Easy recipes, quick ideas to brighten your Valentine’s Day

Celebrate Valentine's Day with a few quick recipes. Photo: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami
By Jenny Hudak

Celebrate Valentine's Day with a few quick recipes. Photo: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami

Easy recipes, quick ideas to brighten your Valentine’s Day

By Jenny Hudak
With the holiday of love approaching, here are some foolproof recipes to prepare for a cozy night at home. And you can order a virtual serenade for your loved one.

In a year of what feels like never-ending uncertainty, maybe this Valentine's Day you want to forego your annual game of “guess what’s inside the chocolates.” (Can we all agree raspberries don’t belong in chocolate?) 

Almost a year into the coronavirus pandemic, you and your Valentine, Palentines, or whomever you’re celebrating Feb. 14 with are probably foraging for ways to keep at-home-dining options tasty, affordable, and—most importantly—easy.

At some level, you and your loved one may be looking to completely skip out on the holiday, altogether. After so many months of eating at home, what’s another Sunday evening dinner? But, not so fast. Berit Brogaard, a professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Miami and author of the book “On Romantic Love,” said not spending a romantic holiday with a partner can affect people much more than simply celebrating it. 

“Not celebrating a holiday can negatively affect your romantic relationships because on an unconscious level, you believe that celebrating this romantic day with someone you love romantically is a matter of life or death,” said Brogaard.

Participating in joint activities, like cooking, Brogaard added, are a great way to get to know your partner by building mutual emotional intimacy and closeness.

But, celebrating the season of love is not limited to just a romantic partner. Last year, Josh Stewart, a junior studying meteorology, spent his Valentine’s Day dining out with a group of his friends. This weekend, Stewart plans to spend the holiday cooking in his on-campus apartment with his friends.

“I was scrolling through TikTok last week and saw a few recipes that looked pretty appetizing, so my friend and I decided we’d try them this weekend,” Steward said. “Something about cooking at home is more wholesome. Just going through the process of preparing the food with my friends will be a fun way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.” 

So, cozy up, preheat the oven, and break out the romantic comedies. Here are a few recipes where you don't need to be Gordon Ramsey to prepare them. 

Baked Feta and Tomato Pasta 

For those of us who spend too much time on TikTok these days, you might be familiar with this recipe. This easy tomato and feta pasta, from Finnish food blogger Jenni Häyrinen, took social media by storm just a few weeks ago and is ready to make its way into your Valentine’s Day spread.

Preheat your oven to 350º, toss your cherry tomatoes, chopped garlic, feta cheese, olive oil, and seasonings into a baking dish. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes burst. In the meantime, prepare the pasta of your choice. Once your tomatoes and feta are cooked, mix the ingredients with a fork and add your cooked pasta. Garnish with fresh basil and voila! You have a creamy pasta dish for two. 

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves fresh chopped garlic
  • 1 block of feta cheese
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt, pepper, and basil to taste
  • 1 box of the pasta of your choice 

Sheet-pan Salmon and Vegetables 

When your hands are “the dishwasher” in your kitchen, you know that less is more. That’s why single-sheet-pan meals reign as a top-tier option for a date night. This citrusy sheet-pan salmon, from Robin Broadfoot on the “Tasty” blog, could trick anyone into thinking you spent a summer at The Culinary Institute of America. 

Preheat your oven to 400º. Slice two pounds of yellow potatoes and toss on a baking sheet with two tablespoons olive oil, two cloves of garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Pop your potatoes into the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet pan and toss your potatoes to the side of the pan. Add your two salmon filets and asparagus, glazed with the other two tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, two cloves of  garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for an additional 20 minutes.* 

  • 2 lbs. small yellow potatoes, quartered
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

*Cooking times may vary depending on the size of your filet. The salmon should flake easily with a fork when it’s ready. 

Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookies

Valentine's Day is (probably) revered by chocolatiers because it is the one time of year where chocolate sales skyrocket. And, while the uncertainty of the aforementioned assorted box of chocolates may be off the table this year, we shouldn't wholly expel the idea of including the decadent sweet in our evening plans. Ina Garten’s recipe for chunky chocolate chip cookies will pair perfectly with any dinner plans and complement any movie marathon. 

Preheat your oven to 350º. In a bowl, cream the butter and both sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs—one at a time—and mix well. Separately, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and then add the flour mixture to the creamed butter by using the mixer on low speed. Fold in your chocolate chunks. 

  • 1/2-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate chunks

Drop the cookie dough in small balls on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. This recipe prepares between 36-40 cookies. Bake your cookies for exactly 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly on the pan. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely and enjoy! 

So, maybe we’re not all up to par with the Ina Garten’s and Gordon Ramsey’s of the world. That’s okay. If all else fails—fear not. Papa John’s is still selling their heart-shaped pizzas this weekend. Nothing says love and comfort quite like some heart-shaped cheese and door-to-door delivery. 

But, what’s a romantic evening without a little ambiance? With live performances still on hold, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, a fraternity for men with a special interest in music, sought a virtual stage. In lieu of their infamous Valentine’s Day serenades, the group of a cappella performers will be delivering virtual “Singing Valentines.” 

Reese Ortenberg, a junior studying musical engineering and vice president of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, joined the fraternity as a first-year student. Ortenberg said he is excited to still be able to provide the romantic, and embarrassing, serenade experience.

“We had to figure out how to approach our songs differently, but we’re glad we’ll still be able to deliver them, even if they’re a little less embarrassing,” Ortenberg said. “My favorite song to perform is Rick Astley’s ‘Never Going to Give You Up.’ Because of the notoriety of the song, it’s fun to see people turn beet red while we perform.” 

The a capella group recorded various pop-love songs and will deliver the virtual serenades with a personalized message via email to the Valentine of your choice. Anyone who wishes to send a virtual “Singing Valentine” can request one here by Feb. 12.