Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's Day | Dinner Party Menu + Recipes | My Favorite Valentine

I hope that you got the chance to spread (and feel) a little extra love on Friday!  The boys had their school parties on Thursday, which was nice, because it freed up my Friday afternoon to prepare a special dinner for them, without feeling like I also had to wrap up classroom Valentines.  Speaking of which, each year I feel inspired to do something a little extra cute, and each year when the day comes, I kind of regret taking it on.  Anyone else with me?  All the sugary treats that come home that day, all the little cards and plastic knick-knacks that get tossed in the trash two days later.   The kids do NOT care how adorably packaged their treats are, or if they were homemade, or if all their food items for the day come in the shape of hearts.  I think somewhere between the good intention of wanting to make the day special for our children and the bombardment of creative ideas on the Internet, we might have forgotten what is really most important to them - our time and attention.  So with that in mind, I'll be skipping the extra class treats next year, just doing a simple, fun card (nothing that requires fancy printing, hot glue, or multiple trips to the craft store or etsy shops).  I will reserve the baking and fancy packaging for my family and a few special friends.  There, I've said it, so hold me to it. :) And I'm giving you permission to do the same.  Because as much as I enjoy doing it, anything that requires baking and wrapping up 40 packages of treats, starts to feel a little too much like an assembly line for me and less of a joyful endeavor.  Now, all this to say, I adore Valentine's Day, don't be confused.  There are few things as sweet as all the little kiddos walking into school with their empty, artfully decorated boxes at the start of the day and returning home with them full of tiny cards.  I absolutely love it.  When I picked up Charlie from nursery school on Friday we went out for pizza together and sat at the counter reading each and every card with all the little scribbled names.  His favorites were those that came with Transformer tattoos.  Then we watched a gaggle of birds lunch on a bag of popcorn from the movie theater next door and we made up all sorts of stories about them having their own little Valentine's Day party.  It was a good day.

Friday, I spent the afternoon making a dinner that included favorites from each of my Valentines.  It is a great dinner party menu even if you aren't dining with children.  Rosemary & Garlic Rack of Lamb, Herbed Stuffed Tomatoes, Mashed Potatoes and Flourless Chocolate Cake for dessert.  I didn't take any food prep pictures because I wanted to just enjoy my time alone in the kitchen and prep without stopping to take photos. (First the class treat and now the pictures, maybe I'm just getting lazy. Ha!)

Here are the details.

Rosemary & Garlic Rack of Lamb
2 racks of lamb, trimmed and cut into individual chops
5 gloves of garlic
2.5 tsp of chopped, fresh rosemary
3 TBS olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh, ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, until garlic is finely chopped.  Lay the chops in a single layer on a large,  foil lined, rimmed, sheet pan  Spread marinade over each side of the chops. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-5 hours.

Preheat broiler, broil chops 4-5 inches from heat source, until desired temperature.  (anywhere form 3-4 minutes per side to 10 minutes per side, depending on how hot your broiler is and how cooked you want them.  The first time you make this recipe, start checking after 3 minutes.  The second side usually requires less cooking time.  We like ours a bit charred and no longer pink.  They are even better made on the grill!  But this time of year the broiler does just fine!

*A word about this recipe...this is one of my children's favorite meals.  It is almost always on someone's birthday dinner wish list.  Before we had children, it was one of my go to dinner party recipes too because it is so easy and looks so pretty presented on a plate.

Right now Trader Joe's has racks of lamb from New Zealand (which is the very best, according to my Mum) at a decent price!!

Herbed Stuffed Tomatoes
(this is a very flexible recipe. I've never actually measured the ingredients, so add more or less of what you like and switch up the fresh herbs too, except parsley is a must.  Taste the filling before you add it to the tomatoes to adjust the seasoning or herbs.)

4 tomatoes, with the core and seeds removed
3 cups of fresh breadcrumbs (I like to use a 2 day old, rustic Italian bread with the crusts removed.  Just cube bread and pulse it in the food processor till you get coarse crumbs.  If you are using fresh bread, it is best to toast the bread crumbs lightly in a dry pan.  If bread is a day or two old, that is not necessary.)
1 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
1 TBS chopped fresh Thyme
2 TBS chopped fresh basil
1/4 - 1/2 cup coarsely ground Parmesan cheese (also in food processor)
3 TBS olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 325.
Place tomatoes in a small baking dish.  Combine bread crumbs, herbs, olive oil, cheese, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Stuff filling in each tomato and drizzle the tops with additional olive oil.  Bake at 325 for about 45-60 minutes, till tops are golden brown.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Liqueur, link to recipe is here.
This was one of the first desserts I made over and over again in the early years of our marriage.  We came to call it "Slice of Heaven Cake." It is especially amazing served with coffee ice cream and fresh whipped cream.  And it can easily be made a day in advance.

Lastly, I had to share the sweet, little Valentine that Andrew gave to Jimmy and I.  It was my favorite, videos beat cards any day...


  1. The video was precious, and I can thoroughly understand why it was your favorite! Would you believe I have never prepared nor even tasted lamb...does it taste like beef? I am going to have to try that chocolate cake..real soon! A belated happy heart day to you and yours.

    1. hi kelly, ha, that's funny, no lamb doesn't taste like beef. it tastes more gamey i guess, like lamb. :) so helpful. it is actually easier to digest than beef and better for you. i suppose it's one of those things you need to try b/c it does taste very specific. this is a great first lamb recipe to try too b/c the chops from a rack of lamb are so thin. let me know if you do! xo, T

  2. Great post, Tessa. I have been feeling the I try to simplify yet keep life special.
    You have quite a talented A Drew with that video. So cute & thoughtful!


  3. What a sweet little man making such a great video. Love it! You meal looks delicious, and I am now inspired to try making lamb!