Plenty of options for this Valentine’s Day

Published 3:16 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Today’s Special

That darn old groundhog, it’s all his fault. Brutally cold temperatures, possible snow mixed with pandemic precautions don’t make for a very sweet weekend.

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Our Valentine plans, at this writing, are on the verge of being canceled.Our doggies and water pipes are probably going to be the reasons we stay home this weekend. Neither potentially getting stuck on I-40, nor getting in and out of snow in unpleasant 6-degree temperatures are pleasant thoughts at the moment.

At least at home we won’t need to wear masks, and the dogs will appreciate getting to stay warm in the garage.

This reminds me of another time DW and I had to postpone celebrating our Feb. 12 anniversary and Valentines until the ice melted and the lights came back. I’m sure hoping nothing like the infamous ’94 ice storm happens this weekend. But postponing is an option, forgetting is not.

Option #1. Celebrate at home. If you can’t go out, stay in! Under these conditions that’s probably the wisest choice. So, when you hit the grocery store for milk and bread get the ingredients for a nice, home cooked Valentine dinner.

For the seafood lover, a shrimp and artichoke casserole will win hearts and appetites.  The ingredients are simple requiring no special cooking skills. Make it a special night for your true love, well…all of your true loves, children and grandparents enjoy Valentine’s too. Let love flow as the snow falls.

Option #2. Take a trip to Italy while staying warm, safe, and snuggled in at home.  Set the dining room table with all the red, pink and white you can find, light the candles and put on some music for the occasion.

Spaghetti, lasagna, or any pasta dish speaks the language of love when served by candle light, but you might like to try chicken piccata. The secret is the capers which are actually juniper berries (there’s an answer to a possible Jeopardy question for you) marinating in a salty brine.

This recipe has a few more steps, but if you like this dish at the Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill wait until you make it at home.  You’ll say, “Be mine, this dish is fine!”

Option #3. Grill a steak. If shrimp and chicken don’t turn you on, give in to your desires and get a steak and toast the day with a perfectly grilled piece of beef with all the trimmings… And this just might be our option, I’d say that 44 years of togetherness is good enough reason to grill a steak in Artic temps.

Start with steaks at room temperature, splash both sides with Worcestershire sauce, then sprinkle with Accent (MSG is a flavor enhancer), sea salt, black pepper, a little espresso powder, garlic powder and celery salt. Rub each side with your fingers to blend the flavors.

Cook hot and fast on a preheated grill to desired doneness, which you can check with a meat thermometer, but always watch your time. We like our 1-inch ribeyes cooked about 6 -7 minutes on each side, then placed on a platter and wrapped in foil for about 10 minutes to let the meat pull the moisture back in while the flavors meld. Oh, this warms my heart.

Option #4. Celebrate later. Love knows no season and spring will come.

Option #5. Cards, flowers and candy are not optional with options 1 – 4. Love never fails, nor forgets….

Happy anniversary to DW! And Happy Valentine’s day to all!  XOXO

Shrimp & Artichoke Casserole

Count the ways your valentine will love this…

½ pound white mushrooms, sliced

1 ½ pounds cooked shrimp, shelled and deveined

8 – 10 canned artichoke hearts, chopped coarsely

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups half & half

½ cup dry sherry

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper

¼ teaspoon paprika

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Sauté mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter until soft. In a 3-quart casserole layer mushrooms, shrimp and artichoke hearts. Melt remaining butter, add flour; cook and stir for 3 minutes. Gradually add cream; cook and stir until sauce is well blended and thickened. Add sherry, Worcestershire, salt & pepper, paprika. Pour over casserole ingredients in baking dish; sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake in 350-degree oven until bubbly, hot and lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

Chicken Piccata

This just might be your new love!

1 lemon

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

⅓ cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup chicken broth

½ cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons capers drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Slice the lemon in half, juice one half and cut the other half into ⅛” slices; set aside. Trim any excess fat from the chicken breasts; slice in half lengthwise to make two thin cutlets from each breast. Season both sides of the chicken breasts evenly with salt and black pepper; dredge each breast in flour, shaking off excess. Heat 2 tablespoons butter with the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 pieces of the chicken (do not crowd the pieces); cook 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter, cover with foil. Continue with the remaining chicken. Reduce heat to medium; add chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, sliced lemons and capers scraping up the browned bits on the pan; cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in remaining tablespoon of butter until melted. Spoon sauce over the chicken breasts. Serve over angel hair pasta or vermicelli with a wedge salad and crusty bread to sop up the sauce! (For extra love double the sauce part!)

Crustless Chocolate Pie

Skip the candy and treat everyone to this sweet convection…

½ cup salted butter

¼ cup cocoa

½ cup light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

⅓ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped pecans

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat.  Mix in cocoa, sugars, egg, vanilla, flour and pecans, stirring well after each. Pour filling into greased 9-inch pie pan. Bake in 350-degree oven for 24 – 25 minutes. Do not overcook. Tester will have a smidge of chocolate on its tip when done. Cool completely on wire rack before slicing to serve.  Serve with ice cream or with a drizzle of cherry sauce topped with whipped cream.