Menus for Valentine’s Day

valentines-day-wineWe’re heading towards one of my favorite holidays, Valentine’s Day!  My Super Hubby proposed on Valentine’s Day, we were at a ski resort, on a chairlift.  Guess you could say I was a captive audience.  I love the beautiful red decorations, the idea of showering your loved ones with hugs and kisses, and of course the chocolate.  What’s not to love about that?

In our home, we do not go out to a restaurant for Valentine’s Day.  We figure the restaurants will be crowded, the waitstaff with be harried, and it is possible the restaurant will run out of items on the menu.  Instead, we have a quiet dinner at home (okayvalentines-day-dinner, when
the kids were little, it wasn’t always so quiet), and we are able to enjoy each other’s company without a lot of intrusion.

Many people like beef and shellfish, and there is nothing wrong with these foods, but we have food allergies in our home so these items will not be on the menu.  I prefer to cook something that is not overly heavy, preferring something light – and something that doesn’t involve too many dishes!

garlic-ultra-premium-olive-oilI recently roasted a pork shoulder that turned out amazingly wonderful.  I rubbed some garlic infused olive oil on the meat portion of the shoulder, not the fat.  We get our infused olive oils at Saratoga Olive Oil.  If you do not have infused olive oil, just mix about a teaspoon of minced garlic with some light olive oil, and that will work.  Mix some good sea salt, cracked pepper and a pork-roasthealthy dose of crushed rosemary, pat that all over the roast.

Preheat your oven to 450°F, put about 1/2 cup of liquid in thepork-roast bottom of the pan.  I like to use a roasting rack, but you don’t have to.  The liquid can be water, or for more flavor, use apple juice or cider.  Peel and halve some potatoes, red or white, quarter some yellow or white onions and put the potatoes and onions around the roast.  Lightly sprinkle the same seasonings over the potatoes (salt, pepper and crushed rosemary). Put the meat and vegetables into the oven and set your timer for 25-30 minutes.  When the timer goes off, set the temperature of your oven to 375°F, cook for another 25 minutes per pound or until your carrot-cake-jamemeat thermometer reads 155-160°F.  Approximately one hour prior to your roast being done, add the carrots.  I like to put some melted Potlicker Carrot Cake Jam on my carrots just prior to serving.

If you would like an actual recipe, here is something similar.  I like to add the carrots for extra color.  You need to use a pork roast that has a bone in it, it will take longer to cook but it will have a lot more flavor and the meat will be juicier and more tender.

Roast Pork Loin and Potatoes

Yield:  Makes 4 to 6 servings


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 4-pound center-cut bone-in pork loin (rib) roast
  • 4 large russet potatoes (about 3 pounds), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces


Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk 1/4 cup oil, garlic, butter, sage and rosemary in small bowl to blend. Place pork in large roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rub herb mixture over pork. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.) Cover pork loosely with foil and roast 2 hours.

Divide remaining 1/4 cup oil between 2 heavy large skillets. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Divide potatoes between skillets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until potatoes are golden but not tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer potatoes to roasting pan with pork. Toss potatoes with pan juices. Continue roasting, uncovered, until pork browns, potatoes are tender and juices are slightly reduced, about 40 minutes.

Place pork in center of large platter. Surround with potatoes. Pour pan juices into 2-cup glass measuring cup. Spoon fat off top of juices and discard. Pour juices over pork and potatoes.

firesteed-oregon-pinot-noirWith pork roast, I would serve a slightly chilled Pinot Noir.  One I am enjoying lately is Firesteed from Oregon.  I was able to try the wines from the Firesteed collection and found all of them to be lovely.  There is a large spectrum of pricing, from $15.99 to $69.99.  I prefer the lower range of price, and found all so good; a bottle of the Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Riesling came home with me.   The spicy notes, together with the plumy flavors of the Pinot Noir, bring out the rosemary in the meal and compliments it well.

This is a rich dinner, so I would simply add some extra dark chocolate and some Petite Sirah for the dessert.  Open the wine when you sit down for dinner and let it breathe while you’re enjoying your meal.  This will blend out the tannins and open up the chocolatey goodness a good Petite Sirah provides. Look to the mcmanis-petite-sirahLodi region of California for an exceptional value in wine that will provide an exceptional flavor.  I always go for the McManis Petite Sirah.  I keep it chilled, then open at the beginning of my meal, it is served slightly above room temperature with the extra dark chocolate, yum.

For my vegetarian readers, I would suggest:

Vegetarian Cassoulet

Prep 20 m
Cook 9 h
Ready In 9 h 20 m

“This is a vegetarian version of the traditional French dish. If you are home while this is cooking, give the beans a stir every couple of hours.”


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound dry navy beans, soaked overnight with a tablespoon of salt
  • 4 cups mushroom broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 cube vegetable bouillon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried crushed rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh lemon thyme, chopped or 1 tsp dried lemon thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh savory or 1 tsp dried savory
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 can diced green chilies (optional)
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed


Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir onion and carrots in oil until tender.

In a slow cooker, combine beans, carrots and onion, broth, garlic, bouillon, and bay leaf. Pour in water if necessary to cover ingredients with water. Tie together parsley, rosemary, thyme, and savory, or add the dried ingredients if you’re using those, add the poultry seasoning and chilies to the pot. Cook on Low for 8 hours.

Stir in potato, and continue cooking for 1 hour. Remove the fresh herbs before serving.

You can add mushrooms or celery to this if you would like.  Add the celery when you’re adding the carrots, add the mushrooms the last half hour of cooking time.

vegetable-cassouletGarnish with hot sauce or grated cheese, serve with crusty bread and perhaps a vinaigrette salad.

This meal has mild flavors.  My wine pairing with this beaujolaiswould be a Beaujolais, preferably a Cru Beaujolais, but a Beaujolais Villages or Beaujolais Supérieur would be okay.  Serve slightly chilled.  A Beaujolais is a wine that is fresh and lively with soft tannins. This wine will not over-power the light flavors of the cassoulet.

Serve fresh berries with a dollop of freshly whipped creme and perhaps some chilled sparkling Shiraz.

If chicken or poultry is on your horizon, I’m going to reach into the archives of my menus and pull out a recipe from the late 1980’s.  Cornish Game Hens.  These can be very romantic, and easy to make.

Cornish Game Hens with Garlic and Rosemary

Prep 20 m
Cook 1 h
Ready In 1 h 20 m


  • 4 Cornish game hens
  • 4 large red potatoes
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc work well)
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Rub hens with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 sprig rosemary in cavity of each hen. Arrange in a large, heavy roasting pan, and arrange garlic cloves around hens. Peel and halve the red potatoes and place around and in with the garlic cloves, lightly salt and pepper the potatoes.   Roast in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a mixing bowl, whisk together wine, chicken broth, and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; pour over hens. Don’t worry if some of the basting liquid gets onto the potatoes, but focus the liquid on the hens. Continue roasting about 25 minutes longer, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with pan juices every 10 minutes  If you’re lucky, and you have some Potlicker Garlic Chablis Wine Jelly in the house, melt several tablespoons and baste the tops of the hens, this will give the hens a beautiful crispy top .  Turn the oven off.

cornish-game-hensTransfer hens to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan. Tent hens with aluminum foil to keep warm. Transfer the potatoes to an oven proof dish and put back into the warm oven. Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Cut hens in half lengthwise and arrange on plates. Add the potatoes to the plate.  Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, and serve.

If you’re fortunate to have young Spring Green Beans, steam these for about 90 seconds.   I like to put salt and about a tablespoon of lemon juice into the water.  If you have some young fiddleheads, lightly saute and add to your meal.  If you’re in a colder climate, serve steamed broccoli with the hens.

Pair this with the same varietal of wine that you’re using in the ingredient list. louis-latour-macon-village It doesn’t have to be the same vineyard, but if you’re using Chardonnay, pair with that.  If you’re using a Sauvignon Blanc, pair your dinner with that.  You get the picture.  I like a French  Chardonnay or White Burgundy (which is basically a French Chardonnay).  My preference in the White Burgundy regions is the Bourgogne Blanc or the Mâconnais.  Bourgogne Blanc are a light-bodied white with more depth than a non-oaked California Chardonnay. Mâconnais is a bit more complex, still no oak but more depth and interest. My favorite are the Macon-Villages.   I think the Macon-Villages wines are the perfect winter white. Excellent to drink when you’re on the ski slope.

Dessbest-browniesert can be room temperature blue cheese with a glass or port, or if you’re in the mood for chocolate, try this recipe for brownies.  I’ve been making this recipe for my family for years, and it is still a family favorite.  They are called “Best Brownies” and they are.

Best Brownies


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder


  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan.

In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.

To Make Frosting: Combine 3 tablespoons softened butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa, honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. Stir until smooth. Frost brow
nies while they are still warm.  It is very important to frost the brownies when they are warm, the frosting is very stiff and needs to melt slightly into the brownies.  I put little globs of the frosting all over the top of the brownies, let it sit for a few minutes then gently spread over the brownies.coppola_black_label_claret_2006

If you want to go out for dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I certainly understand that.  Enjoy a meal in a restaurant, then enjoy a quiet dessert at home.  These brownies go fabulous with a Cabernet that has depth, I suggest the Francis Coppala Claret Black Label.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!happy-valentines-day








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