Rock a 3 course valentine's day dinner

How to Rock a Three Course Valentine’s Day Dinner

Valentine’s Day dinner. Ug, am I right? Like I need another special meal to plan in between the cleaning, working, and baby-watching. I suppose I could be like most normal people I know and go out on the town. But it’s not exactly romantic when I have to drag my toddler along, especially considering he’s incapable of sitting down. Does anyone else have that problem? I’m not sure why my husband and I even try to go out anymore. We can’t talk to each other because one of us is always walking around the restaurant following our son. We do occasionally have a baby-sitter, but my parents have been happily married for three hundred years and it’s also my mom’s birthday, so they’re out for this one.

I’m left with two choices. Either I cook, or I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day at all. That actually doesn’t sound so terrible, but my husband does like to acknowledge the holiday even though we don’t do gifts. So, cooking it is. Some of you may think I should have the hubby cook. No. You come eat his cooking sometime and then see how you feel about that. More power to you if you’re in a couple where you both cook. It sounds amazing. Anyway, without further ado, here’s my plan to fix a three course Valentine’s Day dinner without wasting all day in the kitchen.

Plan your Valentine’s Day Dinner Ahead

I would love if I always had everything I needed in my refrigerator, but it’s a rare rare day when that happens. I go through phases where I meal plan a week at a time, with some great advice, but I can’t keep up with myself during tax season. There could be anything in my fridge right now. Or nothing, which is probably more likely. This means for a three course meal I really need to come up with a plan ahead of time. Then I can grocery shop in advance, not have to run to the store later, and know exactly how much time I need to carve out of my day.

Pick a Cohesive Menu

Do you like Italian? Greek? Want to recreate some meal you and your lover had all those years ago? Pick one and go with it. The last thing you need is to have to come up with some sort of palate cleanser in between the important stuff. I’m going Greek this year because I need to practice a baklava recipe. Yes, I know baklava is originally from Turkey. That doesn’t mean they don’t make it in Greece. Anyway, that’s not the point. I want to practice this recipe, and my husband loves Greek gyros, so that’s the direction I’m going. Last year we had Italian if I remember correctly, and I also seriously considered French, but we’ll take it one year at a time.

I do have one caveat for your cohesive menu – the emergency cheese. What? You’ve never had to invest in an emergency cheese? Well, you should get used to the idea. It’s great. I know I’m going to do my best to plan everything and have a fixed schedule. I also know that’s not going to happen, because, life. That’s why I like to buy a good block of cheese when I’m doing my special occasion shopping. For my husband, only Gouda will do, so that’s what I get. Once I get backed up, which I inevitably will, he can munch on that with some apples. It also works as a first course appetizer or a dessert cheese plate if you really get behind. Wah lah! Emergency cheese.

Make Ahead Dessert

Dessert is the last course of the day, but I think it’s a great idea to make it the first course you cook. I’m going to make mine Thursday night after the kid goes to sleep. That way I know it’s done. Here’s a quick list of make-ahead desserts, but I’m sure Pinterest will show you a thousand more ideas if you can’t find one to fit your theme. Some desserts, like cheesecake, actually taste better to me after a day of sitting around, and it will allow you a little more time to do something fancy if you like. Plus, it’s the last course of your Valentine’s Day dinner so if you’re too tired to cook anymore, it doesn’t matter. Even something like creme brulee, which sounds really difficult but isn’t, can mostly be done ahead, then crisped up at the last second.

Easy but Elegant Salad

Anyone can dump a package of salad in a bowl. In fact, if that’s what you want to do, I’m not going to stop you. But, salads can also be really beautiful and elegant without a lot of work. When they’re not the main course, you usually don’t have to worry about getting a lot of protein in there, and that saves you cooking time. I think the last time I did a French salad the most difficult thing I did was toast some walnuts and dump in pre-crumbled goat cheese. Here’s another good list. If you’re following along my Greek menu, I’ll be doing your basic Greek salad by picking up a bunch of ingredients at the grocery store antipasti bar. They let everything swim in oil, so I probably won’t even have a dressing. I’ll throw my antipasti in a bowl with some lettuce and mix. So easy!

Spend your time on the Main Dish

You have to make a main dish, right? The emergency cheese just can’t replace your main course, no matter how much you want it to. If you’re going to get crazy, this is the place to do it, although I wouldn’t necessarily advise it. Does your theme have a slow cooker meal you could try? That’d save some time. You might not have to cook anything by the time Valentine’s Day dinner starts! I will be making gyro meat and tzatziki sauce. Is this complicated? Yes. I’m not going to pretend it’s not. But, I can do it in phases, like sauce in the morning, meat mixing afternoon, cooking it while I mix the salad. If I could ever find a good tzatziki, I would buy it and save myself the trouble, so please feel free to make recommendations. I do like cooking the meat though.

Whether you’re spending a lot of time on the main dish at night or in the morning, I would still aim for something really tasty. This actually is a special occasion. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t go through all the trouble. As for a side dish, that’s totally up to you. I’m going to buy pitas to serve our meal as a sandwich, but other dishes might necessitate something more. Pasta’s fine on it’s own. A piece of chicken or steak might require a vegetable or something though. In that case I’d suggest steaming a vegetable, or maybe throwing a baked potato in the oven when the cheese comes out. Those are both super easy options that won’t distract you from the other stuff. Alright, readers. Go out and put together a fabulous three course Valentine’s Day dinner!

MORGANS

Interchangeable Holiday Charger Plates

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I’ve been working on an idea for interchangeable holiday charger plates. Charger plates in general are kind of weird, aren’t they? They’re plates, but you don’t use them for food. Sometimes they just sit underneath other plates, being mostly useless. Yet, for some reason, my eye is still drawn to them. I will admit I like a nicely set table. It brings out the food. I was thinking about buying some for Thanksgiving, but I couldn’t really find any I liked. I did love some of the Christmas plates on Etsy, but I didn’t feel like spending the money. Then I really thought about it, and I didn’t want to store a whole bunch of holiday plates anyway. This is where the interchangeable part came in.

My mom used to do a lot of tole painting when I was younger. That’s basically painting on wood, if you aren’t familiar. She doesn’t anymore, but a good portion of her holiday decorations are homemade. She has one that stays out all year. It’s a bear that hangs on the wall, and he changes his clothes for the holidays and different seasons. That’s my inspiration. A plate that changes clothes. This is not necessarily related, but my neighbor does this with pallets. Where does she put them?! Anyway, these plates are still a prototype, because I don’t have time to make them perfect, but so far I’m liking the idea.

How to Make Interchangeable Holiday Charger Plates

What You Need

Gathering supplies for interchangeable holiday charger plates

Charger Plates (As many as you want for your table, or just one for decor)
Fabric Quarters for Whatever Holidays you choose
Scissors
A marker (try to keep it lighter than the fabric so it doesn’t bleed)
Magnet Tape or Velcro
Super Glue and/or Fabric glue

For the charger plates, I went gold, but obviously you can pick whatever you want. I got a set of 4 from Amazon around $16. I know you can get them at Target or The Dollar store cheaper. But readers, I’m not worried about $10. I’m worried about 10 minutes, which is what it will take me to drive to one of those places, plus shopping, plus driving back. So choose your battles I guess.  As for the fabric, I again went with a time saving option. I’d originally planned on picking holiday-themed fabric, but when I got to JoAnn’s (yes, I actually went there) there was a huge line to get things cut. So I just picked up the right colors and went home.

What to Do

This project takes about the same amount of time as watching a quarter of football. That is give or take another quarter, because my son and dogs kept stealing my materials so I couldn’t properly time myself. Do you see why I’m always in a frenzy? Anyway, it could take longer if you are going for perfection. I was not. If I wanted perfection, I’d have to move out.

Step 1

Choose some shapes for each holiday. I did three: a leaf for Thanksgiving, a tree for Christmas, and a heart for Valentine’s Day. You can find some images on your computer or pick up die-cuts or something. I free-handed them though, because, you know, time.

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All you have to do is fold up your fabric quarter into quarters and draw the shape on. What was really cool about the plates I got is they had a little square outlined in the middle, so I had a pretty good idea of what size to make them so each holiday was similar. Staple your folded quarters together around the drawing if you want more control. Then cut all of them at once.

Step 2

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Now you have a whole bunch of little shapes, right? From here it’s time to figure out what size magnet or Velcro you need. I went with magnets because I thought they’d be thinner, but after putting a plate on top of the finished charger, I think Velcro would be fine too. Or, you know, whatever you have around the house.  You’re going to want to have two strips of magnet, one for the top and one for the bottom of each cutout. Now, your cutouts aren’t going to be the same size, so you can’t just measure one and call it good. I wound up having a little tiny piece and one longer piece, but that longer piece is the bottom for the tree and the top for the other two. Luckily plates are round so it really doesn’t matter.

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Step 3

Magnet tape is sticky on one side (as is Velcro), but the sticky part isn’t really meant for fabric, so I’d consider some fabric or super glue to keep the plates and fabric in place. It’s just easier than having to be careful every single time you switch out one of your cutouts. It should go without saying, but don’t glue the magnet side. Just slap those nicely glued magnets on there and you’re good to go! Interchangeable holiday charger plates in no time at all! Of course, if you’re less frenzied than I am, you can take your time and make them much nicer. But, I showed mine to a few people and they all agreed they were cute.  That’s really all we need, right?

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