Don’s Valentine’s Day Feast

It seems fitting that my first guest post on is from my favorite person on the planet, my husband Don (now fondly known as DisorganizedDon on YouTube and Words With Friends).  Many of you requested links to recipes and more information about Don’s fantastic Valentine’s Day feast he prepared for me (as seen in my Valentine’s Day Feast (February 14. 2013) video on MHWL).  Don wrote up this blog post for those who are interested…

Valentine’s Follow Up (with recipes!) ~ By Don

I have to say I was completely overwhelmed by the response I received from everyone on the Valentine’s Day dinner I prepared for Jennifer.  I’m really not worthy of all of that praise, but thank you so much for all of the very kind words.  I had a lot of fun making that meal and being able to share it with so many people has made it even more special.

There was a request for all the recipes that I used for that menu, so I thought I would put them together along with some commentary on how I used them.  I was able to snap a few pictures of when I used the leftover meat and cheese balls to make a little snack for Jennifer and me the next Saturday, so we’re including those as well!

Course #1 – Cauliflower Soup

Pink Cauliflower Soup For Valentine’s Day (recipe source)

I couldn’t find purple cauliflower or purple potatoes, but I added one beet to my vegetable boil and I thought it gave the soup an absolutely perfect Valentine’s color.  My other substitution was half and half (from a cow) instead of the soy creamer.  Jen likes it spicy so my version had a little extra cayenne.  One warning: be careful with the apple cider vinegar.  The soup definitely needs some of it, but I recommend starting with 1 tablespoon and adding half increments from there to suit individual taste.

Course #2 – Caprese Salad

No recipe for this one.  Just copying my favorite restaurant presentations.

✽ Tomato – I found a gigantic organic heirloom at whole foods.
✽ Mozzarella – I found a nice looking ball at Whole Foods, but I wish I could find an even better and fresher one.
✽ Olive oil – Bionaturae EVOO never fails.
✽ Balsamic – Alessi 20-year-old VSOP was fantastic!
✽ Basil – The fresher the better!  The basil I found was only so-so.
✽ Salt – Use your favorite salt.

Mine was constructed this way: sliced tomato on the bottom, salted and drizzled with oil, followed by big leaves of basil and then the mozzarella slice cut in a heart shape.  Add more salt, another drizzle of olive oil, and then the balsamic on top.  Tasty!!

Course #3 – Salmon and Avocado Tartar

Soy Sesame Salmon Tartare with Avocado (recipe source)

You could tell from the video that I made the chopped up version served in a martini glass.  I omitted the scallions and the black sesame seeds, as well as the seven flavor chili pepper, just to keep things a little simpler for myself.  I started with salmon sashimi from Whole Foods.  I chopped it up along with avocado and a peeled and de-seeded cucumber, trying to get the right bite size pieces, and then I just focused on trying to get a good balance between the lime juice, soy sauce, and mirin.

Course #4 – Duo of Balls

Cocktail Meatballs (recipe source)

The meatball recipe and the ketchup came from Emeril via the Food Network.   I followed his recipe pretty closely except I didn’t add the essence seasoning.  I think next time I’ll try to take the time to do that: the more spice the better!  Still, they came out very flavorful.  Also, I didn’t cook them in the pan before baking on Valentine’s Day, but I did when I cooked up the extra ones on a couple of days later.  I think the pan-frying added a nice texture to the outside, so I highly recommend that technique.

I made the ketchup basically as Emeril directed.  Again, I advise caution with the amount of vinegar.  It’s an important ingredient, but just add it slowly.  Also, I used my handheld blender to make sure I got the onions and garlic fully incorporated which I think really helps blend the flavors.

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Macaroni and Cheese Baked Balls (recipe source)

I followed these instructions and made my mac and cheese two days in advance.  I even added some extra cheese as suggested.  My mistake when I cooked these on Valentine’s Day was that I didn’t pack the noodles together hard enough when I formed the balls and I didn’t sufficiently saturate the exterior with the flour, egg wash, and bread crumb coating.  I did better on those points on Saturday and I think they came out much tastier.  Still, I was left wanting for a little more gooey cheesiness.  They did, however, pair very nicely with Emeril’s amped up ketchup.

Course #5 – Homemade Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce

Vodka Cream Sauce (recipe source)

Homemade Pasta (recipe source)

This was the course I was most excited about and most scared about.  I knew the vodka cream sauce would be awesome and easy to make.  However, I’ve never made homemade pasta before so I had no idea if I’d be able to pull it off.  Lo and behold, I found a great step-by-step recipe online and the noodles came out great!

I followed the vodka cream sauce recipe pretty closely with the addition of adding some dried basil because I love basil (and Jen does too!).  I think I added a little too much tomato paste at the start, so I added some more cream at the end to balance out the tanginess.

For the pasta, I followed The Pioneer Woman’s instructions as carefully as I could.  Two eggs per cup of flour seemed like a great ratio.  I think I actually used a little less flour than that, as some was left behind in the bowl when I pulled it together into the ball.  I stored it in a bag for about three hours until it was time for course #5 when I rolled it out as thin as possible and cut it into thin strips with my chef’s knife.

Fortunately, I have picked up some proper pasta serving techniques from Scott Conant on Chopped and from Molto Mario, so I knew to have my big pot of salted boiling water at the ready.  I had also warmed the vodka cream sauce, which I’d prepared earlier, in a saucepan.  The fresh pasta went into the boiling water for just about 90 seconds.  I scooped it out with a strainer and dropped it right into the pan of sauce to finish cooking.  I tossed it with tongs in the saucepan for another 90 seconds or so before transferring to serving bowls and topping with freshly chopped basil.  Personally, this was my favorite dish of the night!

Course #6 – Filet with Mushrooms and Red Wine Sauce

I knew I wanted to do a filet with red wine sauce as the protein since Jen loves filet and red wine sauce would fit my color theme. I found this recipe pretty quickly and I thought the red wine sauce technique sounded solid.

Filet Mignon with Red Wine Sauce (recipe source)

I started thinking about the right veggie and mushrooms seemed like the perfect choice.  I searched around and found this recipe for a red wine sauce with mushrooms.

Perfect Tenderloin Steaks/Filets with Mushrooms (recipe source)

I loved the roasted garlic idea, but I didn’t want to be running outside to the grill and I knew I wanted to use my filet juices as part of the red wine pan sauce.  I roasted a couple heads of garlic earlier and just sort of made it up as I went along.  It actually turned out pretty fantastic, if I say so myself.  Please keep in mind that Jennifer and I are HUGE roasted garlic lovers so this might not be the right ratio for everyone. 😉

I added my 8 oz filet (room temperature, covered in salt and pepper) to hot oil in a large skillet and cooked for about twelve minutes total, turning the meat to get most of the sides since it is was basically a cube.  The filet came out of the pan at internal temp of 120˚at which point I tented it with foil.  Since I was just making one steak, I added just one cup of red wine (I used the Duckhorn cabernet we were drinking) to the pan and turned the heat up to high.   I added the mushrooms to my other skillet, which had already been heated with oil.  After about five minutes I added the two heads of roasted garlic that I had mashed earlier to the mushrooms.  Once the wine had reduced by 75%, I added a tablespoon of butter.  Once it was melted, I poured the wine into the mushroom pan.  Now I had achieved a double de-glazing: once to get all the crusty meaty goodness out of the first pan, and second to get all of the crusty garlicy and mushroomy goodness out of the second pan. I let the wine and mushrooms simmer on low heat for a minute while I sliced the filet and portioned it onto plates and then I poured the wine and mushrooms over the filet slices.  I couldn’t have been more pleased with how it turned out!

Course #7 – White Chocolate Mousse

White Chocolate Mousse (recipe source)

Jennifer has been really into white chocolate lately, so this was an easy idea to choose.  I liked the look of this Betty Crocker recipe, so I went with it.  I made a silly mistake of adding too much cream at first, but fortunately I figured it out before I got too far along and balanced it out with extra egg yolks.  Other than that, I followed this recipe to a T.  The only thing I did was add a few raspberries on top to meet my red color theme, and also because what’s better than raspberries and chocolate?  I was very pleased with the texture and flavor of the final product.  I can’t wait to try this recipe again, but with dark chocolate!

I’m pretty sure that Don is the sweetest man on the planet!  His Valentine’s Day efforts and creativity made the day so special for me.  I’m including the Valentine’s Day vlog below in case you missed it and would like to see the feast.

 *We are not affiliated with any of the websites mentioned in this post.  All opinions are our own.*


25 thoughts on “Don’s Valentine’s Day Feast”

  1. Jen, I think you have a very special guy and I think it’s a wonderful thing that he is so supportive of your vlog/blog adventures. I have been following you only for about a month or so and I have so enjoyed your videos and how open you are with your life. My kids call my blog and vlogs I follow my “imaginary” friends, I thinks it great to make connections with people through blogs that you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to meet. So, it’s been nice to meet you my new imaginary friend! Enjoy the week ahead!
    Love, Michelle

    1. This video was too cute and the love could definitely be felt! You have one sweet man and it was so precious to see the lengths he went to for your Valentines dinner! Thanks for sharing the recipes Don and thanks to you both for just being a really sweet couple and for sharing your love and lives! 🙂

  2. Wow Don, I am a huge foodie myself and I could feel the passion and enthusiasm trough your wonderful written post. I wish we could have you around some more. You did amazing. Congrats Jen

  3. Hi Don! Thank you so much for taking the time to explain your menu planning and preparation.

    I am a huge Pioneer Woman fan, it was cool to see you refer to her. The whole meal you made was so impressive, but especially where you took the time to make your own pasta! Also, I’ll have to check out Emeril’s ketchup recipe, my family would make homemade ketchup every year at tomato canning time. I look forward to more of your kitchen adventures!

    1. Wow, I had never heard of the Pioneer Woman until I stumbled onto that pasta recipe, but I read this comment earlier today and right now I am watching the Iron Chef America battle between Flay and Thaimee where she is one of the judges! I’ll have to check out her blog/ recipes in more detail now for sure! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  4. Loved the video, especially the end when Jennifer is a little (or maybe a lot) tipsy! You two are adorable! The food all looked and sounded delish, but my favorite part was how you planned it all for her. Knowing what she loves to eat and what she is currently into right now (white chocolate) is just super sweet. And the notes…lots of time and effort went into that. I recently celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary, and while my husband has never cooked something like this for me, he has done lots of nice things over the years. Keep it up you two, it is what makes marriage fun!

  5. These are great recipes – hope to try a few of them out. Enjoying playing WWF w/you Don! (I am creekgirl13). Jen do you play WWF also?

  6. Don,
    This meal looks great! Hopefully I will try out some of the recipes sometime. Did you find any really confusing or that you didn’t really like? Thanks Don and Jen for posting this. Means a lot to know Don cares about us too!
    Bella 🙂 ((Hugs))
    P.S. I am sick in bed (Maybe strep :/ ) and your Disney Vlogs are going to make me much happier! 🙂

  7. Thank you for sharing all these recipes! I love to cook and I can’t wait to try my hand at that white chocolate mousse. Don said his favorite was the pasta with vodka sauce; what was your favorite, Jen?

  8. Very yummy…. When I saw the video, I was so jelouse of you Jen…. How lucky. My husband is also a good cook, but unfortunately seems to need to use every utensil and pots I own…..and is sooooo, messy TeeHee, I love him, though, and I appreciate every effort he ever makes. Great job Don, and thanks for the blog post. God Bless

  9. Thanks Jen and Don for the recipes. Pasta is my favorite thing to eat and I love vodka cream sauce, so I was particularly excited to see the recipe. Don, one thing that I’ve learned from cooking tomato sauce, is that to cut down on the tanginess, you add a little sugar and that cuts down the acid which causes it to be tangy; works like a charm.

  10. I know this is an oldie, but I am having a relaxing bath and watching your vlogs when I came across this one. You two are so sweet and this video made me smile through the entire thing. Thank you for some inspiration in the romance department. I have been married for almost 19 years and get stuck in a rut. Thank you for such a happy video. And what a great cook Don is! Way to go. I am going to share this with my hubby in hopes of inspiring him! He is a financial planner, so a similar industry to Don, but loves to cook too ( when he has time). Thanks again!

  11. Hi Jen and Don:
    I love this video! Great job Don!
    Someday I would like to try out these recipes for someone special in my future so I would like to save the recipes Don generously shared with us all.
    Unfortunately, I cannot find the recipes through the links provided in this Blog for “The Duo Balls”.
    Is there any chance Don saved the recipes and can provide a copy of them here in your forum here?
    Thank you in advance!

  12. I am really getting hungry after reading this article and I am really desperate to eat these. I am sure to give a try making them at home and I am sure it is going to be a tasty recipes.

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