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what love is made of

Raspberry-Orange Muesli

There are a lot of fabulous ideas out there regarding what to make and eat on Valentine’s Day — an abundance of chocolate, plenty of things shaped like hearts, all shades of pink and rose and red. This muesli is the thing I’d like to toss into the mix. Mushy breakfast cereal may seem ill-suited for the holiday, but I am here to tell you it is not. Besides, it’s pink, and shouldn’t that alone suffice? (Do hear me out, please, but if you’re looking for something a bit more sparkly, the aforementioned links are among my favorite Valentine’s Day sightings on the web this year.)

So here’s the thing: while it’s true that love has plenty in common with flowers and fancy chocolate and general blissfulness, we know this already; romantic comedies and dominant cultural narratives have made that quite clear. But the way love manifests in the hard days and the ordinary ones is what makes it such an incredible force, a sentiment so worth cheering about, something to throw up our fists and fight for. Yes, Ben and I are partners for the happy and hopeful times, dancing in the living room after dinner, walking on weekend mornings in the sun, reading poetry aloud in bed, cheering one another on in our endeavors. He leaves me notes on the chalkboard by the front door each morning; I hone my pizza-making skills because pizza is his favorite.

But we are partners, too, for the sad days and the hard ones, when I cry in the middle of the night, when he leaves his shirts on the floor, when we’re so unsure about the future, when life feels confusing or problems insurmountable. He insists that we do laundry on weekends because it makes me so utterly depressed to do it alone. He listens to me talk for hours, calming me as I over-analyze my career trajectory and worry about taxes and black mold and the future. A significant percentage of the times he buys me flowers are when we’re together at the market and I am standing only a few feet away, having handed him bills that came from our pooled finances. But none of this changes the strength of the sentiment. Quiet evenings of simple dinners and shows on Hulu, a firm Saturday morning routine, splitting the chores, talking it out even when we don’t want to: this, too, is what love is made of, right alongside sweet nothings and the moments deserving of fireworks or confetti raining down from the sky.

Raspberry-Orange Muesli

And so, likewise, there are plenty of frosting-filled cookies and chocolate cakes in this household, but there is also muesli. This life of ours may not sound like the stuff of the movies, but it is real and it is ours. And I, for one, think it’s wonderful.

I hope this week finds you celebrating both the ordinary and extraordinary of life with your loves — friends or family or one special someone or all of the above. And I urge you: before you make that heart-shaped cake with pink frosting and pop a bottle of champagne, stir together some of this muesli.

At the end of last year, I had the privilege of assisting the ever-lovely and tremendously talented Kimberley Hasselbrink, the blogger behind The Year in Food, as she photographed Bon Appetit‘s 2013 Food Lover’s Cleanse. This muesli is adapted from that wonderful set of recipes, which focuses on whole foods and fresh produce while leaving room for things like joy and chocolate. The recipes remain available on the Bon Appetit website, and I highly recommend you take a look if you’ve not done so already! There is no reason why we can’t stay healthy all the year ’round.

Raspberry-Orange Muesli Raspberry-Orange Muesli

Raspberry-Orange Muesli

Adapted from Bon Appetit‘s 2013 Food Lover’s Cleanse

I really do think this pink, healthful breakfast would be a fun way to start a Valentine’s Day, especially if you must hurry to work and/or feed your little ones a quick breakfast before they go to school, especially if you have a decadent dessert planned for the evening. And, by the way, if you can get your hands on a blood orange, you’ll get even more rosy color in your bowl!

Muesli is best when it’s had at least a few hours to rest, but I’ve eaten it without waiting overnight, I’ll admit. In a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator, it will keep for several days. I sometimes serve mine with a bit of mashed banana or an extra dollop of yogurt. You could also top your bowl with more toasted walnuts or an extra shake of cinnamon.

1 cup frozen raspberries

1 cup old-fashioned oats

2/3 cup plain yogurt

1 apple, skin on, shredded on a box grater

zest of 1 blood or navel orange (or grapefruit; see below)

fresh-squeezed juice of 1 blood or navel orange (or 1 small grapefruit, if you’d like a sour kick)

2 – 3 tablespoons toasted walnuts, optional

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of salt

In a medium bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. Cover and chill overnight.

Yield: 2 large or 3 small servings

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