and blue cheese. Drizzle with vinaigrette.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, October 2007
www.arkansasonline.com/news/features/food/

CHOCOLATE RED WINE CAKE

2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups red wine
confectioners sugar and whipped cream for dusting

Heat the oven to 350F.
Butter and flour a 12 cup bundt pan. In a bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes longer. Working in two batches, alternately fold in the dry ingredients and the wine, until just incorporated.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack, let cool completely. Dust the cake with confectioners sugar and serve with whipped cream if desired.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Food &Wine Magazine
www.foodandwine.com/…/chocolate-red-wine-cake

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