Today I’m going to give you the menu, grocery list, and a breakdown for a super easy, 4-course Italian inspired dinner at home. It’s only 4-courses if you want to pull out all the stops, or you can pick 1 or 2 courses for an even easier evening!
Cooking dates are actually loads of fun, and we really don’t like to go out with the crowds on Valentine’s day. Our cooking dates started a few years back, as a way to enjoy great food as well as each other’s company. It’s probably obvious that I love to cook, but not so much for Tyler, so… I would’ve never predicted that we would love to cook together! Over time, we’ve found ourselves making time for as many cooking dates a week as we can fit in.
When you split up the tasks and keep the menu simple, you can enjoy a multi course meal in no time. It’s also way more cost effective to cook at home. Not that I don’t love going out, but $100 and up for nicer meals is not something we do several times a month, or even weekly for that matter!
Top 4 Tips for a great date at home:
- Grocery shop ahead of time, especially when it’s a holiday!
- Do some of the prep work ahead of time.
- Cleanup the kitchen before hand, and then clean as you go. That way, you’re not left with a total disaster the next day. We usually leave a little cleanup for the next day because we don’t like to do dishes after dinner, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a total disaster!
- Make it a real date – dress up, play your favorite music, light candles, and turn off your phones!
Valentine’s Menu for 2014
Butternut Risotto – make 1/2 the recipe
Things to make ahead:
The Chocolate Mousse and Strawberry Sauce from Chocolate Covered Strawberry Mousse.
The Butternut Risotto can also be made ahead and then reheated, adding the fresh herbs and parmesan dusting for serving.
Things to do ahead:
- Grocery shopping.
- Set the table
- Assemble candles and music choices (we have few instrumental Pandora stations that are perfect for dates).
- A quick cleanup around the house and especially the kitchen – it’s never fun cooking in chaos.
- Put something sparkling in to chill (champagne or sparkling juice).
Divide and Conquer – his and her’s tasks: this is a break down of how we actually cook this meal together.
- Place risotto bowls in to the oven to warm up.
- Assemble the antipasto salami and cheese plate.
- Toast the pine nuts.
- Chop and wash the romaine.
- Grate parmesan for the risotto and the salad.
- Stir the risotto as it cooks.
- Put the chicken in to roast or turn on the grill – depending on your cooking preference.
- Chop the onion, process the butternut squash, and get the risotto going to the stirring point.
- Whip the cream for the dessert.
- Make the Caesar Salad dressing.
- Chop the rosemary & set aside some grated parmesan to garnish the risotto.
- Cleanup as much as possible along the way.
- Enjoy antipasto while cooking, before sitting down to the remaining 3 courses.
To Finish Each Dish:
- When the risotto is cooked, stir in the heavy cream(if using), spoon it into your warmed bowls and dust with parmesan and chopped fresh rosemary. The final touches and presentation gives you more of a restaurant experience.
- Toss the romaine, toasted pine nuts, and dressing together. If you’ve grilled your chicken, slice/dice, and serve with the salad. If you’ve roasted a chicken, carve some off some of the meat, and serve it alongside your Caesar Salad.
- Top each chocolate mousse with strawberry sauce and whipped cream – enjoy!
Notes on timing:
This menu is super easy as far as timing goes because each course is really flexible. The antipasto is eaten while you cook, by the time the risotto is ready you can sit down and eat because everything else is already prepped. The Caesar Salad and the Chocolate Mousse is ready whenever you are – there’s no jumping up to take something off the stove!
The average chicken takes around 1 -1½ hours to roast, this gives you plenty of time to cook the risotto and eat it before the chicken is done. If you decide to grill, the chicken can rest on the cutting board until you’re ready to use it. That’s the beauty of salad for your main course – it waits for you!
I’ve broken the grocery list down by course in case you don’t want to make them all:
Antipasto – choose a selection of cheeses and salami for 2, you can add roasted bell peppers or pickled veggies if you like. Figure on about 2 ounces of cheese per person and 100 grams or 1/4 pound of salami for 2 people. Antipasto can be anything you like really, just try not to fill up too much on all the goodies – there’s 3 courses left to go!
1/2 Recipe of Butternut Risotto – 1 – 2 pounds of butternut squash, 1 large sweet onion, 1½ Teaspoons fresh rosemary, (optional 1/4 cup cream, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, and 1/4 white cooking wine), 2 Tablespoons olive oil, sea salt.
Chicken Caesar Salad – 1 chicken breast or 2 chicken thighs (for grilling) or 1 whole chicken (for roasting), 2 romaine hearts, 1/4 cup pine nuts, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 2 cloves garlic, 1 lemon, 3/4 cup olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder.
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Mousse – 1 ripe avocado, 1 pkg (10 oz.) frozen strawberries, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, 1/2 cup Grade A maple syrup, 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract, sea salt, 1-2 Tablespoons cornstarch or tapioca powder, 1 can coconut milk – Native Forest brand works really well for this recipe.
Everything I’ve listed here is really only a guideline for a great meal, I hope you mix and match to create the perfect evening for you! We don’t often have time to cook 4 courses, but we do have a Chicken Caesar Salad date night almost every week. It works great because we both love a homemade Caesar and we can practically make it in our sleep – it’s that easy! ♡♥︎♡♥︎♡