Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Funny Valentine

Funny he is. And smart, and creative, talented, sweet, romantic, hard-working, and handsome too! That's my beloved, Caleb, whom I have had the pleasure to be married to now for over 6 years. We've never been ones to be formal about things, or feel obliged to celebrate certain holidays or other observances any one way. We tend to forget our own birthdays, and we're usually really casual about gift giving (except on Christmas... we're serious about Christmas, y'all :) ).

To really illustrate how casual we are about these things, take my 29th birthday this past September. A few days before my birthday, Caleb and I were at the video store, and i saw a set of Foyle's War that i really wanted, and asked if that could be my birthday present. "Sure", said my generous husband. Fast forward a few days and it's Sunday. We get up, go to church, go for lunch, come home, check the answering machine and it's my father wishing me a happy birthday. we look at eachother and say at the same time, "It's my/your BIRTHDAY!!" We had both totally forgotten. We took it as an excuse to go up to the bookstore and Starbucks and treat ourselves to some lattes and a magazine. And that was my birthday. :)

All of this to say that when it comes to Valentines Day.., again, we're casual. I could hardly list what we've done these past years, beause I can't rememer. I know the second year we were married Caleb brought me flowers to work the week before VD, just to be sweet, and once we realized it was a week from Valentine's, we both said, "Ok, that's my Valentine's present."

But typically we just make a point to spend the day together and I usually try to make a nice, romantic dinner, and make sure to stop in at the LaSenza (Canada's answer to Victoria's Secret) the week before (oh don't look shocked girls, intimacy is important in a marriage! ;) ).

And that's what we did this year. Caleb bought me this super romantic present yesterday:

Which was actually very sweet of him because I need this number pad attachment for working at home from my laptop, and we both joked it was my Valentine. For caleb, I made him a nice dinner, and took the time to make things a little more romantic than usual.

So, first thing first: I made a lovely pot of decaf french vanilla coffee. And yes, that is a scooby mug, which i have had since college and love it dearly.

When does the Armchair Housewife start a rather complex dinner? You got it, at a quarter to six. :) We are used to eating late, especially on weekends, so this is the norm.

On the menu tonight:
Stuffed Shells
Ceasar Salad
Italian bread and butter
Brownie cake

Stuffed shells is one of our favorite dishes, it's like lasagne but a bit less work. If you've never made them I highly recommend it!

First I get a nice big box of Jumbo Stuffed Shells. I've used all different brands. Be careful when you purchase them and bring them home; pack them with you bread and treat the like eggs. It is no fun to open your box to make stuffed shells and find past confetti.

Boil them in nice salty water unitl Al Dente. For the size dish I am using I am using 3/4 of this box, but you could probably just boil the whole thing if you're feeding a family.

For the filling, you want these ingredients:

Ricotta chese, mozzarella, your preferred combination of italian spices, lots of salt and pepper, and one egg (ignore the cream, that was for my coffee).

I'm sentimental about my old spice jars, the sweet little hodgepodge of containers I made do with during the first few years of our marriage. i wouldn't trade them for fancy new ones for the world. :)

Oh! and I almost forgot two very important ingredients!


And true Parmesiano Reggiano cheese. Ladies, i cut some corners when it comes to cuisine (as you will see in a minute), but once I switched to true parmesan, cut fresh off the wheel shipped from Italy, about two years ago, there is no going back. Be sure to us a fine grater with parmesan and don't throw the rind away: you can use it as a finisher for soups to give them a little creamy accent.

I'm really an "until" cook, which is why I don't post as many recipes as i'd like to. for the filling, it's one container of Ricotta, one egg, then... mozzerella, parmesan, spices and garlic "until". I'd say I roughly used 1/4 cup of each cheese, a 1/2 tblsp of garlic, and a mixture of spices until it covered the service of the other ingredients as seen above. It's very forgiving, ladies, so just give it a try!

Next i get my truly authentic, homemade pasta sauce (um... remember the cutting corners I mentioned?) and some left over from earlier in the week (which had some ricotta stirred into it) ready for the dish.

You put down some of the sauce at the bottom of the pan

And then you fill each shell with some of the ricotta mix, using a teaspoon, and organize them so they fit snuggly in your baking dish.

Cover with generous sauce, and repeat another layer, and cover with sauce again.

Cover with some more Mozz and Parm, and pepper, and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes- covered the first 20.

MMMmm.... it was delicious, although it was a bit dry as the extra ricotta in the sauce i used didn't allow for enough moisture. Next time I will use the plain sauce.

Ceasar salad with baby romaine

I didn't take a picture, but if you've never had "Italian bread and butter" you must try it. You just get a nice, crusty baguettte that is soft on the inside, and on a small plate pour a little pool of good quality, extra virgin olive oil and grind some fresh pepper on top. Simply dip a slice or chunk of your bread in and MMMM!!! Way better than the American version! :)

(possibly my favorite ad ever)
My authentic, from-scratch dessert

Mmm... thanks, Duncan Hines.

Setting the mood with a pretty tablescape and some candles and WKHR cleveland playing romantic big band in the background

We had a wonderful dinner, Caleb told me he loved the meal and loved me, too.

He was worth every dish!!

When I was cleaning up afterwards, an old 40s version of "The Way You Look Tonight" came on and I called Caleb into the kitchen. My beloved indudged me with a bit of a slowdance. Stuart was eager to get in on the love, and so Caleb picked him up and we all danced together in our kitchen.

It was a beautiful evening. Ladies, whatever your marriage looks like today, don't give up on it. God wants to build into your marriage and make it a thing of beauty. No matter how rough the road may seem, you CAN have joy on the journey with your husband. Ask God to help you be the best wife you can be, and to be thankful for the man your husband is, no matter how perfect or imperfect he may seem to you. Work at creating these kinds of moments. Don't let yourself be stuck on how romantic or unromantic your husband is, ut instead ask the Lord to show you ways you can create romance and intimacy for both of you to share in and enjoy.

My prayer is that you all had a blessed Valentine's Day. I am mindful of both Lois and Tara who are struggling with pain right now, and ladies I pray that your day was filled with enough love and tenderness to dull some of your physical pain.
Thank you and bless you for stopping in!! Tomorrow I will announce the winner of the Give Away!


Angela said...

Sounds like a truly blessed love day, filled with God's lavish love towards us...Thanks so much for sharing. I LOVE how you had everything set up,,just beautiful girl!!

sunshine said...

Mmmmm everything looks great!
I love stuffed pasta shells but I rarely make it because the kids don't enjoy them.

Seb and I ended up spending Valentines Day apart. I had something set up with my sisters and nieces so hopefully today I can make a special meal for him.

Everything looked terrific. (except for that mess in the kitchen... LOL!)
Have a great weekend with a lovely "Family Day". :)

sunshine said...

P.S. I love the Scooby doo mug!
And I always buy those Duncan Hines brownies. They are great aren't they?
Glad you and hubby could have such a nice romantic evening together!

Tami said...

Happy Valentines Day! The stuff shells look so yummy! We went to lunch, movie and have a banquet tonight at church. Oh, the dishes, love cooking but could do without the clean up some the end it so worth it when husband says how good it was. Thank goodness for a dishwasher!!

Have a great Sunday!

Kelly @ The Barefoot Mama said...

What an adorable post! My hubby and I are also pretty laidback about holidays, and I love it that way. :o) Every day with him is special, so holidays are just an extra little something and we usually make the day the most fun for the kids. :o) I cannot agree more about how wonderful marriage is and God can transform two sinful people into a beautiful union for Him. Looks like you guys enjoyed a fantastic day - those shell made me HUNGRY, LOL!

Have a lovely week, lady!

Walking on Sunshine... said...

Sounds like you had a great day!! And the meal you cooked for your honey looked delicious!
Hey, you were right about Ellen!!!