Love is in the air. Can you feel it? Usually, by this time, I already have red and pink hearts gracing my mantle and cute mini mailboxes on our dining room table waiting to be filled with love letters. Yet, this year, I am moving a bit slower, and the box of love-filled décor sits on my garage floor, ready and waiting to be displayed. Maybe I will get to it today. Yep! I think I will.
The truth is that the weather has altered my motivation a bit. We have had some pretty cold days around here, and I still feel like I am in hibernation mood, ready to curl up with a good book and get all cozied up until a blanket. So, while I am ready to celebrate love and always anticipate this sweet holiday, I am finding that I need some warm, cozy, and maybe even nostalgic dishes to welcome it in and set the tone.
Generally, my little family makes a nice meal and then sits around the dining room table, decorated with hearts and pink plates, as we open up our mailboxes and read the love letters we wrote to one another. Sometimes, it goes smoothly; other times, it brings laughter, but we (my dear hubby and I) usually have to tamper our expectations and remember we are celebrating with our children, two of whom are teens. And, trust me, it can bring all kinds of unexpected blunders. Last year, we ate dinner at 9 pm because my oldest had to work. Other times, we have had boyfriends or our daughter's friends join us, which is always fun and eventful. I also vividly remember when our two oldest daughters got into a food fight because one forgot to write a letter, and the other one who did write a letter wasn't "so loving." Needless to say, they cleaned the kitchen out of their "love" for me-ha!
But, even though I have no idea what Valentine's will bring, I am still always eager to make a fun and festive meal to show my family just how much I love them, flaws and all. Maybe you have a plan to bring love into your home as well, and you need some festive foods that will welcome the ambiance of love. Well, friend, I've got you covered. Below is a simple dinner plan along with several "sweet" dishes (because it's all about the dessert, right?) that you can grace your table and spread the love.
1. Valentine's Charcuterie Tray
Is there anything better than meats, cheeses, olives, nuts, and yummy spreads with crackers? Charcuterie trays are versatile and can be made for a snack, lunch, or even dinner. You can even place treats on it and make a dessert tray! The options are endless. So, how do you spruce it up for Valentine's? For starters, you can place all the items on a tray in the shape of a heart or use heart containers for any cheeses or jams. Try adding a few of the items below to make your tray adorable and delicious!
-Strawberry or raspberry jam
-Add real roses for decoration
2. Red Cherry Steaks
This is probably one of my favorite meals of the year! We have grilled steaks done up in a pan, and also sous vide them! When it is cold outside, we opt for the pan sear or sous vide option, a water immersion technique that makes the most tender steak ever! However, it all begins with the right cut of meat. Pick a tender meat such as a fillet mignon, ribeye, or New York strip, as it pairs well with the cherry sauce. By the way, the cherry sauce is what puts this steak over the top with utter deliciousness!
Rub both sides of the steak with butter
Salt and pepper both sides of the steak generously
Add a garlic clover or two on each steak on both sides
Add fresh thyme and/or basil
They can sit covered to marinate for up to 12 hours
You can grill, pan sear, or sous vide them once you are ready
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan and add 1 cut-up small shallot (or red onion) and 1 tsp garlic. Cook until translucent. Then add 2 cups pitted fresh cherries and two to three sprigs of thyme. Let cook on low for five minutes. Once the cherries soften, add ½ cup red wine, 1 tbsp honey, and Dijon mustard. Mix well and simmer until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour on top of steaks when ready to serve. Enjoy!
3. Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
These potatoes score big in our house. Not only are they super easy to make, but they pair so well with the steaks. Take 4-5 peeled and cubed potatoes and bring them to a boil until tender. Drain completely and place back in pot on a burner set to low. Then add 1 cup butter, ½ cup milk, and a generous portion of salt and pepper. Once mixed well, add 1 cup of parmesan cheese and blend. Add to a baking dish and sprinkle top with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Bake at 325 for about 20 minutes. Yum-o!
4. Almond Green Beans
Simple, beautiful, and delish! These beans add a pop of color and make a great companion piece to your steak dinner. When using fresh green beans, there is a bit of prep involved, but not too much. You can use the whole bean or choose to cut off the ends. It's all a matter of preference, but when it comes to cooking, there is a method that will help preserve the color and taste. I generally blanche my beans, meaning I cook them in boiling water for about 5 minutes and then immediately put them in an ice-cold water bath. Meaning just a big glass dish filled with ice water. While you don't have to do this step, I have noticed when I skip it, my beans are a bit stringy. So, once the beans are cooling, make a butter garlic sauce by adding 2 tbsp. butter and garlic salt in a pan. Then, drain the beans and add them to the pan with butter. Once heated through, transfer to plates and top with baked almonds. I usually buy almonds that are already prepped, but you can certainly sauté them on the stove with butter. The almonds make this dish and taste oh-so-good on top of the French beans!
5. Heart-Shaped Dinner Rolls
These rolls are so easy and cute; you have to try them and put them on your Valentine's dinner plate. Your kids will absolutely adore them, too! I use the crescent rolls package to make it a bit easier, but I suppose if you are tapping into your inner Martha Stewart, you could go all out and home-make them, too. For the crescent roll method, take two crescent triangles and create a rod shape about four inches long and an inch or so wide. With a sharp knife, cut down from the long side down the middle, leaving just about a ¼ inch from the top. Basically, you must be able to pull them apart to make the shape of the letter "V." Then, take those ends and wrap them to resemble the shape of a heart. Bake as instructed and then brush with butter and serve them warm. Mmmm!
6. Chocolate Torte
Now, for dessert! I'm giving a few options here, but who doesn't like chocolate, especially on Valentine's Day? Am I right?! So, thought I would start with this simply delicious chocolate torte recipe that will tickle everyone's taste buds!
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
5 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 400. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Melt chocolate and butter on the stove or in the microwave; stir frequently. If you do it in the microwave, stir every 30 seconds or so. Beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract with a mixer until blended, then add the flour and mix until combined. Lastly, incorporate the chocolate in and mix until all combined. Place in cake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve with raspberries or ice cream. Oh, so good!
7. Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake
A Graham Cracker Crust
2 packages of frozen strawberries
1 tsp. cornstarch
3 packages of softened cream cheese
1 Can condensed milk
Preheat oven to 325. Blend strawberries and cornstarch until smooth consistency and then pour into a saucepan and bring to boil for two minutes, then set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy; add the milk, a squeezed lemon for the juice, and eggs. Mix well. Pour half of the cream cheese mixture on top of the crust. Then, carefully layer half of the strawberry mixture on top. Repeat this. Then, take a knife and make small swirls on the top. Bake for 55-60 minutes, let cool completely, then refrigerate until ready to serve!
Well, there you have it! Fun and festive foods to try this Valentine's Day. I hope you create some wonderful memories with your family and that love and laughter fill your humble little abode!
Originally published Monday, 05 February 2024.