A Blueprint for Valentines


I love my wife Merri Ann with all my heart.  I’m the luckiest guy in the world.

We have a section on our website for Breakfast in Bed. I don’t remember the last time I served breakfast in bed to my sweetheart.

We have dinner in restaurants often. That’s nice, but we do it often enough that it doesn’t have the impact, special effect, that Merri Ann deserves for Valentine’s Day.

When we first married, those first few years before we were inundated with crying babies, I made dinner on special occasions—I mean white linens and roses and the best steaks I could buy. (Merri Ann

loves a good steak). Don’t tell her but that’s what I’m going to do Friday night.

It’s not a lot of work, it just takes planning. I don’t know where the white linens are; maybe I’ll have to buy some. I’ll go to the butcher, not the grocery store, for the steaks. A tossed salad is easy, and so are baked potatoes.

She loves crème brulee. I’ll do that or a flourless chocolate cake. Both are easy.

I can get off work at 5:00 in the evening and still do all of that for dinner. That’s quicker and less of a hassle than driving into town and fighting the crowds at a fine restaurant.

The Food

I’m going to keep it simple: A tossed salad, steaks, a steamed vegetable, and dessert. Since Merri Ann has celiac disease and can’t eat wheat, I’ll skip the bread. If she could eat wheat and I had the time

, I would make Salted Water Rolls. Those are too good.

For the tossed salad, I get bagged greens and the best tomatoes I can find. For the veggies, I’ll look for fresh asparagus—it’s usually available this time of year. I’ll buy the best steaks I can find. If you’re not comfortable telling when the steaks are done, pick up a meat thermometer. I can tell how done a steak is by how firm the meat is—the firmer the meat, the more cooked it is. If you don’t want to bother with a meat

thermometer, learn how to do that. Poke the meat with your finger and see how firm it is. It won’t take many steaks until you’ll be able to tell if it is done by touch.

The Dessert

Because Merri Ann can’t eat wheat, I’m limited in the desserts I can make. She loves Flourless Chocolate Cake (who doesn’t?), and with a mix it goes together quickly. To make it a little more formal, put some fresh strawberries on each slice of cake, drizzle each piece with a dessert sauce, and add a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Merri Ann loves crème brulee. That’s good; it’s easy. That may be my second choice. I might make both. Crème brulee keeps well in the refrigerator.

Be sure to catch the dessert recipes at the bottom of this article.

The Set-Up

In order to make this surprise happen, I’m going to need to stop by the store. I like to start by making myself a list. In addition to the ingredients, other ideas include a rose, a bouquet, or a card.  I’ll buy the flowers right at the grocery store. You might consider purchasing a nice, white tablecloth and napkins. Some colorful placemats can also add a nice touch. If you don’t have candles at home, be sure to buy some and maybe some candlewick

holders as well.

I suggest purchasing steaks at a meat market or butcher to make sure you get a nice cut. Insist on choice. It would be nice to have prime, the best grade, but it’s not likely to be available. Most grocers sell select. Choice is much better. Look for steaks that have fine streaks of fat running through it— marbling. Marbling will make the steaks taste better, and they will be juicier.

High-quality grocery stores will have better grades of potatoes. If you happen to live in Idaho, run by a potato warehouse. In farm country, they’re as numerous as conventicle stores. You’ll probably have to buy 50 pounds,

but that will only cost you around $10.

If you’re not up to making dessert, don’t forget to stop by the bakery.

As a last touch for your at-home, Valentine’s Day dinner, turn on some soft, appropriate music.

The Touches

But it’s going to be a lot better than heading to the restaurant.You’re going to have to express your undying love and devotion. That’s easy. You’re going to have to insist on doing the dishes.  That’s appropriate.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

The Recipes

This is a pretty simple meal, but still maintains a formal touch. Here are a couple of recipes for the flourless chocolate cake (and a link to the mix) and recipes for crème brulee with detailed instructions.

Buy Festive Colored Ramekins for your crème brulee . . . and save a bunch.