As commercialized as Valentine’s Day may be, there’s still a little extra motivation to make the evening special if we plan to partake at home. Don’t let anyone talk you into thinking it’s a copout–it’s fun not just for couples, but for families or a bunch of girlfriends (guys, I’ll just leave you out of the equation and let you go watch some sports and drink beer). Even if, growing up, my parents planned a date for themselves on V-Day, they always had a little something planned for us beforehand—drinking strawberry pop out of the special wine glasses, a card and box of chocolate to open, or maybe even letting us in on their night out, with, on one occasion, an indoor picnic. And yes, Minnesota does have at least one indoor park, complete with a playground and ice skating rink.
Now that you’ve got dinner covered with a killer, hassle-free menu, let’s talk about how to elevate your night at home from run-of-the-mill date night to memorable evening that will leave you and your significant other floating through the next week. Maybe you’ll even look back on it with as much fondness as I do my strawberry soda-consuming days.
It can be a daunting, confusing proposition, trying to figure out what your Valentine wants most from an evening at home. Traditional flowers and chocolates, having dinner cooked for them, or an out-of-the-ordinary activity, instead of “just” watching a movie? Steve and I used to have our fair share of, um, intense discussions debating whether watching TV on the couch counted as quality time or not. If you’ve ever been through the same conflict with someone multiple times (aka, if you have any human interaction, ever), you know that there comes a breaking point where things just seem ridiculous and it’s clear you have to change something to avert a recurring issue.
In our quest for resolution, we discovered the book the Five Love Languages. No, I’m not affiliated with the publisher, but the simple concept outlined in the book was so transformative for us that I share it anytime I can. The premise is that each of us feels most loved and appreciated through one or two of five major “languages“. From what I’ve observed, it’s common that we don’t have the same love language as our partner. Opposites always attract! When we finally stop trying to show our partner love by forcing our own love language on them, and vice versa, then things just go to a whole new (amazing) level. Seriously, all you have to do is step into the other person’s shoes.
Even if you don’t have time to read the book before Valentine’s, check out the website and, if you’ve been with your love for any length of time, you can probably make a decent guess as to their love language. Better yet (and especially if their love language is gifts!) get a copy of the book for V-Day and set out to discover, or confirm, your love languages.
With all that in mind, the best way I think you can make date night at home special is by customizing the evening so everyone gets a little love in their own language. Dinner is usually the highlight of my evening, but having something to do before or instead of a movie makes it feel like an official date night (and now all the internet can guess my love language). Be creative, but here are some simple ideas for relationship-deepening activities not involving a restaurant, in each love language. Note that many of these can be combined at the same time or in the same evening!
Acts of Service
- Clean up dinner.
- Earlier in the day, relieve them of one of their routine household tasks or a certain “to do” item you know they’ve been dreading (e.g., putting away the lingering Christmas decorations).
- Cook a course or the whole dinner together.
- Take turns playing DJ and listen to music while you relax on the couch after dinner—I’m always surprised how easily meaningful conversation flows when the TV is off!
- Plan an activity: board game; wine tasting–it’s a good excuse to get the cute half bottles!
- Back, shoulder, or scalp massage (or belly rub post-dinner, hehe)
- Cuddle and watch a movie.
Words of Affirmation
- Give a meaningful, appreciative V-Day note or card (or poem, or song), and read it aloud to them.
- For her: flowers, chocolates, or, to spoil them, jewelry–it’s pretty difficult to go wrong with traditional on such a Hallmark holiday; something you spied on her Pinterest boards (it’s not cheating, it’s research)
- For him: favorite bottle of bourbon or other beverage, hobby-related accessories
- Send flowers (for her) or a special food delivery (him or her) to their workplace the day before (because Valentine’s falls on a Friday–you’re welcome for the reminder).
Another thing I want to talk about is these cookies. I tried to play up the drama in the pics, but I’ll admit, they’re a little plain looking. Not so in the taste department. In absence of butter and eggs (or any dairy), a really good, fruity olive oil lends density, richness, and lots of flavor. Being the primary flavor of the cookie, though, definitely invest in a good oil, even if it’s a small bottle just for this purpose. If you know what to look for, quality does not have to cost a fortune. I’d recommend a local specialty foods store or oil shop, and if you don’t have one, mine does ship, at least throughout the U.S.
When Pinterest is bursting with crazy pink heart shaped goodies, why did I choose to share these for V-Day? Lots of reasons!
- In addition to olive oil, they use wine to sweeten and bring the dough together. The recipe is from Dorie Greenspan‘s new Baking Chez Moi, and as I was perusing for the first treat I’d bake from it, the combination of wine, olive oil, and a traditionally French cookie just short of screamed Valentine’s Day perfection.
- Obviously, it’s a cookie, which is easier to whip up ahead of time for dinner at home than, say, a 5-layer cake (you may want to hide them from yourself, though).
- The French origin equates with love in my mind. When you bite into one of these just crispy, complex morsels, you may, as I was, be tempted to describe this as a sexy cookie. It just didn’t seem to be a very family friendly title for a blog post, and I aim to keep it PG or safer around here. I think oysters have some new competition, though.
- Given your full course (but quickly prepared!) dinner, don’t be surprised if you’re near stuffed by the end of the evening. I wanted to give a lighter option than the brownie I introduced last week. Both are superb sweet endings to a meal with your loved one(s) in totally distinct ways.
- They’re vegan (dairy and egg free) and nut free! So, between this and the brownie (gluten-free), we’ve covered many dietary bases. I don’t care what kind of allergies or aversions you have–everyone deserves some dessert love.
Oysters usually steal the spotlight, but olive oil is a proven aphrodisiac, if you’re looking for love via baked goods.
- 2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
- 1/2 C sugar, plus more for dredging
- 1/2 t baking powder
- Scant 1/4 t fine sea salt
- 1/2 C “fruity”, good quality olive oil
- 1/2 t vanilla extract
- 1/2 C any white or rosé wine (see notes)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and put 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra sugar in a shallow dish for dredging.
- Whisk dry ingredients (except extra sugar reserved for dredging) together in an electric mixer with whisk attachment on low (20%) speed.
- With mixer running, drizzle in olive oil very slowly, so it incorporates and forms coarse crumbs.
- Combine wine and vanilla and switch mixer to paddle attachment. Drizzle wine mixture in slowly with mixer on low speed, then increase speed to about 40% until dough forms a single mass that appears smooth. The dough will act more like bread or pizza dough than a typical (e.g., chocolate chip) cookie dough, with the mixer getting louder and “working harder” as the dough comes together. Don’t leave the mixer alone, as it may shift on the countertop.
- Break off 1 to 2 tablespoon bits of dough (just larger than a cherry). Roll into balls, then into 2 to 3 inch long logs between your palms. Hold about a third of the length of the log up the ends with each hand and roll between your fingertips to form narrow ends. The center should be more plump and the cookie about 4 inches in length. Roll the shaped cookie in sugar to coat, then place on the cookie sheet. Once you’ve formed half the dough into cookies, bake the first tray in the bottom third of the oven for 20 to 22 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time, so the front is in back. While cookies bake, form the second sheet as you did the first.
- When done, cookies will be slightly browned on narrow ends and on the bottom. Cool completely before serving, so they have a chance to firm up. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Aside from wine, they’re excellent for a weekend breakfast or afternoon treat with coffee or tea.
I tested the recipe with both a white and a rosé, both fairly dry, with great results. The original recipe calls for something slightly sweet, so it’s really a matter of preference and what you have on hand.
The flavor and texture of the cookies changes over time. When fresh, the centers are moist and nearly cake-like. As they “age”, the interior dries and the pronounced flavor of the olive oil mellows. Try them at every stage and see how you like them best.
Cookies are dairy free and nut free, but decidedly not gluten free.
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi. I reduced the flour by about 1/4 cup from the original recipe to avoid the dry, crumbly dough that I found difficult to work with when following the original. The final recipe I tested did not come out with the prominent cracks you see in the photographed cookies.
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: French
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