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Valentine’s Day In

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Pull off a memorable date night without breaking the bank. 

Story and photos by Natalie Paramore

This year, whether you have plans to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your significant other, Galentine’s Day with your closest gal pals or are all set to revel in a solo evening at home, a fun dinner and date night in is easier to pull off than you might think. Incorporate some seasonal pink-and-purple-hued ingredients like strawberries and beets into the menu for a fresh, colorful approach. A memorable evening doesn’t have to be complicated. Whip up a flavorful salad, a buttery cast-iron-cooked steak that tastes just like one you’d find at your favorite steakhouse and some decadent dark- chocolate beet cupcakes. Light a few candles, pour a glass of your best bubbly and in no time at all, you’ll be happy to have swapped those pricey dinner reservations for a cozy and delicious date night at home.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad

Serves two

Ingredients

3 cups baby spinach

1 cup strawberries, diced

1/2 cup cucumber, diced

1/4 cup feta, crumbled

2 tablespoons red onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. Toss all ingredients together and serve immediately.
  2. If you’re making this recipe in advance, wait until you’re ready to serve to add the oil, vinegar and cheese.
Steak in a Cast-Iron Skillet

Directions

  1.  Let the beef come to room temperature and season it with salt and pepper.
  2. Get the cast iron smoking hot. Turn up the heat and let the pan get hot for five to 10 minutes, or until you can see smoke coming off it.
  3. The steak should sizzle once it hits the pan. Let it sit for two minutes before turning it over.
  4. Don’t be afraid of butter. It adds a lot of avor and will help you achieve that steakhouse taste. Add a tablespoon of butter per steak after turning it the first time. Use a metal spoon to lap melted butter over the top of the meat.
  5. Use a meat thermometer to ensure you don’t overcook or undercook the meat.
  6. Pull the steaks off the cast-iron skillet when they are about 10 degrees cooler than you want them. Then wrap them in foil and the steaks will continue cooking on the counter. This will allow the meat to soak up the juices and not dry out.
  7. Wait at least 10 minutes after cooking before cutting into the steaks.
Dark Chocolate Beet Cupcakes

Makes about 24 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients

1 cup beet-root puree (about 2 to 3 small beets)

3/4 cup dark-chocolate chips

(Pro tip: Use the highest cocoa percentage you can find.)

11 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/4 cup hot coffee

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose our

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder 3 tablespoons cocoa powder

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

Frosting Ingredients

8 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons beet-root puree 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Boil the beets whole and unpeeled until they’re fork-tender. This should take about 30 minutes. Drain the beets and when they’re cool enough to touch, slide the skins off.
  3. In a blender or food processor, process the beets until smooth.
  4. Using the microwave, melt the chocolate in a small bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and gently stir it into the melted chocolate until it’s well combined.
  5. Add hot coffee and stir until just combined.
  6. In a separate bowl, sift together the our, baking powder and cocoa.
  7. In another separate bowl, separate the egg whites and yolks. Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  8. Combine the egg yolks with the chocolate-and-coffee mixture, then gently fold in the beet puree. Next, stir in the sugar. Then gently stir in the egg whites.
  9. Lastly, add in the sifted our, baking powder and cocoa mixture until well combined.
  10. Ladle the cupcake mixture into the cupcake pan. Fill the liners about 2/3 full to give the cake room to rise, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cake is moist but set.
  11. For the frosting, let the cream cheese soften at room temperature then beat it until fluffy. Add in the beet-root puree and vanilla until combined. Then add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until the mixture is smooth. Let the frosting chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  12. Once the cupcakes have cooled, frost and enjoy.

 

 

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