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Awwwww, Valentine’s Day. For some people, a favorite holiday. For others, not so much. Is it OK to just give candy and flowers, or do you need to do more? Do you need to make reservations at a fancy restaurant in town? I don’t think so.

A simple meal can be made elegant with just a few special touches. It just takes a little preparation and some planning – that’s all!

Some may really feel overwhelmed by this task, and it may honestly be “not for the faint of heart!” But I think any meal you serve is fantastic and wonderful, especially when it’s shared with someone you love.

So, here are a few of my “go to” recipes for when I want to make Carey Dean feel that way! I mean, I think everything I cook should just automatically do that for him, even if it’s just a sandwich. (But we know that is not the case!)

Raspberry Chipotle Pork Chops

4 thick, center cut pork chops

1 jar of raspberry preserves

1 bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a baking dish by lining it with foil. Make sure you tear off a piece big enough to hang over the sides of the dish. This makes for easier clean up in the end.

Prepare your pork chops by seasoning each side salt and pepper. Place them in the baking dish and set aside.

Next, you will want to mix your jar of raspberry preserves with the bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce, making sure to combine the two very well. Pour half of the mixture over the top of the pork chops and reserve the rest to serve with your finished dish.

Place the pork chops in the oven and cook for 35 to 45 minutes. I use a meat thermometer to make sure they are the perfect serving temperature of 160 degrees.

Enjoy!

Sweet M’s Fabulous Mashed Red Potatoes

1 bag of red potatoes, diced

1 container of whipped cream cheese

1 cup of heavy cream

½ cup of milk

1 cup of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a pot of salted water to boiling and add your diced potatoes. Cook on medium high until they are fork tender (meaning, you can cut them with a fork).

Once they are done, strain the water and add the potatoes back into the pot. Add the butter and cream cheese and let it melt into the potatoes a little bit. Then using a potato masher, mash the potatoes to the consistency that you desire.

Now, I haven’t addressed the elephant in the room which is the fact that I didn’t peel the potatoes first. That is what we like to term a “personal preference,” meaning, you can choose to leave the peels on or off. I feel like it gives them a little bit of texture and presence on the plate.

Then add the milk and heavy cream. If you feel like it needs more of either, you can add that. It really is a matter of personal taste. I like to taste it before I add the salt and pepper so I don’t over season. So, dip your spoon and check it out and adjust the seasoning at that point. Serve and enjoy!

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic and Lemon

One bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 lemon, sliced

Juice of 1 lemon

Olive oil, to coat

Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with foil and then placing a sheet of parchment paper on top of the foil. Again, the foil makes for easy clean up. The parchment paper helps kind of “crisp up” the asparagus when roasting.

Place the asparagus on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer and then toss to coat with the olive oil. Sprinkle the minced garlic and salt and pepper and then toss again until coated evenly. Squeeze lemon juice over the asparagus and then place the lemon slices on top. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Berries

4 squares of Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate, chopped

½ cup of butter

¾ cup of white sugar

½ cup of cocoa powder

1 tablespoon of instant coffee crystals

3 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 cup of heavy whipping cream

½ cup of powdered sugar

Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries for garnish

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and 8 inch round cake pan, and dust with cocoa powder. Place the chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Melt the butter and immediately pour it over the chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in the sugar, cocoa powder, and instant coffee, eggs and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

While cake is cooling, make the whipped cream for topping. Pour 1 cup of heavy whipping cream into clean and dry bowl. With hand mixer or stand mixer with whip attachment, beat the heavy whipping cream until it starts to stiffen, then gradually add the powdered sugar in until it is completely incorporated. Once the cake is cooled and you are ready to serve, slice a piece, top with a dollop of whipped cream and then garnish with the berries. You can dust the top with powdered sugar for an extra added touch.

To plate your Valentine’s Day meal, place a heaping portion of mashed potatoes in the center and place the pork chop on top. I like to put the asparagus in kind of a crisscross pattern on top of the pork chop and then take some of the reserved raspberry sauce and spoon around the mashed potatoes. This is an easy and elegant way to make your Valentine’s Day meal presentation special for your love! Enjoy!

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