CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Love people. Cook them tasty food." -- Penzey's Spices
Gentlemen, start your ovens! Or crank up your stoves, fire up the grill. You know what I'm saying. Prepare a sizzling meal for your special someone this Valentine's Day. It's the greatest way to win her heart.
If you are used to scheduling a table reservation for this romantic celebration, change things up and dine in. All it takes is a small amount of planning, and suddenly you have dinner for two in the privacy of your own home.
With "the big day" falling on a Friday, you probably don't have all day to cook, so keep things simple with some sophisticated twists.
There's nothing like a little Southwestern spice to heat things up. Grab a jar of your favorite salsa, which doubles as a hot hors d'oeuvre and a sassy pasta sauce. Dress up fresh salad greens and sprinkle with homemade sweetheart croutons. This isn't as hard as you think!
Start things off with a little sparkling, cue up your favorite jazzy play list and light the candles. Any guy can make reservations. It's a truly good man who dazzles with his kitchen wisdom.
Of course, you can't forget a sweet finale. This is where that planning comes in handy. Drop by Ellen's Homemade for a decadent pint of Cherry Chocolate Amore ice cream to go. Two spoons and dessert is served -- and you're a superhero!
Salsa-Baked Goat Cheese
This is an amazingly easy and delicious appetizer, and it's also a great dish to take to a casual dinner party. Keep the ingredients on hand for entertaining emergencies. Makes 4 to 6 servings as an appetizer. Make half the recipe for Valentine's date night.
1/4 cup pine nuts or coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 4-ounce log goat cheese
1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup roasted tomato salsa
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
Crostini for serving
HEAT oven to 350°. Spread out the nuts on a baking sheet, set them in the oven and let toast until lightly browned and very fragrant, 7 or 8 minutes. Remove and slide off into a medium-size bowl.
ADD the goat cheese and cream cheese to the bowl and combine thoroughly with the nuts.
SCOOP into the center of an ovenproof baking dish and form it into a 5-inch-diameter disc.
SPOON the salsa over and around the cheese, set in the oven and bake until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the cilantro and set out to enjoy as a dip with crostini.
Spicy Chicken Pasta
A match made in heaven -- creamy fettuccine Alfredo meets sizzling chicken fajitas. Makes 2 servings.
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 red bell pepper (or one-half each red and green bell pepper), cut into strips