Romantic Dinner. Place setting for Valentine's Day

Are you tired of fighting the long wait times for a table at your favorite restaurant on Valentine’s Day? Or is the reservation list all full at that romantic bistro you’ve been wanting to try? This year, go ahead and avoid the crowds of lovebirds and make a romantic dinner at home. Set a beautiful, intimate table, prep the kitchen with all the tools and ingredients, cue up the perfect playlist, chill your favorite beverage and enjoy time heating up the kitchen with your sweetheart.

Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day on Friday or anytime this weekend, there are tons of great recipe ideas sure to create a delicious and memorable evening filled with love and sweetness. Here are some ideas for starters, entrees and desserts perfect to make with your significant other. For more ideas, be sure to check out our Valentine’s Day board on Pinterest.

Starters

While you might not normally prepare a starter, appetizer or hors d’oeuvres for a typical home-cooked dinner, Valentine’s Day is a special event.

Time to pull out all the stops, however, when it comes to a truly romantic dinner. And don’t worry, a beautiful starter doesn’t have to be a complicated recipe. Something as simple as a beautiful, heart-themed Caprese salad or a simple-yet-elegant shrimp cocktail.

Try this favorite Cranberry Maple Baked Brie. Mix 1/2 cup chopped pecans with 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup. Set aside. Lay out 1 sheet of puff pastry and place half of the nut/cranberry mixture in the center and spread in a circle the same size as the brie cheese. Place cheese onto and cover with rest of the mixture. Bring edges of the pastry up, so they overlap. Seal together and top with an egg wash. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Entrees

Valentine’s Day is a perfect excuse to splurge and go for a perfectly seared prime rib, grilled filet mignon, steamed lobster tail or bundle of crab legs. It might be tempting to pull out some of your favorite recipes like lasagna or roast beef or stroganoff, and those are all delish options, but why not take those same recipes and add a little romantic flair for this dinner for two?

Try Cranberry Short Ribs. Bake 1 1/2 pounds of seasoned bone-in beef short ribs in a greased square dish at 350, covered for 1 1/2 hours. In a saucepan, combine 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard, a dash of ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk in 3/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons cider vinegar. Stir in 1/2 cup frozen cranberries and 2 teaspoons lemon zest. Boil until thick. Pour over drained ribs. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes.

Desserts

Sure, a box of chocolates or dipped strawberries are a pretty traditional sweet gift for Valentine’s Day, but when it comes dessert for a romantic, homemade dinner, it’s time to pull out all the stops and dust off your baking expertise. This lover’s holiday is a perfect opportunity to make some decadent chocolate eclairs, perfectly pink macarons, an ombre-iced layer cake, heart-shaped meringues or even, my favorite, creme brûlée.

Try Molten Lava Cakes for Two. Melt 1/4 cup unsalted butter and 2 ounces of chopped semi-sweet chocolate in the microwave. When melted, whisk in 1/2 cup powdered sugar then add 1 large egg, 1 egg yolk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Add in 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional). Do not over mix. Divide evenly into two greased, 6-ounce ramekins. Bake at 425 degrees for 12-14 minutes until edges are firm. Let cook for 1 minute then invert onto a small plate.

— Jennifer Durrant