Four Course Valentine's Day Meal

Fettuccine with Cashew-Chardonnay Sauce

I've always been a big fan of trying new things. With that being said, this year I decided to try not to dislike Valentine's Day. In the past, I always looked at this holiday as commercialism exploiting love. Or, a holiday to make lonely people feel really, really sad. Or, a holiday that always disappoints your lover no matter what you do. So, usually, my husband and I never celebrate Valentine's Day and instead celebrate Chocolate Day (a.k.a. February 15). 

This year I decided to try something new. I decided to celebrate Valentine's Day with my husband. The concept of celebrating love for another person out weighs the aforementioned cons. I showed my love the best way I know how: I cooked a four course meal.

I used the meal outlined in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of Vegetarian Times, which consisted of four dishes I had never made before. I had good intentions of practicing each of these dishes prior to V-day, but life happened and practicing did not. 

How to Cook a Four Course Meal without Going Crazy
  1. Plan ahead! 
  2. Allow plenty of time between courses
  3. Drink lots of wine

Plan Ahead!
I decided on my menu far in advance. Then, I reviewed each dish to determine what parts I could do ahead of time. I made the soup, balsamic reduction, salad dressing, and poached pears days before the actual meal. I also sketched out the tasks I needed to do the day of the meal, keeping in mind that I wanted to have about 10 minutes between each course.

Grilled Romain Salad with Poached Pear

Allow Plenty of Time Between Courses
Between each course, I prepped, cooked, and assembled the next course. I also washed the dishes (with the help of my husband!) between each course so that by the time we ate the dessert, we only had a handful of dishes to do. 

Drink Lots of Wine
This is supposed to be fun! Recognize that things will go wrong. When they do, there is wine. :) When I nearly started a fire grilling the vegetables on a stovetop grill pan, fell into a panic attack, and Oreo escaped onto the balcony, there was wine (once I could breathe at a normal pace again, of course). 

Bananas Foster
The Menu
Red Pepper Soup with Balsamic Reduction (not pictured)
Fettuccine with a Cashew-Chardonnay Sauce
Grilled Romaine Salad with Poached Pears
Bananas Foster

Red Pepper Soup with Balsamic Reduction
8 servings

Tips: The thickness of your reduction is up to you; for this, I kept it fairly thin and then I was able to use it to make the salad dressing, which was superb! However, a thin reduction will sink in the soup and thus won't be as pretty as a thicker reduction.

1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion
1/2 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
1 large shallot, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
6 cups vegetable broth (I used Rapunzel no-salt vegan bouillon cubes)
2 large red bell peppers, diced
  1. Make the balsamic reduction: Bring vinegar and agave to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until as thick as you like. Cool.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, potatoes, and shallot. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add spices and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes. Add broth and bell peppers. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. To serve, drizzle each serving with balsamic reduction.
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Fettuccine with a Cashew-Chardonnay Sauce
2-3 servings

Tips: This sauce is so good you may find yourself licking out the pot. While the cashews do make this high in fat, it is much better for you than traditional alfredo sauce. All the alcohol gets boiled out of the Chardonnay, leaving behind the flavor; therefore, it is crucial that you select a Chardonnay you like. Also, blend the cashews using a blender instead of a food processor. My food processor leaked cashew water all over my kitchen. It was a messy sight. Also, the original recipe grilled the veggies. I thought this was more work than it was worth; I recommend steaming instead.

1 cup raw cashews
1 cup Chardonnay wine
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 ounces uncooked fettuccine
12 asparagus spears, cut into 2 inch lengths
1/4 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

  1. Blend cashews and 1 cup water in a blender until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth to catch the solids. Keep liquid and discard solids. Simmer Chardonnay in a small saucepan for about 10 minutes, or until reduced to about 1/3 cup. Add the cashew liquid, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and black pepper. Stir well to combine and keep warm.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add fettuccine and cook for about 12 minutes, or until al dente. Drain.
  3. Steam the asparagus and bell pepper. 
  4. Assemble on each plate: Start with pasta, top with sauce and then veggies. Enjoy!
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Grilled Romaine Salad with Poached Pears
2 servings

Tips: I ran out of balsamic vinegar, so I ended up using the balsamic reduction instead of the vinegar - the result was delicious! The grilled romaine had a fantastic flavor; however, the oil reached its smoke point and caused chaos in my house. I will make this again, but only when it is warm enough to grill the romaine outside. Poached pears, on the other hand, may need to become a staple. Wow are they delicious! By far one of the best salads I've ever had!

1 Bosc pear, peeled and halved
1 1/2 cups apple juice
1/3 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or reduction)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 romaine heart, halved
1 cup mixed greens, washed
1 green onion, thinly sliced

  1. Poach the pear: Place apple juice, agave nectar, lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon, and cloves in a small sauce pan. Add the pear halves, round-side down. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until tender. (This boils over very easily, keep an eye on it!) Let cool in liquid.
  2. Whisk balsamic vinegar/reduction, maple syrup, and olive oil together. Brush romaine heart halves with the dressing. Place romaine heart halves on a medium-high heated grill for about 5 minutes or until slightly wilted. Chop coarsely.
  3. Assemble salad: Place mixed greens and green onion on a plate. Add grilled romaine. Drizzle lightly with dressing. Slice pear halve and fan off to the side. Repeat with second plate.
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Bananas Foster
1 serving to share

Tips: I made extra hot rum sauce for later ice cream indulgences. When I warmed up the hot rum sauce later, it cooled quite quickly on the ice cream and became more like caramel. Equally delicious, but a much different result from the initial serving of the sauce.

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon rum
1 firm banana, halved
1/2 cup dark chocolate ice cream (vanilla would also be delicious)

  1. In a small saucepan, combine 1 tablespoon butter, brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in rum and cook for 1 more minute. Keep hot.
  2. Heat remaining butter in a skillet. Place banana halves cut side down into the skillet. Cook until lightly browned.
  3. To serve: Place banana halves in a bowl. Top with ice cream and the hot rum sauce. 
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