If I were asked to choose between venturing out to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day or heading to the dentist for a root canal, I might need to flip a coin. (OK, not really—but you know what I mean.) Some people love that special-occasion excursion, and more power to them—it’s just not my thing. The idea of fighting crowds of couples for space in a swanky restaurant, just to blow the budget on a four-course meal (that wasn’t that awesome, anyway) is, frankly, unappealing. Especially when I can make something so much better at home.
Recreating restaurant-menu faves, like tender baked salmon or gourmet salted cupcakes, is actually pretty easy—it just takes a little advance thought. So for your meal-planning inspiration, I’m bringing you a few of my (and my husband’s) faves for our annual V-Day in. Put the kids to bed a little early, if you can. Spread out a pretty tablecloth and light a few candles, if you like. Make this your tradition, too!
Tiramisu Hearts: I wouldn’t blame you for eating dessert first on this one, particularly if you’re a coffee fan. (Guilty as charged.) Mixing strong coffee with sweetened cream cheese gets you that iconic tiramisu taste, and a few presses with a heart-shape cookie cutter makes this dessert restaurant-gorgeous. And since throwing out perfectly good tiramisu is a CRIME (a felony, I think), just do what I do: Toss leftover trimmed pieces in a bowl with fresh berries and serve ‘em up trifle-style the next day.
Oven-Roasted Salmon for Two: This buttery crumb-topped salmon dish is MADE for cozy Valentine’s Day meals in—right down to its just-us-two serving size. The flaky fish, garlicky noodles and crisp-tender broccoli spears combine in blissful flavor and texture harmony. We’re talking love at first bite.
Easy Chicken Parmesan: Especially if I’m making a Valentine’s Day dessert that’s a little labor-intensive, I lean on entrées that look and taste special-occasion-worthy but that feature a hidden shortcut or two—like this quick, no-fry chicken Parmesan. By baking the chicken in sauce rather than breading and frying, you end up with flavor-infused chicken ready in a fraction of the time of traditional versions…and it’s better-for-you, too!
Creamy Beef Stroganoff: I sometimes think my husband’s first love was beef…so if there’s ever a day to indulge his preference, it would be V-Day! And with this sirloin-packed skillet, that’s easy to do. Browning the mushrooms and beef takes all of 10 minutes, and cooking the noodles to tender perfection takes another 10. Stir in some sour cream, heat it up and dish it out—and accept a glowing compliment or two. (You totally earned it.)
Cordon Bleu Chicken Casserole: Think of this dish as an inside-out version of your favorite chicken cordon bleu…only far, far easier to make. As in, 15-minutes-of-hands-on-time easy. Seriously, just layer chicken breasts, ham, Swiss cheese and veggies, then smother that goodness with a zesty sour cream sauce and add crushed croutons. You and your sweetie will be eating in 40 minutes. You’re welcome.
Chocolate Salted-Caramel Cupcakes: And if you weren’t instantly smitten with those tiramisu hearts up at the top (or if you’re just more of a chocolate lover—believe me, I get it!), there are these bites of deep, dark deliciousness. And as if the pudding-infused cake, creamy frosting and crunchy sea salt weren’t enticement enough, each cupcake is filled with caramel ice cream topping. No lie.
Want more inspiration? We’ve got you covered—just check out our Valentine’s Day menu ideas.