My Valentine’s Birthday (Stromboli Recipe)

In honor of Valentine’s Day (silly commercial holiday, don’t you think?), I thought I would post about my Valentine’s 29th birthday. My husband Luke just turned 29 on February 4. We aren’t always into buying each other extravagant gifts for special occasions. We’re more the “gosh, I don’t need anything” or “we’ll just spend the money on new carpet” kind of people. So, when I offered to buy Luke a Playstation 3 for his birthday, he was a little shocked and declined the offer.

Luke enjoying his birthday breakfast at the Drake Diner.

After much thought, I decided to plan him a “super secret special day” instead. I planned a morning that would start with breakfast at Des Moines’ famous Drake Diner. He actually had just finished reading a book about the Drake Diner murders that happened back in the 90s – appetizing, I know:) But, the food was delish nonetheless. He had a sausage, egg and cheese croissant. I had potato pancakes and half an order of biscuits and gravy (don’t judge). After getting hyped up on the diner’s fabulous coffee, I let him know what my next surprise was… a tour of the Iowa State Capitol. I had to tell him because he insisted on driving in the blizzard-like conditions.

Some people might think a tour of the Capitol seems a little juvenile, but I highly recommend it! See, we both used to work in TV news in Des Moines, so we were OFTEN at the State Capitol. But, due to deadlines and crowds, we had never really been able to explore or enjoy the nation’s most beautiful state capitol. So, Luke has been saying for years that we should go tour it. It turned out that no other crazy people were out in the horrible winter conditions, so our tour was completely private and the building was so empty, you could hear a pin drop. We did almost crash on the way there, but in the end, we made it!

A distant view of the Iowa State Capitol through snowy trees.

Looking up into the rotunda of the Capitol.

The Supreme Court.

The ornate Law Library.

We learned all about the history of the Capitol – how it had nearly burnt down due to a candle being left attended, how you can stand on one side of the golden dome/rotunda and whisper to someone on the other side, etc. We saw all the first ladies as dolls in their inauguration gowns. We gazed in bewilderment at the ornate law library with its spiral staircases. Our tour guide, Anne, knew everything! It was a trip into the past and it was a look at the place where Iowa’s future is being figured out every day.

Us leaving the Capitol

After the tour, due to travel advisories, we decided to just pick up ingredients for Luke’s favorite meal, grab some beer and head to our warm house! I was going to drive him to the Bridges of Madison County and then do some tasting/touring at the Madison County Winery, but the roads were just too risky. Here’s a photo and the recipe for Luke’s Favorite – Stromboli!

Three-Meat Stromboli (each loaf - 8 slices)

1 loaf (1 lb.) frozen bread dough, thawed
1/4 pound thinly sliced deli salami
1/4 pound thinly sliced deli ham
1/4 pound thinly sliced pepperoni
1/4 pound thinly sliced provolone cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/8 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 teas. garlic powder
1 teas. oregano
1 teas. parsley flakes
1 teas. black pepper
1 egg yolk, beaten

Let dough rise until doubled, according to package directions. Punch down. Roll each loaf into a 15 in. x 12 in. rectangle. Arrange the meats and provolone cheese over the rectangle. Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and spices. Roll up jelly-roll style, beginning with a long side. Seal seams and ends. Brush with egg yolk. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for five minutes before slicing (use bread knife for best results). Serve warm.

We also watched a “dumb boy movie” to celebrate his 29th year – “Dirty Work” starring Norm MacDonald. This movie is hardly Oscar-worthy, but it’s certainly funny enough to warrant spending an hour and 17 minutes inside on a snowy night to watch it!

Oh, and I make him a birthday cake to take to our friends' Super Bowl party.

So, how does all of this tie in to Valentine’s Day? I just wanted to note that you can make special memories without spending a ton of money. Flowers die (although they are pretty) and chocolates make you fat (trust me, I would know). So, buy what you will on this day of cupid and floating hearts. But, make sure you spend some quality time with your special one nourishing their interests and passions:) We’ll be busy making heart-shaped  homemade pizza and drinking $5 Andre Strawberry “champagne”. Cheers to love!

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