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Easy, fool-proof recipes for Valentine’s Day dinner & dessert

by Julie Bien

February 5, 2014 | 12:42 pm

Photo credit: mangostock/shutterstock.com

Cooking a full meal can be overwhelming, especially when a) you don't cook very often and b) it's a high-pressure holiday like Valentine's Day.

Lucky for you, I have perfected the art of easy "fancy" food that tastes pretty darn good.

You can make the dessert ahead of time (in fact, it's best if you do) and everything else takes well-under an hour to prepare/cook/serve.

I promise--you'll be whipping out this recipe everytime you need to impress someone--including picky eaters.

Enjoy it with a bottle of vino and be prepared for a delicious food-induced coma afterwards. Viva la risotto!

Main Course--Parmesan risotto with sundried tomatoes (35-45 mins) 

Ingredients:

1 box parmesan risotto mix (like this)

1/3 cup parmesan cheese (pre-shaved or shredded) plus 2 tbsp

1 small jar (roughly 3oz) sundried tomatoes in oil

1 small onion, diced

5-7 croutons, crushed

3 tbsp melted butter

Directions: (*pre-heat the oven to 350 before starting)

1. Make the risotto according to the stovetop directions on the box (it usually involves adding water and then simmering)

2. While the risotto is cooking, pour the oil from the tomatoes into a small sautee pan.

3. Add the diced onions to the oil and cook on medium, til the onions are transluscent

4. While the onions are cooking, slice the tomatoes. As soon as they're sliced, add them to the onions in the sautee pan

5. Continue cooking until the onions get soft and golden. When done, take off heat and add the mixture (oil, onions, and sundried tomatoes) to the simmering risotto mix. Stir, and continue to let the risotto cook according to stovetop directions.

6. When the risotto is done, add the 1/3 cup parmesan cheese (while reserving the 2 tbsp) and mix in to the risotto.

7. Transfer the risotto to an oven-proof casserole dish. Sprinkle the crushed croutons and remaining parmesan cheese on top, then drizzle with melted butter.

8. Put in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the top is golden and slightly crispy

Side--Sauteed lemon and garlic greens (5-6 minutes--start this while the risotto is in the oven) Photo by Paul Cowan/Shutterstuck.com

Ingredients:

1 bunch greens (spinach or chard works best)

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 small lemon

3 cloves garlic, minced (or the equivalent in garlic powder or jarred garlic)

 a couple dashes sea salt (or to taste)

a couple dashes black pepper (or to taste)

Directions:

1. Rinse the greens and remove/toss the stalks and stems

2. Put the olive oil in a large sautee pan or skillet, turn heat to medium

3. Add garlic and sautee for 1-2 minutes (until it starts to smell like cooked garlic--you'll know)

4. Toss in all the greens. Sautee until they start to get limp and slightly wilted (about 1 minute) making sure to move them around constantly with a big spoon. Squeeze the half lemon over the greens and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper

5. Turn the burner off and move the greens around a little more--they'll continue to cook on the hot pan for another minute or two even after the burner is off

6. Serve next to the risotto

Strawberries with balsamic and brown sugar (5 minutes--prep a day before if possible)

Photo by: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock.com

Ingredients:

1 pint strawberries, rinsed and hulled (take that stem off!)

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp brown sugar

Directions:

1. Slice the strawberries and place in a bowl

2. Pour the balsamic and sugar on top, gently mix it all together

3. Cover with plastic wrap (or place in tupperware) and let the mixture sit in the refrigerator until ready to serve (24 hours is ideal, but if you can only prepare the day-of, prep it before anything else so the flavors have time to meld together).

4. Stir, then serve in a bowl (or serve over pound cake if you're feeling super fancy).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Hi. I’m Julie Bien.

I’m a writing, blogging, coffee-drinking machine.

I also have a thing for sustainability, organic gardening, cooking, and easy crafting. I’m like Martha...

Read more