Welcome to The Golden Girl–a real girl approach to living your best life! (Because the internet needed a happy medium between real life and the highlight reel.)

learn more >

currently loving

shop all favorites

Valentines Day Ideas: 7 Impressive Recipes You Can’t Mess Up

Jan 14, 2016

Valentines Day Ideas: 7 Recipes You Can't Mess Up

Valentines Day ideas, already? Really, Jess? It’s that time of year again? 

It is! And unlike most people (hate me, if you will for saying this) but I LOVE Valentine’s Day. I always have. I loved writing Valentines for everyone in my class as a kid, I’ve loved getting together with single girlfriends, and I’ve especially loved it with Neal. I even love drumming up Valentines Day ideas when it’s still January. (Zing.)

What’s wrong with an excuse to tell the people you love that you love them?

So, regardless–if you’re in my boat, or if you’re one of those anti-Valentines Day people, I hope this post with some Valentines Day ideas (for what to cook, at least) will get you at least a little excited. 

My mother has always said cooking for someone is one of the nicest ways you can express your love. And it’s true! There’s nothing quite like a home cooked meal to make you feel loved. (Plus, it’s way cheaper than going out to dinner.) 

Now, you might be thinking–”Jess, I can’t even boil water. Cooking for my SO on Valentines Day would be punishment, not love.” But that’s not so! I promise, even the most novice of cooks can pull one of these recipes together. (And if you’re an avid home cook, you’ll love them just as much!) 

Carbonara with Leeks and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Valentine's Day Ideas for Dinner: Easy Pasta Carbonara

Carbonara is a magical dish. It’s got bacon, lot’s of parmesan cheese and a light yet creamy sauce made with beaten eggs and fresh cracked pepper. You’ve probably had it in a restaurant, but I bet you didn’t know how simple it was to make. When you find out, you immediately scoff at how much money you’ve blown on restaurant carbonara. (THIS is all it is!? And I’ve paid HOW MUCH for it before??) 

Really. It’s blasphemy. Which is why your valentine will be so astonished when you set this version with leeks and sun dried tomatoes down in front of them, saying nonchalantly, “oh THIS old recipe? Shucks!” *Eyelash batting* 

Quick Sweet & Sour Glazed Pork Chops 

Valentines Day Ideas: Whip up these 20 minute pork chops! (You CANNOT mess it up.)

Pork Chops are mysterious to many people. They look so much fancier than they actually are, with their rustic-chic bones dressed up in herbs and all. And while this recipe not only looks like you slaved away for hours–it only takes about 20 minutes to whip up! A little sweet, a little savory–everyone’s happy. Especially your date. 

One Pot Coq a Vin

Valentine's Day Ideas: A Romantic Night In, with super simple Coq Au Vin for dinner!

Coq Au Vin. I can honestly think of few more joyful recipes. I remember my first real Coq Au Vin experience–it was at a teeny tiny French restaurant called the Red Rooster in Lincoln Park (which no longer exists, and a part of my cries every time I think about it.) I was with my mother, catching up over wine when this giant steaming bowl of goodness came out, served with crusty bread to soak up all the broth. Oh my god, I died. 

What is it exactly? It’s a braised chicken dish, almost like a stew, with lot’s of red wine, garlic, mushrooms, and herbs. It’s the kind of dish you taste and can’t help but smile. 

Oh, and did I mention how easy it is? Brown the chicken, then throw everything else into the pot, and leave it for a few hours. I mean, you literally CANNOT mess it up. 

Braised Beef Ragu with Creamy Polenta

Valentines Day Ideas: Dinner Recipes even the WORST cook can't mess up!

Braising meats sounds really fancy, doesn’t it? It kind of is fancy, but without the work it requires to be fancy. The only thing it requires is time. So no, you can’t say “honey I’m just going to whip you up a quick braised roast!” because it doesn’t really work like that. But if you plan ahead, there’s nothing better. Think of it this way: Make dinner BEFORE you clean the house, shower, do your, makeup, and get dressed. Then pull dinner out of the pot, and serve. You are MAGICAL. 

Any braised meat combination with creamy polenta is to die for. I also recently made polenta from scratch for the first time, and it was SO easy, I don’t know why the instant kind even exists. This braised beef ragu with polenta recipe is very, very easy. It’s all done in the crock pot (if you don’t own a crock pot, you can also do it in a regular pot!) She also provides great step by step details. This recipe would be especially ideal to spring on a new-ish valentine. Because when they taste this meal, the will fall in love with you. 

5 Ingredient Lemon Chicken with Asparagus 

Valentine's Day Ideas: Date night in with these super simple lemon chicken

Could things get any easier than 5 ingredient Lemon Chicken with Asparagus? Five–literally five things that you have to purchase at the grocery store. Five things you have to keep track of in order to pull a dish together. You can totally handle that! Plus, how impressive does it look? Those beautiful slightly charred, caramelized lemon slices? Wow. Just wow. You’re good, you really are. 

Pan fried, herb and butter basted steaks 


This is one of Neal’s very favorite meals. And it’s so easy. To be totally honest, although it sounds daunting, I think this is the EASIEST thing to make as a beginner, because the only way you can mess it up is to over cook it. (I mastered the art of cooking beef much, much faster than chicken, which sometimes I still struggle with.) You don’t have to buy anything fancy: steak, salt, pepper, butter, fresh herbs, garlic. (The latter two are honestly optional, if you’re REALLY lazy.) Who has ever said, “UGH butter basted steaks for dinner!?”  But do make sure you have a cast iron skillet if you’re going to attempt this one. You can see the recipe in this post

Eggs Benedict with No-Fuss Avocado Hollandaise 


And, if you’ve decided to go out for dinner on Valentines Day night, you can still whip up a delicious brunch that morning. (What’s better than breakfast in bed? Um. NOTHING.) 

Why am I sharing Eggs Benedict with you? Because it’s a dish near and dear to my heart. It’s my very favorite brunch recipe. And, more importantly, I made it for Neal when we first started dating. (I think it was literally maybe the 6th time we had hung out). 

That’s when he knew he was in love with me. (Although, he says he was in love with me about 2 years before then. But that’s when he REALLY fell in love with me.) Eggs Benedict has major bewitching powers, you know. So if you’re really trying to woo someone, make them Eggs Benedict. 

The recipe sounds daunting, but it’s really so easy. The secret is to make the hollandaise in a blender. (Which takes all of 8 seconds, tops.) And you can skip the egg poaching all together if you’d like. Just fry the eggs sunny side up instead, leaving the yolks runny. You can make the whites pretty and round so they fit nicely on the muffin by rimming them with a water glass or a biscuit cutter (kind of how you’d punch out biscuits dough) if you don’t want all the poaching fuss. 

Really. Just improvise. Life is better that way, you know. 

Do you have any go-to, easy and impressive recipes? More Valentines Day ideas? Do tell! 


Keep reading...