How to Build the Perfect Menu For a Romantic Date Night In
COVID-19 has not been great for the dating scene. Couples everywhere are now forced to have their dates at home instead of going out and scouting the city for the best drinks and bites. However, there is a way to rekindle that date-night-out magic by cooking your very own restaurant-worthy meal. That could be a breath of fresh air, especially now that Valentine's Day is right around the corner. So, if you want to let post-COVID sparks fly between you and your partner, these six recipes will help you build the perfect menu for a special night in. PS: All the following recipes are super easy, meaning you don't have to slave in the kitchen all day long.
Drink – Strawberry & Beet Mezcal Cocktail
Start your date night in with a fancy-yet-easy aperitif that will put both you and your S.O. in a flirty mood. Don't know where to start? Well, this ruby-red slushie is the way to go. Featuring strawberries, mezcal, and beet juice, it is definitely an upgrade from the usual glass of wine because, hey, it's also healthy (kind of). The cocktail also sports a unique sweet, tart, and smokey taste that no lovebird will be able to resist to.
- 5 shots mezcal
- 4 cups ice
- ½ cup freeze dried strawberries (sliced)
- ½ cup beet juice
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 3 tbsp agave syrup
- chili powder, for rimming the glasses
- Place the strawberries in a bowl with warm water and soak for 15 minutes. Once hydrated, squeeze away excess liquid, and transfer to a blender.
- Toss the remaining ingredients into the blender and blend at high speed until the drink has a slushy consistency.
- To serve, put some chili powder on a saucer, rim the edge of each glass with lime juice, and dip them into the chili powder.
Soup - Tomato Basil Soup
Did you know that enjoying a bowl of soup before a meal can whet your appetite for the upcoming courses and also aid your digestion? Well, at just 2 ingredients, this soup will do the trick without forcing you to work overtime. The dish also has an exotic taste that will impress both you and your partner. And for those of you who are not feeling fancy, feel free to pair the soup with a grilled cheese sandwich that'll gourmet down your meal (without discounting on flavor, of course).
- 1 ½ cups milk
- ½ cup of tomato basil soup mix
- Add the milk to a saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat (5 minutes).
- Stir in the soup mix and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently.
- Serve as is or alongside a grilled cheese sandwich for maximum flavor.
Appetizer - Bacon & Apple Crostini
Even lower maintenance than the previous dish, this recipe eliminates the need for stovetop cooking. Instead, it calls for 5 simple ingredients and a little bit of baking, which would require a prep work of 3 minutes tops. For an even fancier look, you can season the crostini with freshly ground pepper. Now that's fancy!
- 1 baguette, thickly sliced
- 1 cup freeze dried apples
- 4 slices of cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
- 4 tbsp TVP bacon bits
- Maple syrup, for drizzling
- Add the apples to a bowl with warm water and soak for 15 minutes. Then, squeeze away excess liquid and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350oF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Arrange the bread slices, top with the cheese and apples (in that order), and baked until the cheese has melted (about 10 minutes).
- Remove from the oven and drizzle with the bacon bits and maple syrup before serving.
Salad - Mediterranean Salad
This colorful salad is literally like summer in a bowl. Packed with greens, veggies, and a vinaigrette that'll swoon your taste buds, this side dish will transport you to the Mediterranean without leaving your dining room. Who said date nights at the house are boring?
- 5 ounces salad greens of choice (i.e., spinach, arugula, lettuce)
- half of an onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
- 1 tomato, chopped
- ¼ cup olives
- ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ tsp dried garlic (granulated)
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- To make the vinaigrette, add the olive oil, vinegar, and garlic to a small bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper according to taste.
- Then, toss the remaining ingredients to a large bowl, drizzle with the vinaigrette, and top with extra feta cheese if desired.
Main Course - Chicken Spinach Spaghetti
Nothing says "date night in" like a bowl of homemade pasta. And sure, there are dozens of pasta recipes to choose from. But, not all of them are fit for the job. This spaghetti recipe, however, is a *little* more special; it's both delicious and a cinch to make. Plus, chicken and spinach make for a healthy-ish combo. So you get some redemption points for the indulgent dessert that's about to follow.
- 1 package of spaghetti
- 2 boneless chicken breasts
- 2 cups dried spinach
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, diced
- 3 tbsp TVP bacon bits
- 1 tsp dried garlic (granulated)
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cook the pasta according to the package's directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, drain, and set aside.
- In a skillet, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Meanwhile, season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook until there's no longer pink on the inside (10 minutes each side). Then, cut into thin slices.
- Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and heat. Place the tomatoes and spinach and cook until wilted (3-4 minutes).
- Stir in the heavy cream, bacon, parmesan, pasta water, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the chicken sauce into the pot with the pasta and toss until fully combined. Divide between plates and serve immediately.
Dessert - Chocolate Puffs with Raspberry Sauce
Chocolate is the ultimate date night dessert. But, envelope the treat into puff pastry dough with a few raspberries on the side, and you've got yourself a sweet that even Cupid would be proud of. And yes, we know: Cooking with puff pastry can be intimidating. But, this recipe calls for pre-made dough. So, you don't have to be Martha Stewart to pull it off. Besides, if this treat seems like too much work, you can always try one of these easy Valentine's Day desserts to cap off the night in the sweetest way possible.
- A package frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1 cup white chocolate chips
- 2 cups freeze dried raspberries
- 2/3 cup pecans, chopped
- ¾ cup confectioner's sugar
- In a bowl, mix the chocolate chips (both dark and white) and the pecans. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 425oF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- On a floured surface, roll each pastry sheet and cut it into quarters, forming 6-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the sheet and place 1/3 of the chocolate-pecan mixture onto each. Brush the pastry dough's edges with water and bring the corners together, pinching them to seal. Bake until golden brown for 20 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, place the raspberries, confectioner's sugar, and 1 cup of water into a food processor and blend until pureed. Strain to remove seeds and drizzle the sauce on top of the puffs. Serve as is or with a few fruit chips on the side.
How will you celebrate Valentine's Day this year? Are you planning on having a special date night in? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!