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NORTH COUNTRY KITCHEN: Here’s a meal fit for Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2014
By YVONA FAST , Lake Placid News

"The world today is hungry not only for bread but hungry for love; hungry to be wanted, to be loved."

Valentine's Day - the romantic holiday for lovers - will be here soon. We show that love by sending cards, flowers and chocolates - and through romantic candlelit dinners.

It wasn't until the Middle Ages that lovers began to send romantic notes on Valentine's Day. And the first heart-shaped box of chocolates was the idea of Richard Cadbury in 1861. It wasn't until 100 years later that chocolate hearts wrapped in bright red foil and small, heart shaped boxes of chocolate candy became common Valentine's Day gifts. With the exception of a dessert containing chocolate, there is no agreement on what to serve for a romantic feast.

Article Photos

Roasted potatoes with herbs (Photo — Yvona Fast)

Throughout history, romance has been intertwined with food. Most romantic evenings include something to eat, some wine, and some music. Restaurants offer special Valentine's Day menus, drinks and desserts. But you can cook up a special meal for your lover at home. Preparing that meal together can be a fun, interactive, intimate activity.

This Valentine's Day, share intimacy in your own home with a candlelight dinner, your favorite music, flowers and sensuous food. Turn down the lights, snuggle with your honey and enjoy classic tales of romance on the silver screen.

But, what should you cook this year? How can you make dinner memorable without going to extremes? A tasty meal doesn't have to be complicated. Try Easy Chicken Divan with salad or roasted vegetables. Or salmon, herb roasted potatoes and garlic green beans. Or crab fettuccini in a basil cream sauce. Or trout with roasted potatoes and a salad. Or Mediterranean baked fish with dilled yogurt sauce, salad and couscous. Vegetarian? Serve a French tart with goat cheese and vegetables. Or your favorite quiche, served with a salad. For a Mexican twist with rice, bean & guacamole burritos. For dessert, seductive chocolate is everyone's favorite Valentine's Day treat. Go fancy with truffles, chocolate mousse or fondue, or simple with never-fail-to-please brownies or chocolate chip cookies.

The point is, preparing a Valentine's Day dinner can seem daunting, especially for someone who isn't very comfortable in the kitchen. But your meal doesn't have to be complicated. It can be elegant and impressive, yet simple. Many delightful dishes are easy to prepare and still enjoyable. It does not have to be super fancy. If you can perform simple kitchen tasks, like chopping vegetables, boiling and mashing potatoes or stirring sauce in a pot, you can pull off a deliciously simple Valentine's Day dinner.

For a romantic dinner for two, set the mood with candles, lighting, and table setting. Use a romantic tablecloth and napkins, flowers, candles and your best dinnerware. Don't forget cheese and wine. Set the mood with a CD of romantic music to set the mood. Clean as you cook, but don't worry about the mess afterwards; leave the dishes till morning and enjoy each other!

Heat up your oven. Dust off your stove. If all goes wrong, there's always champagne.

Easy chicken divan


2 cups stale bread or leftover stuffing

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

1 cup gravy

2 cups diced cooked chicken

2 cups broccoli florets

1 cup milk

1 Tablespoon butter

1 1/2 Tablespoons flour

1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup buttered bread crumbs, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 2 quart casserole or 9-inch-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread bread cubes on bottom of casserole. Top with thinly sliced onion and drizzle with gravy. Layer the chicken over this.

Steam broccoli florets (if fresh) or thaw (if using frozen broccoli). Layer the broccoli over the chicken.

In small saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes until blended and golden in color. Pour in the milk while whisking with a fork; bring to a boil, stirring continuously, and simmer 1 to 2 minutes until thickened. Stir in the cheese. When cheese melts, pour sauce over broccoli in casserole. If desired, top with buttered bread crumbs. Bake 20 - 30 minutes, or until bubbly. Serve hot, with a side salad or roasted root vegetables. Serves 3 to 4.

Roasted root


Colorful root vegetables can be prepared ahead of time and roasted in the oven. Use whichever veggies you like or have on hand.


1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon basil

4 cups mixed, cut up root vegetables (red-skinned potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery root, turnips, parsnips, carrots, onions, fennel bulb. (Beets will not work because they will make everything turn red.)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 broth


In small bowl, add crushed garlic and basil to oil. Set aside.

Peel celery root, sweet potatoes and potatoes (or leave skins on if they don't bother you). Cut potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery root and turnips into 1-inch chunks, carrots and parsnips into 1-inch lengths, onion into wedges. Cut fennel bulb into quarters lengthwise; discard core. Then cut bulb into 1" pieces. You can vary the type and amount of these root vegetables; I like to mix some sweet (carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes) with some stronger flavors.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place prepared vegetables in large mixing bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix well to coat (hands work best). Sprinkle with the reserved oil and herbs, and mix to coat again. Prepare a baking pan by coating with oil. Arrange vegetables in baking pan, cover, pour broth over, and roast. Check and stir every 20 minutes or so, adding a little more broth if needed, until cooked through so that a fork goes in easily. It should take about an hour of oven time. Serve hot, garnished with fresh herbs like basil, parsley, fennel or dill. Serves 3.

Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She

can be reached at



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