I have a confession to make. I am a soft hearted, romantic fool.
I love to watch Nick as he lets go into sleep after a day spent grafting, long black lashes laid upon his cheek. All these long years have not dimmed the joy I feel when I see him unexpectedly in the street - like an unlooked for date - a chance for some public hand holding.
If there is time, I'll often write a poem for Valentine's day. Searching in the furnace of my heart for words, smelted into the image of our unbreakable bond. The long, long, silver thread that ties our hearts together, however far apart we may be.
I like to mark Valentine's with delicious food, nesting warmth, unexpected celebrations of unity and a hand made card. Flowers and chocolates are for other people - let them celebrate how they will. My valentine will know that those gifts come from my own hand, crafted in my heart, wrapped in salvaged tissue. Hallmark doesn't get much of a chance in our house.
However, this Valentine's day Nick found that he had just too much to do to come home for the evening. We have almost finished building our new house, and there are so many last minute jobs before all the final tests can be ticked off. Our newly minted blackboard wall shines with chalky lists of things to do. Nearly all of them crossed through with a satisfied chalk finality.
Ok thought I. Valentine's day is just one of many. It's for newly weds and courting couples, folks who don't say I love you enough and those who like a big flowery trophy to show off. I don't need to spend the evening with Nick to know that I love him. We just don't have time this year for all that hand made love stuff ok?
So Finn and I had supper and I tucked him into bed with a long rose scented hug.
Later, in an old tee-shirt and leggings, kicking my heels a little, I flicked through the TV channels and found You've Got Mail!. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks reworked my favourite romantic novel (Pride and Prejudice) with lashings of cheese and I found that I was feeling pretty glum. In fact - not at all ok with the lack of romance and flowers on my Valentine's eve.
I was fast asleep when he returned home, starfished across the bed.
A week later Finley asked me what I was going to make for this month's Go Ahead Honey it's Gluten Free ? (hosted by Heather of Gluten Free Cat). The theme of course being romance (Hot, Spicy and Heart Shaped). 'Humph!', I replied in an Eyore-ish way and changed the subject.
But as I got on with my chores I got to thinking about my own internal cookie jar - the one that I fill up with morsels of good feeling - and realised that it was already quite full. I thought that a romantic meal, hand made card and some candles would make me feel more cherished - more of a woman, confirmation of my romantic worth. Yet I knew in my heart that all these late nights were for me, for us. All the rainy weekends when Nick had laboured at the building site, the home cooked meals I had unfailingly put on the table, the fresh sheets on beds (and all on top of our day jobs) were about building a future for us, our little family of three.
I wanted to celebrate the fact that here we still are, through the hardest of times. Longing for a chance to hold hands in the street. Watching sleep steal in. Laughing at each other's jokes.
So I made some cookies and put them into a real jar. I dug out my heart shaped cutters and spiced them with both fresh and dried ginger. As they cooled in my February kitchen, I inhaled the warm almondy scent, letting it settle around my shoulders like an embrace. Just opening the jar gives me a Proustian sense of that moment I remembered how lucky I am, and how loved.
When Nick came home that evening from a couple of days away. I handed him a little heart shaped ginger snap with a girlish smile and folded him into my arms.
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Grain Free Ginger Snaps
You can make these two ways - thin and snappy or lovely and chewy - a ginger cookie with a crisper exterior and gooey centre. They're both great. If you want to make them SCD or GAPS compliant then use honey - but be aware that they will only stay crisp for a day at best as honey is a humectant (attracts moisture).
150g Ground Almonds (almond flour USA)
40g Dried Dates - chopped fine
1/4 cup Maple Syrup
Large Thumb Sized Piece of Peeled Fresh Ginger - chopped roughly
2 tsp Ground Dried Ginger
Pinch Sea Salt
Put everything except maple syrup in a food processor and process until date and ginger root are incorporated well - but don't let the nuts become oily.
Add maple syrup and pulse until it forms a rough ball of dough.
Scrape onto a piece of baking parchment and flatten into a disk with your palm. Top with another sheet of paper and freeze for 1 hour.
Set the oven to 140ºC
Roll out as thin as you can between the two sheets of paper (3mm / 1/8 inch). Stamp out cookie shapes with a cutter - this is a sticky dough, so take care and keep the cookie cutter clean with the odd rinse in hot water. Put the shapes onto the spare sheet on baking parchment on a cookie sheet.
Roll up all the scraps and make walnut sized balls. Flatten with your fingers or a fork dipped in water.
Bake for 10 mins at 140ºC and then reduce the heat to 120ºC for another 20-30 minutes. The cookies may take even longer.
Don't let them get too dark - a light nut brown is all you want. They will crisp up on cooling. If they're not crisp enough, just return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
Cool on a rack and then fill your cookie jar.