This is the day to treasure those who make a positive impact in your life and a day to let them know that they do. Traditionally it's a day for lovers and sweethearts, but it is also a wonderful day to acknowledge in a loving way other valuable relationships. Valentine's Day has become a commercial holiday, with florists, restaurants, jewelers, sellers of chocolates and cards all playing on your emotions to get you to buy, buy, buy. You can resist and instead make your own cards for family, friends, co-workers and/or your special someone. You can also create a beautiful meal or a fabulous dessert or treat. The most important thing is to say what is in your heart.
I'm lucky to have a birthday the day before V-Day and this year my dear sister Natasha sent me the Williams Sonoma Muffins book and a lovely silicon pan with heart shaped cake molds in a very Valentine pink.
In the days before supermarkets, even before there was a U.S.A., a real treasure was your spice box or cabinet of herbs and spices.
Imported from exotic lands and usually costly, these items that add such dimensions to our food are something that we often take for granted now that they are easily available. I decided for Valentine's Day to bake a dessert for Sweetie that used a bunch of these spices and he cooked a leg of lamb for dinner that used some lovely herbs.
The fourteen herbs and spices pictured (you knew I'd work that 14 in somewhere, right?) include herbs thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary and parsley, plus spices cumin, cayenne, cardamom, cloves, ginger, allspice and cinnamon. The recipe for Spicy Gingerbread uses the last four, plus molassas and brown sugar. I served it with the lemon curd from a few days ago. Treasures of spice for my treasure of a man. He was very happy with this combo.
From Williams-Sonoma Muffins
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (7 ½ oz/235 g)
½ teaspoon bakind soda (bicarbonate of soda)
¼ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger (freshly ground is recommended)
1 ¼ teaspoons grounds cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (4 oz/125 g)
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar, light or dark (3 ½ oz/105 g)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup molasses, light or dark (4 oz/125 g)
2/3 cup buttermilk (5 fl oz/160 ml)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract (essence)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (180 degrees C.) Grease and flour an 8 or 9 inch (20 or 23 cm) square baking pan or dish. If using a glass baking dish, use 325 degrees F (165 C) for oven temperature.
On a sheet of waxed paper, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Beat in the molasses. Add the dry ingredients in 2 increments, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Beat well until fluffy and smooth yet thick.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
Bake until the top is dry to the touch and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, 35-40 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes.
Serve the gingerbread warm or at room temperature, cut into squares. Can be garnished with whipped cream or lemon sauce or lemon curd.
To make as small cakes, spoon the batter into the cups (or used greased muffin tins) to 2/3 full. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the toothpick test (above) works. Let cook briefly, then turn out onto a rack to cool.
How Do I Love Thee
herbs and spices