If we had talked about celebrating Valentine’s Day in 2019, I would have advised you to skip making a restaurant reservation between February 13th and February 15th. Ask any chef or restaurant employee and they’ll tell you the same thing - Valentine’s Day is wild; extra tables are packed in; the menus are limited; folks are stressed; it’s not a chef’s favorite day to eat out.
This Valentine’s Day you’ll be at home (again) but finally, this is a day that doesn’t have to be diminished. I’m excited to share with you a chef’s Valentine’s Day tips!
Plan for the Night
Couples with Kids, Option 1
Got kids in the mix? Let’s fold them in! Everyone chooses a favorite menu item and incorporate that into the meal that you can eat together. Example, my daughter loves bacon, my son loves Hawaiian Rolls, my husband loves big salads, and I love brownies. We’ll have a colorful salad to start, and perhaps bacon wrapped chicken with Hawaiian rolls. Brownies and vanilla ice cream for dessert!
Couples with Kids, Option 2
Got kids in the mix? Let’s ditch them! Feed the kids separately and plan a meal for your and your partner. This might mean putting on a movie or having your date night meal later than normal, but it’s worth it for some time together that feels special.
Many restaurants are struggling after the year we just had, so ordering in would be a wonderful option to support a restaurant you love or one you’ve been wanting to try. Menus are likely posted and packages will be available even from some restaurants that wouldn’t normally offer meals to go. At home, make it special by setting the table, buying flowers, turn on fun music, and make sure everyone clears their schedule. Take time to reheat and assemble the to-go food in the kitchen - don’t just plunk down containers like a normal night - so that it feels like a restaurant experience.
Partners Who Aren’t The Cook
Is this you? Does your partner cook more than 75% of the time for you? This is your YEAR! Whether you want to try your hand at a simple recipe or plan the to-go food, tell your hardworking, food preparing, lovely partner that they have the night off and not to do anything. You should plan, grocery shop, buy flowers or chocolate, set the table, cook or order, pick up, plate, and serve the food. And yes, you should clean up too. I promise this is the best gift ever anytime but after a year of Covid, this gift will really shine.
Galentine’s Day Zoom!
I miss my friends. Tell your partner that you need a few hours on Feb 13th and schedule a virtual wine and DIY manicure evening with your friend group. Get yourself some cookies or a cheese plate, and sit somewhere quiet. Try to pretend your friends are all in the room!
Menu and Food Ideas
Don’t Forget Dessert!
Valentine’s Day is practically synonymous with chocolate. A “regular Sunday” dinner can become special with a grand final course. Some of my favorites are brownie ice cream sundaes, apple galette, berries with dark chocolate curls, cupcakes, roasted fruit crisp or cobbler, or pick up from a local bakery!
Serve an appetizer!
I’m guessing most of you, like me, do not serve appetizers or courses on an average dinner at home. Try starting your special meal with a beautiful salad or cheese plate. If you set it out first and separate from the meal, it gives you another restaurant style touch but isn’t complicated to pull off. Other appetizer ideas that I love are: hummus bruschetta with cucumbers and feta, pot stickers, an amazing baguette with salted butter and roasted garlic, buffalo chicken wings, raw veggie platter with dip, a small bowl of your favorite soup.
If you have a busy day planned or feel stressed about cooking, assemble dinner the day before and simply reheat on Valentine’s Day! Delicious and festive ideas for prep-ahead dinners are: baked pasta casserole or lasagna, spanakopita, stew or curry reheated and served over rice, shepherd’s pie, enchilada bake, something in your Instant Pot that can be turned on and prepped the day before.
February 14th is a Sunday this year, so consider celebrating in the mid-morning. Eggs benedict, waffles, quiche, coffeecake, pancakes, yogurt parfaits, or huevos rancheros would all be delicious ways to start the day on a special note.
Feature One Special Ingredient
If you don’t often eat seafood (crab anyone?), or multistep vegetarian meals, or salmon, etc. Consider making a special menu around an ingredient you keep thinking would be fun to cook with, but you never really get around to executing.
Keep Waste In Check
Whatever you cook on Valentine’s Day and however you choose to celebrate, write out your menu in advance. Take a moment to compile your recipes and ingredients, and before shopping, compare the list to what you have on hand so you don’t over purchase.
If you have leftovers from your party, don’t forget to store them well by separating items into well sealed containers. Make a plan to enjoy your leftovers in the following days so nothing goes to waste! If you aren’t a huge fan of leftovers, you can reinvent the dishes to look new. For example - did you have roast chicken and cauliflower on the 14th? Add black beans, cheese, and sauce, and roll those leftovers up into enchiladas!
Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you and yours find a little extra love this year. We all deserve it.
Visit Ends + Stems for more meal planning tools, recipes, and inspiration to reduce wasted food in your kitchen.