Valentine’s Molten Chocolate Cakes

Valentine's Molten Chocolate Cakes / loveandlemons.com

Happy almost-Valentine’s Day! Jack here reporting on my first baking love – molten chocolate cakes. See, way before this blog, I pretty much had one staple “date night” dish. That dish was seared scallops and it was always a hit. Well, one Valentine’s Day, I decided to kick it up a notch and shoot for the moon… by trying out molten chocolate cakes.

I had never made anything like a molten cake before, and for those unfamiliar, it’s a cake that spills out chocolate sauce when you cut into it. It’s a great show when it works. My first time making the cakes, I pulled them out of the oven, flipped the pan and a gush of chocolate sauce poured out. So what did Jeanine and I do? What anyone would do – licked the plate clean and tried again.

On the second try, I flipped the pan, plated the cakes, we cut in and PERFECTION. Chocolate oozed out, and we ate our second set of molten cakes for the night. Seeing how impressed Jeanine was made all of the effort worth it.

So it’s Valentine’s Day – go for it. It’s a blast when you get it right, it’s still fun when you don’t, and no matter what you’re still eating chocolate with the one you love. There are worse ways to spend a night.

Anyway, on to the making…

Valentine's Molten Chocolate Cakes / loveandlemons.com

Avid readers may notice that this is similar to another molten cake post. Well it’s the same. But with new photos and better instructions.

The prep for this recipe is super simple. The first step is tempering the chocolate and butter on a double-broiler.

Valentine's Molten Chocolate Cakes / loveandlemons.com

After that, you simply whisk the eggs, incorporate sugar, then chocolate (cooled to room temp – you don’t want to cook the eggs!), then flour, one thing at a time until it’s all mixed. Then you pour the mixture into your oiled muffin tin, 3/4 full for each cup.

Cook times can be a bit all over the place (depending on your oven) – it can be anywhere from 5-8 minutes. You’ll know when it’s done when the middle of each cake starts to puff up at the end. (Don’t cook it much longer than that or your molten center will over bake).

Valentine's Molten Chocolate Cakes / loveandlemons.com

After removing the tin from the oven, you need to flip it, and here’s the easiest way: Place the muffin pan on a cookie sheet, put another cookie sheet on top, grab both sides (squeezing the muffin pan) and flip it.

You want to lift the muffin pan and try to tap out the cakes as you go. Note that a few cakes may not come out. Ignore those and concentrate on the ones that do drop. Transfer them to a plate, put ice cream on top, cut them open and enjoy!

Valentine's Molten Chocolate Cakes / loveandlemons.com

Saffron Couscous & Spinach Stew

Saffron Couscous & Spinach Stew / www.loveandlemons.com

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about fancy cooking and elaborate meals. If pasta making sounds too stressful, try this cozy one-pot stew that’s perfect for two. (With maybe a little leftover, if you eat less than we do).

Saffron Couscous & Spinach Stew / www.loveandlemons.com

It doesn’t get much easier than this – sauté leeks and mushrooms in an oven-safe pot or this adorable heart shaped one. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, couscous and – the fancy part – a few pinches of saffron. Yes, saffron is expensive but a little goes a long way. Plus, it’s Valentine’s Day so let’s live a little.

Saffron Couscous & Spinach Stew / www.loveandlemons.com Saffron Couscous & Spinach Stew / www.loveandlemons.com

Pop it in the oven and bake until the couscous has absorbed most of the water, then stir in a few handfuls of spinach. The heat of the stew will wilt the spinach. Enjoy with crusty bread and a good spanish red wine.

Saffron Couscous & Spinach Stew / www.loveandlemons.com

Rainbow Chard & Feta Orzo Bowls

Rainbow Chard & Feta Orzo Bowls / www.loveandlemons.com

As a kid, I was obsessed with everything rainbow – my Rainbow Brite doll, a fresh new Crayola 64 pack (with built in sharpener!), and best of all – the rainbow-neon terminal at O’hare airport. Pure magic.

I couldn’t get enough, which is probably why I get a little too excited whenever I see rainbow chard pop up at the farmers market. I’m not much of a gardener (black thumb over here), so it’s mesmerizing to me that those bright pink, red, and neon yellow stems actually grow from the ground.

Rainbow Chard & Feta Orzo Bowls / www.loveandlemons.com

What I love to do is chop up the stems separate from the greens and sauté them in the pan for about 30 seconds before adding the leafy greens. They add such a great crunch to your dish – don’t ever toss them. (If you have extra stems, you can always pickle them for later).

Rainbow Chard & Feta Orzo Bowls / www.loveandlemons.com Rainbow Chard & Feta Orzo Bowls / www.loveandlemons.com

These bowls are simple and warm and they are all about the chard. I made some whole wheat orzo and tossed it with a little olive oil, garlic, dijon and lemon. (Mustard and chard are a really terrific flavor match). I toped each bowl with a healthy serving of chard, a little feta cheese and some toasted walnuts.

Quick beauty tip: you’ll want to serve these bowls with the ingredients assembled rather than tossed together. (As the colors run together it’s just not the prettiest!).

Rainbow Chard & Feta Orzo Bowls / www.loveandlemons.com

Pear & Arugula Chickpea Salad

Pear & Arugula Chickpea Salad / www.loveandlemons.com

I realize this post might not be the most timely. If you’re snowed in, chances are you’re not reaching for a cold salad – BUT it’s not snowing here and nothing will ever stop me from craving big bright salads for lunch. (If you need something hot today, click here, here, or here).

My lunch salads are what I would call “kitchen sink” style. I toss whatever veggies I happen to have into a bowl… often with chickpeas and a bit of feta cheese or a scoop of hummus. For crunch, I add toasted nuts and/or hemp seeds. And to bring it all together I almost always have a sweet element. This time: soft, juicy ripe pears. (If you don’t have pears, diced apples would work well here too!)

Pear & Arugula Chickpea Salad / www.loveandlemons.com