Before my husband and I starting dating, the ‘first’ single Valentine’s Day after the wrenching breakup of a serious, five year long relationship came around. It was not a pretty time, and I was more than happy to celebrate Anna Howard Shaw day instead. I worked at a big design firm at the time, and dreaded the approaching holiday parade of flower deliveries, chocolates, and oversized teddy bears, sure to be descending on our office, acutely reminding me of my confirmed singleness.
V-day came and was… uneventful. A few girls in the office received bouquets, but for the most part it was just a Tuesday, and not a bad one at that. I picked up a bottle of wine on my way home and prepared for a night of self-pampering. Halfway through an exfoliating face mask, my phone rang.
It was one of my best friends from college. I looked at the clock; it was late for him in Tennessee.
“How was your Valentine’s day?”
“Did you get any flowers?”
“Really? No one sent you flowers?”
“You know no one sent me flowers.”
“Wait, seriously? You didn’t get any flowers?”
“Stop. You’re being mean.”
“But I sent you flowers…”
I can’t remember if at that point I threatened to hang up the phone or just slung a series of expletives in his direction, but at the end of it, I realized that he wasn’t calling to make fun of me for being alone on Valentine’s Day, but to hear my reaction to the flowers he actually had sent me, which the florist completely FORGOT to deliver. On the most important flower delivery day of the year.
Turns out, this guy, who I’d been friends with for years, who made me laugh all the time, and listened to my rambling, single-lady-in-the-big-city misadventures, and made me happier than I probably even realized at the time, had a massive, secret crush. The plot – straight out of a classic rom-com – thickened!
If only the florist hadn’t RUINED his romantic reveal. I think the flowers were finally delivered the next afternoon, with everyone in the office quite curious as to why I was getting flowers on February 15th. We started dating shortly after, and that same, wonderful guy – my now husband, and love of my life – and I will be celebrating our fourth Valentine’s Day together this year (and still joke about that bumbling, neglectful florist…). Cue happy ending soundtrack!
Single or dating or married, or even post-breakup, at the end of the day, I do like the sentiment of taking a day to just love on everyone you love. Your love. Mom and Dad. Or your best gal pal. With obnoxiously pink and red themed hearts and baked goods, of course. And properly delivered flowers, if that’s your thing. If nothing else, it’s a fantastic excuse to indulge in tons o’ chocolate.
…or a healthy vanilla chia pudding with a sweet and vibrant raspberry rhubarb compote.
I bought my first bag of chia seeds over a year ago… and this is the first recipe I’ve made with them. I can be a little slow to catch on to food trends. BUT, lately I’ve been whipping up batches of this vanilla chia pudding and loving it. This lightly-sweet pudding fits somewhere between breakfast and dessert, and is packed with fiber, antioxidants, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
The chia pudding itself is subtly sweet, with hints of vanilla, maple and cinnamon, but I’ve added a raspberry rhubarb compote on top to up the indulgent ante. The rhubarb is poached in a quick raspberry simple syrup, softening the inherent sourness of the ruby stalks, and creating a sweet and tangy topping that sinks into the creamy, tapioca-like chia pudding, and is pretty darn great.
So whether you’re planning a romantic day with your sweetie, having a fabulous night solo or with your girlfriends, or simply celebrating a feminist’s birthday, Happy Valentine’s Day!!
Creamy Vanilla Chia Pudding (Adapted from Amy Chaplin)
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked (see instruction below)
- 4 cups filtered water
- 4 Medjool dates, pitted
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp unrefined coconut oil
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chia seeds
Raspberry Rhubarb Compote
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup pure cane sugar
- 1–1/2 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen and defrosted)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup rhubarb, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Vanilla Chia Pudding
- Soak the cashews in filtered water for 2-4 hours. Drain and rinse the cashews, then add to an upright, high-speed blender along with the fresh water. Blend on high speed for about 2 minutes, until the cashews are completely blended and you have a creamy, frothy milk. Add the dates, salt, cinnamon, maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla, and blend for another 30 seconds, or until completely combined.
- Place the chia seeds in a large mixing bowl, and pour the cashew milk over top, stirring to combine. The mixture will begin to thicken. Let sit for 15 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent clumping, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set up completely (or preferably overnight). You’ll know the chia pudding is ready when the mixture is thick and creamy, and there are small, tapioca-like chia balls throughout. If the gel texture freaks you out, you can also blend the pudding once set, until smooth. The chia pudding can be made up to five days in advance, kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It may continue to thicken a bit. Divide among bowls and serve with the raspberry rhubarb compote drizzled on top.
Raspberry Rhubarb Compote
- Add the water and sugar to a medium pot set over medium-high heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring just to a boil, add the raspberries, cook for a minute or two, then turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the raspberries have mostly broken down. Use the back of a spatula or wooden spoon to smash the berries, until a thick sauce forms.
- Optional: Remove the raspberry sauce from the heat, and pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl to strain out the raspberry seeds. Press gently with the back of a spoon to release as mich juice as possible. Return the raspberry sauce to the pot.
- Stir in the vanilla extract, and add the chopped rhubarb. Let gently simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. To serve, divide the rhubarb between the chia pudding bowls and drizzle with remaining syrup. The compote can be made a day or two in advance, kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.