Date Night In for Valentine’s Day always sounds great in theory. In reality, it can be a nightmare for whoever is preparing dinner. Especially so if you are a beginner chef. Not only do you have to worry about your house being clean, your date possibly being allergic to cats, if the food will turn out nice, there is always the added pressure of having the perfect timing. That foreboding concept of getting all the food to be done at just the right time. Timing is difficult for even the most experienced of cooks. (As someone who has served a holiday meal while the turkey was still hours away from being done, I totally know the feeling). So to prevent any mishaps, I have created a 3 Course Valentine’s Menu for two, where everything just about everything can be prepped the night before.

I’ve made this preparation day quite intensive. Everything from the chicken to the mushrooms for the gravy will be prepped. And I will be honest with you, it will probably take you 2 hours to complete. Which seems daunting, and it is, but it means the actual date night will be a breeze. Really, who wants to sweat in the kitchen the day of? That’s right. Nobody.

The menu for the night is MAXIMUM FANCY for MINIMAL WORK.

To start, we have Caprese Salad. Which I promise is more difficult to say than it is to make. What does it include? Sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves layered on a plate. Then drizzled with balsamic and olive oil. To prep, this dish the night before, slice the tomatoes and mozzarella. Layer should alternate between tomato, mozzarella and the basil leaves. Just before serving, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Boom done. (Oh and to take the stress away. I have called it Rustic Caprese Salad so if your slices are not perfectly even, it’s even better.)

For our main, we have Roasted Chicken and Mushroom Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, and Roasted Asparagus. The chicken is my easy date night roast chicken. The mashed potatoes are made the day before and then reheated over low heat on the stove with additional cream for a just-made taste. Leave over the lowest heat and they will stay warm until ready to serve. After the chicken is finished and resting on the counter, you can make the gravy and pop the asparagus in the oven to roast.

Oh and if the gravy or asparagus takes longer than you thought, the chicken will stay warm for about 20 minutes while resting and the potatoes are ready when you and your partner are. So, that gives you a good 10 minutes of lee-way for the asparagus and gravy to cook out.

The cake is the real topper to this meal. Fudgy Chocolate Cake is topped with a Red Wine Butter Cream. The Buttercream is a lovely shade of pink but does not look like a toddler’s birthday party cake. This cake is made entirely the day before. So there is nothing to worry about.

I’ve included a detailed plan down below with notes on every step.

In addition, you can find a printable shopping list, prep checklist and menu here: 

Shopping List: Valentines Menu Grocery List

Prep List: Day Before Checklist for Valentine’s Dinner

Menu: Valentines Printable Menu

Valentine's Menu - Valentine's Menu for Beginners - Red Wine Buttercream - Fun Buttercream Flavor - Easy Valentine's Menu -

Detailed Plan: 

The Day Before (Allocate 2-3 hours to be safe)

Make the Cakes:

This is my easy one bowl fudge cake: https://wp.me/p7NU5g-2L

Make the batter of the cake and place in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes. Set timer!

Gravy (While the cakes are cooking)

To make the gravy even easier to prep with any guests waiting to be served, prep the Roux in advance.

Take a ¼ cup of butter with a ¼ cup of corn-starch in a small saucepan. Over low heat combine until a thick paste. Cook for 1 minutes (it should be golden brown).

Remove from heat and stash in a Tupperware container for use tomorrow.

Prep the veggies for the gravy. Chop 1 Onion, mince 3 cloves of garlic and slice 4 oz of Button Mushrooms. Store in a Tupperware container or freezer bag.

Roasted Asparagus (While the cakes are cooking).

Prep your Asparagus by snapping off the woody ends. (Take the asparagus in your hands and start bending in ½. It will snap just above the woody part).

Mix 2 cloves diced garlic and 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (or favorite oil).

Put the asparagus and the oil mixture into a Tupperware container with a lid. (This assumes you can find the lid to at least on of your Tupperware containers and I often can NOT!) Close the lid and shake thoroughly to coat the asparagus with oil.

Pop in the fridge for tomorrow.

(Just checking has the timer gone off for the cake? If so please double check on it)

Mashed Potatoes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Peel your potatoes. Roughly chop in about 2 inch cubes.

Cook the potatoes in the water for 20-25 minutes until fork tender.

Drain the Potatoes.

Put the cooked potatoes back into the pan. Add the ¼ cup butter, a small dash of milk, a big pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper. Mash the potatoes until the desired texture. Adding more milk as required. (Leave the potatoes a little thicker than you think is perfect as we will add a bit more butter and milk tomorrow).

Move the mashed potatoes to an airtight container

Caprese Salad (Can be done while potatoes cook if you would like)

Slice the tomatoes, mozzarella. The slices should be ¼ inch to ½ an inch. (If the slices are a bit wonky or too thick, just call it rustic).

Search through the basil for the best looking leaves. Take all of these off of the stem.

Layer the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil in rows on a plate alternating the ingredients. Lay down a slice of tomato, a slice of mozzarella, then a basil leaf. Continue this pattern until you reach the end of the plate. Then repeat this process for the next row.

Wrap the plate in cling wrap and then a layer of foil. (This will ensure no weird flavors are absorbed by the mozzarella). Place in the fridge until ready to serve.

Roast Chicken

Spatchcock a Chicken. I use this method: (Insert Video)

Mix your Salt and Pepper. Thoroughly coat both sides of the chicken. Lay in a baking tray or large plate. Loosely cover with cling wrap and set in the fridge.

Red Wine Buttercream

This can either be done by hand with a balloon whisk or with an electric beater. Method is exactly the same.

Whisk the Red Wine, Powdered Sugar, and Softened Butter until thoroughly combined. Add a tablespoon of milk at this time if the frosting is too thick.

Whisk for an additional minute or two until the color has lightened.  

Cover the buttercream with a layer of cling wrap directly on the frosting. Then cover the bowl with a layer of foil. (Again, to avoid any funky flavours being absorbed by the buttercream). Set in the fridge until ready to frost the cakes.

While the cakes are cooling, take the time to clean up the kitchen, do the dishes and take a well-deserved break.

Once the cakes have cooled. Put a small dollop of frosting in the middle of your cake stand (Or plate. Let’s be real here). Lay the first layer of cake down.

Dollop ½ of the frosting on top of the cake. Spread until about ½ an inch from the edge of the cake.

Lay the next layer of cake on top of the frosting.

Dollop last ½ of the frosting on top of the cake. Spread until about ½ an inch from the edge of the cake.

Lay the final layer of cake down.

Use a sifter to dust a layer of powdered sugar over the cake. Let the cake sit in the fridge for 20 minutes (To set the frosting) before loosely covering with cling wrap and then a layer of foil.

FINISHED FOR THE NIGHT!!

The Next Day:

2 Hours before Main Course (5:00PM)

Preheat the oven to 400F.

1.75 Hours Before Main Course (5:00PM)

Start the Chicken:

Take your favorite stove to oven pan (I use cast iron). Heat the pan over high heat on the stove with 1 Tablespoon of oil.

Place chicken breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle!

Turn the stove off. Put the chicken in the oven.

Set timer for 25 Minutes.

1.25 Hours Before Main Course (5:30PM)

Flip the chicken. It should not be breast side down.

Set the timer for 25 minutes again.

45 Minutes Before Main Course (6:30PM)

Flip the Chicken again. Breast Side should once again be facing up.

Set Timer for 15 Minutes.

30 Minutes Before Main Course (6:15)

Take Chicken out of Oven and Check Temperature. (It should be at 160F). If it has not yet reached this temperature. Pop it back in the oven for 10 minutes.

If it is finished. Move the Chicken to a platter and cover loosely with foil to rest for 10 Minutes

Start the gravy.

Take the pan the chicken cooked in and place it over medium heat on the stove. Add in the previously prepped mushrooms, onions and garlic to the pan. Cook until the onions are transparent.

Add in the 1 cup of Chicken Broth and the Roux (The Corn-starch and Butter Mixture from yesterday). Stir until all lumps have disappeared. Add in 1 Teaspoon Rosemary, 1 Bay Leaf and 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar. Bring the gravy to a boil.

Turn the Heat Down to low and leave simmering until ready to serve.

15 Minutes Before Main Course. (6:45)

Take the Asparagus out of the fridge and lay on a baking sheet covered in baking paper. Set Timer for 10 Minutes.

Place potatoes in a large pan with ¼ cup of milk and a spoon of butter. Stir the potatoes over low heat until heated through (about 5-10 minutes). Add more butter or milk if desired. Leave covered until ready to serve.

Turn oven off and place Chicken back into the oven to keep warm.

5 Minutes Before Main Course (6:55)

Drizzle Caprese Salad with Balsamic and Oil.

Serve with Wine

0 Minutes to Main Course.

Serve Dinner As Desired

Option 1: Dish food out onto plates in the kitchen and bring out to table.

Option 2: Serve the food family style. Move all of the food into large platters and let your date serve themselves.

Enjoy Your Dinner!

Serve the Cake at you and your dates convenience 🙂

Print

Red Wine Buttercream

A gorgeously pink Red Wine Buttercream that pairs perfectly with Chocolate Cake. 

Course Dessert
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 1 Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Butter (Softened)
  • 1/4 Cup Red Wine
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Almond Extract
  • 3 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoon Milk (Dairy or non-dairy)

Instructions

  1. Whisk the Red Wine, Powdered Sugar, and Softened Butter until thoroughly combined. Add a tablespoon of milk at this time if the frosting is too thick.

  2. Whisk for an additional minute or two until the color has lightened. Frosting should be light and fluffy.

  3. To store the buttercream: Cover the buttercream with a layer of cling wrap directly on the frosting. Then cover the bowl with a layer of foil. (Again, to avoid any funky flavours being absorbed by the buttercream). Set in the fridge until ready to use!

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