Valentine’s Recipes You’ll Love to Share

If the way to your loved one’s heart is through the stomach, there’s no better way to start off this Valentine’s Day than with a homemade breakfast prepared with love.

Whether you’re whipping up a breakfast for a spouse with a sophisticated palate or trying to tempt the taste buds of your littlest loves, explore these ideas to get inspired.

  • Red is the color of love, so build your menu around fresh strawberries or raspberries, which pair perfectly with French toast or crepes, and can even dress up a simple cereal.
  • For a more sensible menu, opt for a fruity berry smoothie or a parfait layered with fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt and granola. Add a hint of loving indulgence by sprinkling dark chocolate shavings on top.
  • Show your affection with a plate of these colorful Cocoa-Kissed Red Velvet Pancakes featuring rich 100 percent cocoa, buttermilk and fresh berries. Heart-shaped cookie cutters lend a special touch to these fluffy, flavorful pancakes. Add sweet garnishes like powdered sugar and berries for a sensational way to say “I love you.”

Find more recipes you’ll love to share with your nearest and dearest this Valentine’s Day at Culinary.net.

Cocoa-Kissed Red Velvet Pancakes

Recipe courtesy of Nestlé

Servings: 10 pancakes

  • 1          cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4       cup granulated sugar
  • 3          tablespoons Nestlé Toll House Baking Cocoa
  • 1          teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2       teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2       teaspoon salt
  • 1          large egg
  • 1          cup reduced-fat buttermilk or low-fat milk
  • 2          tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2    teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1          teaspoon red food coloring
  • heart-shaped pancake cutters or cookie cutters (optional)
  • butter, for garnish (optional)
  • powdered sugar, for garnish (optional)
  • maple syrup, for garnish (optional)
  • fresh berries, for garnish (optional)
  1. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir well.
  2. In separate large bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, unsalted butter, vanilla extract and food coloring. Add to flour mixture; stir to combine. Allow mixture to sit 5 minutes.
  3. Heat nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Brush with oil or butter. Add about 1/4 cup batter to skillet. Cook about 2 minutes, or until bubbles start to form on top. Flip and cook 1-2 minutes, or until bottom is lightly browned. Serve immediately with butter, powdered sugar, syrup and berries, if desired.

Tip: If using pancake or cookie cutters, be sure to coat with oil so pancakes don’t stick. Place cutters in skillet and pour batter into cutters. Remove cutters before flipping. (Family Features)

Diamonds Direct in The Domain Celebrates with Weeklong Event

Highlights Include a Special Appearance by Designer Simon G and No-Interest Financing for Five Years 

Global diamond powerhouse Diamonds Direct on Monday announced a weeklong celebration of Valentine’s Day at its Austin store Feb. 7-14 featuring the retailer’s best financing offer of the year – 0% interest for five years – and a special event on Saturday, Feb. 11 featuring renowned designer Simon G. The store is located at 11104 Domain Drive in The Domain shopping center.

“We are proud to be one of the carefully selected jewelers to sell Simon G’s inspirational hand-crafted designs, and we are thrilled to have him in our store,” said Diamonds Direct Vice President Anat Adi-Atias.

Although Diamonds Direct regularly carries Simon G pieces, the designer will bring with him additional inventory for his appearance, including bridal pieces, limited edition pieces and signature favorites. He will also offer customization according to buyers’ unique needs and vision.

Founded in 1995 by former diamond wholesalers, Diamonds Direct offers one of the nation’s largest selections of fine jewelry and diamonds in the United States. Because it has a buying office within the world diamond exchange in Tel Aviv, Diamonds Direct is able to eliminate all middlemen and stay involved throughout the full life cycle of every diamond it sells. This vertical integration strategy creates tremendous value for end customers and ensures an unquestionably first-quality product.

Diamonds Direct offers a huge selection of loose and mounted diamonds ranging in size from under a half-carat to over 20 carats. The company also features a multitude of engagement ring mountings by America’s top designers, wedding bands, pendants, earrings, bracelets, pearls, colored gemstones and fine fashion jewelry. The Diamonds Direct team includes skilled diamond experts who assist customers with choosing the right diamond for their budget and occasion – a personalized and fresh approach to diamond and fine jewelry selection for shoppers in the Austin area.

Diamonds Direct is adheres to the highest industry standards and ethics, and is committed to providing a transparent, educational experience to each customer. The company offers outstanding customer service, including a 30-day money-back guarantee, 110 percent lifetime upgrades on all classic diamond pendants and stud earrings, price protection, complimentary jewelry maintenance, cleanings, appraisals and multiple financing options.

“With this special guest on hand and this incredible offer of no-interest financing for five years, our Valentine’s Day celebration is the perfect time to purchase that diamond you have had your eye on, whether it is a Valentine’s Day gift, an engagement or wedding ring, or a special remembrance for an anniversary, birthday, or other occasion,” said Adi-Atias.

 

Uncle Billy’s First Friday Firkin: Crazy in Love

UB Feb First Friday Firkin

On Friday, February 3 at 5pm, Uncle Billy’s will tap a cask of Crazy in Love, a firkin made with dark sweet cherries infused in Crazy Day Imperial Lager.

The Imperial Lager is made by starting with the original Lazy Day Lager recipe, but with double the malt bill resulting in a hearty beer with 8 percent ABV. The generous dose of Pilsner and Vienna malts gives the beer a toasty sweetness, along with a spicy notes and a round Cherub-like boozy body. The addition of the cherries gives it a fresh-baked cherry pie flavor suitable for wooing your sweetie.

It’s a perfect beer for the Month of Love to get you in the mood for Valentine’s Day.

Friday, February 3, tapping at 5pm
$3 Firkin Pints
Uncle Billy’s Brewery + Smokehouse, 1530 Barton Springs Road

Love Is in the Air – Every Day!

Brownie Image

Chocolates? Roses? Been there, done that. Everyone wants to make sure the special someone in their lives knows how much they care. Here are some easy and fun ways to prove that he or she is number one in your book.

Make a Playlist of “Your Songs”

Whether it was playing when you first met or is the soundtrack to your favorite movie, every couple has songs that mean something special to them. In the car, leave a CD or MP3 player stocked with your most memorable tunes as a special surprise and a suddenly-better commute.

Do the house chores. Seriously.

Fix that item you’ve been saying you would fix forever. Empty the dishwasher and clean the bathroom. When they get home, have all the chores done, that way the only thing left to do is enjoy each other’s company.

Put Pen to Paper

Hide little notes with heartfelt sentiments on the refrigerator, on the nightstand, taped to the computer screen – any place they might stumble upon it throughout a typical day. Your note might be found after a long meeting or last-minute deadline, providing a moment of reprieve and happiness during a hectic day.

Raise a Glass and Indulge – Together

Toast each other with some tasty treats. Pop some bubbly, then enjoy mixing these recipes together.

For more romantic wines and recipes, visit www.barefootwines.com.

Sweetheart Dark Chocolate Brownies

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Makes: 10+ servings

For the brownies:

  • 1/2       cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 4          ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2          eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4       cup white sugar
  • 1          teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2       cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4       cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2       teaspoon kosher salt

For the glaze:

  • 2          ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1          tablespoon unsalted butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In small pot over low heat, melt 1/2 cup of butter and 4 ounces of dark chocolate together until smooth.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, and whisk to combine after each addition.
  4. Add sugar and vanilla and stir to combine.
  5. Add flour, cocoa powder and salt and stir until smooth.
  6. Transfer batter into a 9 x 9 aluminum foil lined baking pan and place it into the oven for 25 minutes and bake until done.
  7. While brownies are baking, melt together semisweet chocolate and 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter for the glaze. Once melted, set aside.
  8. When brownies are done, let them cool.
  9. Once cooled, drizzle glaze over brownies, and spread it on top using an offset spatula.

Barefoot Bubbly Ruby Red Bliss

Makes: 2 servings

  • 3          ounces cranberry juice
  • 1/2       ounce lime juice
  • 6          ounces Barefoot Red Moscato Champagne
  • 2          skewer cranberries for garnish
  1. Place chilled juices in flutes. Top with Barefoot Bubbly Red Moscato. Garnish with cranberries.

Cheers! (Family Features)

7 Reasons You’re Lacking More Love in Your Life

Written By Sofia Milan

While most would respond with an emphatic “yes” if asked if they would like more love in their lives, I suspect few people welcome the extent of “work” required to achieve that outcome. Of course, the amount of work involved depends on how far away one feels they are from the level of love they desire.

Just like achieving a diet, fitness or career goal, elevating the amount of love in your life requires commitment, change, vision and patience—with yourself and with others. Towards this end, it’s entirely possible for sentiment-seekers to create a personalized plan to achieve love goals, no matter how short or long of a journey that lies ahead. In the weight-loss analogy, if you want to lose 5 pounds or 50 pounds, your personal trainer would have different advice for you. Similarly, if you want to increase the amount of love in your life by 5% or 500%, the means to achieve this would be different.

To help get you started, here are seven strategies that you can personalize in working toward your love goals, no matter how far along you are on this jubilant journey.

Sofia Milan Yoga ~ Photograph courtesy of The Sofia Milan Company

Sofia Milan Yoga ~ Photograph courtesy of The Sofia Milan Company

1. Not vetting the VIPs. Who is the most important person in your life? Did you say “me”? If not, it’s time to practice self-love and move yourself to the top spot on your VIP list!  The most important person in your life must be you.  Only you can choose a side salad over French Fries.  Only you can choose to react calmly instead of angrily at the driver who cut you off.  Only you can choose to surround yourself with positive people who enrich your life versus toxic people who break you down emotionally. I’m NOT suggesting that narcissism is good or giving you a license to be selfish.  Just take a lesson from the flight attendants who instruct, “put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others.”

2. Failing to train your brain. Perhaps you’ve heard about how athletes and other competitors imagine themselves successfully executing their craft with perfection prior to the moment they are expected to perform.  Top competitors practice, watch videos of themselves, mentally visualize their success and practice some more.  Similarly, a powerful tool is to visualize the love that you desire, and imagine it in a way so that you can actually feel it. Imagine the warmth and security of an embrace. Feel the joy of spending time laughing with dear friends.  Just like an athlete, this will train your brain to make it happen and to manifest what you desire.  Another way to do this, is to collect images and phrases either from the internet or magazines and assemble them into a “vision board” collage.  You need not be crafty and the result may not look perfectly composed, but the exercise itself will help clarify exactly what you want your life to look like in the future. Then, keep that visual handy—optimally visiting it at least once daily.  Not only is this a wonderful and more accurate way to envision the love and the life that you desire, but also to make it feel more real, accessible and imminent.

3. Holding steadfast to your “filter”. Do you know someone who can always cite a litany of reasons why something won’t work?  Or the cynical person who thinks everyone has a clandestine ulterior motive?  Or the conspiracy theorist that really thinks everyone is out to get them?  How many people do you know truly see only the goodness in other people and the world overall? How would you rate? Does your own perception “filter” need an upgrade? In today’s crazy and stressful world, whose doesn’t? Whether it’s with respect to romantic interests, friends or family members, rather than focusing on the flaws and shortcomings with a critical eye, instead try to see the person’s goodness.  Consider the positive reasons you have crossed paths with this person and practice seeing their good qualities when you interact with them.  A critical eye can always find something wrong.  We’re all human after all.  Not only will you feel better just by making this small shift in the way you regard and relate with others, but they will also sense the favorable shift in you.

The more you practice this, the more love you will feel in your own life.  Even beyond those you know, try looking a stranger in the eye and smiling while imagining you are sending them happy thoughts, blessings or even love.  Do so with no expectation of a positive response in return.  If you get one, great.  If you don’t, do not be discouraged and keep practicing.  Notice how you feel.  You have nothing to lose.

4. Lacking a “Love Action List”. Make a list of “Love Actions,” which are specific things that special someone in your life can do that would make you feel loved. Make sure that small, no-cost gestures are included as well as bigger items. For example, this list might include things like, “bring me coffee in bed,” “whisper in my ear and make me blush when we’re out,” “plan an outing for us to look forward to,” “send me flowers for no reason” and other sweet or spicy gestures. Obviously some of these are not so easy to do for yourselves. However, you can buy yourself flowers and plan things to look forward to! Making the list—and even acting on it for yourself—will be a message to the universe that you wish to attract someone willing and capable of doing all of these things and more.

Note, if you do choose to do this exercise and share your list with your significant other, it’s imperative that you do not judge the items on their list! Do make sure you understand them, as the list represents the key to their happiness. Be thankful that you no longer are expected to be able to read his or her mind. Also, do not keep score. If you choose a “Love Action” from his or her list to show that you care, do so lovingly rather than regarding it as yet another chore and, just as importantly, do not expect anything in return. You are giving a gift, and s/he needs to accept it as a gift graciously, with no anxiety about what to do in return. Give and receive with love and no strings attached.

5. Raising roadblocks. There are probably plenty of examples in your life, or in the lives of those dear to you, that make a good case for remaining aloof, building those proverbial walls up around your heart and not letting people “in” to experience the real you.  If you wish to experience the kind of deep-seeded love you’ve trained your brain to imagine, there is likely some work that you need to do to remove whatever self-limiting beliefs, fears, pain or negative feelings are lurking in the dark recesses of your psyche.  These are your emotional roadblocks and you need to figure out how to step over, get around or completely annihilate these barriers.

To do so, you’ll first need to identify what is blocking your ability to love fully and fearlessly.  Then you can do the internal work needed to transform those negative thoughts into positive ones.  For example, a current belief of, “my first marriage was a waste of time and energy and my spouse was a cheating, lying, selfish jerk.” These thoughts are essentially agreements to attract yet another person who is and does the same thing. Instead, you should say out loud daily, until you truly believe it at your core, an affirming statement such as: “My first marriage taught me a great deal about myself, how deeply I can love someone and demonstrated that I have the courage and strength within me as well as the support around me to recover from painful circumstances.  Thank you for the lessons I needed to learn.  I am strong, loving and deserve true love.”

6. Foregoing fun. Many of us are very busy doing things for others–work, family, community.  Imagine if all of those people who are siphoning your time and energy not only stopped, but also instructed you to do something that makes you truly happy.  Imagine them all saying in unison, “We give you permission to take time to do whatever makes your heart happy.”  What would you do?  Take a long walk in nature? Dance? Sit by the river and read?  Go to a jazz club and let the music wash over you?  You might be surprised how difficult it can be to identify what exactly will make you feel happy and fulfilled.

Look at your calendar over the next month and commit to doing whatever it is that brings you joy.  If you need to practice more self-love, plan to go solo, so that someone else’s “stuff” does not interfere with your experience and you can truly connect with your own needs.  If being alone feels uncomfortable to you, consider why and wonder if that is exactly why you should go by yourself.  And barring some major league disastrous circumstances, commit to your event like you would to the most important person in your life.  Do it without guilt, as it is for your own health and well-being.  The more connected you are to your authentic self and the better you feel inside, the more positive energy you have to devote to others.

If you are already in a long-term relationship, a key to long-term happiness is “shared experiences.”  Find something that has nothing to do with your family or running your household that you both truly enjoy doing together.  Find the time and commit to doing that and not talking about work or family.  Solely focus on enjoying the experience and being entirely present in the moment.  The more the shared activity can enable the physical touch factor, the better.

7. Not gifting unconditional love. A key word in this strategy is “gift,” and this is one you must give to yourself as well as others.  In giving a gift to others from your heart, you must do so with no expectations of a positive response or a gift or gesture in return.  And loving unconditionally, truly and literally means that you love with no conditions–physical, financial, spiritual, intellectual, emotional or otherwise.  For example, I will still love you if you gain weight or get sick, if you are rich or poor, if you switch religions, if you make more money than I do and when you are crying when I don’t understand it.  What is sometimes harder is to fire your internal critic, banishing it from your psyche, and replacing that pessimistic voice with a more loving one that says “I love and value myself no matter what.  I am proud of who I am, what I’ve learned and who I’m becoming.”

Sunset ~ Photograph courtesy of The Sofia Milan Company

Sunset ~ Photograph courtesy of The Sofia Milan Company

If you apply these seven proactive strategies, you are sure to attract more love into your life and realize the happiness and fulfillment you’ve always dreamed of. And remember, you deserve it!

Sofia Milan is America’s spiciest and sweetest relationship expert dedicated to helping people have amazing relationships. Her relationship blog on Facebook regularly realizes engagement in the tens of thousands, serving as a credit to the honesty, vulnerability and witty insights she offers. Milan may be reached online at www.SofiaMilanBooks.com.

Share Your Love at Travaasa

Valentine’s Day at Travaasa Austin is the perfect way to show appreciation for those you love. February is heart month at Travaasa, so be it a romantic getaway or just a special day to treat your loved ones and yourself, Travaasa provides everything to re-energize the mind, body, and heart.

Valentine’s Day at Travaasa, Saturday, February 14:

The Preserve Kitchen + Bar is serving up plenty of aphrodisiacs and aperitifs this month. Executive chef Ben Baker is featuring a four-course tasting menu that includes a special matchmaking — perfectly paired wines by resident sommelier Edward Morgan. Price is $75 per person, with tasting $45, price excludes tax and gratuity. Reservations required, to reserve go to http://www.travaasa.com/austin/dining/.

Couples “Double Trouble” message at Travaas’s newly renovated spa is a blues-influenced experience that features blue cypress, agave and sandalwood massage oil. Enjoyed in the spa’s stunning couple’s suite, followed by some bonding time in a private outdoor lounge or personal steam room. For spa pricing and information go to http://www.travaasa.com/austin/travaasa-spa-overview/.

End the day with a Love Potion #9 tincture that features a very special herb blend fresh from Travaasa’s 3.5 acre farm.

Valentine’s Day Menu at the Preserve Kitchen + Bar

Amuse – Strawberry Gelee, EVOO powder, mint jicama slaw, balsamic reduction, micro greens

First Course
Hamachi – grapefruit, fresnos, shaved fennel, citrus vinaigrette, fennel fronds
Beef Carpaccio – pickled red pearl onions, cherry tomatoes, fried shallots, truffle powder, balsamic reduction
Purple Cauliflower Soup – Purple cauliflower, red beets, coconut milk, vegetable stock, onion, garlic, almonds
Goat Cheese Panna Cotta – root vegetables or brassicas, herb oil (

Second Course
Kale Caesar – Eggless Caesar, cherry tomatoes, parm, sourdough
Lobster Wedge – quail egg, green goddess dressing, cherry tomato, kalamata olive, bacon lardon/slice, radish
Tempura Fried Shrimp – green beans, broccoli, meyer lemon aioli
Beet Torte – vegan ricotta, gold, chioggia and red beets, baby arugula, balsamic caviar

Third Course
Halibut – Ratatouille, basil puree, fried basil
Prime Rib – Scalloped red potatoes and red bell pepper, cotija cheese, demi
Red Vegetable Melange – Grilled red cabbage, roasted red beets, roasted red potatoes, purple cauliflower, roasted red grapes, blue corn polenta, grape agro dolce

Fourth Course
Chocolate Almond Terrine – toasted almonds, almond butter, coconut oil, coconut milk, guayaquil chocolate
Strawberry Shortcake – wheat biscuit, coconut whipped cream, strawberries, coconut powder, house made pop rocks
Black Forest Cake

Travaasa is located 13500 Farm to Market Road 2769, Austin, TX 78726.