Valentine's Day Special

Ah…amour. What could be more romantic than making your loved one a beautiful meal from scratch?

Making one together! This Valentine's Day, I challenge couples out there to spend the day together and make meal preparation part of the fun. The recipe ideas presented in this article are simple, yet elegant. I've also included some neat gift ideas and thoughts on how to spend some of your time. Just click on any of the highlighted words below to find more information or print it out to have a complete copy to carry with you. Enjoy!

The Perfect Gift (Page 2)

A Book of Love Letters
The Valentine's Tree
A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

A Romantic Dinner Menu (Page 3)

Chicken with Cherry Sauce
Wild Rice
Green Beans
Caraway Rolls
Rum-Sauced Bananas

What to Do (Page 4)

Moonlight Ride
A Ballroom of Your Own

A Book of Love Letters

If you're the kind of person who takes great pains to present your beloved with cards, letters, and special notes, Valentine's Day can give you the opportunity to present them with flair. Giving a scrapbook filled with those tender mementos of your love is not only sentimental, it's smart. If you use plastic photo corners (such those manufactured by Fiskars), your partner will be able to remove a card or letter, read over it, and replace it without any worries. If your collection of such items hasn't had a lot of time to grow, place a couple of "starters" in the album and include a new card with some heartfelt words in it.

Choosing an appropriate scrapbook should truly be a labor of love. You can buy a simple album from a department store and decorate it with your love's favorite things. If money is tight, a binder with colored paper can do wonders if properly decorated. For those with the desire and ability, there are many shops that specialize in photo albums and scrapbooks. Find what's right for your special someone and fill it with memories. Make sure you leave room for new ones!

The Valentine's Tree

For the unique person in your life, a Valentine's tree could present a new surprise. This is an idea that I got from my mother. Both she and my father kept many of the valentines they exchanged when they were young. One year, my mother made a special effort to keep our Christmas tree fresh well past Christmas (we always had a real one). When Valentine's Day approached, we replaced the ornaments and multi-colored lights with strings of white and red lights and carefully chosen valentines that she had been keeping. It sounds like a funny idea, but the tree really was beautiful. In a day and age when many people have artificial trees, I would think this gift could become more common!

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words
Almost everyone has gathered together photographs that capture precious moments in their lives. Why not take advantage of it? Putting together a special album filled with memorable photos can be fun and rewarding, especially when you do it for someone you love.

Of course, you should include photos of you as a couple, but don't forget the power that a forgotten picture from childhood has. If you feel very creative, you can arrange the photos so that they tell a story. Make sure it's a happy one! And remember to leave a little room for new photographs.

Chicken with Cherry Sauce

This tender chicken is smothered in a sweet, warm sauce that is beautifully complimented by wild rice, buttered green beans, and your favorite red wine.

  • 1 - 8 3/4 oz. can pitted dark cherries
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon
  • dash pepper
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 8 oz. total)
  • 1 T. cooking oil

Drain the cherries, reserving 1/3 c. of the juice. Place the juice in a 1/2 c. measuring cup and fill with water until filled. Combine cherry juice mixture, green onion, cornstarch, bouillon, and pepper. Set mixture and cherries aside.

Lightly season the chicken with salt and pepper. Then pound with the flat side of a meat mallet to 1/4 inch thickness. In a large skillet, cook the chicken in hot oil over medium heat for 6-8 minutes or until it is tender and no longer pink. Transfer the chicken to individual plates and keep warm.

Stir the sauce and add to the skillet. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 minute more. Add cherries and heat through.

To serve, spoon some of the sauce over the chicken.

  • Serves: 2
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Caraway Rolls

These crusty dinner rolls are easy to make because they let you use a muffin pan to get a nice shape consistently. Start these rolls first, as they require a bit rising time.
  • 3/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 1/2 c. low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/8 c. water
  • 1/2 T. sugar
  • 1 T. caraway seed
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg white
  • Nonstick spray coating

Combine 1/2 c. of the flour and the yeast in a small mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, heat and mix the cottage cheese, water, sugar, caraway seed, and salt until warm. Add to flour mixture along with the egg white.

Beat the mixture with an electric mixer on low speed for about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl as you do so. Then beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Add the remaining flour and beat on low speed for 2 minutes or until the mixture is almost smooth.

Cover the batter and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles (about 45 minutes). Stir batter down with a wooden spoon and let it rest for 5 minutes. Spray 6 muffin cups with nonstick spray. Spoon the batter evenly into the cups. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the batter rise until it's nearly double (about 30 minutes).

Bake the rolls in a 375 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.

  • Makes: 6 rolls
  • Preparation Time: 2 hours

Rum-Sauced Bananas

This rich sauce is wonderful over a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream. It also shimmers nicely in candlelight (hint-hint).
  • 1/8 c. apple juice
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. margarine
  • dash ground nutmeg
  • 1 large banana, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 T. rum
  • 1/2 c. vanilla ice cream

Combine apple juice, brown sugar, margarine, and nutmeg in a 1-quart microwave-safe casserole. Micro-cook, uncovered, on high for 1 minute. Add bananas, tossing to coat. Cook on high for 1 1/2 minutes or until bananas are heated through. Spoon sauce over bananas again.

Pour the rum over the bananas in the casserole. Carefully ignite with a long match. Serve the mixture over ice cream.

  • Serves: 2
  • Preparation Time: 8 minutes
Moonlight Ride

Depending on where you live, a sleigh ride could be a great way to end a romantic day with your beloved. Whether it be through the woods in a hay wagon or through the city streets in a sharp horse-drawn cart, snuggling up with the one you love is the most important ingredient in this special delivery idea.

Because this is an unusual idea, you might want to do a little advance planning for this one. Look in your local phone book or ask around at local eateries to find such services or, if you're lucky, a local romantic who happens to own some horses and a sleigh! If you want to add some of your own flair, make sure a special gift is waiting for your beloved when you arrive. It can be anything from champagne and strawberries to a cuddly teddy bear to a special card containing tickets to the theatre. Be creative and always make sure it's got the personal touch.

A Ballroom of Your Own

If you're not the sleigh ride kind of person, perhaps you'll want to surprise your beloved with a beautiful ballroom of your own. Take some time to decorate a comfortable room in your home with flowers, crystal, and candlelight. You might want to include a bottle of your favorite wine and some simple sweet treats. Also, make sure you set aside several of your favorite romantic music albums. Then, when you and your beloved return from your Valentine's Day activities, take the opportunity to dance the night away in the privacy of your home.

Anything you can do to add to the romance is encouraged. One golden rule: Make sure you are going to be alone for the entire night. That means finding a babysitter for the kids to stay with, sending Fido to the kennel (or a friend's house), and unplugging the telephone for one night (just remember to plug it back in). Make it a night in which you can concentrate on being a couple and doing "couplely" things.

Remember, no matter what your plans are on Valentine's Day this year, that being romantic and spending time alone with your significant other is not something that should happen only once a year. Try to make the "magic" last all year. If you do that, you'll realize that it is not magic at all...it's love. Happy Valentine's Day!

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