Daily: Celebrate Valentine’s Day with cooking

Kristen Daily

Today is Valentine’s Day — a day to celebrate love that has largely become a commercial holiday. If you, like me, are looking for some alternatives to the cliche box of chocolates, roses, jewelry and dinner reservations, read on.

After about age 10, I really stopped appreciating the commercial side of Valentine’s Day. Of course, it was great fun to receive bunches of paper valentines and candy at classroom celebrations, but after that, the corporate identity of the holiday lost its luster.

My boyfriend and I aren’t really the types who appreciate cards, jewelry, chocolate, etc. Personally, I find all of this rather insincere. Shouldn’t couples’ love be apparent for each other in everyday life?

I’m not trying to be cynical, and truthfully, I do like celebrating the holiday. It is nice to slow down and take the evening to spend time with that special someone, but are all of the pink and red trappings really necessary?

This year my boyfriend and I are celebrating by cooking a meal together. I’m really looking forward to this because it will give us the chance to spend the evening together and enjoy a nice meal. In past years, we’ve gone out, which has been nice, but we decided to cook a meal together for several reasons. One, I love to cook, and he likes to help out in the kitchen. Two, cooking a meal versus going out lets us pick the perfect meal. And lastly, it’s more economical. I don’t feel bad admitting that we’re all broke in college, and the money we’re saving on the meal is going toward a nice bottle of wine and dessert.

If you’re concerned about the apparent lack of chocolate, which the holiday is known for, NPR’s Peter Ogburn has good news for you. In his article “Chocolate: Out Of The Box, Into The Frying Pan” he suggests several ways to spice up your Valentine’s meal with a little chocolate. His recipes for Chocolate-and-Red-Wine-Braised Short Ribs, Cocoa-Jerk-Rubbed Pork Loin, Cincinnati Chili and Chocolate Mole offer some intriguing flavor combinations. Unfortunately, I can’t vouch for these recipes personally, seeing as I am vegetarian, but as an amateur cook, these look like some interesting recipes!

If meat doesn’t interest you as a main course, I suggest checking out vegetarian recipes from my favorite cooking blog, Smitten Kitchen, and Deb Perelman’s new cookbook, “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.” She provides a wonderful selection of soups, salads and pasta dishes, which are fairly simple to make. She also has great recipes for Indian dishes, which include some of my favorite foods.

However, the one recipe I need to share with you for Valentine’s Day is this: Tiny but Intense Chocolate Cake by Deb Perelman, with some adaptations from myself. It’s simple and elegant — very rich and truly decadent!

Tiny But Intense Chocolate Cake



6 tablespoons or 3/4 stick of butter, plus more for pan

4 ounces semisweet chocolate

3 large eggs, separated

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. fine or flaky sea salt

Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)

To finish:

1 cup whipping cream, whipped

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch or 9-inch pan with butter. Set aside. In a small saucepan, melt your butter until it begins to sputter and bubble, about three minutes. Then remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted. Set mixture aside. With an electric mixer, beat egg yolks, brown sugar, and vanilla until the mixture begins to thicken. Slowly beat in the chocolate mixture. Now clean your beaters and beat egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until firm peaks form. Add in a pinch of cinnamon, if desired. Stir egg white mixture in gently with the chocolate mixture, being careful not to overstir. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a tester or skewer comes out clean.

Then let cake cool for 10 minutes. Next, run a knife around the edges of the cake and invert on a serving platter. Once the cake is completely cool, it can be sprinkled with powdered sugar and then topped with fresh whipped cream and raspberries. Enjoy!

Take some time with that special someone to share a meal. Skip the flowers, jewelry and boxed chocolates — you don’t need these cliches to show someone you love them.


Kristen Daily is a junior in English from Orange City, Iowa.