It’s almost Valentine’s Day and, like me, you may be scrambling a bit for the perfect gift. Your significant other, like mine, may be one of those “you don’t have to get me anything” people, which of course is no help at all. Plus, some people don’t like chocolate, so cliché Valentine’s Day gifts are out of the question. But don’t panic! A nice home-cooked meal is one of the most underrated and romantic gifts you can give.
Valentine’s Day, let me help you out with some recipes and tips. The trick is to focus on one part of the meal—be it the entrée, the dessert, or even the drinks—and then follow short and simple recipes for the other components of the meal. That way, you have time to prepare multiple elaborate courses and you’ll basically trick your partner into thinking you’re a professional chef. Just make sure they do their share by taking care of the dishes.Your S.O. will appreciate the effort you put in, and you guys will save so much money by having your fancy candlelit dinner in the comfort of your own home. If you’re considering cooking for your significant other this
Menu #1: That’s Amore
I would like to shamelessly dedicate this first meal to my boyfriend, who could eat any of this stuff 90 times a day. But I can’t really fault him; he’s got great taste in food. For this meal, the entrée is the star, so it’ll take up most of your time. But I promise you that you will still have time (and room) for the side and dessert that follow.
Entrée: Chicken Parmesan
There is something so classic and tasteful about chicken parm. It’s not terribly hard to make, it’s perfectly cheesy, and you can experiment with your own favorite flavors in your sauce. But, since you do have an entire meal to prepare, let’s not get carried away. This recipe for chicken parmesan should only take you anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour to prepare, and the sauce is easy to whip up! Get our Chicken Parmesan recipe.
Pair with: A red wine, obviously.
Chicken parm is a hefty, filling dish. Plus, it’s packed with tomato sauce. A scoop of pasta is the perfect complement to chicken parm, and angel hair works best because it’s so delicate and lends itself to a lighter, less filling sauce—like garlic and butter. And this side just sounds like something you’d see on the menu at a fancy restaurant on Valentine’s Day! But it’s not complex; the recipe (via thestayathomechef.com) takes all of ten minutes to make. Remember, it’s Valentine’s Day, so don’t be stingy with the parmesan cheese on top. Get the Angel Hair Pasta with Brown Butter Garlic Sauce recipe.
Dessert: Make Your Own Milkshake Bar
Remember how I said I was dedicating this meal to my boyfriend? I have literally seen that guy down a milkshake faster than I can take one tequila shot. But he’s onto something here; after this meal, you won’t really have room for much else, so a shared milkshake may very well be the best way to go! Plus it’s a really cute thing to do together. (An ice cream sundae is also more than acceptable.)
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Add some retro flavor to your ice cream bar.
For this one, you have complete control. For example, my boyfriend loves strawberry shakes, so I’d make sure to have strawberry ice cream and strawberry syrup on hand. If your partner is a chocolate person, stock up on chocolate syrup, Oreos, and sprinkles. Don’t forget whipped cream and a cherry! For tips on getting the perfect creamy milkshake, watch this video. The last thing you want is to finish your meal with a watery shake.
Menu #2: Make ‘Em Melt
This time around, we’re focusing on a decadent and more time-consuming dessert, so you’ll need a lighter dinner that cooks fast. Don’t think for a second we’re sacrificing taste for time, though. This entire meal is super flavorful, and you won’t be forgetting it any time soon.
Entrée: Fast Lemon-Parsley Shrimp Pasta
I mean, this has “fast” right in the name. Pasta and shrimp are two of the quickest things to cook—so it’s convenient for us that they taste great together! You’ll need 30 minutes, tops, to get this done, and your S.O. will have no idea because they’ll be so impressed with how fancy and flavorful this dish is. The lemon and shrimp go great together, and the parmesan cheese and parsley on top make it even better. Get our Fast Lemon-Parsley Shrimp Pasta recipe.
Pair with: While gin and even whiskey would go great with everything in this meal, I think your best bet is a nice bubbly Champagne.
Side Dish: Garlic Bread
Again, we really want room for dessert with this meal, so we need a side dish that isn’t too over the top. Garlic bread is seriously addicting, and the parsley really ties it in with the pasta. Also, it’s great for dipping into any more lemony sauce you may have at the bottom of your bowl. If you so desire, I strongly suggest melting some mozzarella cheese on top of the bread. Get our Garlic Bread recipe.
Dessert: Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes
I told you the dessert would be the highlight of this meal. Seriously, how impressed would your partner be if you put their own individual lava cake right in front of them? This recipe takes about an hour, but it’s so worth it. And it’s served with raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream, which make it all the more perfect for Valentine’s Day. Don’t worry—you totally don’t have to make anything but the cake from scratch; your S.O. will be surprised enough that you even know what raspberry coulis is. Get our Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes recipe.
Menu #3: Classically Chic
This is a bigger dinner with a light and sweet dessert. I’d say you’ll focus on the entrée, sides, and dessert pretty equally, but you can’t really have any one without the others!
Entrée: Steak with Garlic Butter
Giving the gift of a steak dinner is a guaranteed success. And this recipe (via damndelicious.net) is flavorful, hearty, and promises the perfect steak! Don’t think the garlic butter is married to it, though, because it would also taste delicious on literally everything else. Get the Steak with Garlic Butter recipe.
Side Dish: Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
This would be a great side dish for most meals, but what’s a steak dinner without potatoes? The buttermilk in this recipe really takes it up a notch—your potatoes will be thick and creamy, and you and your date will be full to the brim! Get our Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes recipe.
Dessert: Crème Brulée
If you’re going to make this, plan accordingly! You’re going to need to let these sit overnight, so this is not something you can whip up when your S.O. texts you that they’re on their way. That said, crème brulée is what you get for dessert when you don’t think you have room for dessert. Eating it also always makes me feel super fancy. Follow our recipe, and make sure you’ve got some fresh raspberries to sprinkle on top. This will finish off your steak dinner perfectly. Get our Crème Brulée recipe.
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Serve your Valentine's Day dinner on elegant flatware.
Menu #4: Vegan Valentine’s
You don’t think I forgot about all the vegans out there, do you? If you’re not a vegan, but your partner is, I promise you I’ve selected recipes that will be just as delicious and satisfying for you too! The dessert will take the most time, but is so worth it.
I am such a sucker for sweet potatoes. I think they go with everything, so the fact that a sweet potato is the center of this whole entrée (via thehealthytart.com) is like a dream come true. The chickpeas, beans, spices, and homemade avocado sauce are healthy, flavorful, and filling. Forget Valentine’s Day—I’m making this one for myself! Get the Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Avocado Sauce recipe.
Pair with: I know most vodkas are vegan (don’t ask how), so keep this meal fresh with my favorite drink: a vodka seltzer with the tiniest bit of lime juice!
Side Dish: Corn, Cucumber, and Avocado Salad
Bring out the avocado flavor in your entrée with this light, fresh side salad (via imperfectlybalancedsara.com). The lime juice and dill on top really join all these flavors together in a way you and your S.O. will love. Get the Corn, Cucumber, and Avocado Salad recipe.
Dessert: Almond Caramel Vegan “Cheesecake”
Like the crème brulée, this one calls for a lot of prep time, so plan accordingly! Who says vegans can’t enjoy a cheesecake? This elaborate recipe (via cocooncooks.com) takes you step by step through the crust and cake, so you can do this. The cheesecake is actually an almond cinnamon cashew cream. Combined with an almond crust and homemade date caramel, this is going to be a big hit (and sure, make it for Easter too!). Get the Almond Caramel Vegan “Cheesecake” recipe.
If you prefer to make a morning treat, check out our Valentine’s breakfast in bed menu ideas. Get even more sweet recipes, tips, and tricks at our Valentine’s Day headquarters, including great last-minute Valentine’s Day gift ideas.
Related Video: Pucker Up for a Valentine’s Day Cocktail with Kombucha