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Ever since our first Valentines together, my husband and I have cooked at home. For quite a few years we have had a wonderful and very dear couple join us – they met at our house and then became engaged here – and as our culinary skills have increased, so have the number of people we have included.
We usually begin the evening with appetizers and cocktails upstairs, then we negotiate the stairs down to the wine cellar for the first course, main course and appetizer.
This years meal began with a Cedar Planked Brie, continued with a simple green salad and moved on to a fragrant, delicious leg of lamb, that my husband prepared, before concluding with Chocolate Meringues.
As fantastic as everything was, I must admit, I couldn’t wait for the next day – for thinly sliced lamb on soft, fresh bread, with butter, ketchup and a sprinkle of sea salt, which is how I loved it while growing up in New Zealand.
I anticipated the left overs as much as I look forward to our special celebration each year – a lot!!


1 cedar grilling plank
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 round of brie
2 tablespoons blackberry jam

Soak the cedar plank in water for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir together the brown sugar, pecans, dried apricots and bourbon.
Heat oven to 400F.
Place the brie on the wet cedar plank. Spread the jam over the top of the cheese. Spoon the fruit and nut mixture over the jam.
Place the plank with the brie on a cookie sheet in the oven, bake for 10 minutes, or until the brie is slightly softened and the sugar melts.
Serve with grapes and sliced apple and pear, if desired.

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, December 2013


1 head of butter lettuce, leaves torn
1 head of red leaf lettuce, leaves torn
thinly sliced radishes
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped shallot
1 cup red wine
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Place lettuce and radishes on individual serving plates.
In a small saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Add red wine, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 6 minutes. Pour mixture into the container of a blender. Add vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Pulse until mixture is emulsified and smooth. Serve warm over salad.

Recipe adapted from Southern Lady, September/October 2011


8 ounces of frozen strawberries, thawed
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar, divided
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (I used a violet balsamic)
3 egg whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
5 teaspoons cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 cup cream
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 ounces dark chocolate, shaved

Heat oven to 325F.
In a bowl, combine strawberries, 2 tablespoons sugar and vinegar. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until peaks form. Add cream of tartar and a pinch of salt, beat to combine. Slowly add remaining 3/4 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Sprinkle cocoa over egg mixture, whip until just combined. Spread into 6 mounds, 3 inches each, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Place in oven, reduce temperature to 300F and bake until meringues are dry on the outside and soft in the center, about 50 minutes. Cool on sheets.
Using an electric mixer, whip cream and confectioners sugar. Top meringues evenly with berry mixture, whipped cream and chocolate.