Bless Your Spoon — Meals for two Valentines

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 9, 2023

By Mandy Haggerson

Flowers and candy are go-to gifts for Valentine’s Day, but the best way to say “I love you” is with a home-cooked meal. Special entrees and decadent desserts make the case for a romantic dinner for two in celebration of the season of love. One of the sweetest days of the year, make the occasion meaningful — a day for expressions of care, love and tenderness. Hopefully, your menu selections will reflect those sentiments. Reading cookbooks and curating a rich and decadent menu makes for fun planning. I’ve put together a few easy but savory dishes that will make a loved one swoon over you. Serve with a simple side dish of rice or noodles and a fresh steamed green veggie.

To celebrate heart month, I want to share a love story with you. Last Saturday morning, a message of great love was delivered during a magnificent church service and by the end, an even greater revelation had been revealed.

In the initial days of February, instead of selecting a gourmet meal to celebrate the love of her life, my friend, Linda, was choosing Biblical scripture and hymns that would honor the life of a man who had loved her well.

I hadn’t expected Bruce’s service of worship and celebration of life to be such a profound lesson on love. Linda and her husband Bruce were a perfect match, sharing passions for many of the same things. I think Linda fell in love with her husband on their first date. Bruce was the love of her life and she was his. They complimented each other in every way — Linda, with her love of cooking, soil, rocks, water and every itty-bitty insect or plant found in it, and Bruce as a creative sous chef with a love for nature and abundant wildlife. The pair rested in peaceful harmony much like the way two puzzle pieces fit snugly together.

To hear Linda tell it, Bruce was a great lover. And he was. Whether he was tending to peppers in their garden, giving tender care to his orchids, nurturing lilies in the flower beds or mending an animal’s broken limb, he was a great lover of all.  A veterinarian, Bruce loved all God’s creatures, great and small. He’d dedicated his life to taking care of them and was all that epitomizes a great lover — steadfast, warmhearted, compassionate and more.  The message was deep and meaningful. Bruce lived each day the way God intended us to live and love — by loving and tending to all of God’s creation well. And if you’ve ever been loved by someone who loves well, you’ve been gifted with something most profound.

You know, music often awakens, calls forward and inspires the Holy Spirit within. Nearing the end of the service, guitar strings gently strummed along with soft notes from a piano. The graceful music called forth the Holy Spirit who provided the answer to my wandering mind’s question — who is the greatest lover the world has ever known?

God. He’s the greatest lover any of us will ever know. His love encompasses all — it has no bounds. God’s love is pure, sacrificial and immeasurable, with an unconditional agape love for us.

On God’s love and ours, 1 John 4:13-16 reads, “We know that we live in Him and He in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”

The book of First John was written so that we’d know the reality of God in our lives through our faith in Christ to assure us we have eternal life, and encourage us to remain in light, love and fellowship with God. God works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to his purpose. We can feel confident that even through death, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.

In Romans, Paul clearly lays out the foundation for his faith. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39.

The officiating minister closed with special words perfect for Valentine’s Day.

“When we are loved, well — we love others, well.”

Baked Lobster for Two

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter, divided

• ½ tsp. crushed garlic, divided

• 12 oz. cooked lobster meat, divided

• 1½ cups fresh bread crumbs

• 2 oz. grated Sharp Cheddar cheese

• 8 Tbsp. melted, salted butter

• ¼ tsp. paprika

• 1 oz. dry sherry

In two individual ramekins, place 1 Tbsp. butter and ¼ tsp. crushed garlic. Top each with 6 oz. cooked and chunked premium lobster meat. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, grated cheese, melted butter and paprika. Mix well. Pour over the lobster meat in each ramekin. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 25 minutes or until brown. Top off browning by placing under broiler to finish browning before serving. Sprinkle dry sherry over the tops.

Veal Scallopini

• 1½ pounds cut 3/8-inch veal cutlets

• All-purpose flour

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

• 12 sliced mushrooms

• 1 Tbsp. salted butter

• Garlic, onion, celery salts

• White pepper

• 2 oz. Marsala wine

• 2 oz. tomato sauce

• Chopped parsley

• Cooked thin spaghetti

• Store-bought or fresh seasoned tomato sauce

• Grated parmesan cheese

Pound veal cutlets thin with mallet. Dip pieces in flour. In a skillet, heat butter with olive oil. Sauté cutlets until brown on each side. Lightly season with salt and white pepper. Remove cutlets to a serving platter and keep warm. In a separate pan, melt butter and sauté sliced mushrooms. Add mushrooms to the veal pan and pour in wine and tomato sauce. Turn heat up and deglaze pan, scraping all meat drippings from entire pan. Stir well to mix. Pour over the warmed cutlets. Top with chopped parsley. Heat already-cooked spaghetti, pasta or noodles in the skillet. Add tomato sauce and top with Parmesan cheese. Serve with cutlets.

Mini Lobster Pies

• 4 Tbsp. salted butter

• 4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 2 cups hot whole milk

• 2 cups hot cream

• 4 Tbsp. salted butter

• 1 pound cooked lobster meat

• ¼ cup sherry

• ½ tsp. paprika

• Cayenne pepper

• 1 tsp. salt

• 4 beaten egg yolks

• ¼ cup sherry


• ¾ cup grated bread crumbs

• ¾ tsp. paprika

• 3 Tbsp. crushed potato chips

• 1 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

• 5 Tbsp. melted salted butter

In a skillet, combine butter with flour and mix well. Stir in hot milk and cream. Cook on low for 20 minutes while stirring until it thickens. Set aside. In another skillet, melt butter and sauté cooked lobster meat. Add sherry and paprika. Cook for 5 minutes. Add salt, pinch of pepper and the cream sauce that was set aside. In a mixer bowl, beat egg yolks. Add a little of the cream sauce to warm and then add the entire mixture into the lobster and cream sauce. Cook on low while constantly stirring until it thickens. Stir in sherry.  Spoon into 4 individual casseroles. For the topping, combine bread crumbs, potato chips, parmesan cheese and butter. Spread equal amt. of topping on each. Brown in a preheated 400-degree oven until browned.

Roasted Duck a la Orange

• 4 pound duck

• Salt and pepper

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

• 2 juiced oranges

• 1 grated orange rind

• 4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• ¼ cup orange liqueur

• ¼ cup thin strips orange peel

Clean duck and rub outside and cavity with salt and pepper. Truss duck and prick the skin all over. Roast in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour and 40 minutes without basting. When done, remove duck to a platter. Retain pan juices but remove any excess fat from pan. For the sauce, in a saucepan, combine sugar and vinegar and cook until caramelized. Stir in orange juice, grated orange rind, lemon juice and orange liqueur. Bring to a simmer and stir until the caramel has dissolved. Add the meat juices left in the pan to the juice mixture and bring to a boil while stirring. Stir in orange peelings and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour sauce over duck.

Filet of Beef Marsala

• 2 oz. cooking oil

• 1 chopped shallot

• 16 1-ounce slices beef filet

• ½ cup seasoned all-purpose flour

• 4 chopped green onions

• 1 cup sliced mushrooms

• ½ cup Marsala wine

• 1 cup beef broth

• ½ juiced lemon

• 1 diced tomato

• Pinch of oregano

• Salt and pepper, to taste

In a skillet, heat oil. Sauté shallots until transparent. Dredge beef slices in flour. Cook on both sides until brown. Remove meat to a  platter. Add green onions and mushrooms to skillet and sauté until tender. Return meat to skillet. Add wine and cook until ingredients absorb the liquid. Add beef broth, lemon juice, diced tomato and pinch of oregano. Cook at a gentle simmer until liquid barely covers the meat. Salt and pepper to taste.

Shrimp Scampi

• 2 cups Wesson vegetable oil

• 1 Tbsp. paprika

• 2 chopped cloves garlic

• ½ juiced lemon

• Salt and pepper

• 12 ounce cooked flat noodles

• ½ pound melted butter

• 2 chopped cloves garlic

• 24 extra-large jumbo shrimp

• Chopped parsley/chives

For the marinade, combine vegetable oil, paprika, chopped garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Marinate shrimp for 8 hours in refrigerator. Drain. When ready to prepare, cook noodles per package directions and set aside. For the shrimp, in a skillet, melt butter. Add chopped garlic cloves. Sauté drained shrimp in garlic butter until done. Then sauté the cooked noodles in the garlic butter. Place a serving of noodles in center of plate and arrange prawns around the noodles. Sprinkle with chopped parsley or chives.

Champagne Chicken

• 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

• 1 cup chicken broth

• 3 cups champagne

• 6 Tbsp. salted butter

• 4 Tbsp. chopped shallots

• 3 cups whipping cream

• Salt and pepper

• Buttered noodles or rice

Pound breasts with meat mallet to flatten just a little. In a skillet, place breasts. Add chicken broth and cover with champagne. Add butter and shallots. Bring to a simmer, cover securely in foil, and cook 15 minutes or until chicken is firm. In another pan, heat the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over chicken in skillet and simmer until thickened. Serve over rice or buttered noodles.

Fancy Side of Noodles

• Boiling water

• 8 ounces medium thick egg noodles

• 2 cups sour cream

• 2 cups regular cottage cheese

• 3 minced cloves garlic

• 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

• Dashes of hot sauce

• ¼ cup chopped onion

• ¼ cup salted butter

• Salt and pepper, to taste

• Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a pot, bring water to a boil, and cook egg noodles 10 minutes. Rinse and drain in cold water. In a mixer bowl, combine sour cream, cottage cheese, minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, onion, butter, and salt and pepper. Gently fold this mixture into the egg noodles until thoroughly mixed. Pour into a butter-greased baking dish. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. While hot, evenly sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and serve.

Dressed for Winter Rice

• 2 cups Uncle Ben’s converted rice

• ½ cup melted, salted butter

• Ground bird giblets, optional

• 3 large onions

• 4 stalks celery

• 1 green pepper

• 1 Tbsp. salt

• 1 Tbsp. poultry seasoning

• 2 eggs

• 1 cup chopped pecans

• ½ cup chopped parsley

In a pot, cook rice as directed on package. In a skillet, melt butter. In a bowl, combine ground meat gibbets and finely chop onions, celery and green pepper. Add giblets and vegetables to butter and sauté until cooked. Add salt and poultry seasoning. Fold the onion mixture into the rice and mix well. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Fold the eggs into the rice mixture. Mix well. Then fold in chopped nuts and parsley until mixed well. Bake in a well-greased baking dish in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. For this rice dish, giblets are optional. You can also use ground chicken or beef and not giblets, if preferred. If not using any meat, you can throw in a flavored bouillon cube dissolved in a little water.

Coconut Mousse with Strawberry Sauce

• 6 beaten egg whites

• ½ cup 10x confectioners’ sugar

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 cup coconut milk

• 4 Tbsp. dissolved gelatin

• Warm water

• 1 pint whipped whipping cream

• ½ cup toasted coconut, topping

Strawberry sauce

• 10 ounces frozen strawberries

• ¼ cup flaked coconut

• 1 ounce orange-flavored liqueur

In a mixer bowl, beat egg whites. Beat in sugar by the tablespoon until soft peaks form. Gently stir in vanilla and coconut milk. Dissolve gelatin in a little warm water and add to the mix. Refrigerate for 40 minutes. Whip the cream until thickened and fold into the egg-white mixture. Chill an additional 1½ hours or until sets. Top with toasted coconut. Drizzle strawberry sauce over top of mousse. For the sauce, combine strawberries, coconut and orange-flavored liqueur. Mix well. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Walnut Pie

• 2 cups sugar

• 1 cup water

• ½ tsp. salt

• 1½ sticks salted butter

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 6 beaten ex-large egg yolks

• 1 cup chopped walnuts

• 1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

In a pot, combine sugar, water and salt and bring to a boil until syrup reaches 235 degrees on a candy thermometer or spins a thread at least 2-inches long. Add the butter and continue to boil until all bubbles are yellow. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. When completely cooled, beat in vanilla and beaten egg yolks until thoroughly mixed. In the bottom of the pie crust, evenly spread chopped walnuts. Pour mix mixture over the walnuts. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 55 minutes or until pie is set. Top with be a glossy light brown on top. Serve with ice cream.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

• 1 pound cubed brioche bread loaf

• 8 Tbsp. melted salted butter

• 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

• 2½ cups half and half

• 1 cup sugar

• 6 large eggs

• 4 large egg yolks

• 2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

• 1/8 tsp. salt

• 2 Tbsp. melted salted butter

• 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar

In a bowl, place bread cubes. Pour melted butter over bread and toss to coat. Add chocolate chips and toss. Transfer to a butter-greased 13 x 9 baking dish. In a mixer bowl, whisk half and half sugar, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla extract and salt. Mix well. Pour over bread cubes. Allow to stand 30 minutes while occasionally pressing bread into custard. Drizzle melted butter over pudding and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour or until set in center and toasted. Serve with rum sauce.

Butter Rum Sauce

• 2 sticks salted butter

• 1 cup packed dark brown sugar

• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

• 1/4 tsp. salt

• ¼ cup dark rum

• 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add sugar, cinnamon and salt and stir until dissolved. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in rum and vanilla. Serve warm over the pudding.

Sour Cream Cheesecake

• 2½ cups graham cracker crumbs

• 3 oz. melted butter

• 2 tbsp. sugar


• 4 beaten eggs

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 cup sugar

• 24 ounces cut up softened cream cheese

• 16 ounces sour cream


• 16 ounces sour cream

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 2 Tbsp. sugar

For the crust. Mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and sugar. Press into bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform cheesecake pan. For the filling, in a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Beat in vanilla and sugar. Mix well. Add pieces of softened cream cheese and beat 15 minutes on high speed. Fold in sour cream until smooth. Pour into crust. Bake for 35-45 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. Allow to cool. For topping, in a mixer bowl, combine sour cream, vanilla, and sugar. Evenly spread on top of cooled cheesecake. Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving. Top with fresh fruit or sauce.