The idea of Valentine’s Day makes me blanch. We all love love, but some of us are perplexed by the popularity of a national holiday that leaves singles bitter, promotes the exchange of tacky gifts, and encourages children to trade “statements of love.” I, for one, resent the pressure on couples, young and old, to indulge in prix fixe meals that they would not otherwise stomach.
I feel so strongly about it that when my older son was 3, I took a stand. His preschool teachers told parents to pack a dozen personalized valentines to give out on the Day of Love. Like most 3-year-olds, my child could not yet write his name, so the task was clearly intended for the parents to transliterate scribbles on cards.
I did not enjoy the homework assignment, nor did I appreciate the expectation placed on my preschooler to send so-called-love-notes to children who could not yet read.
So I complained.
The director of the preschool rescinded the “assignment,” and the mothers went wild with disapproval. The Chicago moms had no clue that I was the culprit (until now).
Regardless of that year’s freedom from insincere Hallmark greetings, I’m still baffled by how second nature it is for today’s youth to swap cheesy Sponge Bob and Spider-Man valentines and for grown men to scurry off to grab the remnants of red roses at the grocery store. I do wonder what I’m missing.
But since it feels cynical to shut out the best thing we humans do on Earth (love), I share this recipe, for Valentine’s Day, straight from my heart.
Cream Cheese Chocolate Muffins (makes 18)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup (8oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups chocolate chips (or 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 cup peanut butter chips)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin cups with cooking spray, or line with paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Mix well.
3. For the filling: In a separate mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, egg, salt, and chocolate chips. Mix well.
4. Use an ice cream scoop to spoon batter into muffin cups until half full.
5. Top each muffin cup with 2 Tbsp of filling.
6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
7. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to place on a wire cooling rack.
* Pair these muffins with a bottle of wine for a true Valentine’s Day