Valentine’s Day Hungry Athlete Style

Ah Valentine’s Day … the most grandiose of Hallmark holidays. While I don’t need Hallmark to tell me when to be romantic, it’s still a good excuse to flirt and eat chocolate.

How will this Hungry Athlete celebrate Valentine’s Day? Well, by supporting her boy, Rama at his first 100K trail race of course! Around the same time many couples will be gazing at each other over a romantic dinner, Rama and I will be scantily clad and engaging in a sweaty one on one moment. I’ll be pacing him, I mean chasing him, for about 10 miles, to the finish line. While this day will be all about Rama, it will still be a romantic treat for me to be able to support him and see him at the finish line.

Back to the flirting and chocolates. Although Rama will need to stick to a race day diet, I will have a few surprises up my sleeves.

Ta da! Here are the fun treats I’ll have waiting for him at the aid stations.  I made the tags myself but found templates for the tags here:


But unless you are spending February 14th at an ultramarathon, you are probably looking for something a little more exciting to give to your Valentine.

Here are some decadent but healthy treats that your Valentine will find extra sweet because it’s hand made by you. These Dark Chocolate Covered Fruits and Nuts are so easy to make and are a better alternative to those sugary candy conversation hearts.


Use your favorite fresh or dried fruits and roasted nuts. I like to sprinkle a little flake salt on top of the chocolate before it hardens. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Dried banana chips
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Pomegranate arils (seeds)
  • Clementine
  • Assorted roasted nuts
  • Dried fruit (cranberries and apricots)
  • Chocolate chips (I prefer dark chocolate 60-70% cacao)
  • Flake salt


Melt the chocolate chips over a bowl set over bowling water or in a microwave. I dipped the fruit in the chocolate and placed them on parchment paper. Refrigerate for 3-5 minutes to harden.


If it weren’t for his race, we’d probably be at home making Valentine’s Day dinner together. Here are some ideas for a Valentine’s dinner at home.


Beet and Watermelon Salad

Orange, Fennel and Arugula Salad

Main Course:

Beouf Bourgignon

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Curry Mustard Quinoa, Butternut Squash, Spinach, Cranberries and Toasted Almonds


Chocolate Cinnamon Mousse

Frozen Strawberry Lemon Yogurt

Frozen Strawberry Lemon Yogurt

The alluring pink scoops of my Frozen Strawberry Lemon Yogurt may win the heart of your Valentine. This light and refreshing dessert is easy to prepare, naturally sweet and contains only four ingredients.

The key to a simple and delicious recipe is to use good quality fresh ingredients. I happen to have lots of fresh strawberries from the Carralitos Farmers Market given to me by an ultra runner friend who came over last weekend to watch the Super Bowl. Knowing I would not be able to consume all those fresh strawberries before they perished, I decided to freeze most of them. Since my friend ran a 100K the day before delivering the strawberries, I felt it was only appropriate to use them to make something special and healthy.

Serving size: 6-8

Tools: Food processor or blender and ice cream maker


  • 5 cups of whole strawberries, hulled & frozen (about 2 pints)
  • 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt (full fat)
  • 1/3 cup juice of Meyer lemons*
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • Sprig of mint (optional)

Note: Standard supermarket lemons may be substituted however I recommend using Meyer lemons if you can find them. Meyer lemons are sweeter which helps to cut the tartness of the yogurt. Otherwise, you may want to add more honey when using other varieties of lemons.


Freeze the ice cream container according to instructions.

In a food processor or blender, puree the frozen strawberries. Add the Greek yogurt, lemon juice and honey. Continue to process or blend the strawberry mixture until all the ingredients are combined. Taste the yogurt. If you find it too tart, you can add more honey or lemon.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and use as instructed. It should take only 15 minutes or less for the yogurt to start to freeze up.

Transfer into freezer container and freeze for at least 1 hour. Scoop out and add a fresh sprig of mint if you like.  Alternatively, this Strawberry Lemon Yogurt can be poured into popsicle molds and enjoyed frozen on a stick.


Spicy Dark Chocolate, Pretzel & Caramel Surprise Cookie (aka “The Ultimate Tailgating Cookie”)

Warning.  These adult cookies are a bit naughty.  These not-so-kid-friendly treats have a spicy afternote, deep dark chocolate richness, salty crunch and sweet surprise that prefer to be chased by a cold beer over a glass of milk.

The decadent cookies were inspired by Sports Illustrated writer, Peter Bukowski, who had me thinking, what cookie would pair well with beer at a football tailgate?  I immediately enlisted Tracy, one of my best childhood pals, cookie queen and fellow Ironman triathlete, to help create the cookie.  Not only is Tracy a great cook; she also enjoys beer. While most of my recipes are healthy, this Hungry Athlete believes that it’s ok to indulge a little, every now and then.  I’ll be serving these cookies to a bunch of ultra runners this Super Bowl Sunday.  They’ll be burning a lot of calories prior to the game, so let’s indulge.

NOTE:  The caramel candy filling is optional.  I love caramel however I personally can only eat one of anything caramel.  To satisfy those who love to gobble up lots of caramel, I fill only half the batch with the Dove caramels.  For the best results, place the Dove caramels in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.  Plain caramel candies hardened up too much at room temperature.

Serving size: 16-18 cookies

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup ultrafine or superfine baking sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup thick medium sized pretzels (I used Snyder Old Thyme), rough chopped to the size of two chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 package Dove caramel candies (optional), placed in freezer for 30 min


Preheat the oven to 350F and place the Dove chocolates in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

In a saucepan over low to medium heat, melt the butter.  Whisk in cocoa until smooth, then whisk in instant espresso and cayenne pepper.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside.

In a medium size bowl, sift the flour, baking soda and Kosher salt together.  Set it aside.

Using an electric mixer, on medium speed, with a whisk attachment, mix the egg and both sugars together.  Scrape the side of the bowl while mixing to ensure everything is well combined.  Add vanilla extract and continue mixing for another minute. Add the cocoa mixture and mix on medium speed until combined.  Then add the flour mixture and mix again until just combined.

With a spatula or wooden spoon, mix in chocolate chips and pretzel pieces by hand.  It might be easier to just use your fingers but don’t over mix.  There may be loose pieces of pretzels in the bowl.  You can redistribute those when forming the cookies.

Using your hands, shape the dough into 2 1/2 inch wide round cookies.  The dough will not spread much when baking. If you are incorporating caramel, wrap the dough around the caramel candy until it’s completely covered.  I try to cover up the pretzels so it’s a nice salty and crunchy surprise when biting into the cookie. It’s ok if some of the pretzel pieces are poking through. Place the formed cookie dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 8-9 minutes.   Since you won’t be able to gauge the doneness of the cookies by observing how brown it is, I recommend test baking a couple cookies to determine the best baking time. Allow the cookies to cool slightly or completely.  Cookies will cool to a crisp on the outside and stay tender on the inside.  The caramel will remain soft at room temperature.

If you enjoy these cookies, stay tuned! Tracy and I are working on more cookies with beer.

Use the larger size pretzels and and rough chop about double the size of two chocolate chips.
Use the larger size pretzels and and rough chop about double the size of two chocolate chips.
On the left, with a caramel candy; on the right, without a caramel candy.
On the left, with a caramel candy; on the right, without a caramel candy.