February is always a great month to celebrate love, especially when Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday, making it a perfect night for a romantic dinner date. Unfortunately, you’re not the only one thinking of enjoying the special night at a fancy restaurant. If you hate the idea of being intimate with other couples right next to you this Valentine’s Day, consider skipping the line and have a DIY at-home dinner date.
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Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, who has time to cook a Michelin Star meal? Well, believe me, it won’t take more than a few hours. While I’m certainly not a professional cook, I’m happy to share how I pulled it off last year.
Get inspired with a few secret tips, from simple recipes to table decorations. I’m sure you’ll make your at-home Valentine’s Day dinner extremely romantic and most importantly, cozy.
Simple but Flavorful Recipes
When it comes to planning last-minute Valentine’s meals, you should pick not only easy-to-cook recipes, but also those that allow you to cook all three dishes at the same time. For example, I’d avoid turning on all the burners, overcrowding your oven or moving pans and baking sheets often. As you can imagine, this will only result in chaos, ruining the mood.
Here’s my strategy: make a cold appetizer on the counter, cook the entrée in the oven and use the stove for a side dish. What about the sweet dessert? I opted for a pre-made torte from my local bakery so that I could spend more time on my main course and table setting.
Cold Appetizer: Tomato & Mozzarella Salad
Tomato and Mozzarella salad is the perfect light meal to start with. For one, the recipe is so simple you can make it with your eyes closed. The best part yet, the fresh ingredients and the mild acidic balsamic vinegar with a hint of sweetness will totally open your appetite. Additionally, I love how the radiant red ripe tomatoes match the holiday theme—all about red.
Here’s the recipe from Joann Han:
Total Time: 10 minutes
- 1 large ripe tomato, sliced ¼ inch thick
- 2½ ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced ¼ inch thick
- 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 table spoon and 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
- Place tomato slices, alternating with mozzarella slices, on a large serving plate.
- Combine oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake well. Drizzle over tomatoes and mozzarella; sprinkle with basil.
Entrée: Rack of Lamb with A Garlic-Herb Crust
You and your significant other deserve a special entrée on the most romantic day of the year. Hence, instead of going with beef, chicken or pork, I chose racks of lamb as my main course. Although this was my first time cooking racks of lamb, luckily enough, I came across this easy recipe. Even with a one-and-half-hour prep, my boyfriend assumed it was takeout. (That’s definitely the sweetest comment you want to hear from your Valentine.) Well, you have to try it to believe it!
Recipe courtesy of William-Sonoma:
Total Time: 1-½ hours
- 2 racks of lamb, each with 8 ribs.
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Season the racks of lamb with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for one hour.
- In a bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, mint, rosemary, salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Brush the meaty side of each lamb rack with one tablespoon mustard and pack the breadcrumb mixture onto the meaty side.
- In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until just smoking. Add the lamb racks, breadcrumb side down, and brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
- Place the racks, breadcrumb side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Transfer to the oven and roast until the crust is nicely browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat, away from the bone, registers 130°F for medium-rare, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Transfer the lamb to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let it rest for 15 minutes. Carve the racks into double chops and serve immediately.
This recipe makes eight servings. However, you can always adjust the portion to your liking.
Side Dish: Wild Mushroom Risotto
If you do have the time and feel like cooking (eating) more, wild mushroom risotto will be a great addition. It’s true that this dish requires lots of patience. Nonetheless, it helps kill time while the lamb is roasting.
I used the recipe from Rebamuse. However, since I personally hate the strong small of Gorgonzola cheese, I replaced it with Parmesan cheese instead.
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 2 ounces dried chanterelle mushrooms
- ¾ teaspoon butter
- ½ chopped onion
- 1 shallots, minced
- ½ clove garlic, minced
- 1-½ ounces sliced fresh button mushrooms
- ½ (12 ounces) package Arborio rice
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 2 cups hot chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon crumbled grated Parmesan cheese or to taste
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Soak chanterelle mushrooms in hot water, cover with a lid and set aside to soften for 30 minutes. Once the mushrooms turn soft, strain and chop.
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, shallot, and garlic; cook and stir two minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add the fresh button mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushroom softens and become watery. Stir in the chopped chanterelle mushrooms, and cook three minutes more.
- Add Arborio rice; cook and stir for a few minutes until the rice is well coated with the Step 2 mixture and looks glossy. Stir in the white wine, and cook until nearly all evaporated.
- Reduce heat to medium, and add 1/3 of the hot chicken stock. Cook and stir until the liquid has been mostly absorbed. It will take about 5 minutes. The risotto should be simmering gently while you stir in the chicken stock. Add half of the remaining stock, and stir for 5 minutes more. Finally add the remaining stock, and continue cooking until the risotto is creamy and the rice is tender, about five minutes more. (Note: The rice should still have a little firmness when you bite into it.)
- Remove the risotto from the heat, and stir in the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. Finally, season with salt and pepper.
Impressive Table Decorating Ideas
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The best way to your Valentine’s heart is not only through his/her stomach, but also through sight that can impress him/her at the dinner table. Given that you only have a few hours to set up your dinner table, below are three heart-melting DIY ideas you can surely accomplish before your loved one comes knocking.
Design Your Own Menu
You put so much effort in planning the Valentine’s Day menu, so why not design a menu card exclusive for the special night? As we all know, a DIY menu can emulate the atmosphere of an upscale restaurant. Most importantly, it will become an unforgettable memory that will last a lifetime (if you store the card well).
Not a designer? No worries. There are many free, printable menu templates online. Some of the websites even provide step-by-step instructions. You just have to find a design you like. How simple!
Sensuous candles can add instant romance to your dinner table, especially when flowers accompany them. The easiest way to make decorative flower candles is to take several pretty vases from your pantry, fill it with water and place a few floating candles and petals.
You can also opt for flower shaped candles. This way, you only have to visit your local home improvement store, saving precious time.
Creative Chalkboard Table Runner
Sometimes, words are better written down than said. If you agree with the old saying, it’s time to get rid off cliché, red table clothes and go with a creative chalkboard table runner. The chalkboard table runner is actually chalkboard scrapbook paper you can get from any department store.
Simply lay it on the table to the length you like, tape it on the backside and congratulations, you’re already halfway there. In case you want to rewrite your love notes, don’t forget to season your paper by rubbing a piece of chalk all over it; then wipe it off.
Now, go ahead and express your love!
When the most romantic day of the year falls on the busiest restaurant night of the week, it means fully booked, fully booked and fully booked. You can try your luck at a restaurant that accepts walk-ins. However, chances are, you and your mate will have to wait for hours. Hence, why bother with a restaurant reservation? This year, skip the crowded restaurants and make your own cozy Valentine’s Day at home. As you can see, it’s not as hard as you think.
Remember to check us out on Pinterest. Our Valentine’s board will surely bring extra inspiration.