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Valentine Menu Ideas for Your Sweetheart

My husband and I will celebrate our 26th Anniversary on Valentine's Day this year. Rather than fight the crowds and long lines, we'll often stay home on our anniversary, and I'll make a special dinner. Here are a few ideas for your "Valentine's Cafe." 

 Maybe you want to serve French Cuisine:

Or perhaps you have in mind Italian:

Maybe you want to treat your Valentine to a Steak Dinner:

Or perhaps you both prefer Fish and Seafood: 

Whatever you decide for your Valentine dinner, I hope it's one you'll cherish forever. May you have a Happy Valentine's Day! 

Janet Sketchley's Oatmeal Brown Bread

Janet Sketchley lives in Atlantic Canada, where she writes Christian suspense novels and blogs about faith and books. She loves Jesus and her family, and enjoys reading, worship music, and tea. You can find Janet online at, and fans of Christian suspense are invited to join her writing journey through her monthly newsletter:

Janet's Latest Book Release: Without Proof

"Asking questions could cost your life." 

Two years after the plane crash that killed her fiancé, Amy Silver has fallen for his best friend, artist Michael Stratton. When a local reporter claims the small aircraft may have been sabotaged, it reopens Amy's grief.

Anonymous warnings and threats are Amy's only proof that the tragedy was deliberate, and she has nowhere to turn. The authorities don't believe her, God is not an option, and Michael's protection is starting to feel like a cage. 

How will Amy find the truth? Michael's feisty great-aunt and the dead man's university-student sister are the other key players in this Christian romantic suspense set in Nova Scotia, Canada. Buy the book HERE.

Janet's Recipe for Oatmeal Brown Bread

Both of my grandmothers were good cooks, but with Grammie W, if I wanted a recipe I had to watch her in action and take notes. Even then, it wouldn't turn out as well as when she made it. I've managed a good adaptation of her oatmeal brown bread recipe for my bread maker, though. Each novel in my Redemption's Edge series has a recipe that's significant to one of the characters. For Without Proof, it's Aunt Bay's brown bread, which is suspiciously like my adaptation of Grammie W's...

1 cup (250 mL) water
½ cup (100 mL) reduced-sugar molasses (or the regular kind, if you prefer)
¼ cup (30 mL) shortening or margarine (I use margarine)
1 ¼ cup (310 mL) oatmeal (quick oats, not the instant ones)
2 ½ cups (625 mL) flour
1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
2 teaspoon (10 mL) quick-rise yeast

Add ingredients to bread machine in order listed, placing yeast into a well in the dry ingredients. Bake on whole-wheat setting.

Conventional oven: It's been so long since I've attempted bread in the actual oven that I don't remember when and how long to do the kneading. Checking recipe books tells me the oven temperature should be 375°F (190°C) with a bake time between 25 and 40 minutes. If you do it in the oven, Grammie's trick was to brush the tops of the loaves with butter while they were still hot.

Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Here's a delicious recipe that reminds me of the cookies my grandma would give me when she worked as a school cook. She made the most wonderful cookies. Enjoy! 

1/2 cup salted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon Princess Cake Emulsion (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons coarse sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg and Princess Cake Emulsion. Mix well. In small bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and cornstarch. Gradually add to butter mixture until combined. Divide dough in half and scoop out 6 balls, equally. Place on cookie sheet and slightly press down. Sprinkle sugar on top. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Repeat for remaining dough. Makes 12 very large cookies.

Cheesy, Garlic Biscuits

Here's a recipe similar to the biscuits served at Red Lobster. Easy and delicious! Goes great with my Shrimp Scampi recipe.

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and parsley. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and cheese; stir with fork until blended. Dough will be sticky. Drop from spoon onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden brown. In small bowl, combine melted butter, parsley, garlic powder, and salt. Brush tops of biscuits with melted garlic butter. Serve warm. Makes 12-16 biscuits.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Super Bowl Menu Party Ideas

Here are a few menu party ideas to help you cheer on your favorite team! 

Peanut Butter Caramel Popcorn

If you like peanut butter, you're going to love this! Here's a new twist on our favorite Caramel Popcorn Recipe. Enjoy! 

1 cup brown sugar
1 stick margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 quarts popped popcorn
1 cup roasted peanuts

In large bowl, combine first five ingredients. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir to combine. Microwave again on high until it reaches a full, rolling boil (approximately 1 1/2 - 2 minutes). Stir in vanilla. Pour popcorn and nuts into a large brown paper bag. Pour sugar mixture over popcorn. Mix to coat well. Fold bag down and place in microwave. Cook on high for 1 1/2 minutes. Do this three times shaking bag vigorously between each heating. Spread on flat surface to cool and harden.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Savory Southwest Biscuits

Here's a delicious recipe based on my Country Biscuit recipe to use for dinner or breakfast. Enjoy!

3 cups flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups shortening
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
6 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup diced green chilies
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in shortening. Add egg and milk. Mix in cheese, chilies, and crumbled bacon. Turn out on floured surface and knead 10-15 times. Roll out 1/2 thick and cut with biscuit cutter. Place on greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. 
Click here for a printable version of this recipe. 

Suzie Waltner's Autumn Harvest Bake

Suzie Waltner graduated from the University of Idaho and decided to make a move across the country to Nashville, Tennessee. After seventeen years, she now claims Tennessee as home. She loves all things Jane Austen, engaging romance novels that end with a satisfying HEA (happily ever after), movies, and cheering on her hockey team to victory. While she hasn’t found her own true love, she hasn’t given up on him and can dream of what he might be like in her writing. Beauty from Ashes is her fourth novel. Learn more about Suzie and her writing HERE. 

Suzie's Latest Book - Beauty from Ashes 

After her boss threatens to fire her if she takes her vacation, Libby James decides it’s time to move on. The only problem is the non-compete clause in her contract. She can’t work for another interior design firm for six months. Needing money to live and something to keep her busy until she can return to the career she loves, Libby accepts a position where her best friend works. Little does she realize, her life is about to become much more complicated. Despite his aversion to weddings—and more specifically, marriage—Jack Price owns and manages a successful event planning company. In need of some additional assistance, he agrees to hire the friend of one of his employees. He is immediately drawn to the open and honest woman. He won’t acknowledge his interest in her at first, but the more time they spend together, the closer they become. He’ll have to let go of his past if he hopes for a future with Libby. Purchase Suzie's book HERE.

Suzie Waltner's Autumn Harvest Bake

(This is one of my fall/winter favorites. I've even started using it instead of sweet potatoes for holiday meals--and it works as a dessert! - SW)

1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
A good pinch of kosher salt (for taste)
4 cups butternut squash chunks (cut into roughly 1” cubes)
3 cups pear chunks (3-4 pears cut into 1” cubes)
2 cups apples chunks (2-3 apples cut into 1” cubes, baking apples work best)
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss together butternut squash, pears, apples, and cranberries. Pour butter mixture over it and toss until well distributed. Spread into a 9 X 13 baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and toss or stir. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the squash and pears are tender. Serve hot. 

This dish can easily be made ahead of time, cooled, and stored in an air-tight container in the fridge. When you want to serve it, heat it up in a 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until hot. Serves 10.