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, 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 has a lot of origin stories, but Greece definitely had an influence. 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 a French menu from a fancy dinner party if you want to take a look at that instead.
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!