Valentine’s Boxed Lunch Swap

One week ago, today, was Valentine’s Day. I’m more a believer of ‘love 365 days of the year’ instead of ‘consumerism-driven love 1 day of the year’ but there is definitely some fun to be had on the day, regardless of having a partner or not. Here is my story of what has happened at my workplace for the past 3 Valentine’s days.

I have the fortune of working with a colleague who loves to plan things for different ‘holidays’. We reverse trick-or-treated with Halloween candy apples, sold cupcakes for her favourite charity, ate pancakes for Shrove Tuesday and Pączkis for Fat Thursday…and for the past 3 Valentine’s days, she has planned a boxed lunch swap for our workplace (a no-wooing allowed event, just in case you’re wondering). It really is a brilliant idea.

The idea stemmed from box socials, where women made lunch in a picnic basket and men bid on the lunches (and the company that came with it). Our boxed lunch swap involves filling out a simple form on your likes, dislikes, and dietary restrictions, followed by a secret draw (this is how you find out who you are making a lunch for). The only caveat is that the lunch you prepare or buy has to also include a treat and a drink.

I’d estimate over half of the folks who attend buy a lunch for their Valentine. However, I always like to make my lunches from scratch. This year, I made a quinoa salad (quinoa, 3 types of beans, corn, spinach, sweet potato, cranberries, red pepper), chicken noodle soup with broth we recently made, lemonade, and cupcake in a jar.

As I was making the chocolate cupcakes, I realized – to my own shock – that this was the very first time I was making cupcakes from scratch. I don’t think I’ve made cupcakes for almost 10 years (or more?) and I used to make them from a boxed mix. I used this recipe, it was pretty simple, and the cupcakes turned out pretty well! Nice rich chocolate cupcakes.

Regular iced cupcakes
Regular iced cupcakes

I made cream cheese frosting, also for the first time. I never knew cream cheese frosting contained a lot of butter. No wonder it tastes so darn good.

I wanted to make my Valentine’s cupcakes extra special, so I left a few cupcakes un-iced. I dyed some of the frosting pink to give it that Valentine’s feel. I found a round cookie cutter that could cut the cupcake into a width that would fit into a small mason jar, cut the cupcake (and ate the leftovers!), then sliced the cupcake horizontally in half. Next, I put one disc of cupcake into the bottom of the mason jar, added a dollop of pink icing on top, placed another cupcake disc on top pushing down gently so that the icing would spread. I alternated cupcake with icing until the mason jar was full. If you ate the whole jar, you would be eating the equivalent of 1.5 cupcakes. I sprinkled some red sugar sprinkles on top to finish it off.

Cupcake in a jar
Cupcake in a jar

…and then I wrapped everything up, decorated a previously-used kraft shopping bag with some paper hearts and a ribbon, and voila! A hearty homemade Valentine’s boxed lunch.

Boxed lunch
Boxed lunch

It’s quite exciting surprising someone with a lunch…but I admit, I get a bit nervous with the “I hope they like it” jitters!

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