Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentines Day at Home

Mini Ravioli with Alfredo Sauce... this recipe will be on Potluck soon.
I'm having quite the week!  I've missed the blog, but I'm really busy... I looked up, and next thing I knew it had been nearly I week since my last post.  Ouch.

When I came in from work last Friday, I had a UPS package with a letter from ShopRite and a $25 gift card to use toward creating a Valentines Day dinner at home.  This was absolutely perfect for me because E and I had no intention of going out to dinner to celebrate the holiday and I always go to ShopRite for groceries on the weekend.  There's nothing wrong with going out to celebrate holidays.  As a matter of fact, we had a really nice dinner last year to celebrate V-Day, but our anniversary is in about two weeks, so we typically hold back on celebration until March.  Plus, I've said numerous times that I often prefer eating at home over spending our hard-earned money on some mediocre overpriced dinner.

Since the temperatures finally broke 50 degrees, we opted to have a barbecue on Sunday.  Our menu:

Italian-Style Mixed Grill (steak, chicken, pork chops, Italian sausage) - recipe following
Caesar salad
Roasted Asparagus
Mini Ravioli in Alfredo Sauce (recipe forthcoming on Potluck - stay tuned)
Vanilla and Chocolate Swirl Cake with Chocolate Ganache (based on this recipe)

We always grill on charcoal.  (Tips on charcoal grilling here.)  We opted for a barbecue because... well, why not?  We've been cooped up in this house/our offices/our cars with freezing temperatures and ice and snow for a few months and we were ready to bust out and enjoy the warm non-freezing weather.  First, we had to shovel the remaining snow off the deck and wait for the sun to melt the ice.

And yes, it was so icy that we had to wait a few hours to get our umbrella off the floor of the deck because it was stuck in a chunk of ice.

While the fire was getting ready, I sliced up one of my favorite cheeses, Yancy's Fancy Double Cream Cheddar and served it with a hot loaf of No-Knead Bread.  If you haven't made this bread, please do.  It's simple and it's so good that we had to stop ourselves from eating the whole loaf before dinner.

Dried Cherries, cheddar, dried figs + bread = happiness

And of course we had to have our wine.  E picked out this Washington State Cab from Chateau Smith (about $18).  Any bottle over $12 is a "special occasion" treat at this house.  This one passed the test.  We also drank a $6 bottle of Rex Goliath Cab (after using some to marinate the grilled meats).  Honestly, the Rex was a decent alternative for 1/3 of the price... just saying.

So the main course... the meat!  I purchased Big Night In over a year ago, but this was my first time trying a recipe.  It's an Italian cookbook with lots of hearty (and very involved) meals.  I'm so glad I finally tried one out!  I'll be cooking from this one again.  I used the marinade from the Mixed Grill recipe and I remixed it to include chicken breasts, steak, and thick-cut pork chops.  Plus, we grilled some Italian sausage.  'Cause it was on sale.  And I love sausage.

We marinated the meats overnight in a mixture of red wine, olive oil, garlic, fresh oregano, salt and pepper.  Yes, the meat turned purple.  Yes it tasted really good.  We used the leftover grilled chicken on our salads at work the following day.

Take my word for it - the Mixed Grill was good.  I like that we can use this marinate with whatever meat we have:  pork chops, chicken, New York strip, whatever.  And the leftovers were still moist and had a nice smoky flavor from the grill.  I garnished the whole platter with fresh parsley and a bit of fresh lemon.

Now, on to things that didn't go so great.  I tried to adapt the Chocolate Pistachio Cake recipe and I wasn't thrilled with the results.  The cake was pretty...

But my goal was for the cut cake to be pink with a chocolate tunnel inside.  Instead, it came out yellowish orange with a chocolate swirl.  You know we still ate it. 

All in all, we had a fantastic Valentines Day dinner and a much-needed break from reality.  For now it's back to work, commuting, taxes, and thesis writing... is it summer yet?

Mixed Grill
adapted from Big Night In

3 pounds of meat (pork chops, chicken, steak)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
Italian Sausage links

At least 6 hours before cooking or the night before:  Whisk the wine, olive oil, oregano, garlic, pepper, and salt together.  Put the meats (except Italian sausage) in a zip-top bag and and pour marinade over the meats.  Let the meat marinate in the refrigerator.

The next day:  Remove the meat from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before grilling.  When the grill is ready, remove meat from the marinate and sprinkle lightly with a little bit more salt.  Grill the meat (including Italian sausage) and serve hot.  If you need grilling tips, please read this post.

The leftovers are really versatile.  Consider using the grilled sausage on pizza or in pasta.  The grilled chicken is great on a salad the next day.


  1. I love nights in with good food like this. Looks great!

    BTW, when is your anniversary? Our 6th anniversary is March 6th!

  2. Wow!! Look at that feast!! I don't blame you for staying home and enjoying a home cooked meal instead, especially when it looks as scrumptious as this :)

  3. It all looks perfect. Definitely a feast for the eyes (and the belly!).

  4. You did some fabulous work!

    Love the loaf. It's way perty!

  5. Thanks, everyone! Monica, we have the same anniversary (same year, too).

  6. I like that this your idea of taking it easy, a cake from scratch and homemade bread! We're def trying that bread (well O is def makin it) We've made that crock pot BBQ chicken recipe you posted twice already! Good luck with your dissertation


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