Plan Ahead for Dinner on Valentine’s Day

For Valentine’s Day this year, plan a special dinner for the family or a romantic dinner for two. Most of the recipes can be prepared ahead and reheated for enjoying a relaxing evening at home. Appetizers can be simple from a wedge of cheese with crackers or a make ahead bruschetta appetizer with crispy crostini. Pictured are two bruschetta toppings, tomato and lemony hummus. PHOTO BY ANN CIPPERLY


On Valentine’s Day, express love with a nourishing home-cooked meal. Plan on preparing the meal a day or two ahead in order to have a relaxing evening. Set the table the night before with your best dishes. Whether you are making a romantic dinner for two or a special meal for the entire family, it will be a wonderful way to say “I love you.”

Historians believe that Valentine’s Day originated in ancient Rome, and the custom of exchanging valentines evolved over centuries from several ancient customs. Valentine’s Day has been linked to St. Valentine, “Valentinus,” an ancient priest who was executed for aiding Christians. While in prison, he became friends with the jailer’s blind daughter and restored her sight. He wrote a farewell note to her, signing it “from your Valentine.” He was executed Feb. 14, 270 A.D.

If you don’t have reservations at your favorite restaurant by now, they are probably already booked for Valentine’s Day. While it is nice to dine out, in many ways a homemade meal can be appreciated more. Set an attractive table with candlelight and play your favorite music softly in the background. If it is dinner for two and you have a fireplace, set a card table in front of a roaring fire and turn the lights down low.

Shrimp-stuffed chicken breasts with shrimp sauce is an elegant dish that has been a family favorite for many years. While this recipe does take a good amount of time, it can be prepared in stages. Sometimes I just prepare the Shrimp sauce with mushrooms and serve it over puff pastry shells, rice or pasta, which still makes a yummy meal.

Shrimp is a good choice for a special occasion. Shrimp and grits are popular and often on restaurant menus. It is easy to make at home and serve with smoked gouda or cheddar grits. To enhance a creamy mac and cheese for something special, add shrimp before baking.

If steak is a favorite, check Jennifers Collins’ recipe for honey bourbon steak tips. For a tasty, but more budget-friendly, dish — the steak or ground beef stroganoff is quick and easy to prepare. It can be made ahead and reheated or quickly assembled after work.

Chocolate-covered strawberries are always popular for Valentine’s Day, and they are easy to make. You don’t need a pastry bag to decorate the strawberries. Simply melt white or dark chocolate in the microwave. Place the melted chocolate in a plastic bag and cut the end off one corner, then quickly drizzle over chocolate-dipped berries.

On Valentine’s Day, take time to do something extra for those you love. As tantalizing aromas drift throughout the house, it will be a pleasing reminder of the succulent supper being prepared for a blissful evening by the warming fire or in the dining room with glowing candles.

Along with your family, don’t forget to share your homemade treats with an elderly neighbor, shut-in or someone in a nursing home who would appreciate being remembered. Take your children or grandchildren to deliver a Valentine’s treat to them at an early age the joy of sharing with others.

Honey Bourbon Steak Tips

Jennifer Collins

1/3 cup honey

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup bourbon

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 lb. steak (ribeye, sirloin or filet) cut into chunks

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

3 Tbsp. butter, divided

16-oz. pkg. fresh mushrooms cut in quarters

In medium bowl, whisk together honey, brown sugar, bourbon, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes and garlic. Pour into large zip top bag; add steak and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.

Heat vegetable oil and 2 Tbsp. butter in a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add steak to pan; you will probably want to cook it in two batches as to not crowd the pan. Cook meat until seared on all sides. Remove meat from pan.

Add remaining butter and cook mushrooms until browned, then serve along with steak tips.

Steak or Ground Beef Stroganoff

1 onion, chopped

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. good ground beef or top sirloin, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups beef broth

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

½ cup sour cream

Cooked noodles or pasta

Parsley to garnish, optional

In a skillet, sauté onion and mushrooms in olive oil. Add steak strips or ground beef and cook until brown; remove from heat and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt butter and stir in flour until well blended. Slowly add broth, stirring constantly until thickened. Stir in mustard and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour sauce over ground beef in skillet and stir in to blend. When hot, stir in sour cream. Serve over noodles or pasta and garnish with parsley, if desired.

Fricassee of Chicken Breasts with Tarragon

Lucy Whatley

6 boneless chicken breasts

1 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper

¼ cup butter, divided

3 Tbsp. minced shallots or onions

½ cup dry white wine

1 ½ tsp. dried or 1Tbsp. fresh tarragon

¾ cup chicken broth

½ cup heavy cream

Dredge chicken in flour. Save remaining flour. Heat 2 Tbsp. butter in skillet; brown chicken on both sides. Keep warm.

Add shallots to pan; sauté briefly and add wine. Cook liquid over high heat until nearly evaporated. Add 3 Tbsp. flour; stir to make thick paste.

Add tarragon and chicken broth; stir until smooth. Place chicken back in pan. Cook 20-25 minutes or until tender. Transfer chicken to platter.

Add remaining 2 Tbsp. butter and cream to skillet. Heat, stirring, and season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over chicken. Garnish and serve.

Shrimp and Smoked Gouda or Cheddar Grits

Melissa Sanders Scott


1 quart chicken stock

2 cups stone ground grits

1 cup heavy cream (possibly more)

1 stick butter

1/2 lb. shredded smoked gouda or cheddar

Boil stock, then add grits. Keep stirring and reduce; simmer 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding cream as needed. Add butter and cheese towards end. Very important to stir throughout!


8 strips bacon, diced

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 Tbsp. minced shallot

3 Tbsp. butter

White wine

1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp

1 sliced portabella mushroom

1/4 cup diced scallions

2 cup fresh spinach

2 cup heavy cream

While grits are cooking, prepare shrimp. Cool bacon until grease starts releasing, then add garlic and shallots. Cook for a few minutes and add butter and splash of wine. Add shrimp, mushrooms, scallions and spinach. Sauté until spinach has wilted.

Add heavy cream and reduce. Add salt and pepper.

Spoon shrimp mixture on grits and serve.

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Creamy Dijon Sauce

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4 slices thinly sliced ham or prosciutto

4 slices Swiss cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

1/3-1/2 cup all-purpose flour for coating

2 eggs, beaten

1 ½ cups breadcrumbs or panko crumbs

Creamy Dijon Sauce:

1 Tbsp. butter

1 shallots or small onion, finely diced

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

½ cup dry white wine or chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pound chicken breasts about ½ inch thick. Place slice of ham and cheese on each breast. Fold chicken around ham and cheese, adding a toothpick to secure. Season with salt and pepper.

Roll chicken in flour, then dip in beaten egg and cover with breadcrumbs. Place in baking pan, Bake for one hour or until thoroughly cooked. Serve chicken rolls sliced with Creamy Dijon Sauce.

Make sauce in a saucepan. Melt butter and sauté shallot or onion until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring, until thicken.

Shrimp-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Shrimp Sauce

One of my children’s favorite dishes. Sometimes I just make the Shrimp Sauce and serve it over puff pastry shells, rice or pasta.

6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

¼ cup flour

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. white or black pepper

3 cups dry bread cubes (white bread without crust)

1 medium onion, minced

1 stalk celery, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 Tbsp. butter

½ lb. raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped

Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper

½ cup or more liquid: chicken broth and white wine

Juice of half a lemon

6 Tbsp. butter, melted

Pound chicken breasts flat. Combine flour, salt and pepper; dip chicken in mixture. Season shrimp with salt, pepper and cayenne: set aside.

Sauté onion, celery and garlic in 8 Tbsp. butter until wilted; add shrimp and cook about 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and add bread cubes, liquid and lemon juice – enough for a moist stuffing.

Divide stuffing between chicken breasts. Roll up envelope style. Dip them in 6 Tbsp. melted butter, and place seam side down in a baking dish. Refrigerate for several hours. May be prepared in morning to serve that night or prepare night before for a luncheon. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes at 325 degrees. Do not over bake.

To serve, place on platter and cover with Shrimp Sauce.

Shrimp Sauce:

½ lb. fresh mushrooms

1 to 1 ½ pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

¼ cup minced onion

8 Tbsp. butter

4 Tbsp. flour

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste

Season shrimp with salt, pepper and cayenne; set aside. Lightly sauté mushrooms and onions in butter; cover and cook for three to four minutes.

Add seasoned shrimp and cook two to three minutes more. Stir in flour and cook a few minutes. Add heavy cream and sour cream and heat slowly, stirring constantly. Do not boil. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

Creamy Gruyere Macaroni and Cheese

Martha Hicks

For an extra special dish, add one to two pounds medium cooked shrimp with the macaroni.

8 oz. elbow macaroni

4 Tbsp. butter, plus butter to grease casserole dish

5 Tbsp. sifted flour

1/2 tsp. salt

Pepper to taste, use white if the black flecks bother you

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup half and half

1/4 cup white wine

2 cups grated gruyere cheese

3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, preferably Vermont cheddar

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 – 1/2 cup lightly sautéed green onions or 2 to 3 small shallots

1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a deep 13 by 9 inch or slightly larger casserole dish.

Cook elbow macaroni la dente according to directions on box.

To make cream sauce, melt butter, add sifted flour, salt and pepper to make a roux. Whisk constantly as pouring in milk and half and half. Whisk slowly until sauce begins to gently bubbles around edge and is thickened. Cook about two more minutes, continuing to whisk gently to ensure the flour is fully cooked.

Add cheeses and white wine. Remove from heat. If sauce is too thick, add more half and half.

Fold in cooked macaroni and green onions. Taste to see if more salt is needed.

Put in greased casserole dish and top with panko crumbs, if desired. Bake 2 to -30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

Bruschetta Appetizers

Prepare the crostini and toppings ahead of time.

If you have a small heart cookie cutter, cut out bread in heart shapes for Valentine’s Day.


1 baguette, sliced

Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Brush both sides of bread with olive oil and bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly toasted. Store in air-tight container until ready to serve.

Tomato Topping:

2 pints cherry, grape or artisan tomatoes

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

½ tsp. dried basil or 5 fresh basil leaves, sliced, optional

Salt and pepper to taste

Quarter or chop tomatoes. Combine all ingredients; toss gently. Store in refrigerator.

Lemony Hummus:

16 oz. can chick peas. drained and rinsed

1/3 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. minced garlic

½ tsp. ground cumin, optional

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, optional

Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend to a smooth consistency. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Best if made the night before.

Green Salad with Pears, Goat Cheese and Candied Walnuts

Candied Walnuts:

2 Tbsp. butter

½ cup chopped walnuts

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

Vinaigrette Dressing:

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 ½ Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 ½ Tbsp. honey

½ to 1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 tsp. salt and pepper

½ cup olive oil


Mixed salad greens

1 or 2 pears or apples, sliced

3 to 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

To make candied walnuts, melt butter in a saucepan and add the walnuts and brown sugar. Sauté until the nuts begin to soften. Remove from the pan to cool.

For dressing, combine vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic, salt and pepper on a small bowl and whisk to blend well. Slowly add olive oil while whisking. Store in refrigerator.

To assemble salad, tear lettuce in bite size pieces and place in large bowl. Add walnuts, sliced pears and cheese; toss. Add desired amount of dressing and toss again or serve on the side.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Always a hit for Valentine’s Day

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate or white chocolate chips

3 Tbsp. heavy cream

12 long-stemmed strawberries

Extra chocolate for drizzling, optional

Place the chocolate and cream together in a bowl over simmering water until just melted. Stir and remove from the heat. Dip each strawberry in the chocolate and place on waxed or parchment paper to set. To set quicker, place in refrigerator.

To decorate, melt semi-sweet or white chocolate in microwave and place in a plastic bag. Cut the end of one corner and drizzle over dipped strawberries.

Cherry-Topped Cheesecake

Marian Scharpf


¼ cup butter

1¾ cup graham cracker crumbs

¼ finely chopped pecans

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 Tbsp. water

Mix crumbs, pecans and cinnamon. Cut in butter and add water. Pat into a 10-inch spring form pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.


Two 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. almond extract

½ tsp. salt

3 cups sour cream

Beat all together until smooth. Pour over baked crust and bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees. When cool, add topping and chill.


1 can cherry pie filling

¼ tsp. almond extract

Combine together.

Beef Bourguignon

Serve with noodles or mashed potatoes

3 pounds stew beef

All-purpose flour



Olive oil

4 cloves garlic

3 onions, quartered

1 small can tomato paste

2 cans soup condensed beef broth

2 cups dry red wine

1/4 cup parsley

1 tsp. thyme

3 Tbsp. butter

1 lb. mushrooms, sliced

In a large heavy skillet, cover bottom of pan with oil. Combine flour, salt and pepper. Dredge cubed beef into the flour mixture; brown in the oil. Place browned meat in a deep casserole dish. Pour excess oil from pan; pour in 1/2 cup water and stir until browned particles are loosened; pour over meat.

In the same skillet, add 2 Tbsp. more olive oil, stir in onions and garlic until lightly browned; pour over meat. Stir tomato paste into beef broth, add parsley and thyme; pour over meat. Add wine and stir. Cover casserole and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 3 hours.

Melt butter in skillet; add mushrooms, cooking until lightly browned. Add to the beef mixture and bake for an hour or until beef is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Can be made a day or two ahead and may be frozen.


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