Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and as couples around the world make reservations at their favorite romantic eateries, you may be at home chomping on your nails over how to pull off your very own Cupid’s dinner.
But never fear: Our Live Clean recipe trio is here.
The Easy-Impress Basics
Even a master chef needs to keep an eye on what’s to come. Familiarizing yourself with ingredients and utensil needs now can help prevent a disaster later, so double-check what your recipes are asking for and make as many lists as needed.
Practice Makes Perfect
Worried about pulling off an awe-inspiring dinner? Try making it ahead of time to work out any unexpected kinks. A practice run will lessen the chances of improvisation gone awry and the extra stress that unforeseen roadblocks can bring.
Image is Everything
Any dish can taste great, but if it looks like more like mush than Marsala, no one is going to want to take the first bite. Presentation is principle, so make an extra effort when arranging dishes and practice accenting with garnishes.
Got all that? Great, let’s get down to business.
The Awesome Appetizer
Butternut Squash Bruschetta with Pomegranate
From Bon Appetit
Valentine’s Day may come and go, but your tummy still needs food. With this appetizer, you’ll be left with more squash topping than you need and that’s great because it makes a perfect addition to your favorite salads. The major boon of this recipe is that it’s multipurpose and multiuse—what’s easy now will be delicious later. Fresh and fruity is on its way.
Makes 2 Servings
• 2 tablespoons almonds
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• (1) 2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
• 4 sage sprigs
• 4 thyme sprigs
• Kosher salt
• 1 cup red wine vinegar
• ½ cup sugar
• Olive oil (for drizzling)
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 4 slices country-style bread, toasted
• 2 ounces farmer cheese, crumbled
• ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Toast almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown and fragrant, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop. Increase oven temperature to 400°.
2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash, sage, and thyme; season with salt. Cook, tossing occasionally, until squash is lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to oven and roast, shaking skillet occasionally, until squash is tender, 15–20 minutes. Remove sage and thyme; discard thyme and reserve sage for serving.
3. Meanwhile, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and simmer until syrupy, 10–15 minutes; keep agrodolce warm.
4. Mash roasted squash with 2 Tbsp. agrodolce, using the side of a metal spoon. Drizzle with oil; season with salt and pepper. Spoon squash onto toast; top with farmer cheese, pomegranate seeds, almonds and reserved sage.
Tip: Agrodolce can be made 5 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature. Reheat over low before using.
The Meat and (No) Potatoes
Steak with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce
Facile can be fancy. This recipe’s long(ish) list of ingredients can be intimidating, but there’s really nothing to it. Just cut/trim the vegetables as suggested and all that prep time will pay off when you can show off your culinary skills and (fingers crossed) impress the apple of your eye.
Get your chef’s knife and cutting board ready.
Makes 6 servings
• 6 skirt steaks, 4 ounces each
• Vegetable oil cooking spray
• 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• ½ pound French or regular carrots
• ¼ pound baby summer squash, halved
• ¼ pound pearl onions, peeled and halved
• ¼ pound Brussel sprouts, halved
• 8 ounces cremini mushrooms
• 4 ounces Portobello mushrooms
• 4 ounces button mushrooms
• 1 medium white onion, diced
• 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
• ⅓ cup Cabernet Sauvignon
• 24 ounces low-sodium beef broth
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch
• 2 ounces tomato paste
• 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1. Season steaks with salt and black pepper.
2. On a grill pan coated with cooking spray, cook steaks over medium-high heat, turning once, until pink inside, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat and cover with foil.
3. In a bowl, toss carrots, squash, pearl onions and sprouts in ½ tablespoon oil.
4. Over medium heat, in batches and turning once, cook until soft and seared, 6 minutes.
5. In a large pan over medium heat, heat remaining 1 ½ tablespoons oil.
6. Slice mushrooms; to pan, add mushrooms, white onion and garlic; cook until onion browns, 5 to 7 minutes. Add wine and simmer 3 to 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. In a bowl, dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon cold water. Reduce heat and slowly add cornstarch mixture to broth mixture, stirring constantly, until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add tomato paste, Italian seasoning and salt and black pepper; simmer 7 to 10 minutes.
7. Slice steak, top with mushroom sauce; serve alongside vegetables.
The Secret Weapon
Slow-Cooker Sour Cream Cheesecake
From Food and Wine
Roses are red and violets are very good, but many would say Valentine’s Day is all about the sweets. No one will argue that, amongst sweets, cheesecake reins king. Crumbly graham cracker and cream cheesy goodness is paramount when trying to impress that special someone.
The best part? This cheesecake is slow cooker-friendly. In fact, the long cook time and resultant steam yields a cake that is especially silken and smooth, bar none. But you have to resist the urge to peep because the heat must be retained for the steam to work its wonder.
Let’s get started.
• ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
• 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
• ⅔ cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
• 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
• 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
• 2 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
• 1 cup sour cream
1. In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of the sugar and a pinch of salt. Press the crumbs over the bottom and 1 inch up the side of a 6-inch spring form pan that’s 3 inches deep.
2. In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the cream cheese with the flour, the remaining ⅔ cup of sugar and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Beat at medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs and the almond extract. Beat at medium speed until blended. Add the sour cream and beat until smooth. Pour the batter into the spring form pan.
3. Fill a 6 to 7 quart round or oval slow cooker with ½ inch of water and position a rack in the bottom. Set the cheesecake on the rack. Cover the slow cooker with a triple layer of paper towels and the lid. Turn the cooker to high and cook for 2 hours without peeking. Turn off the heat and let stand until the slow cooker has cooled, 1 hour.
4. Remove the lid and the paper towels and transfer the cheesecake to a rack to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.
5. Heat a sharp, thin-bladed knife under hot water; dry the knife. Carefully run the knife around the edge of the cheesecake. Release the spring and lift the cheesecake out of the mold. Cut into wedges and serve.
So there you have it: A savory and fresh appetizer, a fancy steak entrée and a cheesecake to knock out your date (without knocking yourself out). We compiled this terrific trio was so you can show just how much you care. Valentine’s Day comes down to making someone special, feel special and making a 3-course meal from scratch is a fail-proof way to anyone’s heart.
Happy cooking and have a Happy Valentine’s day!