Here are some thoughts on make-ahead Valentines Day dinners for you and your hubby after the kids go to bed....or after a busy day of work.

I always think of beef &/or seafood on Valentines Day. You can make a "pot-pie" of sorts. Earlier in the day make the filling, and 30 minutes before meal time top it with filo and bake it. I have included recipes for a beef and mushroom, and a seafood filling. Directions for the topping are at the end. There are also ideas for side dishes, dessert, and a few more make ahead ideas at the end.
Beef and Mushroom:
1 steak, 3/4 - 1 pound
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced onions
1-1/2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup cream
1 tsp sherry
salt and pepper

Since it's for 2 people, go ahead and splurge and buy a good steak...NY strip for example, or a sirloin steak. Pat it dry, salt and pepper it, and sear it on both sides in a heavy pan over high heat with a little olive oil. Remove the steak from the pan and let it rest. it will be rare, but it will cook more later, so don't worry. While the steak is resting, toss sliced onions and mushrooms in the pan, adding a bit of butter if there is no fat left. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until onions are tender and mushrooms are browned If you like, add a bit of crushed garlic at the end. Sprinkle the veggies with 4 tablespoons of flour and stir, coating them. It will be a pasty mixture. Stir in 1-1/2 cups of hot beef stock and stir as it thickens. Reduce heat. Add 1/2 cup half and half and 1 tsp sherry. Add salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg. Once the cream is added be sure the mixture doesn't boil.

1 cup seafood
1/2 cup white wine
3 TB butter
3 TB flour
1-1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper
Old Bay (optional)
precooked mushrooms or asparagus (optional)

Saute desired seafood- crab, shrimp, scallops- in a bit of buttter. When almost done (seafood will no longer be translucent when done) add 1/2 cup white wine, lower heat, and cover. Simmer for another minute. Remove seafood with a slotted spoon. Turn up the heat and reduce the remaining liquid by half. Add 3 TB of butter and stir. Sprinkle in 3TB of flour, making a rioux. Add cream and chicken stock. Mushrooms or asparagus would be a great addition to this. If you do add them, do it now, precooking them before hand. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of Old Bay if you like. You could also use a tsp of sherry and a pinch of nutmeg instead.

Putting it together:
store bought filo dough, thawed
2 individual portion crocks
1 batch of filling

Ladle your warm filling into 2 small crocks or large what you would use for French onion soup. Leave 1/2" of space at the top. Unfold your thawed filo dough and, using your crock as a guide, cut a circle or heart* slightly bigger than the circumference of the crock. Lay this on top. Brush with a well-beaten egg. Place the crocks on a cookie sheet to catch any drips, and for ease of handling in and out of the oven. Bake at 350 until top is puffy and brown.

*You can get creative with the filo by cutting out a few smaller hearts and overlapping them, or embellish the top with a few small heart cut outs.


Risotto is a good pairing with both of these and if you really want to go all out, find a heart shaped mold to press the rosotto into, unmolding it before serving. Make extra sauce to drizzle on this if you like...just add an extra TB of butter and flour to the filling recipe along with another 1/2 cup of stock.

Sweet potatoes go great with beef. You can slice them 1/2" thick and cut out hearts before cooking, and simmer them gently in a bit of stock and o.j.

Salad with cucumbers cut with a heart cookie cutter, strawberries (when sliced vertically, they are heart shaped) and raspberry vinegrette.

Oven roasted potato slices, again cut into hearts, tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted in a single layer at 400 for 30 minutes, turning half way though.

Basically any vegetable that can be sliced can be cut into hearts and sauteed, baked, or simmered. the veggie cutting can be done earlier in the day and if you cover them with cold water they will keep until time to cook.

I have an easy shortbread recipe, which can be cut with a cookie cutter ans served with strawberries and ice cream.

**Another good meal to make ahead is stuffed chicken breasts or stuffed pork chops. They can be prepared earlier in the day and bake rather quickly. I like spinach onion stuffing, but you can do traditional bread stuffing.

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