The Main Menu: This is the year to go all out on Valentine’s Day

Given everything we've all been through over the past 12 months, our food writer Jan Main suggests that going big (at home) this Valentine's Day is the way to go.


This Valentine’s Day, more than ever, has to be special!

Family’s working at home with school-aged children, singles isolated, essential worker’s having to go out to work and those without work or good health – so many negatives. This is the time to Put on the Ritz, make a splash and have a night out – at home – in style!

It can be done.

Why not dress up? Set the table?

Decorate if you wish with a Valentine’s theme, and conjure up a menu of delights to share with those in your bubble.

If alone, reach out to a friend by email or telephone to suggest having a glass of bubbly and a tasty meal together – on line. Best of all, share friendship!

People love appetizers and dessert! Don’t worry, you can keep it simple and tasty.

Not all items have to be homemade, select recipes or foods you love. The goal is to enjoy!

All the recipes chosen are straightforward, some child friendly and quickly made. They can be prepared in stages – in advance, refrigerated or frozen- to be hassle free. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Heart-Shaped Cheese Shortbread

You can never go wrong if you have a batch of these mouth-watering “cookies” in the freezer.

They can be refrigerated ahead or frozen and go from freezer to oven. A perfect nibble with a glass of wine or punch! (Recipe follows.)

1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 mL) grated old cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, softened
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Place flour, cheese, butter and cayenne pepper in a food processor or mixing bowl.

If using a food processor, pulse until mixture forms a ball. If using a mixing bowl and electric mixer, beat until mixture comes together.

Form into a ball. Lightly sprinkle with flour and place between 2 sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper. Flatten slightly with hand and roll out with rolling pin away from you to ¼ inch (6 millimetre) thickness). Carefully remove top layer of parchment paper.

Using heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out cookies, slipping metal spatula under cookies place on parchment paper lined baking sheet leaving ½ inch (1.2 cm) space between cookies.

Place baking tray in refrigerator until ready to bake or pre-heat oven to (350 F) 180 C; bake 8 – 10 minutes until golden and just beginning to brown around edges.

Serve immediately or at room temperature. Makes about 24 depending on size of cookie cutter. Recipe doubles easily.

In the Pink Punch

Serve this pink punch in a stemmed glass garnished with an orange slice and a cranberry on a toothpick, with ice.

1 L cranberry juice
1 bottle ginger ale
1 can frozen lemonade
Ice cubes

Pour cranberry juice into a large jug or punch bowl. Make lemonade using ginger ale instead of water and pour into cranberry juice. Add ice-cubes just before serving and several handfuls of whole, fresh cranberries.

Serve at once. Makes about 8 cups (2 L).

Pesto Croustades

These “mini pizzas” are a delectable appetizer made with commercial or homemade pesto. They can be assembled ahead, refrigerated or frozen ready to pop into the oven just before serving.

1 baguette, cut into 24 (1/2 inch/1.2 cm) slices
1 cup (250 mL) winter pesto (recipe follows) or commercial pesto
3/4 cup (175 mL) oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
2 cups (500 mL) shredded mozzarella cheese

Spread each of the 24 slices with about 2 tsp (10 mL) pesto.

Cut sun-dried tomato into 1- inch (2.5 cm) pieces and arrange in center of slice. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Place on baking sheets. Cover and refrigerate or freeze until ready to heat.

To serve: Pre-heat oven to 350 F (180 C). Bake croustades for 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately. Makes 24.

Winter Pesto

1/4 cup (50 mL) toasted pine nuts (optional)
(toast on baking sheet at 350 F for 6-8 minutes)
2 cups (500 mL) packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup (125 mL) grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp (25 mL) dried basil
3 cloves, crushed garlic
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
1 cup (250 mL) extra-virgin olive oil

In food processor, pine nuts (if using), parsley, Parmesan cheese, basil, garlic, salt, pepper until finely chopped. With motor running pour oil through feed tube. Makes 1 1/3 cup (300 mL).

Strawberry Crisp

There is something truly luxurious about a hot crisp from the oven with the seductive fragrance of “just ‘picked’ berries. Strawberries in February! The perfect treat for Valentine’s Day, served with quality strawberry or vanilla ice-cream. Yum!


1/2 cup (125 mL) butter melted
1 cup (250 mL) each, all-purpose flour, quick oats and brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon

Strawberry Base

6 cups (1 1/2 L) frozen strawberries, sliced
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar

Pre-heat oven to 350 F (180 C). Spray 13×9 inch (3 L) baking dish with baking spray. In an oven proof bowl, melt or microwave the butter to melt. Stir in flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon; mix well to combine evenly. Set aside.

Arrange strawberries in single layer in baking dish and toss with sugar to evenly cover. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over strawberries. Bake in pre-heated oven 35 -40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve hot or at room temperature with ice-cream. Makes 6-8 servings.

Tip: At this time of year, frozen strawberries are a better choice than fresh; they were picked at their peak quality in the summer and flash frozen.

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