I’m an old romantic at heart. My husband and I literally met by bumping into each other on the street. It was fate that he got off the bus just as I was walking past with my pal, and for our eyes to meet. It could of easily been a ‘sliding doors’ scenario as a minute later and we would have been heading off in different directions, lost in the crowds having never seen each other. Obviously, I’m so glad it wasn’t, as 13 years later we have been married for nearly 7 years and have 3 wonderful children. Our household is a pretty busy place as our children are still young and as a result I think it is easy to forgot the romance when real life gets in the way. My husband and I are like ships in the night sometimes. He work long hours and as a result so do I. It can be a struggle to find time for one another when we are both exhausted at the end of the day, but its so important. This is why I try and do something special every year for Valentines. I’m not a fan of the commercial side of Valentines day so it won’t be anything big or costly. Just a little token of love.
This year there was no doubt that anything I do for Valentines was going to be homemade. After making 6 Christmas hampers and being a self confessed baking addict, it was also going to be edible. It had to be unique but also useful. Cupcakes look pretty but were just not going to cut it, I’d make 12, he’d eat 1 and then have a sandwich! Same with most other treats. Then the ideas of a valentines packed lunch came to me. At the moment my husband buys his lunch spending far too much on a dry sandwiches, but he has no incentive to make his lunch and I don’t have time ordinarily either. A packed healthy lunch made with love would be perfect. I spent quite a while working out what I would make him. A number of criteria had to be met including portability, deliciousness and thoughtfulness. Below is what I came up with. I hope it inspires you to do the same for your partner or for someone you care about this valentines. For all the recipes I am giving you enough to make more than just one packed lunch. No point going to all that effort if you can’t enjoy some of it too. You could even invite a friend over for lunch on the day you make it all to join in with the enjoyment and impress by pretending that this is the sort of lunch you eat every day! You can be as creative as you like in packaging it all up. A ribbon and a tag would be a nice finish I think.
Blood orange, walnut and goats cheese salad with avocado hearts
This salad uses ingredients that I love and means you can justify buying lots of blood oranges which are amazing but only in season now for a short few weeks.
What you will need:
- packet of ruby gem lettuce, or any other lettuce with red in
- 100g goats cheese
- 4 blood oranges
- 50g walnuts chopped
- 1 avocado (needs to be fairly large)
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp blood red orange juice
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp walnut oil
- 1 tbsp runny honey
- Small heart cookie cutter
How to make:
- Wash and chop your lettuce and arrange in the bottom of a Tupperware dish.
- Cut the ends off your oranges and then use a knife to cut off the peel and pith working from the top down and round the orange. Cut into chunky slices and arrange on top of lettuce.
- Crumble a portion of the goats cheese and sprinkle on top of salad, then add some of your chopped walnuts onto the salad.
- Cut your avocado in half, skin and take the stone out then cut thin slices. There should be the fat bottom bit on each slice. Use this to cut out your hearts and place on top of the salad.
- Finally, to make the dressing mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl or dish then pour over the salad using as much as you think it needs
Sundried tomato, basil and cheese rolls
Keeping with the theme of valentines, I thought these rolls would be perfect as when the lucky recipient cuts into them they will find a gorgeous red inside.
Makes about 8 large rolls (freeze any you don’t use)
What you will need:
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 200g strong wholemeal bread flour
- 7 sundried tomatoes chopped
- 3 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 sachet of 7g dried yeast
- 75g grated cheddar cheese
- 450ml hand hot water – not too hot or it will kill the yeast
- Sunflower seeds for top (optional)
How to make:
- Put the flour, salt, tomato puree and yeast into a bowl
- Add water and mix with hands until a dough is formed. Remove from bowl and knead for 10 mins. Alternatively, use a dough hook on an electric mixer for 5-6 mins
- Use your hands to push the dough out flat onto your work surface and put cheese, sundried tomatoes and basil in the middle on top. Fold the edges of the dough back over the cheese, tomatoes and basil and then lightly knead for a few minutes until you think everything has been incorporated into the dough. You might find that bits fall off as you go but don’t worry just pick up and place back into the dough and you will soon start to see that most it has been mixed in
- Once you feel the cheese, tomatoes and basil had been evenly mixed into the dough, put it back into the bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in size
- Gently take you dough out of the bowl and gently knead to punch the air out of it and then make 8 or so small rounds of dough and place on a baking sheet. Cover with cling film again and leave for another 30-40 mins somewhere warm.
- Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas 6. The small balls should have grown into bigger rolls. Don’t worry if they are slightly misshapen, I think this adds the homemade appeal. At this point I put a sunflower seed heart on top of my rolls and then placed them in the oven. Feel free to miss out the sunflower seeds if you wish
- Bake for about 20-30 mins. Timings will depend on the size of your rolls but you are looking for a crusty top and a hollow sound if you tap the bottom
Red velvet mini heart cakes with orange cream cheese frosting
I adapted this recipe from my Hummingbird Bakery cook book. I used natural red colouring (mine was Dr Oetker), and found the silicone heart shaped bakeware in my local Sainsburys, (and I was extremely chuffed too). If you cant find the heart moulds, small round cake tins would be fine as well. I hope you are getting the red theme here folks.
What you will need:
- 60 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 10g cocoa powder
- 20 ml red food colouring
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 120ml butter milk
- 150g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
- 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 300g icing sugar
- 50g butter, room temperature
- 125g cream cheese
- 1 tsp orange extract
- A few sprinkle decorations of your choice. I used white chocolate stars and mini chocolate stars, both found down the baking aisle of my local Sainsburys
How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 170c/325f/gas 3). Mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the egg and mix until incorporated
- In a separate bowl mix the cocoa powder, red colouring and vanilla extract to make a paste
- Add the paste to your butter, sugar and egg mixture and mix well
- Then add half the buttermilk and mix, then half the flour and mix, then the remaining buttermilk and mix and the remaining flour and mix
- Add the salt, bicarb of soda and vinegar and beat well for a couple of minutes.
- Pour mixture into your cake tine and bake for 25 mins until the top is slightly firm to touch and a knife comes out clean. Take cakes out of their tins and leave to cool on a wire rack
- To make the frosting mix the butter and sugar together in a bowl with an electric whisk. Add the cream cheese and orange extract and beat until smooth
- Ice your cakes with the frosting using a palette knife if you have one and then sprinkle our chosen decoration on top
Present on Valentines morning, and expect a few ‘nom, nom, nom’ texts throughout the day…for the sake of my lovely blog readers, my husband got his packed lunch early! I’m also entering this into Looking forward to seeing all the other entries too.