I love Valentine’s Day! For those of you who’d care to point fingers at my relationship and claim that this is not a day for those not in one (you know who you are), I would like to point out that I have ALWAYS loved Valentine’s Day. Due to faulty timing and a lack of long-term relationships, I never even had a romantic Valentine before Shawn, but I never felt the scrambling pressure to get myself one, always enjoyed the opportunity to sit back and celebrate love. Emotional creature that I am, I love any opportunity for the kind of outpouring that takes place on Valentine’s Day — whether it begins in a deeply romantic or a Hallmark-forced place, efforts are made, celebration is had, love abounds, and I think it’s freakin’ awesome.
I suppose it started when I was little and my momma would make us egg in a hole for breakfast on Valentine’s Day, using a heart-shaped cookie cutter to remove the middle of the bread, frying a heart-shaped egg inside, its heart-shaped center fried in butter alongside. Momma gave us little gifts. We exchanged cards in school. There were chocolates and conversation hearts. (Incidentally, this is where I learned the word “coax” at an early age. I still think “coax me” is a weird thing for a conversation heart to say, intermingled with far more straightforward messages of cheesy affection.) A holiday of hearts and sugar — what could be better to a girlie girl child like me?
My love for Valentine’s Day even survived high school, when surliness ran rampant and I never had a date, though I had terrific friends. One Valentine’s Day at the height of my high school orneriness, one of the best girls I know got a smidge carried away with the making of Valentines, presented me with a poster-sized collage and ode to me as well as a big old bunch of roses. When I got home, my momma asked me where the flowers came from in that “who’s the special someone” voice that mommas save for occasions such as this. Experiencing a fleeting moment of shame about not dating anyone, I mumbled, “just Lauren,” my tone conveying that there was no special someone in my life. Fortunately, I got my wits about me right away and added “I guess I shouldn’t use the word ‘just’ if I’m lucky enough to have friends who will buy me flowers.” Duh. I was flung back, headlong, into my old-timey Valentine’s Day love of love. Apparently, as surly and jaded as I was in those years with my head-to-toe blue and my bitter and biting jokes, I had friends who knew that I was, at the center, still gooey and sweet. Thanks, my dears, for helping me tap into that even in the grumpiest, bluest years. I carry that thought with me on Valentine’s Day, that we are lovable even not at our best., that this is a day for everyone.
I have loved Valentine’s dates with friends, loved making cards, sipping drinks, taking walks, smiling at those in love. And I have loved Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend, five of them now, my beloved dirty gin martinis and dinner at the same cozy restaurant every year, sometimes flowers, sometimes gifts. We’re low on funds this year, so forgoing those things, but we’ll still have our dinner, a walk in the sun, full hearts.
I hope that, honey or no honey, you are able to pamper yourself today. Keep an eye out for the starry-eyed lovers, the friends commiserating over drinks and, in so doing, celebrating love in their own (hidden and potentially embittered) way. Keep an eye out for children bearing paper hearts, for those feeling loneliness on this day, for hearts on sleeves however those hearts are looking. Put some love out, some kindness, too, if you can. If you are home on this winter day, and especially if you are broke like me, whip yourself up something special — something as simple as heart-shaped toast or something as gooey, sticky, and decadently messy as these things that I have concocted.
They are raspberry chocolate sticky buns, and I dreamed them up last night, wandering the aisles of Super Foodtown, trying to come up with something special for my special guy that would not break the bank. Here’s how to make them.
Raspberry Chocolate Sticky Buns – Ingredients:
- Your favorite cinnamon roll dough (mine is from Cook’s Illustrated, but yours could be from a can for all I care)
- 3/4 cups white sugar
- 2 Tbsp. molasses (or omit the molasses and simply use brown sugar instead of white)
- zest of one small orange
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 cup raspberries (I used thawed frozen berries, which made it all pretty jammy. Fresh would be awesome)
- 4 oz. or so dark chocolate, broken into chunks
As always, quantities are approximate. The orange zest and little bit of vanilla and spices give the filling an almost flowery taste that is really nice with the raspberries. If you’re not a big chocolate fan, I imagine that upping the spices a bit (maybe some cardamom, too!) and swapping the chocolate out for white chocolate would also be delicious.
- Roll dough into a rectangle, approximately 12″ x 16″
- Combine sugar, molasses, orange zest, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and a dash of salt in a food processor. Or mash them together in a bowl with a fork.
- If using frozen raspberries, stir them in.
- Spread filling onto dough, leaving a border along the long edges of about an inch.
- Sprinkle chunks of chocolate over filling. If using fresh raspberries, dot them over the filling now.
- Carefully Roll up along the long edge. If using frozen berries, this will be rather oozy.
- Cut into 12 equal pieces and put them, cut-side up, in a buttered 9″ x 13″ pan. I lined mine with parchment paper.
- Let rise for an hour or so, then bake at 350 degrees for half an hour, noting that your house smells amazing.
- Make some icing. A little cream cheese would be awesome, but I didn’t have any. Mine is made of raspberry juice (drained from my thawing berries), a little yogurt, vanilla, and powdered sugar. It sounds weird, but it’s not — I promise.
- Ice your rolls, remove them to a pretty plate, think how nice it is to have such an impossibly sticky and decadent treat for breakfast, and have a happy, sappy Valentine’s Day.