By Frank Kourt
There are not a lot of things to like about the month of February, with the possible exception that it’s the shortest month of the year.
Arguably, February is the dreariest of months, with cold, snow and rain most often in the forecast. Shut indoors, we suffer from cabin fever that isolation brings.
The one bright spot in the month is Valentine’s Day, the most romantic day of the year.
Valentine’s is the kind of day you can celebrate as simply, or as elaborately as you would like. The only restrictions are your energy and your budget, but however you choose to celebrate it, please do something because it’ll be a bright spot, not only for you, but for someone you love!
Give your friends a smile by buying a pack of those simple Valentine cards, the kind you used to pass around to all your classmates in elementary school, and send as many as you’d like or can afford out to people who are close to you. It’s a blast from the past, and sure to bring a nostalgic grin!
As for decoration around the home, you can make it as simple or elaborate as you’d like. If you’ve still got those red candles, table cloths and napkins hanging around from Christmas, use them to decorate your table, since red is the color of the day. (Plain red, though…no Santa Clauses!)
Party stores and even drug and general merchandise stores have plenty of heart-themed decorations. The dollar store might be a good place to look. I string a red tinsel streamer over my fireplace mantle and offset it with tinsel hearts that I keep from year to year. It gives the mantle a festive look even after Christmas!
Red candles in all shapes and sizes can set a romantic tone.
Gifts need not be expensive…it’s truly the thought that counts. The stores are rife with heart pendants for your lady love, and range from faux jewels to precious stones. She’s not into jewelry? How about a heart-shaped box of candy, or maybe lingerie? Red roses are almost compulsory, be it a single rose in a bud vase, or a dozen red roses in a bouquet!
For the big night, you can choose dinner out, or celebrate at home. I prefer the latter, since restaurants tend to be crowded, and many replace their usual menu with a fixed priced limited list of entrees. The big crush for the holiday can mean overworked, rushed servers and cooks alike, resulting in a disappointing dining experience. If you do choose to dine out, remember to make your reservations early!
In setting the stage for my at-home celebration, I always make sure I have plenty of romantic music on the stereo. You can’t go wrong with Sinatra, Dino, Johnny Mathis or Tony Bennett!
Dress the table with red cloth, and use your best dishes, flatware and crystal, along with cloth napkins. You can use the roses your bought for her as a centerpiece, and remember, plenty of glowing red candles help set the mood!
A bottle of champagne can go a long way in making things festive, but for a non-alcoholic alternative, there’s always alcohol-free champagne or sparkling cider or grape juice.
Guys, this is your night to cook, clean up the table and do the dishes, if you want to sustain that romantic mood.
Never fear, I’m including a couple of entrees and a dessert that are fairly easy to make, and will make the festivities complete!
Sirloin Tips in Mushroom Sauce
1/2 lb. boneless sirloin tip steak
garlic salt to taste
pepper to taste
1/4 lb. sliced mushrooms
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 10.5 oz. can beef gravy
dry red wine (optional)
Cut the steak into bite-sized pieces and brown on all sides in a little butter or oil in a Dutch oven or large frying pan with a lid, sprinkling with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Set the beef aside. In a little more butter or oil, sauté the onions and mushrooms until limp. Add the beef cubes and the gravy and blend well. Flavor with the herbs and the Worcestershire sauce and blend well again. Cover the pan and simmer on top of the stove for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring frequently, until the beef is tender. If the mixture is thickening too much, add a little wine. Serve over rice.
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 T butter or margarine
1 1/2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano*
1/2 tsp. dried basil*
1/8 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley*
1/2 lb. pasta, cooked al dente and drained
Blend the butter and oil in a large fry pan together, heat to bubbling. Add the garlic and spices, if desired. Sauté the garlic gently, do not burn it. Add the shrimp. Turn up the heat and sauté, until the shrimp turn pink. In the meantime, cook and drain the pasta and place in a large, heated bowl. Pour in the shrimp mixture and toss. Serve with plenty of freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
* Herbs are optional.
You can substitute 1 1/2 lbs. bay scallops in this recipe and have a magnificent creation. It’s all what you like! Any dry white wine, a salad and a good bread would make this a meal to remember!
Peach Melba For Two
4 canned peach halves
1/2 cup currant jelly
1/2 T cold water
2 scoops vanilla ice cream
1/2 package of frozen raspberries
3/4 tsp. cornstarch
Mix the water and cornstarch. Heat the jelly and raspberries with their syrup to boiling and stir in the water and cornstarch mixture. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Place two peach halves in each dessert glass, pour raspberry mixture over it and chill. Top with a scoop of ice cream when ready to serve.