In February we celebrate love — usually love for our romantic partner, and sometimes for our family and close friends. If you’re 8 years old, you make and give valentines to your classmates, including your crush.

Whomever first marketed the holiday decided that chocolate would be a highly desirable gift. Of course! Who doesn’t adore chocolate in some form? So chocolate became equated with love.

Food is love. Two people can make the exact same recipe, but one tastes better. Could the difference be that one cook put more love into the mix? I think it’s possible.

Can we love food too much? You bet. Joplin’s obesity rate is off the charts. Too much food love, and often of food that shouldn’t be called real food.

My column, I hope, has illustrated that food can be yummy, beautiful and healthy. And that it’s wonderful to fall in love with recipes like that.

There are some common foods that most people would say they love. This month, I’m going to give you recipes for these infatuations, perhaps putting new spins on them you didn’t see coming and are willing to try.

Take pizza, for example: I’ve spent several years trying to perfect it. I know I love thin, crispy, flavorful crust. I don’t love mozzarella. I keep my sauce simple and make it myself. I use a particular pizza pan, round with lots of tiny holes to get to the crust and crisp it up.

After making this version several times, I simply can’t enjoy pizza out as much. I don’t have a favorite chain or local spot for pizza.

I will change up my toppings. In addition to the favorites below, I like kalamata olives and pepperoni as well as Italian sausage and portabello mushroom. Just depends on my mood. The pizza below is the one my boyfriend, Lance, requests often. Hope you love it as much as we do.

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Lance’s favorite pizza

For the crust:

2 to 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour OR bread flour (bread flour makes crispier crust)

1 packet instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoon)

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder and/or dried basil leaves optional

2 tablespoons olive oil plus additional

3/4 cup warm water (tap is fine)

For the sauce:

1 small can tomato paste

1/4 cup honey or maple syrup

3/4 cup warm water (tap is fine)

2 garlic cloves minced, or one teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

For the toppings:

8 ounces (1 block) sharp cheddar cheese, grated

6 ounces soft white cheese, such as Havarti or jack

6 slices deli-style ham, chopped into half-inch squares

1/2 cup drained and chopped pickled banana peppers

Fresh basil, shredded parmesan, cracked pepper optional after baking

Combine 1 cup of flour, instant yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. If desired, add garlic powder and dried basil at this point as well. Add olive oil and warm water and use a wooden spoon to stir well very well.

Gradually add another 1 cup of flour. Add any additional flour as needed (I've found that sometimes I need as much as an additional 1/3 cup), stirring until the dough is forming into a cohesive, elastic ball and is beginning to pull away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will still be slightly sticky but still should be manageable with your hands.

Form your pizza dough into a round ball. Drizzle oil into bottom of bowl. Use your hands to roll the pizza dough along the inside of the bowl until it is coated in olive oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees at this point so that it will have reached temperature once your pizza is ready to bake. Allow dough to rise for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. While dough is rising, make sauce and prepare toppings. Hand-grated cheese is much better than pre-grated cheese; it both tastes and melts better.

Once the dough has risen, use your hands to gently deflate it and transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until smooth (about 3 to 5 times). Smash ball with hands onto pizza pan or sheet pan that has been covered in cooking spray. Using your hands, press dough from the center out until surface if covered. Be sure it’s the same thickness across that surface.

Bake crust by itself for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully add sauce and desired toppings and bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until toppings are golden brown. Slice and serve.

Josie Mai is a culinary artist and in-home chef. See her on Facebook and Instagram as Josie Mai Personal Chef or at josiemai.com.

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