Five Easy Prep-Ahead Valentine's Day Dinners & Desserts

Use the slow cooker to your advantage and make short ribs for Valentine's Day dinner.
Use the slow cooker to your advantage and make short ribs for Valentine's Day dinner.
Photo by kimberlykv

If you haven't made reservations for Valentine's Day (which is this Friday, FYI), then have no fear, because you can easily prepare a romantic dinner for you and your Valentine at home.

But, we know that not everyone has the time to cook a fancy, four-course dinner the second they come home from work on Friday, so, rather than stressing yourself out to cook a scrumptious meal and have it on the table at a reasonable hour, try one of these five dinners -- with wine and dessert pairings -- that you can prep ahead of time. You'll have more time to spend with your loved one rather than being attached to the stove and oven.

Slow-Cooked Short Ribs

Valentine's Day dinner calls for rich cuts of meat, such as short ribs. Don't let the time constraint sway you from enjoying something tender and delicious when you can prepare it with a slow cooker. Coat the short ribs with salt, pepper and herbs, then sear on all sides in a skillet. As you brown the short ribs, place quartered onions, chunks of carrots, celery, and red russet potatoes or fingerling potatoes into the slow cooker. Season generously with salt and pepper, then add the seared short ribs, more herbs, and either a dark beer or rich red wine, along with beef stock. Cook on low for up to eight hours, then enjoy when you get home from work.

Dessert: Complement this hearty dinner with a creamy, smooth no-bake cheesecake for dessert. Use cream cheese, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice and vanilla extract for a light and tart cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. Top with strawberries and a drizzle of chocolate sauce for the perfect sweet touch.

Wine Pairing: Serve the short ribs and cheesecake with a bottle of a Spanish red wine, such as a Rioja.

Assemble the lasagna ahead of time.
Assemble the lasagna ahead of time.
Photo by fred_v


When you prep lasagna the night before, you give yourself more time to perfect each individual component. You don't have to make your own pasta, unless you're a gung-ho kind of person, then by all means! Dress up the lasagna with herbed noodles and a variety of cheeses. Mix ricotta with fresh herbs and sauteed garlic; add cream cheese for a richer, heartier (and tastier) lasagna; or incorporate a pesto for another savory element. Don't use a jarred tomato sauce for the lasagna. Instead, cook your own sauce from crushed tomatoes; add garlic, oregano, basil, a hint of sugar, olive oil and possibly red pepper flakes for a spicy component. Cook your ground meat of choice, then cover in the sauce. Assemble your lasagna in a baking dish, cover with aluminum foil, place in the refrigerator, then pop in the oven when you get home.

Dessert: Keep the Italian theme alive by prepping a simple vanilla panna cotta the night before.

Wine Pairing: Pair the entire meal with a rich bottle of Chianti.

Use angel food cake or pound cake for this strawberry shortcake dessert.
Use angel food cake or pound cake for this strawberry shortcake dessert.
Photo by Molly Dunn

Roast Chicken

Roast chickens always seem intimidating, but prep it ahead of time and you won't feel any pressure come dinner time. Stuff the bird with a variety of herbs and seasonings (salt and pepper, herbs de Provence, garlic), vegetables (onions, carrots, celery), and of course, lemon slices. Place pieces of garlic, basil leaves and butter under the chicken's skin to enhance the overall flavor and make the bird's skin nice and crispy. Coat the outside with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs, then stick in the fridge covered with foil for up to 24 hours. Once you get home from work, heat up the oven to 425 degrees, bring the chicken out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature, then cook for an hour and a half. Serve with roasted carrots and potatoes for a complete meal.

Dessert: Accompany this classic meal with a classic dessert, such as strawberries and whipped cream with pound cake or angel food cake. Make the strawberries sweeter by coating with sugar and Grand Marnier, then place a couple spoonfuls over a slice of cake and top with whipped cream.

Wine Pairing: Enjoy a light and sweet Riesling or a Chardonnay with this meal.

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