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Fast, Romantic Valentine's dinner ideas needed!

This is my boyfriend's and my first Valentine's together but unfortunately not only is the holiday on a Tuesday night, but he gets in from out of town at 8pm! I typically refuse to observe the holiday but as our first I'd like to do something. Valentine's has to be right up there with New Year's as the worst night to get into a restaurant and since we can't make it until 9pm anyway, I thought I'd whip up something. A fireside picnic, perhaps. I am looking for fun Valentine's ideas that are either little fuss, maybe smaller bites, or even possibly storebought.

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  1. Perhaps for a fireside picnic, you could make a pot of cheese fondue, and serve with bread, apples, some charcuterie - wine of course. For dessert, just some dark chocolate and champagne?

    Easy, and you are really kind of nibbling, so doesn't have to end up heavy at all. And of course, observe the rule if anyone drops their 'bite' off the fork into the pot, you have to kiss the other person!

    Not sure if it is only seasonal (sigh), as is often the case at Trader Joe's, but they have great already made, heat & eat fondue so all you really have to do is shop, chop, and love:)

    1. I make SO's favorite meal - either meatloaf w/ mashed or grilled something - usually steak or chicken. Getting into a restaurant is indeed usually hopeless, so we don't bother. Of course, he likes little bites of something sweet (besides me!) so there's chocolate brownie bites or strawberry's dipped in chocolate.

      1. Spaghetti and a DVD of Lady and the Tramp.....

        1. spaghetti carbonara. And for dessert strawberries with chocolate sauce.

          1. Steamed Lobster Tails are the easiest thing in the world. You don't even need a fancy steamer. You can MacGyver one from things you probably already have in your kitchen. Here's what you do:

            -Get two lobster tails and thaw them if necessary. Or more if you want to really say love. My wife and I usually do two per person, but it's not required.

            -Take your largest pot and fill bottom with water. You need about two inches. Then take a cereal bowl and put it in the bottom and put a bread plate on top of the bowl. If your pot is big enough, you can use a dinner plate. You just want it to fit inside and lay flat on top of the bowl.

            -Start your burner and bring the water to a boil. Don't worry if the bowl shakes a bit. It won't break. Once it's boiling, add a little salt to the water. You should be able to slide the salt down where the plate doesn't touch the sides of the pot.

            -Season your lobster tails with a bit of salt and pepper. Or Old Bay if you have it. Put them on the plate that you inserted so that they can steam. Put a cover on the top of the pot, and let them go for 10 to 15 minutes until the shells have turned bright red and meat is cooked thru. The meat should have a shiny, almost translucent look.

            -Serve them hot with melted garlic butter and a lemon wedge. You can add a side salad, mashed potato, cheddar cheese rice, or cous cous which are all pretty quick and easy to do. Serve with a nice chilled bottle of white wine or champagne.

            Easiest thing in the world to make and nothing says love more than lobster.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Db Cooper

              nothing says love more than lobster.
              ~~~~~~~~~~
              unless the one you love has a shellfish allergy ;)

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                we live in boston. if i served my b/f lobster tails, instead of the whole local bug, he'd think i have stopped loving him.

                carbonara is heavy and messy to eat.

                why not start with some pate (you can buy this), or bacon-wrapped dates. those can be in the oven and wafting yummy bacony aromas throughout the house when he gets home. deviled eggs are quick little munches too. i make fancier ones with truffle oil and my b/f just loves 'em.

                lamb chops cook super quick and marinated the night before are dreamy and too spendy for everyday.

                if you have access to excellent seafood (like i do), scallops, shrimp (maine shrimp are in season right now) or a gorgeous piece of fish all cook quickly too.

                roasted asparagus or green beans on the side. they can be par-cooked ahead and then finished under the broiler.

            2. what are some of his favorite dishes? anyone can default to the standard champagne, lobster & caviar - IMO it's a more romantic and meaningful gesture if there's some personalized thought behind it.

              1. Are you open to cooking earlier in the evening and having something simmering on the stove when he gets home, or is labor-intensive prep just not your thing?

                3 Replies
                1. re: jvanderh

                  I'm happy to cook in advance. I would have about 2 1/2 hours between the time I get home and the time he gets in.

                  1. re: bblonde

                    nothing says romance to me more than french food. I'm a sucker for gougeres, so I always suggest them to start a romantic dinner. Then what about boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin, it can simmer for a while. A frisee salad with lardons, some excellent bread and a bottle of wine. Chocolate and/or cheese to complete the meal.

                    1. re: charlesbois

                      Those both sound good. It might be nice for him to come home to good smells, and nice for both of you to have dinner ready and most of the cleanup done before it gets late. I sometimes do a cubed lamb and sherry stew with thyme. In any case, you could brown the meat and saute the aromatics when you get home, and just let it simmer for a couple hours. I second the good bread- hit up a bakery for something cut-your-mouth crusty to provide a nice textural contrast.

                2. My man is a trucker and is only home about 3 hours a night before having to go back out so my situation is similar to yours. I'm thinking of making a seafood paella for my entree with salmon, rockfish, shrimp, scallops & mussels (if I can get them). I have rockfish carcasses & shrimp shells in the freezer so they'll be used for stock. On the side, fresh herbed green beans cooked in veg stock & white wine & tossed with caramelized onions.

                  We'll start with a salad of mesclun or other mixed lettuces and roasted pears, which will be served in a frico basket and topped with toasted almonds & oven dried serrano ham chips. A vinaigrette with the juices of the roasted pears & champagne vinegar to accompany.

                  Dessert is leaning toward petit fours with white cake & raspberry filling/white chocolate glaze. That's the plan, so the stock for the entree, the caramelized onions, the ham chips and the petit fours will be made the day before.

                  1. What about something like spaghetti carbonara or mussels steamed in white wine? I'm always shocked at how fast pasta carbonara comes together, and it's fancy-seeming.

                    I actually wrote a blog post with easy, cheap Valentine's Day dinner ideas, hope it helps: http://www.cheapism.com/blog/1909/val...

                    Also, there's always a good steak. What about filet mignon with oven roasted veggies?

                    1. I am planning on doing an all fondue dinner -- normally I would do it in 3 courses: cheese, beef, and chocolate, but I am going to do the cheese & beef as a single course, followed by chocolate. A lot can be done ahead - I cubed the beef, separated my eggs (for Bearnaise sauce), and made a 1-layer cake yesterday; will grate the cheese, chop the chocolate, and cube the bread & cake tonight. I estimate that it shouldn't take more than 30 minutes or so to make the cheese, chocolate & Bearnaise sauces, heat some oil for the beef, slice some apples for dipping in the cheese sauce, and make a salad to serve on the side.

                      1. I would do a braise like Swiss steak or sunday gravy. That way if he is an hour late, it won't really matter. Have rice for under the Swiss steak or pasta for under the gravy, a salad, french bread and wine.

                        A nice chocolate dessert would put it over the top.

                        1. I concur with Hank concerning Swiss steak. It smells wonderful and so very welcoming when one walks through the front door - it is very homey. Here is my recipe for Swiss steak along with Baked Carrots. The meal is perfect for serving at an unsure time. If you don't consider it romantic enough, I encourage you to prepare at another time.

                          THE BEST EVER SWISS STEAK

                          1/2 cup flour

                          1 teaspoon salt

                          1/2 teaspoon pepper

                          1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

                          2 pounds round steak, tenderized

                          3 tablespoons cooking oil

                          1 clove garlic, minced or pressed

                          2 cups chopped green pepper

                          1 cup chopped celery

                          1 cup chopped onion

                          2 14-1/2 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained

                          1 beef bouillon cube (I like to use Better Than Bouillon)

                          1 cup boiling water

                          1 tablespoon soy sauce

                          1 teaspoon salt

                          1/4 teaspoon pepper

                          1/4 cup cold water

                          2 tablespoons flour

                          In large plastic bag, combine 1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt. Cut round steak into serving size pieces. Place in bag with flour and coat very well. Heat oil in Dutch oven; put the flour left from coating the meat into the boil, add meat and brown. Add garlic, green pepper, celery, and onion; cook and stir for 10 minutes. Dilute the beef bouillon cube in 1 cup boiling water. Add undrained canned diced tomatoes, diluted bouillon, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and place on a top burner. In a small bowl, combine water and 2 tablespoons flour; stir into juices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.

                          BAKED CARROTS

                          1 pound carrots cut into sticks*

                          1 bunch green onions with tops, chopped

                          1 cup boiling water

                          1 chicken bouillon cube (I like to use Better Than Bouillon)

                          Dilute chicken bouillon cube in the 1 cup boiling water. Place carrot sticks and chopped green onions in an ungreased 1-quart casserole dish. Pour bouillon over all. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

                          *You can also use a 1-pound bag of baby carrots to save time.

                          If preparing to serve with Swiss steak, put in oven along with the Swiss steak during the last hour of baking.

                          Serve with The Best Swiss Steak Ever, mashed potatoes, salad, and biscuits.

                          1. Since of the Tuesday VD this year, I did my fancy pants dinner for my boyfriend this past Saturday night. I made Ina Gartens baked shrimp scampi (which I had not made before but heard good things) and it was excellent. But the best part was that I could assemble it all in advance & just popped it in the oven for 10 minutes & 5 under the broiler. I cooked some bucatinni pasta while it baked & served it over that. The house smelled wonderful & it looked beautiful and tasted even better. I tweaked a little....less butter, more wine, no rosemary, lots of pecorino. I served a simple salad before while the scampi baked. Super easy. Get really big shrimp so it looks extravagant.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: sparkareno

                              My hubby is out of town all week. This is what I'm going to make for us when he comes home Friday:

                              Lobster and Shrimp Pasta w/Sherry Tomato Cream

                              Prep time: 15 min. Total time: 45 min.

                              4 oz. favorite dried short pasta, such as penne
                              2 T. butter
                              2 lobster tails(about 5oz. each) in shells
                              6 large shrimp in shells
                              1 shallot, peeled, chopped
                              2 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
                              1/4 pound sliced mushrooms
                              1/2 cup thinlysliced red bell pepper
                              Good pinch of crushed red pepper
                              14 cup dry sherry
                              1/3 cup chicken broth
                              1/2 cup crushed canned tomatoes
                              12 cup heavy whipping cream
                              2 T shredded Parmasean
                              Chopped parsley for garnish

                              Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, drain pasta and set aside.
                              In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add the obster tails and cook just until spots on their shells start to turn red, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add shrimp and cover, reduce the heat to low and cook about 5 min. Remove the lobster and shrimp from the skillet. When cool, remove lobster meat from shell and cut into large chunks. Remove shrimp from shells and leave whole.
                              Meanwhile, in the same skillet, add the shallot and garlic, saute 2 min. Add the mushrooms, pepper and pepper flakes. Saute about 5 min. or until mushrooms release their juices.
                              Deglaze the skillet with the sherry. Add the chicken broth and tomatoes and heat gently. Stir in the cream and cheese and heat through. If the sauce is too thick, thin with some of the reserved pasta water. Add the lobster, shrimp and cooked pasta and heat through. Transfer to individual serving bowls and garnice with parsley. Serve immediately.

                              1. re: sparkareno

                                +1, Sparkareno, you read my mind! For dessert, bake some chocolate chip cookies, they smell soooooo good! And, have some ice cream.

                              2. bblond, what did you end up making for your man?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Rheta

                                  Plans were so up in the air that we decided to have dinner and theater out on Friday and I made a "fireplace picnic" consisting of Italian heros (pepperoni, salami, ham, pepperocini, provolone), chips, pesto-tortellini salad with my homemade pesto and grape tomatoes. Instead of having a fancy dessert made up, because he was getting in late, I planned to make cake balls with his daughter (which is also why I went with easy dinner). We had a BLAST putting those together and decorating them and I could not have given dbf a better gift than walking through the door to a happy daughter (and gf!).

                                2. I'm all about good cheeses, good wine and good desserts! And it's also a light dinner, which is always nice! I already made Valentine's Day Beet Cupcakes this year and they were so good!