I’ll admit, I’m not really that in to Valentine’s Day. I think it’s a little silly, and about a third of my friends agree with me. Another third are SO INTO IT and are real smug about how into it they are, and the remaining third of them hate it in a way that kind of reminds me of how I felt about it in 7th grade (e.g., throwing I Hate Valentine’s Day parties and telling you all about how commercialism blah blah blah). Needless to say, it made my day when I got this card this morning:
Because, yes. Valentine’s Day is an unholy alliance of overpriced plant life and saturated fats, but I LOVE both of those things! So shut up, smug people, but also shut up haters, because I want to eat some tasty thangs.
With that, I give you two tried-and-true recipes from my mental vaults of Valentine’s Days past. I made them in my tiny college kitchen and my even-less-well-equipped graduate school kitchen, so they’re easy and fun and festive without being so…aspirational.
The first recipe I stumbled across back in college and it’s credited to a one Katzie Guy Hamilton. I didn’t know her when I first made this recipe, but we’re real-life friends now! Isn’t that a weird twist? She’s a lovely lady, snappy dresser, and a great chef, so it’s with great pleasure I get to include an old favorite recipe from a newer friend.
Katzie’s Beet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting:
For the cupcake part:
1 1/2 sticks of butter (shut up. This is tasty and we’re all going to die eventually.) (it also helps to let it get justttttt a leetle soft.)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups shredded red or purple beets (in season try yellow for a corn-like flavor)
1/2 cup orange juice or blood orange juice (I got fancy and used blood orange juice)
1/2 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, spices and sugar on high speed for six minutes until fluffy and pale. If you don’t have a stand mixer, this would be a really good time to get one. My mom has had hers since 1981 and it’s still running strong. Also, they now come in every color imaginable, so if you’re a matchy-matchy type with an avocado fridge, you’re out of excuses.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer running on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape down after each egg. Add the vanilla extract. Scraping is serious business and you need to do it. Be a serious person and scrape that ish.
3. In a separate bowl, stir the orange juice into the shredded beets that have been squeezed of most of their juice. Mix until combined, then stir in the nuts. Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
4. Scoop into paper-lined cupcake tins, or spray muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray and scoop batter directly into tins.
5. Bake for 20 minutes until brown and a toothpick or whatever it is you use to test this kind of thing comes out clean.
12 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
8 ounces butter, softened
8 ounces confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pretty flaky sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (side note: do you know how to make your own of this? Remind me to tell you. It’s super easy and it makes everyone think you’re a genius.)
Zest of a quarter orange.
1. To keep it smooth and dense, paddle your cream cheese in the bowl of standing mixer on medium speed until smooth.
2. Put the cream cheese in a separate bowl. Add the butter to the mixer and mix on medium speed until smooth. Now add the cream cheese back into the butter, being sure to avoid “whipping” the mixture.Add the confectioner’s sugar, salt, vanilla and orange. Paddle until smooth.
3. I feel like this should be obvious, but this is the part where you frost the cooled upcakes with the frosting you’ve made and garnish them with the toasted hazelnuts (if you have not eaten them straight out of the toaster oven with your bare hands like some kind of animal.).
Alas, I am not friends with the person who invented this recipe, and its exact provenance is lost to me now, because I copied it down into my little book and promptly forgot. The fun thing about this one is that you can change it just a touch and make it suit basically any theme. The other thing I dig about it is that it is not toooooo sweet…so if you’re into that for your desserts, this one might be skippable.
Bell Pepper Cheesecake
3 red bell peppers (but you know, don’t feel bound to that. Green peppers make this Saint Patrick’s Day themed, yellow ones make it Hanukkah-appropriate, and those purple ones I guess make it nice for, uh…Lent?)
5 ounces cream cheese
4 1/2 ounces sugar
1 pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg yolk
2 ounces heavy cream
For some reason, in my notes, I have all things should be room temp underlined and writ large, so I guess that’s important, though I don’t for the life of me recall why.
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. Cut, de-seed, de-stem, and puree the peppers in a food processor or blender. In a small saucepan over low heat, cook the puree until it is thick and jammy. This takes a little longer than you’re anticipating, so be patient, okay? Let that ish cool. If you’re antsy, you can speed this up in the fridge, but don’t get super crazy and put it in the freezer. That is not a plan.
3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and sugar, salt and vanilla on low speed. Gradually add the eggs, one at a time, mixing and scraping the bowl between additions to prevent lumps. Go ahead and look twice to avoid lumpiness, because no lumps is the absolute key to nice cheesecake. Add heavy cream and mix until batter is custardy/puddingish. Mix in pepper puree.
4. Pour batter on top of prepared crust (it’s just down below here.). Bake until the cheesecake puffs up and is slightly set in the middle. Cool it or don’t, but you’re a freak if you like hot cheesecake.
Graham-Cracker Crust Part:
10 ounces graham cracker crumbs (do not buy graham cracker crumbs or you are my enemy. Just pulverize some graham crackers in a baggie and you’ll be way happier AND now you have a good stress-relief suggestion.)
4 ounces sugar
5 ounces butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine the ingredients and press desired amount of crust into the bottom of a springform pan. Bake until crust becomes golden. Let cool before filling. Again, fridge to speed up, but don’t get wild and freeze it.
Okay! So that’s it. Sorry I don’t have pictures, but I’m not baking this ish this year (on the road this week). Those are all the suggestions I have for saturated fats you might enjoy on Saint Valentine’s Day. Make them and enjoy them with your others, significant or otherwise. And unless you’re my friend Haley and your boyfriend gets you a sheep heart to commemorate this occasion, please refrain from telling me how perfect your relationship is over social media.