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Win your valentine's heart with a 3-course meal

By Robyn Claridy rclaridy@news-journal.com
Feb. 7, 2012 at 11 p.m.


There's nothing more romantic than a private dinner for two at home when you want to spend time with your significant other this Valentine's Day.

Instead of going to a packed restaurant filled with couples, why not light some candles, turn on some romantic music and cook a meal for your significant other.

Longview wedding planner and chef Jack Barkley said Valentine's Day is a good time to take advantage of having a special night in.

"Cooking in will be more enjoyable for everyone. Make it different than another dinner sitting in front of the television. Step it up, it's not often that you get to do this sort of thing," Barkley said.

Barkley suggested doing all the small things that make a dinner at home special, even if couples decided to order take out.

"Approach it as something fun. Even if you get take out, use the fancy china, light some candles and turn on romantic music. Cooking doesn't have to be your thing to have a romantic night at home," Barkley said.

"It keeps the romance in relationships. With the stress of everything, it's always nice to step back and rekindle the romance," he said.

While it's nice to have a romantic meal once a year on Valentine's Day, Barkley said similar meals are good to do all year round.

Barkley provided recipes for couples to try at home.

"These are simple recipes that anyone can cook. You don't have to be a chef for them to be successful," Barkley said.

Barkley's three-course Valentine meal:

<strong>Cheddar Pecan Toast</strong>

<ul> <li>12 ounce sharp cheddar cheese, shredded</li> <li>4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature</li> <li>1/4 cup medium dry sherry or white wine</li> <li>1/2 teaspoon salt</li> <li>Tabasco to taste</li> <li>1 1/2 cups pecans</li> <li>8 whole wheat pita loaves</li> </ul>

Cream together cheese, butter, sherry, salt and Tabasco, then stir in pecans. Spread cheese mixture over toasted pita wedges and broil for one to two minutes, until topping is lightly browned and bubbly.

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<strong>Filet Mignon with Stroganoff Sauce</strong>

<ul> <li>6 ounces of dried egg noodles</li> <li>1 medium onion</li> <li>2 tablespoons vegetable oil</li> <li>2 thick beef filet mignon tenderloin steaks</li> <li>3/4 teaspoon salt</li> <li>1 garlic clove, thinly sliced</li> <li>1/2 pound sliced white mushrooms</li> <li>1/4 cup brandy (optional)</li> <li>2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce</li> <li>3/4 reduced-sodium beef broth</li> <li>3/4 cup sour cream</li> </ul>

Cook noodles in a six to eight quart pot of boiling salted water until just tender, then drain in colander. While noodles are cooking, thinly slice onion. Heat oil in 12 inch skillet over high heat until hot, but not smoking. While the oil heats, pat meat dry, sprinkle salt and pepper on steaks, put in skillet and saute', turning over once with tongs. Add onion, garlic, teaspoon salt and teaspoon of pepper in oil in skillet, scraping up any brown bits with wooden spoon, until onion begins to brown (about three minutes.) Add mushrooms and saute', stirring occasionally until liquid given off by mushrooms is evaporated (about four minutes.) Add brandy (optional) and boil until evaporated (about one minute), then add broth and Worcestershire sauce and cover and cook until onion is softened (about four minutes.) Remove from heat and stir in sour cream. Toss noodles with some of the sauce, serve the remaining sauce over steaks. Put noodles on plate and place steak on top of the noodles.

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<strong>Orange Marmalade Carrots</strong>

<ul> <li>1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally</li> <li>1/3 cup orange marmalade</li> <li>1 tablespoon brown sugar</li> <li>1 tablespoon butter or margarine</li> <li>1 tablespoon run (optional) use water substitute</li> </ul>

In vegetable steamer over boiling water, cover and steam carrots for about 10 minutes, or until crisp and tender. Put carrots in serving bowl, sir marmalade into carrots until marmalade has melted. Combine brown sugar, butter and rum (or water) in small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until butter and brown sugar have melted. Remove from heat and toss with carrots.

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<strong>No-flour Vanilla Wafer Cake</strong>

<ul> <li>1 cup butter, room temperature</li> <li>2 cups sugar</li> <li>6 eggs</li> <li>12 ounces crushed vanilla wafers</li> <li>1/2 cup milk</li> <li>7 ounces grated coconut</li> <li>1 cup chopped pecans</li> <li>Baking spray</li> <li>Cool whip</li> <li>Fresh strawberries</li> </ul>

Cream butter and sugar together, beat in eggs one at a time. Add crushed vanilla wafers and milk. Fold in coconut and pecans. Pour mixture into lightly sprayed tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour and 15 minutes. Serve with dollop of whipped cream and a few sliced strawberries.

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