So, for Valentine’s Day, instead of making reservations at a restaurant, how about staying home and cooking dinner? With a few tips from yahoo.com, it’s easy to make any meal special.
Dress up the table with a pretty tablecloth and napkins. If you have good china, this is the time to put it on the table. A vase of flowers makes a nice centerpiece, as does a simple candy dish filled with chocolate. Candles also work well as a centerpiece, but there’s one thing to remember when choosing them: You don’t want the candle scent to compete with the delicious smell of the food you are serving. Sometimes the mixing of two nice fragrances makes for one stinky scent.
If your lighting can be adjusted to a soft glow, it’s perfect for a romantic dinner. If your lights don’t have a dimmer switch, consider removing a bulb or two, or change them out for lower wattage bulbs. A lamp with a pretty scarf thrown over it sets the mood by darkening the room and adding a little color. Finally, add some background music to create the perfect ambiance. Choose a slow, easy tune as opposed to the latest hip-hop.
It’s as easy to dress up the food as it is the atmosphere. Deviled eggs? Fill the whites by using a cake decorator, or put the mixed-up yolks in a plastic sandwich bag, cut off a little bit of one corner and make a swirly masterpiece. Sprinkle a little paprika or some parsley flakes and you just dressed up that egg. A baked chicken breast is fine for dinner, but how about pounding it out and wrapping it around some asparagus before baking? Top it with some roasted red pepper slices, and it’s beyond pretty. Take mashed potatoes and form them into individual mounds, then bake them and you have volcano potatoes. Again, a little sprinkling of paprika dresses up this dish.
Desserts such as cookies, cakes and brownies can be made into heart shapes, and cupcakes can be topped with Valentine’s Day candy for a simple yet appropriate statement. Pink frosting and red sprinkles say Valentine’s Day, and heart-shaped cut-outs leave little doubt as to the celebration.
Valentine’s Day might not be the best time to try out new recipes, but if you are fixing a tried-and-true favorite, why not put a new spin on the presentation? Dress it up a little bit, or serve it differently for a change. Whatever you serve, make it easy on yourself so you can enjoy the evening. Whether you are eating out or dining in, I hope that your Valentine’s Day dinner is memorable.
Thank you to Hank Rotten Jr. for letting me crash his KSN remote last week at Braum’s on Range Line. Watching him make a breakfast burrito was a highlight. Since Hank and Braum’s are two of my favorites, it was a great way to start the day. Even if Hank isn’t there, it’s a good idea to stop by and check out the fresh market at Braum’s. You won’t find a better head of lettuce, fresher milk or a nicer selection of meat than on their shelves. They’re not just an ice cream store, that’s for sure.
A belated happy birthday to Mable Beatty, of Lamar. I won’t say her age, but I’ll tell you that the day The Beatles played on “Ed Sullivan,” she was celebrating her 37th birthday. Happy birthday this week to those Valentine’s Day babies, including my nephew, Billy Joslen, and my aunt, Ruth Johnston.
If you plan on making appetizers for your Valentine’s Day dinner, I offer this orange-glazed smokies recipe from Taste of Home. So easy and perfect, and it’s made ahead in the slow cooker. Also from Taste of Home comes an Italian chicken roll-up dish that offers a nice surprise when you cut into. It doesn’t take very long to fix. I think chocolate is the perfect ending to Valentine’s Day, and fondue is the ultimate chocolate offering. There are microwave and stovetop directions for this one. Don’t steer clear of it just because you don’t have a fondue pot. Pour the sauce in a bowl for serving, and it will stay warm long enough to enjoy. The perfect dipper? Strawberries, of course. This recipe is from “Hershey’s 3 Books in 1: Sweet Treats Cookbook.” Happy Valentine’s Day and happy eating.
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1⁄4 cup thawed orange juice concentrate
2 tablespoons mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 (16-ounce) package mini-smoked sausages
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine all ingredients except sausages. Add the sausages and stir to coat. Cover and microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes or until bubbly, stirring every minute. Yields about 48 smokies.
Italian chicken roll-ups
8 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
8 thin slices deli ham
4 slices provolone cheese, halved
2⁄3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1⁄2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1⁄4 cup minced fresh parsley
1⁄2 cup milk
Flatten chicken to 1⁄4-inch thickness. Place a slice of ham and half a slice of cheese on each piece of chicken. Roll up from the short side and tuck ends in; secure with a toothpick. In a shallow bowl, combine crumbs, grated cheese and parsley. Pour milk into another bowl. Dip chicken in milk then roll in crumb mixture. Place roll-ups, seam side down, on a greased baking sheet. Spritz chicken with cooking spray. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until meat is no longer pink at 425 degrees. Remove toothpicks before serving. Yields 8 servings.
Special dark fudge fondue
2 cups (12 ounces) special dark chocolate chips
1⁄2 cup light cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Assorted fondue dippers: marshmallows, cherries, grapes, mandarin orange segments, pineapple chunks, strawberries, cake or brownie pieces
Place chocolate chips and cream in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on 50 percent power for 1 minute or just until chips are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred. Stir in vanilla. Pour into fondue pot or chafing dish and serve warm. If mixture thickens, stir in additional cream 1 tablespoon at a time.
Stovetop directions: Combine chips and cream in heavy medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until chips are melted and mixture is hot. Stir in vanilla and serve warm. Makes 11⁄2 cups.
Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.