I know I’m kind of a day late and a dollar short with these cupcakes, but it’s Valentine’s Day, and I wanted to share something sweet with you guys. What’s more classic for the special day than red velvet cake? Behold them, in all their color saturated glory. Andrew and I had a great time baking them yesterday afternoon. Hard to believe that next year I’ll be shipping cupcakes off to school with him for a Valentine party – yikes!

I’ve been using this recipe for several years now, and they always come out perfect every time. Some might think that 2 ounces of food coloring is excessive. And it is, kind of. But the full, rich color it gives these cupcakes can’t be had with any less. In the olden’ days, you would have to rely on a chemical reaction between the cocoa and vinegar to produce a mottled brownish-red color.  Now, I’m all for doing things the natural way as much as possible. Buuut, thank goodness for my industrial sized bottle of red food coloring (purchased at my local restaurant supply shop – much love to Sysco) to give the that punchy color I so adore. Share them with someone you love!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it here before, but we’ve been incorporating more beans into our menu plans. I just can’t get enough of them. I’ve wanted to try the lovely Elly’s recipe forever now, as anyone who has ever made them raves and raves. After finally getting around to making them, I can see why. Creamy and delicious, with a huge punch of flavor from the seasonings. And, the kicker? They only took 20 minutes! You’d swear they’d been cooking all day…

I thought about doubling the recipe, but it was just enough for all of us to have with supper as well as a couple spoonfuls for another plate of leftovers. Next time I probably will, as I would like to enjoy them on top of some rice for a lunch or two during the week. It’s the perfect side dish for any Tex-Mex that comes out of your kitchen. I’d been in kind of a rut with Spanish rice, but it’s nice to have something new to switch things up with. Will definitely be making this one again and again. World famous, indeed!

In my world, there’s not much that trumps tiramisu. I’m a self-proclaimed coffee nut to begin with, and have yet to meet a caffeine infused dessert that I’ve not loved.  But, I’m particularly fond of tiramisu because it’s so easy. A couple rounds of layering espresso soaked ladyfingers and sweetened marscarpone cheese, and you’re done. The hardest part is waiting a few hours to let the flavors mingle.

Don’t be thrown off by the addition of cognac. It’s optional, but it gives it a nice boozy hint that cuts some of the richness. If you’re staying in for Valentine’s Day this year, make this for your “special someone”. We usually avoid the crowds on the big night, opting to stay home instead with a heart-shaped meatloaf. Sounds strange, I know, but it’s something I’ve always looked forward to on Valentine’s Day since I was a little girl. I love that I’m able to pass on that silly family tradition to our boys. However, I think this adult dessert might be on the menu after the boys get tucked in. I hope everyone has a Happy Valentine’s Day!

After our Super Bowl party this year, I was left with about a pound of leftover shrimp from a platter that a friend so graciously brought over to share. We left to go out of town for a couple of days yesterday, so I wanted to use up all the leftovers we had in the refrigerator before we left. What better to do with it than make shrimp salad? It’s a perfect lunch over a bed of baby spinach.

While chicken salad can be dense and heavy, shrimp salad is light and airy. I like to season it lightly; a little bit of salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, and some fresh dill – to really let the flavor of the shrimp shine through. Next time you have some leftover shrimp hanging around (or take the shortcut, and buy them pre-cooked) do yourself a favor and whip up a batch of this salad. You just may have a new favorite for your lunchbox!