Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. Even when I was single and had no prospects, I always enjoyed the day devoted to love. In grade school, I loved making the homemade mailboxes covered in red and pink paper which awaited the Valentine card from your grade school crush. You had to be very careful about the assignment of your Valentine cards, for fear of sending the the wrong message.  If you were thoughtful enough to include some candy hearts in your Valentine, one would also want to make sure those messages matched the right person. I have definitely received some interesting v-day gifts in the past…take for example the “instant cup of flowers.” The instant cup of flowers is a small plastic cup filled with the soil and seed packages that require you to grow your own flowers…hum. I like flowers, and I yes, I do like to plant, but for Valentine’s day? So you don’t make the same mistake, or just haven’t had the time to plan out your day yet, I have a couple of food-related (of course) #1:  Treat yourself to the new hot spot called Mia Rosa on Manchester Road in the “Grove.” What is awesome abou this restaurant, is #1 the food is delicious and #2 you get share with your friends or loved one. The restaurant is an Italian “tapas” style restaurant, which means the dishes are smaller in size and therefore, are meant to be shared. The prices are very reasonable, (tapas range from $7-$12) and the desserts (which of course you should indulge on for v-day) are $3-$4. Last time I was there, we had the warm beet salad, the goat cheese and artichoke flatbread, scallop and mushroom pasta, and the flourless chocolate cake with mint & coffee ice cream. Delish! 2) Wine & Chocolate: two aphrodisiacs…Celebrate early, and check out “The Ultimate Tasting Experience: Pairing Bissinger’s Chocolate & Chaumette Wine Event on Wed, Feb 11th. The event takes place at Whole Foods on Brentwood and starts at 7:00 pm. Price: $15. Can you think of a better pairing? 3) One of the latest dessert trends are the “cupcake bars”. One to check out in Saint Louis is Jilly’s Cupcake Bar on Delmar and I-70. Last week as PJ was perusing in my Runner’s World magazine, he stumbled upon some very important running advice. Eat Red Velvet Cupcakes. Runner’s World Magazine actually has a recipe in their latest issue for Red Velvet Cupcakes. And even better, they won’t do too much damage to your Valentine’s waistline. I promised PJ these treats for his v-day, and here is the recipe below in case you want to treat someone too. Red Velvet CupcakesCupcake Recipe 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 2 1/2 cups cake flour 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1 cup buttermilk 2 large eggs 2 tablespoons red food coloring 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon vinegar Cream-Cheese Frosting 8 ounces cream cheese (one bar) 1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature 2 cups confectioner’s sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract Heart-shaped cupcake toppers or colored sugar Preheat oven to 325° F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with wrappers. Mix dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients together. Pour wet mixture into dry and mix until combined. Fill tins two-thirds full with batter. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely. For frosting, mix butter and cream cheese until smooth. Slowly mix in confectioner’s sugar. Add vanilla extract. Frost cupcakes using a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped tip. Or frost with a small spatula. Sprinkle with colored sugar or cupcake toppers. Makes 24. Calories Per Cupcake: 290 Carbs: 35 g Protein: 3 g Fat: 16 g 4) Hike with the One You Love…so this one doesn’t have to do about food, but check out the Valentine’s Hike at the Shaw Nature Reserve in St. Louis County. The reserve is hosting a special evening hike for couples the night before Valentine’s Day. February 13, 2009 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. (636) 451-3512 5) Check out SLU’s own “Chocolate Celebration” in Fresh Gatherings Cafe on Thursday the 12th from 11am-1pm. The event is hosted by the Nutrition and Dietetics’s senior culinary class who have created a chocolate spread you won’t want to miss! Here’s a taste of what’s to come…. Chocolate Covered Brownies Variety of Chocolate Truffles Chocolate Biscotti Chocolate Cheesecake Bites 7 pieces for $7.50 4 piece boxed chocolate for $4.00 Happy Valentine’s Day!

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.