Share the Love
No babysitter? No problem. Try this delicious Valentine’s Day dinner for the whole family to enjoy
Story & Photography By Kerry Guice
Having a quiet, romantic Valentine’s dinner with your better half is a dream! Sometimes, however, it’s literally a dream. As in you’ve waited too long to snag a babysitter, your parents live too far away and every restaurant in town is booked anyway. You want the night to feel special, but you don’t want to have to make separate meals to please everyone and you’re not about to have a heart-shaped PB&J for dinner like the kids suggest. Try this family friendly Valentine’s menu and you’ll all feel loved!
Get the kids involved—let your toddler tear the lettuce for salad, and your older kids can make the garlic bread while you work on the smoky Valentine chicken pasta. The batter for the strawberry mousse crepes can be made the day before, along with the mousse and strawberry sauce, so dessert will be a breeze! This dinner feels fancy, and because the red peppers are pureed in the cheesy sauce, the kids will love it right along with mom and dad. The green onions on top are optional, and if you’re like me, you’ll also be adding some red pepper flakes to your bowl. Pour yourselves a glass of wine and let the kids have a special drink, too. Share a toast and enjoy this Valentine’s Day with all your sweethearts!
16 ounces lemon-lime soda
3-4 teaspoons grenadine
2-4 maraschino cherries
Pour 8 ounces of soda into each glass. Stir in 1½-2 teaspoons of grenadine into each glass, and top with 1 or 2 cherries.
Smoky Valentine Chicken Pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, chopped (¼ cup sweet onion if shallot isn’t available)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¾ cup chicken stock
2 cups very warm milk
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¾ cup roasted red peppers, drained
3 slices bacon
¼ teaspoon each of garlic powder, salt, oregano, smoked paprika and chili powder (for seasoning chicken breasts on both sides)
2 fresh chicken breasts
1 pound noodles (I use bucatini, a thick, round spaghetti)
¼ cup seasoned croutons, crushed (or 2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs)
3 green onions, sliced (optional)
Melt 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium pot over low heat. Add the shallot and garlic, cooking 3-5 minutes until soft. Add the salt and flour and stir to let the flour soak up the fats, then stir in the mustard to combine. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock until all combined and slightly thickened. Keeping the heat on low, add in the warm milk and stir to combine. Add the shredded cheeses and stir almost constantly until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Do not let the mixture come to a boil, or the milk will separate and ruin the texture of the sauce. Remove from heat to cool slightly. Add the roasted peppers to a blender, and then carefully pour the warm sauce into the blender, and puree until sauce is smooth.
In a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon until crispy, then transfer to a plate and crumble. Using a paper towel, wipe some of the oil from the pan, leaving just enough to flavor the chicken. Don’t let the pan cool. Immediately add the seasoned chicken breasts and cook on one side for 10 minutes, then turn over and cover, cooking another 15 minutes. Without uncovering, remove pan from heat and set aside to rest (this keeps the chicken from drying out).
Boil the pasta in a large pot of heavily salted water (1 tablespoon for 6-8 cups water) for 12 minutes until al dente, then drain most of the water, being sure to keep about ¼ cup of the starchy water in with the pasta. Slowly add the sauce into the pasta and bring up to a light simmer for 5 minutes to let the pasta soak in some of the sauce.
Plate the pasta in a large platter or individual bowls and top with slices of the chicken breast, bacon crumbles, sliced green onions and crushed croutons. Best served with salad and toast.
The crepes can be garnished with strawberry and chocolate sauce, powdered sugar, fresh strawberries and more!
Strawberry Mousse Crepes
Serves 4-5 (10-12 crepes)
1¼ cups milk
1 cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoon melted butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ stick cold butter for coating pan between crepes
Pour all ingredients except the butter in a blender in the order listed, then blend together until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl or jar and let sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour (to get the bubbles out). Can be refrigerated up to 3 days.
To make the crepes, heat an 8-inch nonstick pan over medium heat (may need to be slightly lower or higher depending on your stove—be prepared to throw the first one out to find the perfect temperature). Using the stick of butter, lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan, then immediately pour 1½ ounces (slightly less than ¼ cup) of batter in the center of the pan and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan and just barely creeping up the side. When the crepe shifts with a shake of the pan (about 90 seconds), flip the crepe and cook on the other side for 30-45 more seconds. Transfer to a paper towel and repeat, coating the pan with butter in between each crepe, until all the batter is gone. Don’t multitask when making crepes, they cook fast! Let cool before filling with mousse to prevent melting.
8 ounces frozen strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
Juice of ¼ lemon
Pinch sea salt
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a squeeze bottle, reserving ¼ cup for the filling.
1½ cups heavy whipping cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
½ cup whipped cream cheese
¼ cup reserved strawberry sauce
In a cold, clean stainless-steel bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form (about 3 minutes), then gradually add the powdered sugar, cream cheese and strawberry sauce, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until thick. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Keep cold until ready to serve.
Assemble the Crepes
Lay the crepe out flat, and make a line just off center with ¼ cup of the strawberry mousse. Fold the closest side over, then gently roll up like a burrito, leaving the ends open. Drizzle strawberry sauce and chocolate sauce (optional) on a plate, then place two rolled crepes on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with one sliced fresh strawberry, if desired.