Love comes in so many flavors. And one couple’s idea of a romantic dinner would be another couple’s idea of boring.
So we put our heads (and hearts) together and came up with a list of ideas, from breakfast to dessert, simple dinners and quick cocktails. There’s something here for every cooking style. It should be easy to find something to love. Kathleen Purvis and Andrea Weigl
Prosciutto rolls: Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Unroll 1 (8-ounce) package crescent roll dough and separate into triangles. Top each with a thin slice of prosciutto. Combine 1 tablespoon each honey and Dijon mustard. Brush on ham. Roll up jelly-roll style. Place on baking sheet and brush with a little more honey mustard. Bake 12 minutes at 375 degrees.
Baked Eggs in Ham Cups: Sauté 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms in 1 tablespoon butter. Press a thin slice of Virginia or Black Forest ham into each of 4 oiled muffin cups with edges sticking up. Pile mushrooms into cups and crack an egg into each one. Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees until whites are cooked. Carefully remove from muffin cups.
Nutella French Toast: Whisk together 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk and 1 tablespoon sugar. Spread Nutella and 2 teaspoons raspberry jam on 2 slices French bread and top with 2 more slices. Dip in batter on both sides. Fry in 2 tablespoons melted butter. Serve with warm maple syrup.
Prosciutto, Pear & Goat Cheese Bites: Fry 6 thin prosciutto slices in a skillet over medium heat. When crisp, transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate. Top each with a thin slice of pear, a dollop of goat cheese and a drizzle of honey.
Shrimp and Snow Pea Skewers: Sauté 1/2 pound deveined shrimp in 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat. When cooked, remove shrimp to a bowl. Blanch 1/4 pound snow peas in a boiling water for 2 minutes and then place peas in an ice water bath. Whisk together 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 3/4 cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over shrimp. Stir to coat. Wrap a snow pea around each shrimp and secure with a toothpick.
Smoked Salmon Spread: Combine 2 ounces smoked salmon, 2 teaspoons heavy cream and 4 ounces cream cheese in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Add 1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed, juice of half a lemon, and salt and pepper. Process until mixed. Pack into a small crock and chill. Serve with pita or flatbread quarters.
Red Pepper Bruschetta: Toast thin slices of good French bread, brushed with olive oil. Forgo the tomatoes since they aren’t in season. Instead, make a roasted red pepper tapenade. Chop 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers. Toss with 1 tablespoon capers, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon onto the toasts.
Lobster Mac & Cheese: Cook 8 ounces elbow macaroni and broil one lobster tail. Whisk 1/4 cup flour into 4 tablespoons melted butter. Whisk in 2 cups half-and-half, then 3 cups shredded cheese (mix of Gruyere and cheddar) until smooth. Stir in drained macaroni, diced lobster and salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to taste. Pile in a buttered baking dish and top with buttered bread crumbs. Bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees.
Warm Chicken Salad With Bacon Vinaigrette: Divide 3 cups salad mix on 2 plates. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet. Cook 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts 6 minutes per side. Set aside. Fry 2 slices bacon; set aside. Add 1 diced shallot to drippings, sauté briefly and stir in 2 tablespoons each red wine vinegar and chicken broth, 2 teaspoons each maple syrup and Dijon. Sauté briefly. Slice chicken and place on greens with crumbled bacon. Drizzle with warm dressing.
Penne Ala Vodka: Sauté 1 tablespoon diced onion and 2 cloves minced garlic in 1 tablespoon butter. Add 1/2 cup vodka and boil to reduce by half. Add 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes. Cook briefly. Stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream. Bring to a boil and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Toss with cooked penne.
Phyllo-Wrapped Tilapia With Pesto: Cut 2 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets into two pieces each. Top one piece with 1 tablespoon pesto and top with the second piece. Melt together 2 tablespoons butter and vegetable oil. Brush and layer 3 sheets of phyllo. Top with fish. Fold phyllo over fish and roll up. Brush with butter. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees.
Crab and Coconut Soup: Dice white sections of 3 green onions; dice green tops and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large, heavy saucepan. Add white sections of green onion and sauté briefly. Add 1 can coconut milk, 1 cup cream and 1 cup chicken broth and heat through. Stir in 1 pound crab meat. Heat briefly. Sprinkle with green onion tops and serve with lime wedges.
Margarita Chicken: Combine 4 bone-in chicken thighs, 1/3 cup tequila, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice and 1/2 cup minced cilantro in a large resealable bag. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours. Place in baking dish. Roast 45 minutes. Serve with yellow rice and black beans.
Beer Fondue: Rub a saucepan with a clove of garlic. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and whisk in 3 tablespoons flour. Whisk in 8 ounces beer, then gradually stir in 3 1/2 cups shredded cheese (Gruyere or Emmental and cheddar) and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard. Transfer to a fondue pot and serve with diced baguette, chunks of ham or salami and cooked baby potatoes.
Citrus Salad With Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing: Peel 2 oranges, 1 grapefruit and 1 lime. Cut away segments over a bowl to catch juice. Add 1 diced shallot. Whisk together 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons sour cream, 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds. Toss with citrus and shallot.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts With Pecans: Trim bottoms from Brussels sprouts, then slice each one thinly. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet. Add Brussels sprouts and sauté 2 or 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Stir in 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar and sauté briefly. Sprinkle with toasted, chopped pecans.
Red Velvet Truffles: Melt 8 ounces semisweet chocolate and beat with 4 ounces cream cheese, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice and 2 teaspoons red food coloring. Refrigerate until firm. Shape into small balls. Melt 8 ounces semisweet chocolate and 2 teaspoons shortening. Dip truffles into melted chocolate.
Condensed-Milk Ice Cream: Whisk together 2 tablespoons each instant coffee powder and liqueur (such as Tia Maria, Kahlua or amaretto) and 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk. Whip 2 cups cream until it holds soft peaks. Fold in. Spread in a loaf pan and freeze overnight.
Orange Yogurt Cupcakes: Beat 1 (15.25-ounce) box white cake mix with 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt and 1 cup orange juice. Bake in lined cupcake pans according to package directions. Beat 3 tablespoons softened butter with 3 1/2 to 4 cups confectioners sugar and 4 to 6 tablespoons orange juice. Frost cupcakes.
Mini Ice Box Cakes: Use extra-crisp chocolate chip cookies (such as Tate’s Bake Shop or Trader Joe’s Highbrow Cookies). Beat 1 cup heavy cream with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder. Place a cookie on parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread with cream, top with a cookie, more cream, a third cookie and cream. Refrigerate overnight.
Raspberry Chocolate Parfait for 2: Toss 1/2 cup fresh raspberries with a little Chambord liqueur. Crumble 2 bakery brownies and soften a pint of chocolate ice cream. Layer berries, brownie crumbs and ice cream in two dessert glasses. Top with whipped cream.
Cake With Heart: Bake a cake using 1 round and 1 square baking pan. Cut the round cake in half and place each half against one side of the square cake to form a heart shape. Coat with ganache: Melt 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate with 1 cup heavy cream and 1 tablespoon rum; cool about 30 minutes and pour over cake. Decorate with conversation hearts or other small candies.
Tropical Mimosas: Pick a vivid flavor of sorbet, such as blood orange or passion fruit. Microwave 1/2 cup until just melted. Pour 2 tablespoons into each flute. Top with chilled prosecco.
Chocolate Margaritas: Combine 1 cup chocolate milk, 2 ounces tequila and 1 ounce strawberry syrup over ice in a shaker. Shake well and divide between 2 cocktail glasses. Garnish each with a strawberry.
Drink and Drive Sham-pagne: Combine 1 cup each chilled club soda and ginger ale and sweeten with 2 tablespoons white grape juice. Serve in a champagne flute.
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