If procrastination, winter blahs or just life in general has brought you to the sad state of Valentine’s Day morning with nothing to show for yourself, no plans and no preparation, all is not lost. You have options. None of them is ideal, but you do have options.
First, call your favorite restaurant, and request a reservation, being sure to mention you’re willing to be seated as early or as late as it will take to secure a table.
Try to break through the laughter on the other end of the line to make it clear you do not consider a table by the restrooms unappetizing or unromantic. If the laughter shows no sign of subsiding, just hang up. You’ve got things to do, and listening to a snotty reservation clerk make sport of your procrastination is not one of them.
You can cook a classic, romantic steak dinner for two in an hour or less. Recipes are below. Minimum cooking skill required.
Or you could open up your idea of what is romantic. It doesn’t always have to be lobster, steaks and oysters. Or whatever the Valentine prix fixe is at the restaurant of your choice. Any meal with personal significance can be considered romantic: your beloved’s favorite meal, the meal you ate the night that you met, the meal you ate the night you became engaged. With any luck, one of these significant meals is mac and cheese or spaghetti.
And how can anyone of a certain age think about spaghetti and romance without thinking about “Lady and the Tramp”?
Spaghetti and meatballs are inherently romantic, and kind of special, not the sort of thing one eats every night. But they’re pretty easy if you use a bottled sauce. A recipe follows for spaghetti and meatballs that only takes 45 minutes, and the meatballs have a surprise inside. They’re stuffed with mozzarella cheese which gets all melty and stringy during cooking. A Lady and the Tramp moment is almost guaranteed.
But if even the simplest meal is outside your skill set, revert to dessert. You can make heart-shaped truffles out of Oreo cookies and not much else. Or a giant heart-shaped sugar cookie studded with M&Ms that only takes minutes.
But if even that is too much, if that is too difficult or too time-consuming, you can make a Valentine dessert out of a pack of Twinkies, a few raspberries and some raspberry jam. You don’t even have to turn on the stove. This is not a bad trick to have in your wheelhouse even if you are not woefully unprepared for Valentine’s Day. Kids will love it, if you want a holiday food activity before sending the wee ones off to bed.
One cut of the knife can transform an ordinary Twinkie into a heart-shaped pastry which you will then gussy up with fresh raspberries and raspberry jam thinned out to make a sauce. it takes three minutes tops and the only skill required is being able to cut through a Twinkie without drawing blood. You can go with the devil’s food Twinkies now available to get the traditional chocolate and raspberry flavor combo, but don’t even try to pretend you made it yourself. You will be found out.
And if you still can’t come up with a main course to precede your spiffy Twinkie/raspberry creation, Burger King is getting in on the Valentine prix fixe bandwagon this year. Two Whoppers, two fries and two sodas for $8.99. But make sure your beloved spots your creative heart-shaped dessert before you pull out the Burger King bag. Otherwise, you may be single before dessert is served.
World’s Easiest Valentine Dessert
Twinkies cut into shape and smothered with a thinned red raspberry jam and a sprinkling of fresh raspberries for added pizzazz, are easier to make than a reservation. Also good for a child’s food project,but if you’re serving them to adults, you can sub a nice liqueur for the water used to thin the jam. Cognac or Grand Marnier would be nice.
3 tbsp. seedless red raspberry jam
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 Twinkies snack cakes
Stir jam and 1 tablespoon water in a bowl until smooth. Add raspberries; toss gently to coat.
Cut Twinkies in half diagonally, starting about 1 in. down from top left to 1 in. from bottom of opposite side. For each heart, put 2 halves together on 1 serving plate. Spoon raspberry mixture over and around hearts. Garnish with mint, if desired.
Sugar cookie cake
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
4 -1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
optional: M&M’s or icing
Combine butter, oil, sugars and vanilla until smooth. Blend in eggs. Add flour, salt, cream of tarter & baking soda until blended in. Refrigerate dough 1 hour or more. Preheat oven to 350°F. Press dough into a greased dish. Press Valentine M&Ms into dough in a polka-dot pattern, or any pattern of your choosing. Bake 20 minutes, watching carefully as to not over bake.
Oreo Truffles Valentine’s Hearts
Three ingredients heart shaped Oreo Cream Cheese Truffles covered with white chocolate, perfect for Valentine’s Day
24 Oreo cookies-crushed into fine crumbs
5 oz. softened cream cheese
12-14 oz. white chocolate
Heart shaped sprinkles-optional
Line a tray with baking paper. Crush whole Oreos with the filling in a really fine crumbs and combine it with softened cream cheese. You can do this by hands, press it with a back of the spoon, or you can use a mixer with paddle attachment but the mixture is really thick and it’s easier to knead it by hand. When it’s all evenly combined transfer the mixture onto baking paper and spread it in an even layer about 1/2 inch thick (or more, depending how large is your cookie cuter). Place the tray in the freezer for 45 mins (or more) until it’s harden enough for cutting. Cut out the truffles with heart shaped cookie cuter and place them back in the freezer for 20-30 mins (truffles must be frozen before dipping into chocolate).
Line another tray with baking paper and set aside. Take a few hearts from the freezer ( so the rest won’t soften while you are working) and dip one frozen heart at a time into melted chocolate with a fork. Tap off the excess chocolate and transfer the hearts onto baking paper and top with sprinkles (if you don’t want to dip them twice in the chocolate). If you want to cover the truffles with second layer of chocolate, then after first dipping into chocolate, place chocolate covered hearts in the freezer to harden the chocolate faster and repeat the dipping process, and then top with sprinkles. Work in small batches because the hearts must be frozen when you place them into melted chocolate. Store in an airtight container in the fridge (or freezer for longer storage). This recipe makes 16-20 small (about 1.5 inch) hearts.
Mozzarella-Stuffed Turkey Meatballs
For anyone old enough to have their idea of romance shaped by a childhood viewing of “Lady and the Tramp,” spaghetti and meatballs are a most romantic dish. These are ready in 45 minutes and have a surprise inside, a burst of melted mozzarella cheese.
20 oz. ground turkey
1/3 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
3 tbsp. milk
1 large egg
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. loosely packed fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
4 oz. part-skim mozzarella, cut into 1/2” cubes
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups marinara sauce
Parsley leaves, for garnish
Grated Parmesan, for garnish
Bread, for serving
Pasta, for serving
In large bowl, combine turkey, bread crumbs, milk, egg, garlic, rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. With 2-tablespoon scoop, scoop turkey mixture and press 1 cube mozzarella into center, sealing meat tightly around cheese. Repeat with remaining turkey mixture and cheese. In 12” skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Add turkey meatballs; cook 10 minutes or until browned on most sides. Add marinara sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 12 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan. Serve with bread or over pasta.
Make-ahead tip: Proceed with recipe through step 2. Transfer meatballs and sauce to container; refrigerate up to 2 days. Reheat gently in skillet on medium-low, about 30 minutes or until hot. Or transfer to glass or ceramic baking dish, cover with foil and reheat in 425 degrees F oven 40 minutes or until hot. Continue with step 3.
Filet Mignon with Shallot Butter
Create a date-night restaurant meal in an hour or less. Classic filet mignon served with shallot butter and accompanied by Oven Fries and Creamed Spinach will do the trick. To get everything on the table at the same time, start the potatoes first, since they take the longest to cook. Save the spinach to make last, while the beef rests.
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 small shallot
1/8 tsp. dried rosemary
¼ tsp. dry red wine
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 beef tenderloin (filet mignon) steaks
In 10-inch skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil on medium. Add shallot and rosemary; cook 2 minutes or until shallot is golden, stirring. Add wine. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until most of wine has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly. In small bowl, combine butter and shallot mixture. Stir in parsley. Refrigerate.
Wipe out skillet; add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Heat on medium-high until very hot. Season steaks with 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Place steaks in skillet. Cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn over; cook 3 minutes or until desired doneness (145°F for medium-rare). Transfer to plate; let stand 5 minutes.
To serve, top steaks with red wine–shallot butter.
12 oz. fingerling potatoes
2 tsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F. In jelly-roll pan, toss potatoes with olive oil, paprika, salt, and pepper. Arrange in single layer on pan; roast 15 minutes. Stir potatoes; roast 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and tender.
¼ cup half-and-half
1 pinch nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 box frozen chopped spinach
2 tbsp. Grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. light sour cream
In 2-quart saucepan, heat half-and-half, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to simmering on medium. Stir in spinach, Parmesan cheese and sour cream. Cook 2 minutes or until hot, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.