The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


February 12, 2014

Cheryle Finley: Make reservations for romantic meal in your dining room

So, for Valentine’s Day, instead of making reservations at a restaurant, how about staying home and cooking dinner? With a few tips from, 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.

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