Monday, February 13, 2006

Our Valentine's Day Tradition

The gals over at Choosing Home are sponsoring a Valentine's Day contest! Thought I'd share how we celebrate, since it's now become our annual tradition. Maybe it will even win the "Best At-Home Plan" category!

For years, like 3/4 of the married people in the country, we went out to dinner for Valentine's Day. But unlike our birthdays or anniversary, everyone has the same idea on February 14. We began to find it less-than-romantic to pay big bucks to a babysitter while we waited for over an hour at a croweded restaurant. So about 6 years ago--let's see, when we had been married 13 years--we planned, together, an at-home date which was such a success that we now look forward to repeating it every year.

The first and most crucial ingredients are a frozen pizza and a video. Very, very important. This date will never happen without them. (For non-parents or parents of infants, I'll elaborate: You feed the pizza to the kids. You set up the kids with the video, in a room with a door that you close. You do this before entertaining a single romantic thought.)

Next, lighting is everything. We leave on the recessed light over the kitchen sink and the little light above the stove, but turn off everything else. We light low candles to set around in the kitchen and tall candlesticks in the dining area. Music is just as important. The first time we planned this date, hubby bought a CD called Romanza, sung by Italian tenor Andrea Boccelli, so of course we listen to that again every year. Nothing sets the mood like nostalgia and Italian love songs!

Now, we're almost ready to begin the main event--making dinner together! But first, we uncork the wine, get out the good crystal wineglasses, and set out the cheese and crackers. These distractions keep us cooking at a very...leisurely...pace.

We always make the same pasta dish, because it's easy, quick, delicious and now has such great associations. It has asparagus, portobello mushrooms and shell pasta in a sauce made with Pepper Boursin cheese. We make a salad and warm up Italian bread to go with it. While we chop, sip wine and wait for pasta to cook, we slow dance around the kitchen, something my Norwegian husband will not normally do outside of his own home.

Before we eat, we ask for God's blessing on the food and on our marriage. As we eat, we talk of this and that, and of our relationship, and how good God has been to us. We exchange cards and little gifts (my husband is a marvelous gift-chooser). Then we clean up and maybe dance a little more, whispering sweet nothings and promises in each other's ears, and later--after a brief hiatus in the romance as we get the kids to bed--we fulfill some of them.

There you have it--a delightful, doable at-home date!

I can hear the judges now. "This a great plan, but we need specifics. We want that recipe!"

Oh, very well, if it increases my chances of winning:

Pasta Shells With Portobello Mushrooms, Asparagus and Boursin Sauce (from Food & Wine's Quick from Scratch: Pasta) (serves 4)

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb. portobello mushrooms, stems removed, caps halved and then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices (we have also used white button mushrooms)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups canned chicken broth or homemade stock
1 5.5 oz package pepper Boursin cheese (if unavailable, the herb & garlic version will do--just add plenty of fresh ground black pepper to the finished dish)
1 lb asparagus
3/4 lb medium pasta shells

In a large frying pan, melt the butter with the oil over moderate heat. Add the mushrooms and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and well browned, about 8 minutes. Add the chicken broth and Boursin cheese and bring to a simmer while stirring.

Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into 1/2 inch pieces. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until almost done, about 6 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook until it and the pasta are just done, about 4 minutes longer. Drain. Toss with the mushrooms and sauce.

Now I have to end with a funny quote. The first year we did this, our then 5.75-year old (who is now Bantam 10.75), wandered upstairs during the movie just to see what we were doing. He glanced appreciatively around the room, taking in all the candles, and then, sounding just like a decorator or best girlfriend, said, "Wow, Mom, I like what you did with the kitchen!"


molly said...

This is so great!!!!!!!!!!!

Linsey said...

Ohhh, thankyou for the recipe! Yum!

HolyMama! said...

I smiled and sighed. repeatedly. (do i need to vote somewhere, 'cause i will!)

HolyMama! said...

Mike called and said to not do anything for dinner, and we're staying home. Hmm. Is it too much to hope that he somehow came across this post?!

owlhaven said...

very fun idea! We are having a scrapbooking day over here-- I'm posting pix soon..Mary