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IN’s Alternative Guide to a Unique, Thoughtful Valentine’s Day
By Kiley A. Bolster

Oh, Valentine’s Day—That sentimental day that provides new and old sweethearts alike the opportunity to excite and impress, or fail miserably trying. Celebrated in this country since the mid-1800s, some Valentine’s Day gifts today are a far cry from the humble offerings of our ancestors. The valentines of the nineteenth century were not unlike those first handmade valentines each child creates with their first grade class.

In an effort to return to the roots of the holiday and foster a more unique way to express the love you have for your sweetheart, continue reading for a few ways to celebrate the lovey-dovey festivities this year with some verve and creativity without breaking the bank. Instead of shopping at a Big Corporate Warehouse, consider buying gifts from local purveyors. You may opt to spend Valentine’s Day with your significant other, your single friends, your children or with your parents. Regardless of who you spend the day with or whether your gift is handmade from construction paper and glue or professionally gilded from silver and gold, just remember to send it from the heart—and love local.

LOCAL GIFTS
Try a local purveyor for a special something that gives back to the community.

Oh Snap! Cupcakes
707 E. Cervantes St., Suite A, 387-4777, ohsnapcupcakes.com

Send your sweetheart a fun alternative to boxed chocolates by choosing from a selection of Valentine’s Day themed cupcakes. Cupcakes will be paired with roses for the holiday. Featured flavors will include red velvet, pink champagne, white chocolate and strawberry strawberry.

Cordova Cigar and Smoke Shop
6050 N. Ninth Ave., Suite C, 473-0080, cordovacigars.com

La Palina Cigar ($18 to $22 per cigar. Ten percent box discount if you buy a box of 10)
La Palina recently returned to the cigar making industry and Cordova Cigar and Smoke Shop is one of a limited number of cigar shops that carry this brand. Don’t know a thing about cigars?  The knowledgeable shop staff will gladly assist you.

Olde Seville Chiropractic
208 S. Alcaniz St., 607-2105, oldesevillechiropractic.com

Olde Seville Chiropractic is offering $45 one-hour-massage gift certificates as a Valentine’s Day Special if you mention this article.

BETTER TOGETHER
In lieu of objects, check out the following ideas for giving your partner the ultimate gift—time together.

Ice Flyers Hockey Game ($11-$25 per person)
Pensacola Civic Center, 201 E. Gregory St., pensacolaiceflyers.com

A perfect gift idea for a sports-loving couple. Cheer on the Ice Flyers as they face the Louisiana Ice Gators Feb. 13 at 3:05 p.m. And don’t forget the cold beer and hotdogs.

Shakespeare Theatre’s “Just Desserts” ($35 per person)
Artel Gallery, 223 Palafox, pensacolashakepearetheatre.org

On Feb. 14, attend “Just Desserts,” an evening of gourmet chocolate and love songs. A guided chocolate tasting will be hosted by Pensacola chocolate experts Dr. Greg Tomso and Connor Cronin. A performance by Pensacola vocalist Sheila Murphy will follow the tasting.

Painting with a Twist ($35 per person for two-hour class)
4771 Bayou Blvd., Suite C-11, 471-1450, paintingwithatwist.com/pensacola

Everybody is an artist at Painting with a Twist, especially after a little wine. PWAT offers a relaxed atmosphere to imbibe and express your inner Picasso. Two classes will be offered in honor of Love Day: one for families and children and one for couples. Not in a relationship? Grab a friend and attend a class together to celebrate your singlehood.

Cooking Class at Distinctive Kitchens ($45-$60 per person, per class)
29 S. Palafox, 438-4688, dk4u.com
Spend an evening together enjoying a demonstration-based culinary class. Wine and generous tasting samples are prepared for attendees. Toss in a bottle of sparkling wine or champagne for a real treat.

More of a home-based couple? Pick up a bottle of wine and ingredients from Apple Market and try cooking dinner at home, together.

Apple Market
1021 Scenic Highway, 433-4381, applemarketpensacola.com

Brie and Apple Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:
•    1 tablespoons olive oil
•    1/4 cup chopped onion
•    1/2 tart apple, cored, coarsely chopped
•    1/2 teaspoon dried leaf thyme, divided
•    1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
•    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
•    1/2 cup apple cider, divided
•    2 ounces Brie cheese, without rind, cut in small chunks
•    2 medium chicken breasts

Instructions:
Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook until quite tender, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add chopped apple, 1/4 teaspoon thyme, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and splash of cider; cook until apples are tender, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, stir in Brie. Divide stuffing into 2 equal portions.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Carefully butterfly chicken breasts, making sure not to cut all the way through. Spoon half of the stuffing into each chicken breast; press gently to distribute filling evenly and secure with a toothpick. Season chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Place in an oven-proof baking dish.
Bake until chicken is tender and juices run clear when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes to one hour. The chicken should read about 180 degrees on an instant-read meat thermometer. Remove chicken to serving dish and keep warm.

Prepare sauce: Skim fat from baking dish and spoon drippings into small saucepan. Heat over medium heat. Add remaining apple cider; simmer briskly to reduce by half. Stir in remaining thyme and salt. Spoon over chicken. Serves two.

Make it vegetarian by substituting chicken breasts with portabello mushroom caps.  Fill four caps with stuffing and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Roasted Zucchini Spears
Ingredients:
•    Cooking spray
•    2 medium to large zucchini, each cut lengthwise twice, and then cut in half across the middle
•    1 tablespoon olive oil
•    Salt and ground black pepper
•    1 teaspoon garlic powder
•    1 teaspoon dried thyme

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange zucchini spears, flesh side up, on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over zucchini. Season the flesh with salt and black pepper, garlic powder and thyme. Roast 8 to 10 minutes, until tender and golden brown.

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