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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Family Valentine's Day Dinner

We are having some family come over for dinner on Valentine's Day.  The perfect way for me to show them that I love them is to cook for them.  One other way for me to show them I love them is to actually spend time with them and enjoy their company instead of  cooking and cleaning the kitchen the whole day and night.  So I decided to make a dinner where I could make most of it before hand to make it    bit easier on me.  I made an awesome Tomato Basil Sauce today which I can keep in the fridge until Sunday.That will be served over some store bought ravioli.   The morning before they come I am going to make a  huge roating pan filled with Sausage, Peppers and Potatoes that I will roast in the oven while they are here.  Also, the morning before they come I am going to make an Italian Layered Salad with  a home-made Balsamic VinegaretteFor a special Valentine's Day "touch" I made a home-made loaf of Italian Bread that is formed in the shape of a heart!  For dessert I am  making an awesome White Chocolate  & Lemon Mousse Trifle!  You don't want to miss this special Valentine's Day menu!

While shopping in the alcohol section of Costco for some wine I saw this pink bottle of goodness called " X - Rated Fusion Liquer".  It is a mix of vodka, blood orange, mango and passion fruit juices.  Ok...first of all it is appropriate for Valentines Day...second it had a website that had a bunch of fun recipes to make.  We choose to make two drinks at our party to help us celebrate!


     - 1 part X-Rated
     - 1 part vodka
     - 1 part pink lemonade
     - Shake over ice
     - Serve


     - 2 parts x-rated
     - 1 part Cabo-Wabo tequila
     - 2 parts orange juice
     - Mix and serve with lots of ice


* This sauce uses most of the same ingredients as my basic Marinara Sauce, but I add a few extra ingredients to make it a bit creamier in taste and texture.  We served this over some store bought ravioli.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves chopped
  • 3 (32 oz) cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (14 oz. ) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 5 TB. butter
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 15 fresh basil leaves thinly sliced
  • salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste
  1. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot.
  2. Add garlic cloves and cook for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and one cup water, and sugar.
  4. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.
  5. With a hand blender puree sauce until smooth (you can  skip this step if you like your sauce a bit chunkier and thicker).
  6. Turn heat on to medium low.  Add butter and ricotta cheese - stir to blend in and melt.
  7. Add basil leaves, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper.  Stir well. 
  8. Cook covered for about 1/2 hour.
  9. Serve over your favorite pasta and garnish with fresh grated parmesan.


* Sausage, peppers and potatoes are such a hearty and comforting Italian dish.  I have found that if I grill the sausages a bit before I roast them they get done quicker.  I also roast the sausage and potatoes for a while in the oven before I add all the peppers.  By doing this the peppers are not over cooked and mushy.
  • 12 italian sausage cut in half (makes 24 small sausages)
  • 6 large russet potatoes quartered lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 5 assorted color peppers cut in strips about 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  •  salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, rosemary, oregano and basil to taste
  • 3 TB. tomato paste
  1. Using an indoor grill pan or outdoor grill; grill italian sausage halves browning each side and leaving gril marks ( about 2-3 minutes per side.
  2. Place grilled sausage in a large roasting pan
  3. Place quarted russet potatoes in roasting pan along with sausage.
  4. Sprinkle garlic over sausage and potatoes
  5. Drizzle olive oil over sausage & potatoes - add tomato paste and toss to coat.
  6. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, rosemary, oregano and basil to taste.  Mix well.
  7. Place in a pre-heated oven - 375 degrees. 
  8. In the meantime place peppers in a large ziplock bag - set aside.
  9. Roast sausage and pepepr for about 20 to 25 minutes.  Add peppers and continue roasting for another 20 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven - spoon out onto a large platter.  Serve immediately.


I decided to create a salad with all my favorite antipasta ingredients:  provolone cheese, salami, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, etc...These flavors together are tremendous!
  • 3 heads of romaine lettuce chopped
  • 1 (6 oz.) can black olives sliced
  • 1 (12 oz.) can artichoke hearts quartered
  • 1 (14 oz.) can garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup roasted red peppers sliced
  • 1 cup diced provolone cheese
  • 1 cup chopped italian salami
  • 1 cup chopped grape tomatoes
  • 2 TB. chopped red onion
  1. Starting with half the romaine lettuce layer all of the igredients.
  2. End with the remaining half of the lettuce and spinkle with red onion.
  3. Serve immediately with Balsamic Vinegarette


  • 4 TB. balsalmic vinegar
  •  6 TB. olive oil
  •  1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  •  1/ 2 tsp. sugar or one packet of sugar substitute
  •  salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste.
large bowl place salad, blue cheese, bacon, red onion, cranberries, pears and almonds. Toss to mix ingredients.

In a small bowl add balsalmic vinegar, garlic powder and sugar. While slowly adding the olive oil whisk it in vigorously to the balsalmic mixture.

Add salt, pepper and red pepper to taste.

Can drizzle dressing directly over salad and toss to coat or can serve dressing on the side for guests to drizzle on their own.


* To add a special Valentine's Day touch I used a heart shaped bread tin I purchased from Pampered Chef a few years ago.  I made the heart shaped bread into garlic bread and I also made a fresh loaf of italian bread.
  • 2 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 TB. salt
  • 6 cups of all-purpose flour

  1. Soften yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water (110 degrees F)
  2. Gently stir yeast into water to dissolve. Let stand for 10 minutes
  3. Meanwhile, put 1 3/4 cup of warm water and the salt into a large bowl
  4.  Blend in 3 cups of sifted flour
  5.  Add softened yeast to flour/water mixture and mix well
  6.  Add about 1/2 of the reamining flour and mix with a wooden spoon until dough starts forming
  7.  Mix in a little more flour to make a soft dough
  8.  Place dough on a lightly floured surfce and let sit for about 10 minutes
  9.  Knead the dough using the palms of your hands and gently push dough away from you
  10.  Continously knead dough for about 5 - 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic
  11.   If dough becomes sticky add 1/2 TB. of flour
  12.  Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place in a large greased bowl ( I use cooking spray)
  13.  Turn dough once in bowl to coat with oil or cooking spray
  14.  Cover the bowl with towl and let stand in a warm place for about 2 hours or until dough has doubled
  15.  After 2 hours punch down dough and knead on lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes
  16.  Cut dough into two equal balls and cover with towl for another 10 minutes
  17.  Shape the balls into loaves and place on a greased ( or cooking spray) baking sheet
  18.  Cover loaves with towel once again and set aside in a warm place until doubles
  19.  Place dough into a pre-heated oven 425 degrees
  20.  Bake bread for 10 minutes and reduce heat to 350 degrees
  21.  Bake 20 - 30 m inutes or until golden brown
 To get the bread nice and crusty, place a flat pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven during the baking period

* Recipe courtesy of :


* I saw a recipe for Lemon & White Chocolate Mousse Parfaits with Strawberries in my April/09 Bon Appetite magazine.  Parfaits are hard to make for a crowd. I adapted their parfait by adding some layers of pound cake and  making a trifle. This made is more crowd friendly.  The presentation is beautiful!
-  5 large egg yolks

-  1/2 cup sugar
-  1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
-  4 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
-  Pinch of salt
-  1/4 cup plus 4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
-  1 3.5-ounce bar high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), finely chopped
-  5 cups sliced hulled strawberries (about 2 pounds)
- 16 oz. pound cake

Whisk egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt in medium metal bowl to blend. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water. Whisk until mixture is very thick and thermometer inserted into center registers 160°F to 170°F, about 6 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Cool lemon mousse base to room temperature.

Combine 1/4 cup cream and white chocolate in another medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir constantly until chocolate is soft and almost melted. Remove bowl from over water and stir until white chocolate is melted and smooth. Cool white chocolate mousse base to room temperature.

Beat remaining 4 cups cream in large bowl until firm peaks form. Divide whipped cream between both mousse bases, folding in 1 cup at a time (about 3 cups for each) leaving about 1 1/2 to 2 cups whipped cream left for top of trifle.

Layer in a trifle bowl in the following order:  pound cake cut into pieces, lemon mousse, strawberries, pound cake cut into pieces, white chocolate mousse, strawberries, whipped cream.  Decorate the top with a few extra strawberries.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Cover and chill remaining strawberries.

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