Our Little Valentine—also known as cooking with Cade.
Before putting my fingers to the keyboard for the February article, I took a moment to reminisce how Valentine’s celebrations have evolved throughout my life. It spanned from childhood, where I placed handmade cards into decorated bags, to donning a fancy black dress for a night of romance with my dashing husband, followed by years trading dinner reservations for cozy evenings baking heart-shaped cookies with the kids. As empty nesters, we opted for fancy cooking at home — leaving the crowds to the younger set. Then, nine years ago, a very eventful and our most precious Valentine’s Day came with the birth of our first grandson, Cade.
Cade’s mom, Elise, lovingly joked at the transformation of their romantic Valentine’s dinners into another celebration for the foreseeable future — birthday parties for “Our Little Valentine.”
Now, as Cade turns nine, we know him to be energetic, thoughtful, and kind. He’s forever thinking of his mom — bringing her picked flowers when coming in from playing, or loading the dishwasher after dinner, and even offering to make her breakfast in bed. With those attributes in mind, I considered if Cade and I could pull off cooking a surprise Valentine’s dinner for his parents. The plan would offer Cade and me some priceless one-on-one time apart from his siblings (especially now that the new baby has arrived), and his mom and dad could relive the days of romantic dinners together, if only for one night.
For the menu, Cade and I shared some ideas. We knew both of his parents loved salmon. Word is, there’s a favorite family recipe on his dad’s side that hails from Birmingham, Alabama. I love the idea of handed-down recipes, so I crossed my fingers it would pair nicely with my new favorite winter salad. Best yet, Cade’s daddy loves chocolate — the more decadent the better. Everybody’s covered with make-ahead truffles because it makes plenty to share.
Cooking with kids offers a multitude of benefits — from building math skills, encouraging an adventurous palate, boosting confidence, learning about family traditions and recipes, and learning ways to make meals healthy. Most importantly, cooking helps prepare kids to take care of themselves and, in turn, their future family.
I’m excited to be Cade’s sous-chef as we attempt to pull off this lovely surprise. Mostly though, I just love this guy’s heart, and I’m so looking forward to spending time with Our Little Valentine.
Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day — whatever season of life you are in.
Salmon Fillets in Soy and Lemon
Makes 2 servings
1 lb. wild-caught salmon fillet
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 clove fresh garlic (minced)
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 lime (quartered)
Rinse the salmon and pat completely dry with paper towels. Turn the oven on broil. In a small bowl, combine basil, pepper, garlic, lemon, soy, Worcestershire sauce, and oil. Place the salmon on a sheet pan. Pour half the sauce over the salmon and broil for five to six minutes. Using hot pads, pull the salmon out of the oven and pour the remaining sauce over it. Broil for another four minutes, or until the salmon flakes with a fork. Serve with lime wedges and the salad.
Tip from Laura —
Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper for ease when cleaning up.
Apple and Romaine Salad with Marcona Almonds
Makes 2 servings
1 small head of Romaine lettuce
1 gala or honey crisp apple, diced
1 oz. Marcona almonds, roasted in sea salt and olive oil
1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. champagne vinegar
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping tsp. Herbes de Provence (thyme, marjoram, rosemary, basil, sage, lavender)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Wash lettuce, tear into bite-size pieces, and place in a bowl. Core apple, dice, and add to the bowl, along with almonds. In a small bowl, combine honey, lemon juice, champagne vinegar, and herbs. Whisk to combine, then drizzle desired amount over salad. Toss to coat leaves.
Decadent & Easy Chocolate Truffles
Makes 24 truffles
10 oz. dark chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. whipping cream
1/2 c. desiccated coconut
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. crushed peanuts
1/3 c. red, pink, or white sprinkles
1/4 c. confectioners’ sugar
Place chocolate, cream, and butter in a small microwave safe bowl.
Microwave on high for four 30-second bursts, stirring in between. Cover the bowl with a plate and allow to sit for five minutes, then stir until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for six hours. Prep coatings for the truffles. Remove chocolate from the refrigerator and be prepared to work quickly. Using a tablespoon measuring spoon, scoop out even dollops of chocolate and roll into even balls. Roll balls in coating of choice. Place chocolate balls on a chilled dinner plate. Serve at room temperature.
Tip from Laura —
Place a dinner plate in the refrigerator while prepping the truffles to help keep them cool while you work.