Tips for Throwing a Heart-Warming Valentine's Day Party

Our hearts are large. Soul mates and kindred spirits of all kinds enter our lives every day, and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Even if we don’t have a significant other, we’re all lovers of our friends, children and family. This year on Valentine’s Day, honor the many lights that illuminate your life with a Valentine’s Feast.

Here are a few ideas to help you plan a celebratory meal overflowing with love.

Color Scheme
Find every dish, piece of flatware, candleholder, vase, napkin and tablecloth in your house that’s pink, red, purple or white. Create your tablescape from these assembled items. If you come up short, keep the color scheme in mind and poke around the house for vintage figurines, toys, objets d’art, and other unexpected items to help you fill out the aesthetic.

Paper Hearts
Buy pink, purple, red and white construction paper. Cut out hearts of all different sizes and scatter them down the center of the table. This effect looks especially striking against a clean, white tablecloth.

Table Settings
Set a construction paper heart at each place setting. On each heart, write something that the person brings to the table -- something you love about him or her. It could be something like, “You do pitch perfect impersonations,” or “You make the best upside-down pineapple cake this side of the Rockies,” or “When you’re around, everybody laughs themselves silly.” If you want, you can even make it a game -- leave the name off the place card and have each guest guess which card is meant for him or her.

Meal Theme
Pick a meal theme. Foods you loved as a child, foods from famous love stories, foods with love-related names. Or, maybe just stick with foods that everybody loves.

Sweet Ending
Make sugar cookies for dessert (see recipe below). Instead of using Valentine’s Day-themed cookie cutters, find alphabet cookie cutters. Typically, your local kitchen store is a good place to start. If not, try Sur La Table, Bed Bath and Beyond, or Fishs Eddy if you’re in New York City. Cut out cookies in the shape of the initials of each guest, plate the cookies and serve with a scoop or two of delicious ice cream. Or, spell out a message of love in cookies on the cleared table or a banquet after the meal is over.

Valentine’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to spread love far and wide. Create a space for friends and family to share love on a grander scale than just lover to lover. After all, there’s no such thing as too much love.

My Mother’s Sugar Cookie Recipe
Courtesy of Coming Home, published by Abrams: Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

Makes about 24 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Colored sugar crystals or candy sprinkles

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt onto a piece of wax paper. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time and mix until well combined. Wrap the dough in a clean kitchen towel or parchment paper and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400o F. Butter baking sheets.

Roll out one-third of the dough to about 1/8 inch thick and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Sprinkle the cookies generously with colored sugar crystals or candy Sprinkles and transfer the shapes to the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes or until firm in the centers, but not browned. Remove the cookies from the sheets with a wide spatula and cool on wire racks. Repeat with the remaining dough. Store cookies in a tin. They can be frozen prior to the holiday for up to 1 month or stored in a cool, dark place for 1 week.

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