Can you feel it? Love is in the air. Store windows are decorated with red and pink hearts and ads for jewelry, especially rings, seem to be on a constant loop on television. That can only mean one thing – Valentine’s Day is drawing near. When you start counting all the ways to show your special someone how much you care, skip the reservations at that fancy restaurant. Sure it’s nice to get all dressed up and go out for dinner but it’s even nicer to stay in. Anyone can make reservations but it’s an extra-special gesture to cook for someone. The way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach. When your Valentine sees the spread laid out on the candlelit table, he or she will think ‘Wow, this was all done for me!’ Here are some ideas for the perfect dinner date night recipes including some for dessert – though after eating these dishes, dessert just might be you.
The first course is like a first impression of the meal to come. When the appetizers are…well, appetizing…your date will be excited and anticipating all that is yet to come. Choose appetizers that are easy to make, can be made ahead and can be served at room temperature. The goal is to enjoy each course slowly rather than spend all night in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove. Food that you can eat with your fingers is even better for creating a sensual experience. One of my favorite starters is bruschetta – crunchy toasted bread topped with amazing spreads. Here is a delicious type of bruschetta that is perfect when made with toasted slices of French or Italian bread – it’s red, juicy and sexy. To make my Garlic Tomato Bruschetta: Preheat the broiler. Place 16 bread slices on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbs. of olive oil. Broil the bread for just 3-4 minutes until it is crispy. Remove from the oven. In a skillet, heat 2 more Tbs. olive oil over medium heat. Add 4 minced garlic cloves and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook for a minute until the garlic just starts to soften. Add 1 pint of halved grape tomatoes and cook for about 4 minutes until they soften. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the tomatoes onto the toasted bread. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and vegan grated parmesan. Other appetizers that you can eat with your fingers and feed each other with include Sweet Potato Bruschetta, Ultimate Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms, Veggies and Mushroom Mini Bites, Super Flax Green Bean Fries, Chicken-Free Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce, Chickpea Fries, Cheesy Roasted Tomatoes, Tomato and Garlic Focaccia, and Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce. Impress your date by making an artisanal cheese plate that just happens to be vegan. Fill a platter with Vegan Cashew Dill Cheese, Vegan Baked Nut Cheese, Kick Ass Extra Sharp Raw Vegan Cheddar Cheese Ball, Vegan Macadamia Nut Brie en Croute, Pepper Jack Cashew Cheese, Smoked Vegan Coconut Gouda, and an Herb and Nut-Encrusted Cheese Log.
A bowl of soup can be romantic so long as you don’t slurp it loudly. Choose soups that are pretty, light and creamy and serve them in small cups or bowls. My favorite Valentine’s Day Soup is my Purple Cauliflower Soup. It’s a beautiful pink color that is perfect for Valentine’s Day. Heat 1 Tbs. vegetable oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add 1 chopped onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic. Let them cook about 5 minutes until softened but not browned. Add 1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets and 4 cups vegetable broth. Bring the soup to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and cook covered about 20-30 minutes until the cauliflower is falling apart. Remove the soup from the heat. Take out about ½ cup of the cauliflower and set aside for garnish. Puree with an immersion blender (or a regular blender) until the soup is smooth. Add 3 Tbs. grated vegan parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh chives or scallion greens and the reserved cauliflower. Share a bowl of this Hearty Valentines Soup made with pumpkin and warm spices. Other romantic soups include this Fantastic French Onion Soup, Creamy Vegan Not Clam Chowder, Potato Chive Soup, and Vegan Cream of Tomato Soup.
Yes, salads can be sexy. I’m not talking about a plate of plain lettuce and tomatoes that says boring but a plate that speaks volumes about your sense of fun and creativity. Choose colorful ingredients and instead of just chopping them up, create interesting shapes with vegetable peelers and mandolines. Add nuts, seeds, fruit and other sensuous extras. Make this Rainbow Salad, Easy Avocado Salad, Pomelo Salad with Roasted Coconut, and Chili, Mint and Bean Shoot Salad. Give your date a hint at your massaging talents with this Raw Massaged Kale Salad with Fresh Figs and Oranges. Forego the typical bowl of salad and serve a stack instead like this Toasted Quinoa Vegetable Stack with Green Goddess Dressing and this Heirloom Tomato Pesto Stack.
When deciding on a main course, think about what your date likes best. If your Valentine prefers hearty, meaty dishes, then serve up some meatless entrees like Braised Seitan Short Ribs in Spicy Chile Sauce, Seitan Steak in Beurre Blanc Sauce, Seitan and Mushroom Bourguignon, Seitan Wellington with Creamy Spinach Sauce, Tempeh Piccata, “Chicken-Fried” Tofu Steaks, Pasta with Vegan Bolognese Sauce or Moroccan Tofu in Lemon-Olive Sauce over Spaghetti. If your love prefers the sea to land, they’ll be hooked when you serve Tofu Scallops, Tofu “Shrimp” Scampi, or Tempeh “Crab” Cakes with Horseradish-Dill Mayo. Share your love of veggies with this Cauliflower Piccata, Vegetable Lentil Shepherd’s Pie, Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf, or Curry Gravy Vegetable Pot Pie. Who knows amore better than Italians? Play “Lady and the Tramp” with your date by slurping up this Lemon-Butter Fettuccine with Parsley and Pine Nuts and pushing Lentil Meatballs with your nose. Ok, you don’t have to go that far but no one would be able to resist sharing this Ooey-Gooey Baked Ziti, Butternut Squash Risotto, Pumpkin Gnocchi in Spiced Butter Sauce with Lemon Cashew Cream or Potato and Porcini Mushroom Ravioli in Broccoli Cream Sauce. Make my Gnocchi with Butternut Squash, Kale and Mozzarella: Melt 1 Tbs. of vegan butter in a large skillet or saucepan that has a lid over medium heat. Add 1 lb. gnocchi and toss to coat in the butter. Cook until the gnocchi is browned and crisped up a bit, about 6 minutes. Transfer the gnocchi to a bowl. Add another Tbs. of vegan butter to the pan. Add 3 cups cubed butternut squash and cook, stirring, until slightly golden and soft, about 8 minutes. Add 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp. ground sage, ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Cook until the garlic softens, about 2 minutes. Preheat the broiler. Add 1 cup broth to the skillet. When it starts to simmer, stir in a bunch of chopped kale and cover the pan, letting the kale wilt slightly. Uncover the pan and add the gnocchi, stirring to coat. Add 1 cup vegan mozzarella and 2 Tbs. of vegan grated parmesan and toss to combine everything. Transfer the food from the pan to a casserole dish. Sprinkle with the remaining grated parmesan. Broil until golden and bubbly, about 4 minutes. Serve while warm.
It’s a good idea to keep the sides on the light side since you and your date won’t want to be too full. After all, you have to eat dessert, right? Still, the sides should be delicious and memorable. Serve lots of veggies, whole grains and a potato dish. My favorite potato dish is my Fried Smashed Potatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette. Other potato dishes that will win hearts include Chili Cheese Turnip Fries, Dill Pickle French Fries, and Baked to Perfection Fingerling Potato Rounds. For a twist on mashed potatoes, make Cheesy Polenta. If you prefer rice, try Cheesy Sprouted Brown Rice with Spinach and Mushrooms, Cilanto, Lime and Black Bean Rice, or Forbidden Black Rice with Ginger and Coconut. Keep your energy high with veggies and greens. Serve some Easy Roasted Root Vegetables, Sauteed Beet Red Greens, Roasted Vegetables with Lemon-Cannellini Sauce, Sauteed Spinach in Tomato Fennel Sauce, Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Chile Flakes, Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Braised Garlicky Kale, and Spicy Lemon Sauteed Broccolini.
It all comes down to dessert. Here is where the decadence comes in with dishes that are sweet, sticky, rich and indulgent. Take their breath away with Chocolate Raspberry Shortcakes with Coconut Whipped Cream, Spiced Chocolate Cake in One Minute for that Special Someone, Spiked Sweet Potato Truffles, Raw Double Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake, Raw Raspberry and Banana Peanut Truffles, Cacao Raspberry Magic Cake, Raw Strawberry Crème Chocolate Truffles, Heart Shaped Almond Butter Cups, and Mexican Hot Chocolate Covered Strawberries. For more ideas, check out 50 Hot and Sexy Vegan Dessert Recipes for Valentine’s Day. Nothing shows someone how much you care like making them a homemade meal. It makes a person feel good to know that someone went through all the trouble of cooking an incredible dinner just for them. Going out to eat is fun but having the perfect dinner date at home is even better. Happy Valentine’s Day!
For all the Valentine’s Day treats you’ll need, check out our The Ultimate Guide to a Vegan Valentine’s Day!
Lead Image Photo: Photo by Rhea Parsons