Valentine’s Day Two

Today is Valentine’s Day, but since we are really economizing around here and because of Covid-19, we will be at home celebrating.  I wracked my brain for a lovely meal for the two of us that wouldn’t take too much energy or money and would still be very special.  And then there’s our real hearts.  Both of us need to watch the health and weight issues.  This started looking like a real challenge.

I chose the heart shape as the theme.  Don’t you just love that shape?  There are many foods and dishes that are naturally heart-shaped such as chicken breasts and strawberries, or those that can be easily formed into a heart such as meringue and pastries.

Taking the theme one step further, I decided to make a dinner that would keep our hearts in shape as well.
This menu is easy enough to make for you and your heart-throb.

Hearts on Fire Cheese Spread on Crackers
Bubbly (champagne or sparkling cider)
Chicken Breasts en Papillote
Vegetables in parchment
Spinach and red pepper salad with Ruby Red Dressing
Strawberry Meringue Clouds

Hearts on Fire Cheese Spread

1 3-oz pkg. Neufchatel Cheese
½ cup (about 2 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 ounces feta cheese
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. toasted almonds, chopped
Dash cayenne pepper

Put all cheeses, Worcestershire sauce and ½ tsp. cayenne pepper in food processor and blend well.  Take out of work bowl and with wet hands, shape cheese into a heart shape.  Press nuts on edges only; sprinkle with cayenne pepper.  Refrigerate until nicely firm and serve with Ritz crackers.

Chicken Breasts en Papillote  (Adapted from Everyday Food Magazine)

½ large mango, peeled, pitted and cut into ¼-inch wedges
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 ½-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
½ medium jalapeno, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Lime wedges for serving

Cut parchment into 2-18” pieces.  Fold each in half and cut into heart shape.  Open the paper and spray with vegetable spray.  Place mango wedges on one side of paper and top with chicken, ginger, cilantro and jalapeno.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle each with half of the olive oil.  Fold parchment over and twist edges, pleating along the heart shape.  Place on large rimmed baking sheet and bake until packets are puffed up and chicken is cooked through, 18 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Potatoes, Leeks and Carrots in Parchment (you can use any combination of vegetables you like)

6 small, red, new potatoes, halved
1 medium leek (white part only), halved lengthwise, rinsed well and cut into 3-inch pieces
3 large carrots cut into 3-inch sticks
½ tsp. dried Thyme
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper

Cut parchment into 18” pieces.  Spray with vegetable spray.  Place vegetables in center of paper; drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Fold like a letter, twisting ends and then turning up.  Place on large rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.  Start dinner with vegetable packets on baking sheet and after about 10 minutes, add chicken packets so everything will be done at the same time.

Spinach and Red Pepper Salad with Ruby dressing

Baby spinach leaves
¼ large sweet red pepper, julienned
Candied pecans (recipe follows)
Ruby Red Dressing (recipe follows)

Take long stems off spinach leaves and wash, if necessary; spin dry and store in plastic bag until ready to use.  Toss spinach, red pepper slices and pecans with Ruby Dressing just before serving.

Candied Pecans

1 tsp. egg white
1 cup pecans
2 Tbsp. sugar

Heat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix nuts with egg white in small bowl until nuts are coated.  Sprinkle sugar over nuts, stirring until completely coated.  Spread on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 30 minutes.  Store in a tightly covered jar until used.

Ruby Red Dressing

½ cup currant jelly
1/3 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Dash of salt

Put all ingredients in blender and process until smooth.

Strawberry Meringue Clouds

Meringue Shells

Heat oven to 275 degrees.  Cover baking sheet with heavy brown paper or parchment.  Beat 3 egg whites (room temperature) and ¼ tsp. cream of tartar until foamy.  Beat in ¾ cup granulated sugar, very, very gradually.  Add 1 Tbsp. maraschino cherry juice and 1/8 tsp. red food coloring.  Continue beating until stiff and glossy.  Drop meringue by 1/3 cupfuls onto paper.  Shape mounds into heart shapes building up sides.  Bake 1 hour.  Turn off oven; leave in oven for 1 ½ hours.  Do not open oven until time is up.  Cool.

Filling:  Blend 1 3-oz pkg. softened cream cheese, ½ cup sugar and ½ tsp. vanilla with mixer.  Beat 1 cup chilled whipping cream and 2 Tbsp. sugar until stiff.  Gently fold whipped cream and 1 cup miniature marshmallows into cream cheese mixture.  Fill shells.  Cover; chill at least 4 hours.  Top with halved, sweetened strawberries.

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