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You don't have to be part of a couple to celebrate Valentine's Day

Serve your homemade chicken salad on a big, soft bun.

Serve your homemade chicken salad on a big, soft bun.

The 14th day of February does not require company to be enjoyed.

It is a day like any other, but commercialized beyond belief, pounding the sense of loneliness into those of us who happen to not share it with anyone special. We unsuspecting souls sometimes don't even notice the "gap" in our lives until drugstores start rolling out the candy and the hearts and the Pink! Pink!! Pink!!! Then we forget that we were fine before and we can be just as fine during and after, that the sun will come up and the sun will go down, regardless of our relationship status.

I have a bit of a streak going: 18 consecutive years of being single on the day, sitting on the sidelines as I watch my friends and their Other Halves proclaim their everlasting love for each other over candlelit dinners or a street-lit round of mini-golf or some other gross/cute thing that I secretly long for. However, this does not mean that we singletons have to have a crummy night. It's not a requirement to blare Adele over a tub of Ben and Jerry's and a Nicholas Sparks movie you got from the Redbox you drove to in your pajamas. It's only a bad night if you make it a bad night. Taco Bell and binge-watching Orange Is the New Black with a frown on your face is not a requirement for the Alone, just a choice.

So treat yourself. It might not be our day, but it could be your day, if you choose. Cook yourself dinner, rather than wait in the takeout line. Whip up something at home, something easy, something greasy, something 100 percent for you. Drown something in onions or garlic. You can go to town without breaking the bank. One of the perks of the Alone is that, unlike the In Love, you'll have an extra $120 at night's end. Steam some fish (try the accompanying recipe), put together a simple pasta dish, or grab rotisserie chickens from Publix and make chicken salad sandwiches (also see accompanying recipe). Add a delicious dessert (see recipe for Melt Your Heart Molten Nutella Lava Cake, Page 6). The only rule: You're doing this all for you. (You'll have great leftovers, too.)

Make "V" day "Me" day, and clear the stores of all the marked-down candy the next day.

Joey Hager is a senior at Palm Harbor University High and a staff writer for tb-two*, the Times' high school weekly.


Salmon in Parchment*

Parchment paper

1 teaspoon olive oil, or more if needed

6 small potatoes, quartered

10 spears asparagus

2 (6- to 8-ounce) skinless, boneless, center-cut salmon fillets

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Take two pieces of parchment paper, fold in half, and cut a half-circle starting at each crease. They should look similar to a heart-shape when unfolded. Coat each piece of parchment with olive oil on both sides.

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with salted water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain.

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add asparagus, and cook uncovered until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, then immediately immerse in ice water for several minutes until cold to stop the cooking process. Once the asparagus is cold, drain well, and set aside.

Place 1 salmon fillet, half the asparagus, and half the potatoes in the middle of one side of a prepared parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Fold half of the circle over and seal parchment edge by making overlapping folds around the edge. At the end, fold the last crease in the opposite direction of the rest to ensure it seals. Repeat with the second piece of prepared parchment and remaining ingredients. Place pouches on a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before cutting open parchment. The salmon is done when it flakes easily with a fork.

Serves 2.

*You can also serve this with a light mustard aioli, which is mayonnaise mixed with Dijon mustard, lemon juice and a touch of garlic.

Source: Adapted from an Alton Brown recipe via


Chicken Salad With Apples, Grapes and Walnuts

Breast meat from 2 rotisserie chickens, shredded

2 apples (your choice), in small chunks

2 cups chopped walnuts, or to taste

1/2 red onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

3 tablespoons lemon juice

For dressing:

1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

5 tablespoons creamy salad dressing (such as Miracle Whip)

5 tablespoons mayonnaise

25 seedless red grapes, halved if large

Toss shredded chicken, apple chunks, walnuts, onion, celery and lemon juice together in a large bowl.

Whisk vanilla yogurt, salad dressing, and mayonnaise together in a separate bowl; pour over the chicken mixture and stir to coat. Gently fold grapes into salad.

Source: Adapted from

You don't have to be part of a couple to celebrate Valentine's Day 02/10/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 10, 2014 6:15pm]
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