A Valentine’s Date Night In

Love & Lemons Valentine's Date Night Ideas

For years, Jack and I have been celebrating Valentine’s Day at home in lieu of long waits for dinners at fancy restaurants. Tackling a new kitchen project together – even if you mess it up – is always tons of fun. Here are 3 date night ideas… each with a Love & Lemons spin, of course!

#1: CREATE A SIGNATURE COCKTAIL

prep ahead:
1. Make fancy ice in the shape of hearts or x’s and o’s – how cute?!

2. Think about some fun memories you’ve shared over drinks. It can be as extravagant as the Caipirinhas you sipped on your honeymoon in Rio or as simple as the margaritas you love at your favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurant. If freestyle mixing sounds scary, you can get a book or check out some recipes online to use as a guide.

3. Gather ingredients for your cocktail that you also like in your food. For me, that means a lot of fresh citrus and herbs. Lemons, limes, grapefruit, blood oranges, basil, mint, rosemary, lavender, lemongrass, and ginger (or better yet, ginger juice) are all cocktail-worthy ingredients. Most drinks need a little sweetness, so either make a simple syrup (simmer 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water, stir until dissolved) or get agave nectar (my preference). For lighter cocktails, have some sparkling water on hand (I like Topo Chico) for effervescence.

4. Stock a simple bar. You don’t need to buy the whole liquor store to get started, just choose a few liquors that you already know you like. I keep vodka, gin, tequila, and bourbon on-hand. Pick up some Angostura bitters (or fancy flavored bitters) to play with – a few drops will take your bourbon drinks to the next level.

the night of:
1. Squeeze your citrus in style with this pretty Olivewood Citrus Reamer.

2. Shake or stir your creations.

3. Serve them in gorgeous glasses like these Schott Zwiesel Pure Double Old-Fashioned Glasses.

#2: MAKE PASTA TOGETHER

prep ahead:
1. Choose a recipe and gather your ingredients (this is my go-to fresh pasta recipe). Once your pasta is made, Linguine with Winter Greens (pictured above) or Lemony White Wine pasta are nice, simple choices for fresh pasta.

2. Make the pasta dough and let it chill in the fridge a few hours in advance.

the night of:
1. Roll the dough (I use my KitchenAid pasta attachment) and make pasta! Tag team – one person does the rolling while the other grabs the pasta and strings it on a drying rack.

2. Serve your pasta in these ultra chic Fortessa Rim Pasta Bowls (pictured), or Fortessa Coupe Bowls, and twirl it on fancy Royal Pacific Flatware.

#3: TRY A NEW DESSERT

Jack usually makes his infamous Molten Chocolate Cakes. This year, we’re making adorable Heart Shaped Lemon Madeleines! Get the pan here and the recipe here. Mini Valentine’s Day Spatulas are optional but, in my opinion, way too cute to resist!

#4: AND FOR THE ULTIMATE DATE, WIN A TRIP TO SONOMA! 

This is an idyllic trip that I’ve personally been on. The food and wine were amazing, the Fairmont Sonoma was luxurious, and the cooking class at the original Williams Sonoma store was tons of fun. Click here to enter. My fingers are crossed for you!

– xoxo & Happy Valentine’s Day!

This post was created in partnership, and is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Fortessa.

pasta-rolling photo credit: Kate LeSueur via Camille Styles.

Meyer Lemon Madeleines

Meyer Lemon Madeleines

If I had to pick a favorite holiday, it would have to be Valentine’s Day. I’ve always loved the day because really, it’s so… simple. The only real rule is that you need to show people you love them. Check back Friday for a date night story about Jack and me, but I’m dedicating this post to the person that made this day my favorite when I was a kid – my mom.

Growing up, she always made Valentine’s Day so special for me and my sister. For at least a week leading up to February 14th, we would make crafts with tiny scissors and red construction paper. There would also be treats galore… brownies cut into heart shapes and cupcakes topped with poofs of pink frosting. On the special day, there may or may not have been a heart shaped breakfast before we’d put on pink dresses and head to school to trade tiny envelopes with our little friends. After school, there were more treats. It was the sweetest kind of sugar rush there could be.

So fast forward to now, it’s only appropriate that the credit, again, goes to mom. I’ve been a little down for the count with some health issues and other calamities lately, and my mom spent a few weeks in town to help out in that way that only moms can. The bed got made, the dog hair got vacuumed out of the sofa cushions, AND heart shaped madeleines for the blog got made. And, how cute are they?!?

Of course, we made them with a little lemony spin. They were incredibly easy to make because, well, my mom did all of the work. So let’s just say that they were incredibly easy to eat.

Meyer Lemon Madeleines

Tart Cherry Tartelettes

There seems to be a national holiday for every type of food imaginable… I’m usually the last to know until my Instagram feed is chock full of deliciousness for National Chocolate Cake Day (January 27th), National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (May 15th), and the one I’m most ashamed to have missed, National Taco Day (October 4th).

But this month, I’m covering all my bases because February is not only National Chocolate Lovers’ Month, it’s also National Cherry Month. To celebrate, we’ve partnered with the Cherry Marketing Institute to bring you these decadent (no-bake) chocolate tart cherry tartelettes.

These start with a cocoa walnut crust and are filled with coconut lemon cream… the cherry on top is a scoop of sweet-but-not-too-sweet Montmorency tart cherries (also sometimes called sour cherries). So that everyone can participate in the holiday, this dessert also just happens to be vegan and gluten-free.

Lets talk about tart cherries: were obsessed. Especially with the ones that come frozen. I put them in my morning smoothie, my mom tops them onto her yogurt, and Jack eats them plain like candy. Tart cherries have some major superfood qualities – they reduce inflammation and are a natural source of melatonin, which helps regulate sleep.

The cherry love doesn’t stop here – four other bloggers are participating in a virtual tart cherry-infused progressive dinner. Jelly Toast is making the cocktail, A Couple Cooks is making the appetizer, Cookin’ Canuck, the vegetable, and Love & Zest is making the entrée.

Head over to Choosecherries.com to see the Perfectly Tart Dinner Menu and all of the other recipes!

Healthy Loaded Vegan Nachos

Healthy Loaded Vegan Nachos

It sounds silly to say, but the first vegan “dish” I really fell hard for was nachos. It was years ago at Native Foods where the Native Nachos were a revelation to us. They weren’t a snack, they were our dinner late one night. They were piled high with taco “meat,” black beans, cashew cheese (a crazy concept at the time), salsa, and guacamole… we scarfed them down saying (with our mouths full) “how are these vegan?!”

I came home with their cookbook and every night later that week, I made nachos.

My version here is quite a bit different, but the concept is the same – pile on loads of fresh ingredients and nachos can be healthy. Or at least healthy-ish. (If you baked your own tortilla chips these would be a tad healthier).

Healthy Loaded Vegan Nachos Healthy Loaded Vegan Nachos

Instead of using fake-meat products, I make a version of ground taco “meat” with walnuts, shiitake mushrooms, spices, and black beans. As for the cashew cream, it’s made with pumpkin puree which gives it the classic nacho cheese-like color. From start to finish, this recipe is a bit long, but you should definitely use a few of these components for other recipes. For example, the cashew cream here was left over from the night we ate these tacos. If you have leftover taco meat, save it for, well, tacos later in the week.

Healthy Loaded Vegan Nachos

But lets get back to the healthy part – there’s kale in here! It’s thinly sliced and conveniently hidden in the middle layer so no one will notice. I also added a layer of crispy radishes because their crunch factor helps you get away with a few less tortilla chips. Top it all with diced avocado and a few generous squeezes of lime. Game on.

Healthy Loaded Vegan Nachos

Mini Potato Pizzas

Mini Potato Pizzas

If there’s any vegetable that’s under-represented on this blog, it has to be the potato. If you take a glance at our recipe index, you’ll notice that I while I have a mild obsession with sweet potatoes, I often skip over other potato varieties. But I have to tell you, I’m in love with all potato varieties (russets, red, whites, blues, the list goes on…), which are especially great for entertaining. These little pizzas are SO delicious and so so easy. A perfect appetizer to serve this Sunday for the big game.

Mini Potato Pizzas

To make these, first seek out some colorful pretty petite potatoes. Ok, just kidding, if you can’t find this exact assortment (I found these at Whole Foods, btw) just choose the smallest new potatoes or fingerling potatoes you can find. It’s best to slice these on a mandoline so that the potatoes cook quickly and become lightly crisp around the edges.

Assemble the pizzas with garlic oil, cheese, rosemary and a drizzle of olive oil. If you’re entertaining, you can assemble these an hour (or so) ahead of time and pop them into the oven just before you’re ready to serve.

Mini Potato Pizzas

Ok, I’m drooling now because I just loved these way too much and can’t wait to make them again!

For the ultimate list of potato recipes, go check out potatogoodness.com.

Mini Potato Pizzas