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Valentines Day Dinner: Here's What to Cook

There's nothing romantic about dining in a crowded restaurant that up charges on February 14th so you can share a meal with 100 strangers. That's why on Valentines Day it's never about whether to cook but WHAT to cook. Here's my simple, delicious menu.

holding hands over a white tableclothA registered dietician makes the case for eating at home on Valentine's Day—it's healthier of course but more romantic, too.

It has taken more than 15 centuries for Valentine’s Day to evolve into the holiday as we know it: a day for celebrating romantic love with the exchange of special greetings and gifts. But many couples are turned off by the commercial push of Valentine's Day that often falls short of the hype.

I mean, what if you haven’t found your true love yet? But even if you have, is it possible to show your loved one how much you love him or her in a mere 24 hours?  Of course not.  After all, love (like life) is a journey, not a destination, right?

Nonetheless, I love Valentine’s Day…on my terms. For me, Valentine’s day has always been a day of gratitude to embrace heart-shaped decor in shades of pink and red, dark chocolate, and all the people I love in my life.

Making Memories with Simple Heartfelt Gifts 

There are so many ways to simply celebrate all the people you love. As a mom, one of my favorite ways to celebrate Valentine’s day is to make homemade Valentines with my kids to send to grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Even before my kids could write, we sat down with blank note cards, a stamp with each girl’s name on it, and plenty of sparkly stickers and glitter glue to create heartfelt messages for our family. Yes, you can buy valentines with heartfelt messages to send to loved ones. But the added experience of making them together is what makes the memories of this loving tradition so vivid for my girls and me.

Another favorite tradition my family has is making homemade heart-shaped brownies for my girls’ teachers on Valentine’s day. Every year, one of my girls remind me that we have to make the brownies! In full disclosure, sometimes this seems like an additional chore during a busy week. But fifteen years ago this month, I received a Valentine’s baking kit from Williams-Sonoma as a bridal shower gift (before our March wedding) and it has truly been the gift that keeps on giving!  So, their sentimental dedication to this tradition and their love of their teachers keeps us happily baking—sometimes into the evening on February 13th!

The Case for Dining In 

Of course, as a registered dietitian, it is likely not surprising that one of my favorite Valentine’s gifts is to prepare a homemade, healthy meal for my husband. So in that respect, Valentine’s day is usually like any other day for me because I’m usually the main cook in our family—and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I figure nothing says “I love you” like a steady supply of meals that may keep you healthier and around longer! 

Even when my husband and I went out to restaurants on Valentine’s day before kids, it’s always bothered me that it’s hard to get a reservation in some restaurants and most charge more just because it’s February 14th. And despite all the focus on love and private tables for two, dining in a restaurant sitting side by side with 100 of your not-so-closest friends is anything but intimate. So for me, it’s not as much whether to cook, but what to cook on Valentine’s day!

A Heartfelt Diabetes-Friendly Meal for Two

In planning this diabetes-friendly Valentine’s day meal for two, I wanted to choose courses that are special enough for your special loved one. Yet I wanted to be sure they are also easy, real-food recipes that won’t keep you in the kitchen all evening so you can enjoy your time together.

Appetizer: Smoked Salmon Cucumber Roses
Your Valentine may bring you flowers, but another option is to make your own with these “rose” appetizers. I wanted a festive appetizer that was lower in calories and carbohydrate and not too filling to save room for dessert. These cucumber roses are so easy to make with a simple vegetable peeler, and you can make them an hour or so before you will eat them. Be sure to pat them dry on both sides, or they’ll be hard to roll. They are a little messy to roll, but take comfort in that they are not an exact science and will look like abstract roses regardless. If you prefer, you could substitute store-bought hummus for an even easier (and vegan) filling and garnish with a few toasted pine nuts.

Entree: Seared Scallops in a Simple White Wine Cream Sauce
Did you know February is American Heart Month? That’s why I loved the idea of heart-healthy seafood for the main course of a diabetes-friendly Valentine’s dinner. Scallops cook so quickly and have a naturally sweet, buttery flavor, which means you don’t have to do much to make them taste great. Adding a touch of dry, white wine adds a great depth of flavor while deglazing the pan, but you could use low-sodium broth if you prefer. The small amount of cream adds flavor and texture to the sauce. Of course, scallops can be a little pricey, but that is partly what makes them a special treat.

Side Dish: Greek Lemon Pepper Red Potatoes
Lemon juice and pepper add a delicious flavor to these roasted red potatoes without adding much salt. They provide a more significant portion of carbohydrates, which is why the serving size is smaller, (especially to allow for more carbohydrates with dessert). Be sure to choose potatoes with very red skin to provide a nice contrast to the color of the scallops.

Dessert: Flourless Chocolate Lava Cake
As a grand finale, chocolate is the way to go, in my opinion!  Although eating dessert regularly can make it harder to manage blood sugar and keep saturated fat in check, there are certainly ways to include a special sweet treat for a special occasion. I love these lava cakes for their small, individual portion size as well as for their satisfying texture and rich chocolate flavor. Stevia powder (I used Splenda Naturals) keeps the carbohydrates lower than your average dessert—and you won’t miss it especially with a dollop of regular ice cream on top.

But if you substitute 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar for the stevia, it would add 6 more grams of carbohydrates.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope these recipes help you serve up a heartfelt meal for your loved one. But remember, whatever you cook, the most meaningful part of the meal happens while you’re sharing it together at the table!

Updated on: February 12, 2019
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