I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

I Heart You, Valentine

It's no secret that I love the Boy Toy more than I love goat cheese.  And that, people, is ALOT.  As long as we've been together, I still get all twitterpated about date night with him. 

We had initially planned to go back to "our place" for Valentine's Day - the same restaurant where we've had dinner for the past two years, but after Boy Toy brought home a $300 souvenir speeding ticket from our California trip a few weeks ago, I made the offer to have dinner at my house instead.  I don't get the opportunity to cook for him often and I was uber excited about our plans all week.  I planned an easy-to-prepare menu complete with a sinful dessert and picked up a couple of bottles of wine that I had been wanting to try.  (This label combination made me giggle because I'm dirty like that.  50 Shades of Grey ain't got nothing on me!)

During our flights to and from California, Boy Toy entertained himself by streaming episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on my iPad (am I turning him into a foodie??) and at one point he turned to me and asked if I thought he would like polenta.  "Yes! Of course you would!" I said. (I really had no idea if he would or not but I always try to further his interest in food so I was very agreeable that he would absolutely LOVE it while at the same time wondering if I would even like it.)  I decided the next chance I had, I would test the polenta theory.  Keep in mind that you do have to plan ahead when making it as it requires several hours (or overnight) to cool.

This holiday is all about love and spending time together and we had the perfect evening - great food (the polenta got two thumbs up from both of us), great wine and FABULOUS company! I hope you enjoyed Valentine's Day with your someone special and I hope you enjoy these recipes for your next special occasion. 

Lemon Rosemary Steak with Mushrooms
Serves 4

4 (6-ounce) grass fed sirloin steaks, about 1/2 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 spring fresh rosemary
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup water

Pound steaks lightly with meat mallet to slightly thin.  Season both sides of steak with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet over high heat, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil and garlic cloves. When the pan is hot, add 2 of the steaks and cook for 1 minute. Flip steaks, add rosemary to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Transfer steaks to a platter and keep warm. Add remaining olive oil and repeat process with steaks, garlic and rosemary. Remove steaks to platter and add mushrooms to pan and saute for about 2 minutes. Add lemon juice, water and any juices accumulated from steaks, lower heat to medium and cook for about 2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook about 1-2 minutes more.

Discard rosemary and garlic, spoon pan sauce and mushrooms over steaks and serve.

Polenta cakes topped with mushroom pan sauce from the steaks

Polenta Cakes
Serves 4

1 cup cornmeal
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, divided
shredded cheese (Cheddar or Parmesan works great)

Bring water and salt to a boil. Gradually sprinkle in cornmeal, whisking continuously until all cornmeal has been added. Simmer until mixture becomes thick, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep cornmeal from sticking to bottom.. Once mixture is done cooking, stir in butter and pour mixture into a lined baking sheet making sure polenta is at least ½” thick. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to cool for at least 2 hours (up to 2 days).

Slice polenta into 8 cakes. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and place 4 polenta cakes in a skillet. Grill cakes for 5 minutes, until golden brown. Flip and grill until other side is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from skillet and repeat with remaining polenta.

Serve topped with shredded cheese.   I also topped with mushrooms and pan sauce from the steaks

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake with Caramel Filling
Serves 4

1 stick unsalted butter, plus melted for brushing
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
6 ounces 70% dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Pint of salt
4 tablespoons store-bought caramel sauce

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Brush four 6-ounce ramekins with melted butter.  In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of the flour; dust the ramekins with the cocoa mixture, tapping out the excess.  Transfer ramekins to a sturdy baking sheet.

In a medium saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter with the chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally.  Let cool slightly.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat granulated sugar with the eggs and salt at medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate until no streaks remain.  Fold in the 1/4 cup flour.

Spoon 2/3 of the batter into the prepared ramekins, then spoon a tablespoon of the caramel sauce on top.  Cover with the remaining chocolate batter.  Bake in the center of the oven for 16 minutes, until the tops are cracked but the centers are still slightly jiggly.  Transfer ramekins to a rack and let cool for 5-8 minutes.

Run the tip of a knife around the edges of each cake to loosen.  Invert a small plate over each cake and, using pot holders, invert again.  Carefully lift off the ramekins.    

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