Saturday, February 13, 2010

Be My Valentine

The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they're right if you love to be with them all of the time. -- Julia Child

Valentine's day is approaching, and that means candlelit dinners out or perhaps in -- lots of champagne, chocolates, and the like. Chris and I have had some really wonderful dinners out and also some fabulous dinners in (one year, he cooked for me). While it is fun to go out, it's nice sometimes to just stay home. My suggestion if you don't feel like going out is to put a blanket on the living room floor in front of the fireplace (if you have one) and have an indoor picnic.

You can order in, or go and buy a bunch of your favorite snacks, pour some wine and bubbly and just enjoy your time together.

Some of my favorite picnic fare:

- Assorted cheeses (I recently discovered aged Gouda -- which is to die for) and crackers/crostinis (you can make your own by slicing bread into small ovals, brushing with olive oil and baking until toasted. I like to add garlic and/or herbs to my olive oil, but even just plain is fine.)
- Grapes and apple slices
- Olives -- get a variety of kinds. My favorite at the moment is a Mediterranean mix with lemon and garlic marinade
- Dried fruit and almonds -- mix them together in a bowl for a sweet and salty snack
- Hummus and pita chips (you can make your own by doing the same thing above for bread, with pitas)
- Antipasto (Put some lettuce on a plate and cover with some nice italian cheeses and meats, roasted peppers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, drizzle with balsamic vinegar)
- Assorted salads from the deli (potato, sesame noodles, black bean, etc. -- or make your own
-Mini sandwiches (make mini chicken parm sliders or mozzarella, basil and tomato)
- Mini tacos (I make my own tortillas and cut with biscuit cutter into small circles and then fill with a mixture of black beans, corn, cilantro, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, and ancho chili paste -- but you could do the same thing with store-bought tortillas and cut them into small circles and fill with your favorite fillings. Fold into tacos and bake in the oven until lightly browned -- turning once or twice to keep the tacos from unfolding.
- For dessert, make your own chocolate bark: Melt a bar of nice chocolate and a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips by stirring in a bowl over a pot of boiling water until it starts to get shiny. Move away from the pot and then place with a spatula onto tin foil (I usually just put tin foil over my cutting board) in a layer -- not too thin, and should be in a square-type shape. Top with toasted nuts (almonds work great), toasted coconut, and dried fruit and sprinkle with coarse sea salt-- or, you can even use candied ginger or sprinkles, etc.) Put in the fridge for at least an hour, until set. Take out of the fridge, and chop into nice-sized pieces and remove from the tin foil. Enjoy, or put in a tin/container to store until use.

Or, you could always do Fondue (Fun-due!) Do one for cheese and one for chocolate -- cut up grilled cheese and ham sandwiches, asparagus, tomatoes, steak, etc. for the cheese, and then apples, strawberries, bananas, oranges, pound cake, and brownies for the chocolate. Yum.

No matter what you end up doing for dinner -- have a Happy Valentine's Day Feast!




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