KISS—Keep It Simple Sweetheart

If I offend anyone, I apologize in advance...but I'm not into commercialized holidays. Though maybe you already figured that out. I don't like to feel pressured into buying and buying more gifts at Christmas and I cannot be swayed into believing that I must receive a dozen long-stemmed red roses for Valentine's Day or no one loves me.

In contrast, I've come to believe that less is more and what's really important is to spend time together, laugh (excessively) and enjoy "being." Call me a cynic or not a romantic (though I am a romantic in many other ways), but that's where I am right now and it makes me happy.

When it comes to holidays, for me, it's all about the food. If I don't have a memorable meal, then it isn't a wonderful holiday but rather ho-hum or just mediocre. And I am not a fan of mediocrity.

No matter where you stand on commercialized holidays, I hope you agree that food makes a fabulous event or special occasion that much better. As we celebrate the day of love, generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness tomorrow, sometimes the best gifts are the homemade ones.

Anyone can go out and buy a present, but it takes time, planning and energy to make a gift from the heart. Maybe this is the year you forgo the roses, store-bought chocolates, expensive sweater or even those fabulous golf clubs your better half has been eyeing and opt to make your special someone a homemade treat.

If you are so inclined to change things up a bit, here's a few suggestions of some of my personal favorite deep, rich, dark chocolate and decadent surprises that will certainly get someone's attention. Oh, and a little something else that might even get you something else.

So to all you lovers out there—married, in a relationship or single—Happy Valentine's Day!

Buen provecho!

These recipes were previously featured on The Cowgirl Gourmet. Simply click on the titles below to get to the story and recipe.

Chocolate truffles

Chocolate truffles—I've never met a chocolate truffle I didn't love. These sinful, bite-size balls of bliss are a sure fire way to get a smile and maybe even a little more than that. Plus, they're so easy to make (and it's down right fun to get your hands covered in chocolate), though I bet the recipient of these truffles will think you slaved away all day in the kitchen. Nice!

Chocolate Cake aka The Winning Hearts and Minds Cake—This recipe comes from Molly Wizenberg, who writes a monthly column for Bon Appetit, and her memoir, "A Homemade Life." She made the cake and it won hearts and minds. And it won mine, too. So, yes, it's a winner. Both the book and the cake. Hmmm, come to think of it, maybe the book could be a little Valentine's gift as well?

Dark Goddess CakeThe name says it all. This really is a decadent and rich dessert. A little goes a long way, so share it with friends or plan on having leftovers, which isn't such a bad thing, now is it?

Flourless Double
Chocolate Orange Tort
Flourless Double Chocolate Orange Tort—If you're needing to make something that's quick and easy, look no further. This dessert can be whipped up using a food processor in a few minutes, poured into a pan and voila, dessert in no time flat! The bonus is that it's neither too rich nor heavy, but an exquisite way to complete a romantic dinner.

Chocolate Angel PieAngelic. Heavenly. This is the pie that David says I can make him from now on for every special occasion and even not-so-special occasion. The meringue and nut crust topped with chocolate mousse is intoxicating but not filling.

Chocolate Angel Pie

Cocoa Brownies with Browned ButterI just made these last week and they are my new favorite thing. Chocolate thing, that is. The beautiful part is that this recipe is another one-pot wonder. Dubbed by Bon Appetit as the "best-ever brownies," they live up to their name. Just trust me on this one. Crusty, chewy, moist, delicious.

Hot chocolate—If it's a chilly night, this might be just the way to end your  evening. Though, in my opinion, it definitely calls to be served with a shot or a side of Kahlua or some other adult beverage of choice. Imbibing a cup of spiked hot chocolate while sitting in front of a fire might not be a bad idea either...

Homemade Salt Scrub

Homemade Salt Scrub—Is your skin feeling a little parched from the dry, cold and wet winter weather? Rather than buy a $50 jar of Laura Mercier body scrub, why not just make your own?

Mix up a little coarse Kosher salt, some grapeseed oil and a few drops of your choice of essential oil (lavender would be nice, as would lemon or orange) and you've made a fabulous (and unbelievably inexpensive) salt scrub that will soften your (and his or her) skin beautifully. This is a great way to rub off the winter scales, welcome the sunshine back or just a unique and romantic way to say "I love you, honey."

However you choose to celebrate the impending and inescapable holiday of love, remember that it's not about how much money you spend or where you make reservations or how many dozen roses you buy or receive, but rather the quality time you spend together (with your friends, spouse, partner, better half or loved ones) and being authentic.

Yea, and the food. The food better be memorable and fabulous, too!
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