Four Valentine’s Day Dinners to be Avoided at All Costs
Valentine’s Day is this week, and love is in the air. For a lot of people that means breaking out the Olive Garden gift cards or booking a reservation at that swanky new restaurant downtown; but for those who have decided to be extra romantic by taking the cooking into their own hands, here’s a list of a few “red flag” meals that all of us would-be Lotharios should steer away from, as well as a few suggestions on how to turn them into something workable. So please—IN THE NAME OF LOVE—read carefully.
The “Slacker” meal.
Ex. Kraft mac & cheese with potted meat chunks, and microwave broccoli over a bed of Uncle Ben’s white. Garnish with questionable parsley sprig.
Don’t get us wrong. There’s absolutely no shame in keeping it simple and easy. That being said, there are plenty of ways to prepare a nice romantic meal with minimal effort that won’t leave your sweetheart feeling like they raided a college kid’s dorm and stole all their beer munchies.
Whether you’re pressed for time or just suffer from general laziness (in which case you might want to consider the restaurant option) when looking for an easy, but still special meal, we recommend a bit of indulgence. Valentine’s Day is a celebration, after all.
Think creamy, buttery, chocolatey. Starches are a great option and easy to put together. Be it your classic spaghetti carbonara, baked stuffed shells, macaroni with homemade cheese sauce. Every single aspect of the meal doesn’t need to be produced from scratch. Aim for semi-homemade with a few tweaks here and there to keep it personal.
Pair your indulgent starch with a decent bottle of wine (or a cheap one poured into an empty ‘decent wine’ bottle…we won’t tell) and an easy, chocolatey dessert and you have a recipe for romantic success.
The “Aiming Too High” meal.
Ex. Beef wellington with caviar, escargot, chocolate lava cake, Dom Perignon and brie cheese with a side of ratatouille and roasted stingray.
Sure, you want your sweetie to be impressed. You want to show that you’re willing to put forth some effort to make him/her something nice. That’s all fine and well, but sometimes we reach too far, and in these instances, you can quickly wind up in over your head.
The goal should be to prepare a nice meal WITHIN YOUR WHEELHOUSE, not to tear your hair out for 6 hours in the kitchen, performing countless Google searches on “how to shuck oysters” or “is poached fish supposed to turn green” while your date (who decided to show up early, of course) sits in the living room scrolling their newsfeed, wondering if you’re always this darn boring.
Instead of spending your entire night and half of yesterday (not to mention half your paycheck) preparing an exotic meal fit for the Royal Family, stick to proteins and starches that you’re familiar and comfortable with. Steak and potato, chicken and rice, etc.
Simple meals can easily be elevated in any amount of interesting ways. It doesn’t take much to turn a grilled fillet and a baked potato into a Peppercorn Crusted Fillet with Lemon Aioli and Hassleback Potato, or fish and rice into Honey Dijon Glazed Salmon with Rice Pilaf and Roasted Asparagus.
You will always have better luck taking familiar ingredients and doing the best you can with them as opposed to rolling the dice with strange fare just because some silly internet blog told you that roasted stingray is a potent aphrodisiac.
The “Are You Saying I’m Fat?” meal.
Ex. Zucchini noodles with low-fat red sauce, cinnamon tofu puree, rice cakes for dessert.
Trying to eat responsibly and manage your weight is a noble crusade, to be sure. When cooking for a romantic interest, though, the last thing you want to do is give them the impression that you feel like THEY could afford to shed a few pounds. For this reason, it’s smart to avoid making a meal consisting solely of what people commonly think of as “diet foods”.
Just because you’re not using low cal clichés doesn’t mean you have to whip up an ultra-rich Eggs Benedict with a side of bacon. There are a huge variety of low cal dishes with good nutritional value that aren’t nearly as obvious as raw spinach and sugar free granola. Almost any lean protein—be it shrimp, chicken breast fillet, strip steak, pork tenderloin, etc.—can lend itself to a healthy, delicious, seemingly decadent meal.
Vegetarian? No problem. Something like stuffed portabellas or butternut squash lasagna will look and taste amazing in the candlelight.
The “Where’s the Toilet Paper?” meal.
Ex. Bean and cheese burrito with extra jalapenos and spicy guacamole.
If you happen to know your date is a bit of a thrill seeker, it’s natural to want to show that you also have an edge and are game for getting a little wild. A lot of people, in such a case, would think SPICY, SPICY, SPICY. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s important to be sure you don’t go too far. Remember that—even if you can prove yourself up to the challenge at dinner—if things go well, the date will continue on for several hours after the meal, and if that happens you want yourself and your date to be comfortable.
In these situations, we tend to trust the old adage: “Make love, not war…on your bathroom”. Try for something spicy but not necessarily deadly. Granted everybody’s palette is different, a good rule of thumb we’ve found is that just enough heat that you can feel it on the back of your tongue is usually perfectly tolerable for the general public. A garnish of fresh Thai chilies may be over the top, but a curry laced with a 1/8th tsp of cayenne may be just right.
There you have it. Avoid these pitfalls and follow our tips, and you’ll be well on your way to cooking up the perfect Valentine’s Day.