Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Dinner - Lasagna and More!

This is the big meal that Jeff and I have been planning all week. Rather than going out to eat on Valentine's Day, Jeff and I prefer to stay home and have a delicious, home cooked meal that's just a bit more fancy than we do for everyday meals. Tonight our menu included shrimp appetizer, garlic bread, salad, lasagna, and flourless cake for dessert.

Shrimp Appetizer
This is a dish I have made for Valentine's Day ever since Jeff and I were dating. Our first Valentine's Day, I wanted to impress him with my wonderful cooking skills so I made a big spaghetti dinner with fancy salad, and included this special little appetizer. I received the recipe at a Laurel's activity as a teenager and had never yet found an opportunity to try it. Jeff and I both enjoyed it so much that we've had it every year since. And it's simple and quick. It's a little more expensive than I usually do, but I made some changes this year to make it more budget-friendly.


1 8-oz. package cream cheese
1 bottle cocktail sauce (this year I made my own; recipe to follow)
1 can tiny shrimp, drained (we found a package of small frozen shrimp for half the price and used that instead)
Buttery snack crackers (like Ritz, or the store brand)

Place cream cheese on serving platter. Pour cocktail sauce on top, and dump the shrimp on top of the sauce. Serve with crackers. Easy peasy!

Homemade Cocktail Sauce (from this recipe)
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon red wine or other vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (substituted mustard for the tang, and hot sauce for the kick)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (omitted)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine ketchup, vinegar, and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Add horseradish, to taste. Add lemon zest and juice; chill.

I didn't look at the recipe before we did our weekly shopping on Monday, and so didn't know that it required horseradish. Apparently, horseradish is an important part of cocktail sauce - I didn't see a single recipe that didn't call for it. My version with mustard and hot sauce definitely tastes different, but Jeff and I agree that it tastes good nonetheless! And with the cream cheese, shrimp, and crackers, the taste difference became almost negligible.

Garlic Bread


I sliced the loaf of bread I made yesterday into nice thick slices. Then I buttered each and sprinkled with garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan. I reassembled the pieces back into a loaf, and wrapped it with foil, then toasted it in the oven for the final 15 minutes of baking time with the lasagna. I should have heated it a bit longer, because it wasn't fully warm (the butter didn't even melt all the way), but we were really hungry so we dug in anyway, and it tasted fine.

Salad


This was just a simple lettuce and lentil salad with vinaigrette. Nothing special by itself, but in the context of the meal, it just rounded it out a bit.

Lasagna
I used this recipe from allrecipes.com, making a few changes here and there to make it cheaper and easier. I rarely make lasagna with noodles, usually choosing to use rice instead because it's more inexpensive. For this special occasion, however, we chose to fork out for Wal-Mart brand lasagna noodles (I know, gasp, that's so expensive!) and I'm glad we did. This was a really yummy lasagna.


8 ounces lasagna noodles
1 pound ground beef (used 1/4 pound beef and 1 cup cooked cracked wheat)
1/4 cup minced onions
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 (32 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce (made my own with canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and seasonings)
1 (16 ounce) package large curd cottage cheese (used small curd, and added an egg to make it hold its shape better)
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded (got away with slightly less)

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain (Several reviewers said you can just soak the noodles in hot tap water for 20 minutes instead of cooking them, saving energy and therefore money. They finish cooking in the oven).

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute ground beef, onions, salt and garlic salt until meat is brown. Drain excess fat, add spaghetti sauce (and cracked wheat) to beef mixture, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

Line bottom of pan with three lasagna noodles. Spread 1/3 of sauce mixture over noodles. Layer 1/3 of the cottage cheese over the sauce. Sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella over the cottage cheese. Repeat this layering process until all ingredients are used up.

Bake in the preheated oven for one hour (Cover with foil for the first 45 minutes, then remove foil for the final 15 minutes). Let stand for 10 minutes before serving (to let it solidify so it slices easily. We chose to eat our appetizer, bread, and salad while the lasagna set, so we weren't just sitting around waiting).

Flourless Chocolate Cake
I've been planning this cake almost all month. I found it on allrecipes.com and thought it looked so decadent and rich that I had to try it! Perhaps, considering how much food we ate for dinner, it might have been better to have a light dessert, but I was insistent. It was this cake or nothing at all!

My favorite picture of the meal - this is the only picture I got in natural light, and it shows!


4 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, chopped (used chocolate chips)
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease an 8 inch round cake pan (I used my springform pan, it's the only 8-inch round pan I have), and dust with cocoa powder.

In the top of a double boiler over lightly simmering water, melt chocolate and butter (or use the microwave). Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely (I think mine was a bit undercooked, it wouldn't come off the bottom of the pan. It turned out very fudgy and delicious, so undercooked isn't necessarily a bad thing). Slices can also be reheated for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave before serving.


Just a note - this cake is supposed to fall. It rises a bit in the oven, gets kind of puffy, but then it falls and gets dense. Don't worry, that's supposed to happen. It's dense and fudgy and light and melts in your mouth and has got to be the most decadent dessert I've ever made!

And there you have it - our entire day of Valentine's foods! (In case you missed them, here's the links to our breakfast and lunch). I love holidays!

3 comments:

LeslieVeg said...

Hi Stephanie, I can't find your email anywhere on your blog. Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy it! I just started my own blog and the one recipe I make ALL the time is your PUMPKIN Chickpea burgers, would it be ok if I posted YOUR recipe on there? (I will say where I got it from and post your blog address on there if it is ok.)
Leslie
LeslieVeg@msn.com

Angie said...

I have that shrimp appetizer recipe too :) I got it at a Macey's cooking class years ago. Super good! And your whole meal looks great!

Anonymous said...

Cocktail sauce is simply ketchup and horseradish. You can jazz it up with a little lemon and garlic like I do. No need for cooking or butter and I find I like more horseradish in mine for a spicier flavor.