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Party Plan: Valentine's Day

From tips for a cozy night at home to recipes for a fantastic gathering, we’ve got plenty of Valentine’s Day ideas to warm your heart.

Playing Cupid is Easy with These Great Valentine’s Day Party Ideas!

Check out these easy ideas to help share the love at your Valentine’s Day gathering! For a cozy affair without leaving the house, try 5 Ideas for a Date Night at Home, or turn your Valentine’s Day into a family affair with some Heart-Shaped French Toast the kids will enjoy. You can even make some fun DIY Heart T-Shirts together!

Planning on hosting a Valentine’s Day party? Start the night off right by offering some Baked Brie with Pecans and Apricot Preserves or Pink Peppercorn and Pistachio Goat Cheese as appetizers. When it’s time for the main course, impress your guests with Seared Strip Steaks and Shrimp with Chimichurri, for a flavorful take on surf and turf. Roasted Chicken with Tomatoes and Salmon with Lemon-Butter-Caper Sauce make for delicious dinners as well.

Of course, every Valentine’s Day gathering needs a sweet dessert, so why not turn up the heat with a delicious Red Hot Layer Cake? For a different take on sweets, you can serve a Toffee and Chocolate Dessert Cheese Ball, or set up a Frost Your Own Cookie Bar to let your guests in on the action. Serve a creamy cup of Pink Hot Chocolate with Heart-Shaped Sprinkles as a nightcap, sending guests home with full stomachs and warm hearts!

Seared Strip Steaks and Shrimp with Chimichurri

Seared Strip Steaks and Shrimp with Chimichurri

Created by: Nicole Leggio, Cooking for Keeps

Is there anything more classic when it comes to fancy dinners than surf and turf? Whenever I hear that phrase, I automatically visualize a couple on their anniversary at the fanciest of steakhouses.

I think surf and turf is making a comeback, and it’s not just your typical seared filet and steamed lobster tail that’s making the rounds these days. This Valentine’s Day, try this unique steak and shrimp combo!

Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 (8 oz.) strip steaks
  • 4 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small jalapeño, seeds and stems removed, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • ⅛ cup olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. salt
Directions:
  1. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder and cumin. Use it to generously coat both sides of the steak and shrimp. Season steaks and shrimp with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet to medium-high heat and add the butter. Once butter melts, add steaks. Cook until crusty and brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature is 140°F. Let rest for five minutes, during which the temperature should rise to 145°F.
  3. Add shrimp to the pan and cook until pink, about 1-2 minutes per side.
  4. While the steak and shrimp cook, make the chimichurri. Mix the parsley, garlic, jalapeno, red wine vinegar and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and salt. Let set for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Top steaks with shrimp and cover in chimichurri sauce before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Surf & Turf Bacon Burgers

Surf & Turf Bacon Burgers

Created by: Carrie Robinson, Frugal Foodie Mama

Surf & Turf takes on a whole new tasty meaning with these Surf & Turf Bacon Burgers! Start with a juicy Black Angus burger, then add a light and creamy crabmeat topping and crispy bacon. It’s an impressive burger perfect for a special night in.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. container of Private Selection™ Wild Caught Claw Crabmeat
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • ¼ tsp. ground paprika
  • 1 lb. Private Selection™ Angus Beef Ground Sirloin
  • 1 tsp. steak seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp. steak sauce
  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 4 Challah sandwich rolls
Directions:
  1. Cook the bacon until crisp via your desired cooking method. Allow to drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
  2. In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the minced the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Then add in the crabmeat and fresh lemon juice. Sauté an additional 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and fold in the mayonnaise and paprika. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve the burgers. The crabmeat topping can be made the day before.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ground sirloin, steak seasoning, and steak sauce. Form into 4¼ lb. patties. Grill or cook your burgers via your preferring cooking method to an internal temperature of least 160°F.
  4. To assemble the burgers, place the burger on the bottom bun. Top with ¼ of the crabmeat topping and 2 slices of the bacon, then the top bun. Repeat this for the other 3 burgers. Serve immediately and refrigerate any leftovers. Enjoy!

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Salmon with Lemon-Caper Sauce

Salmon with Lemon-Caper Sauce

Created by: Julia Mueller, The Roasted Root

When it comes to romantic holidays like Valentine’s Day, sharing a home-cooked meal is a memorable, cost-effective and meaningful experience. For a romantic evening in, this baked salmon with lemon-caper sauce is a marvelous choice.

The beauty of this recipe is threefold – it’s quick to prepare, healthy and delicious. Serve the salmon on top of zucchini noodles for a light, gluten-free meal.

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. salmon, cut into two fillets
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1½ tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed
  • ½ tsp. lemon zest
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 large zucchini, spiralized
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to the high broil setting and spray or lightly oil a casserole dish.
  2. Stir together the paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and sea salt in a small bowl until well-combined. Place the salmon fillets in the prepared casserole dish and drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with the spice mixture. Place dish on the second shelf of the oven under the broiler. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through.
  3. While the salmon is baking, prepare the lemon-butter-caper sauce by combining all of the remaining ingredients (except the zucchini) in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is fragrant and butter is bubbly, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to serve.
  4. If serving the zucchini noodles hot, sauté them in a skillet with a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat until noodles reach desired doneness.
  5. Serve salmon over zucchini noodles with lemon butter caper sauce.

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Roasted Chicken with Tomatoes

Roasted Chicken with Tomatoes

Created by: Nellie Tracy, Butter With a Side of Bread

I have been making more of an effort to cook healthy dinners lately, and this is one of my favorites. It doesn’t take much time, but it has a beautiful presentation! Pair this dish with a simple salad and dinner is ready!

Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs. Campari tomatoes, divided
  • 1 cup white onion, finely diced
  • ¼ cup butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 whole chicken (about 5 lbs.)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place one pound of tomatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  2. Transfer cooled tomatoes to a mixing bowl and crush with a fork. Strain crushed tomatoes, reserving the juice.
  3. Reduce oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, combine onions, salt, pepper and crushed tomatoes. Place mixture in the cavity of the chicken and then add the butter. Baste the chicken with the reserved tomato juice. Place chicken in a shallow roasting pan and bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for one hour, or until the chicken’s internal temperature reaches 165°F. During the last 10 minutes of baking, add the remaining tomatoes to the pan.
  5. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before carving and serving. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Baked Brie With Pecans and Apricot Preserves

Baked Brie With Pecans and Apricot Preserves

Created by: Emily Buys, Clever Housewife

For me, Valentine’s Day isn’t a day for expensive gifts, but honoring the love of your life by spending quality time together. A romantic dinner for two is the perfect way to do that. Make the Valentine’s Day meal more special than any other day with some gourmet eats from your own kitchen, like this decadent Baked Brie!

Ingredients:
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • ⅓ cup pecans, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 8 oz. Brie
  • ¼ cup apricot preserves
  • 1 egg, beaten
Directions:
  1. Remove puff pastry from freezer and allow to thaw for about 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. While pastry is thawing, melt butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Stir in pecans and cook until golden brown and fragrant, approximately 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon and stir until just combined.
  3. Unfold the partially-thawed pastry and place the Brie in the center. Top with apricot preserves and toasted pecans.
  4. Bring up one side of the dough at a time, pressing around the Brie and folding over the top. Repeat with remaining dough, overlapping the edges so no Brie or preserves are exposed. Brush the beaten egg over the top and sides of the pastry. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes until pastry is golden brown.
  5. Serve immediately with fruit, crackers and/or toasted sourdough. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container.

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Heart-Shaped Pizza Handpies

Heart-Shaped Pizza Handpies

Created by: Krissy Allori, Self Proclaimed Foodie

These little heart-shaped appetizers are perfect for parties – you can easily make a ton to feed a crowd. If there are any extras, stick them in your kids’ lunches and they’ll have all their friends wishing you were their mom!

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. pizza dough (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 cup pizza sauce
  • 8 oz. shredded Italian cheese
  • 4 oz. pepperoni
  • 1 can (4 oz.) sliced olives
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Portion dough into four equal pieces. From each piece portion, separate about a third of the dough for the top of the handpie.
  3. Take the larger portion of dough, stretch it thin and shape it into a heart. Top with sauce, cheese and toppings. Stretch the smaller piece of dough large enough to cover your pizza, then seal the edges with a fork. You can use a sharp knife to cut away any excess dough. Repeat with remaining portions of dough.
  4. Place handpies on a pizza stone or lined baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in the fridge.
Tip:

If you don’t want to make handpies, you can cook a whole pizza and use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out bite-sized appetizers.

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Pink Peppercorn and Pistachio Goat Cheese Appetizer

Pink Peppercorn and Pistachio Goat Cheese Appetizer

Created by: Sharon Garofalow, Cupcakes and Cutlery

The goat cheese in this appetizer is so creamy – it pairs perfectly with the crunch from the pistachios and the bold flavors from the rosemary and pink peppercorns.

Ingredients:
  • 11 oz. goat cheese
  • ¼ cup pistachios, shelled and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. pink peppercorn, cracked
  • 1½ Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. lemon zest
  • Olive oil, optional
Directions:
  1. In a shallow dish, mix pistachios, pink peppercorn, rosemary, salt and lemon zest.
  2. Remove the goat cheese from the wrapper and coat the outside with the pistachio mixture.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil (if desired) and serve with crackers, crostini and vegetables. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Tip:

There is no wrong way to make this appetizer. You can easily substitute ingredients if your store doesn’t carry something. For example, use regular cracked pepper in place of the pink peppercorns.

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Heart-Shaped Sweet Potatoes

Heart-Shaped Sweet Potatoes

Created by: Julia Mueller, The Roasted Root

These sweet potato hearts fit the bill exactly. Sprinkle them with sea salt and pepper, or even drizzle them with melted butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon and brown sugar for the ultimate treat. Serve these beauties alongside your favorite Valentine’s Day entrée for a vibrant and nutritious meal.

Ingredients:
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • Sea salt and pepper
Directions:
  1. Place the sweet potato in a wide-mouth saucepan and fill with water so the potato is submerged.
  2. Cover and place on the stovetop over high heat. Bring to a full boil. Remove the lid, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until sweet potato is tender when poked with a fork.
  3. Remove from heat, drain the water, transfer the sweet potato to a cutting board and allow it to cool.
  4. Once cool enough to handle, slice the sweet potato into ¼-inch rounds. Use a sharp paring knife or a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut hearts out of the sweet potato rounds (Note: save potato scraps for future use).
  5. Salt and pepper the sweet potato hearts to taste, then serve alongside your favorite entrée. Save leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Tip:

It’s best to use a sweet potato that is long and narrow versus wide.

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Festive Sweetheart Salad

Festive Sweetheart Salad

Created by: Jessica Williams, Butter With A Side of Bread

Put your heart into this simple-to-make, delicious fruit salad. It’s a lovely take on the classic, with just a little extra effort required to make it perfectly suited for Valentine's Day!

Ingredients:
  • 3 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • About 8 cups fruit of your choice
Directions:
  1. Slice firmer fruits such as apple, cantaloupe, watermelon and pineapple into ½" thick pieces. Press various sizes of heart-shaped cookie cutters into the slices to create heart shapes. Add to a large bowl.
  2. Add in smaller fruits such as blueberries, mandarin oranges and sliced strawberries. Toss lightly to combine.
  3. Combine orange juice, honey, lemon juice and vanilla in a small bowl. Stir until combined. Pour over fruit and toss gently to coat.
  4. Serve immediately and store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Heart-Shaped Caprese Salad with Reduced Balsamic

Heart-Shaped Caprese Salad with Reduced Balsamic

Created by: Amy Christie, this heart of mine

Fall in love with the combination of fresh tomatoes, basil and creamy mozzarella, drizzled to perfection with Balsamic reduction.

Ingredients:
  • 3-4 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 ball (8 oz.) mozzarella
  • Basil leaves
  • 1 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions:
  1. Wash and dry the tomatoes. Cut into ¼” slices.
  2. Slice the mozzarella ball into matching ¼” slices.
  3. Press a heart-shaped cookie cutter into each slice of mozzarella to create heart-shaped pieces. Set aside.
  4. For the balsamic reduction, pour balsamic vinegar into a small non-stick saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.
  5. Once the vinegar is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer until the consistency becomes syrupy. Stir occasionally.
  6. Remove vinegar from heat and cool to room temp.
  7. On a serving dish, lay the tomatoes, basil and mozzarella hearts in rows, alternating between each ingredient.
  8. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Red Velvet Cinnamon Rolls

Red Velvet Cinnamon Rolls

Created by: Krissy Allori, Self Proclaimed Foodie

If you need anything to turn red, beets are your answer. In addition to natural color, you get to enjoy all of the super food properties from the beets. Plus, much like cooking with pumpkin, zucchini, or carrot, beets add moisture and a velvety texture. Their earthy taste pairs especially well with chocolate too. I call that a win-win situation.

Ingredients:
  • 1 large beet (reserve juice for icing)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup warm water, about 105°F
  • 4½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1¼ cup plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
  • 4½-5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp. milk
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. To roast your beet, wrap it in aluminum foil and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Turn off oven after removing. Once beet is cool to the touch, cut away skin and top with a sharp paring knife. Reserve any juice for the icing.
  2. Add roasted beet and buttermilk to a blender and puree until smooth.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in warm water and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand until yeast begins to foam, about 5 minutes. Add in the beet mixture, egg, ½ cup granulated sugar, melted butter and salt and mix together with paddle attachment.
  4. Add about half of the flour along with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and continue to mix with the paddle attachment. Switch to the dough hook attachment and add the rest of the flour. Knead until dough comes together and forms a ball, about 5 minutes. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover in a warm room. Let rise for 1½-2 hours until doubled in size.
  5. In a small bowl, use a fork to mix together the remaining ¾ cup granulated sugar, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon cocoa powder for the filling.
  6. Divide dough into two portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a rectangle about 13"x20". Spread half of the softened butter on each rectangle and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture, leaving a ½” border around the edges. Roll up dough lengthwise into tight logs and place the logs seam-side down. Gently cut each log into 12 pieces using a serrated edge knife. Place all 24 rolls on a large parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Lightly cover rolls and allow to rise again for 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake for 14-18 minutes, until light golden. Do not over-bake.
  9. While rolls are cooking, whisk together confectioner’s sugar, milk and reserved beet juice in small bowl. Add just enough milk to produce your preferred consistency.
  10. When rolls are done cooking, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before covering with icing.
  11. Serve immediately and store leftovers in the freezer wrapped in foil. Reheat in the oven when ready to serve.

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Heart-Shaped French Toast With Nutella and Berries

Heart-Shaped French Toast With Nutella and Berries

Created by: Erin, Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts

Start your Valentine’s Day off right with a fun, heart-shaped breakfast. This French toast is a snap to make — just use a cookie cutter to cut out the heart shapes. Top it with a little Nutella and berries and you’ve got a decadent, delicious way to start the day with your significant other.

Ingredients:
  • 8 slices Texas toast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Nutella and berries to serve
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt.
  2. Preheat large skillet or griddle over medium heat.
  3. Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut hearts out of the Texas toast slices.
  4. Place heart-shaped bread into egg mixture and flip to evenly coat. Repeat with all the slices of bread. Place in hot pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side until lightly browned.
  5. Serve topped with Nutella and berries. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Chocolate-Dipped Valentine’s Day Wafer Sandwiches

Chocolate-Dipped Valentine’s Day Wafer Sandwiches

Created by: Carrie Robinson, Frugal Foodie Mama

You only need four simple ingredients to make these fun and kid friendly Chocolate-Dipped Valentine’s Day Wafer Sandwiches! In fact, they are so easy to make that you can even let the kids get in on the chocolate dipping fun.

Ingredients:
  • 20 Kroger Original Vanilla Wafers
  • ¾ cup strawberry frosting
  • 1 cup white chocolate candy melts
  • 1 cup dark chocolate candy melts
  • Valentine’s Day sprinkles
Directions:
  1. On a piece of parchment paper, place 10 of the vanilla wafers bottom side up. Spoon the strawberry frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a frosting tip that has a large opening. Pipe about 1 generous tablespoon of frosting onto the wafers. Top each with the remaining 10 vanilla wafers.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate and white chocolate candy melts separately according to package instructions. Dip each wafer sandwich halfway into either the white or dark chocolate. Gently shake off the excess and place back onto the parchment paper. Quickly top with the Valentine’s Day sprinkles. Repeat this for the 9 remaining wafer sandwiches.
  3. Allow the chocolate to completely harden and serve immediately. Any leftover wafer sandwiches can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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Pink Hot Chocolate with Heart-Shaped Sprinkles

Pink Hot Chocolate with Heart-Shaped Sprinkles

Created by: Amy Christie, this heart of mine

Celebrate the season of love with a creamy cup of colorful cocoa. Don’t let the pink color deceive you, it’s chock full of chocolatey goodness! Don’t forget the heart-shaped sprinkles for an extra dose of love.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 oz. high quality white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • 3-5 drops red food coloring
  • Marshmallows, optional
  • Whipped cream, optional
  • Heart-shaped sprinkles, optional
Directions:
  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add in the chopped chocolate and allow it to melt, whisking to combine. Do not allow the mix to boil.
  3. Remove from the heat and whisk in the food coloring.
  4. Top with whipped cream or marshmallows and heart-shaped sprinkles. Enjoy!

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Easy Chocolate Mascarpone Tarts

Easy Chocolate Mascarpone Tarts

Created by: Nicole Leggio, Cooking for Keeps

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, one ingredient reigns supreme – chocolate. Whether you take it in the form of a heart-shaped truffle or four-tiered cake, chances are, you consume some form of chocolate on Valentine’s Day.

Personally, I like my chocolate as rich and dark as I can get it, which is exactly why I’m head over heels for these adorable Chocolate Mascarpone Tarts.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups chocolate animal crackers
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chunks
  • Flaked salt for garnish
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease four 3” mini tart pans.
  2. Add animal crackers to a food processor and pulse until completely crushed. Add sugar, then pulse until combined. With the mixer on, slowly drizzle in butter.
  3. Evenly divide the cracker mixture between tart pans. Use the back of a spoon to push the crust into the bottom and sides of the pans. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Cool completely.
  4. After cleaning processor bowl, add mascarpone to the bottom and mix until smooth and runny.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of mascarpone along with chocolate to a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between each until chocolate has melted. (It should take 3-4 intervals.)
  6. Once the chocolate has melted, slowly whisk in the remaining mascarpone until the mixture is smooth and all chocolate is incorporated.
  7. Once the tarts cool completely, invert them on a serving platter or flat plate. Tap the bottom with a knife to help them come out. Flip them back right-side-up and evenly divide chocolate mascarpone mixture between tarts. Smooth with a spatula and garnish with flaked salt.
Tip:

Make sure to grease the tarts very well, as you want them to come out smoothly!

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Black Forest Cake

Black Forest Cake

Created by: Emily Buys, Clever Housewife

Finish off your Valentine’s Day dinner with this Black Forest Cake. It’s easy to make, and you’ll look like a gourmet!

Ingredients:
  • German chocolate cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 cans (21 oz. each) cherry pie filling
  • 3½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • ⅓ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. almond extract
  • 4 oz. milk chocolate
  • Maraschino cherries
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9”x9” round baking pans.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together cake mix, eggs, 1 teaspoon almond extract and 1 can of cherry pie filling. Divide batter between the two pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  3. Let cake cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan and turn upside down onto a cooling rack.
  4. While cake is cooling, prepare whipped topping. In a large mixing bowl, beat whipping cream on high speed until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon almond extract, then continue beating on high until whipped topping is stiff and spreadable. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. When cakes are cool, use a knife to level off each cake if necessary so they have flat tops. Place one cake on a serving tray and apply a layer of whipped topping to the top. Add on the other can of cherry pie filling and spread across the top. Place the second cake on top.
  6. Frost the entire cake with whipped topping, leaving some topping aside for decorating. Place remaining topping in a piping bag and pipe rounds of frosting around the perimeter of the cake.
  7. Create chocolate shavings from the chocolate bar using a vegetable peeler. Sprinkle over top and sides of cake. Pat the maraschino cherries dry and place one in the center of each frosting round.
  8. Refrigerate cake for 3-4 hours before serving. Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers.

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Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Created by: Krissy Allori, Self Proclaimed Foodie

If you’re considering making a batch of chocolate-covered strawberries to impress a loved one this Valentine's Day, try making these cookies instead! I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Ingredients:
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup firmly-packed brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup freeze-dried strawberries
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a small bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter, sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed until well blended. Beat in egg, mixing well. Add flour mixture and beat slowly to incorporate, then faster to blend well. Stir in chocolate chips and freeze-dried strawberries.
  4. Drop batter in heaping tablespoon portions about 2” apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  5. Bake until edges of cookies are brown, about 8-10 minutes.
  6. Let cookies cool on pan about 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks with a spatula. Serve warm or cool. Store in an airtight container, or freeze for longer storage.

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Red Hot Layer Cake

Red Hot Layer Cake

Created by: Carrie Robinson, Frugal Foodie Mama

Turn up the heat this Valentine’s Day with this Red Hot Layer Cake! This fun and romantic two-layer white cake is frosted with an easy-to-make cinnamon candy-infused vanilla frosting.

Ingredients:
  • 1 box (16.5 oz.) Kroger White Cake Mix
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 16 oz. vanilla frosting
  • ½ cup cinnamon imperial candies, plus more for decorating the cake.
Directions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Spray two 8” or 9” cake pans with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Follow the cake mix box directions to prepare the batter, combining the cake mix, 1 cup water, oil and egg whites. Spread evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. Place the cinnamon imperial candies into a food processor and pulse until most of the candies are a powder. It’s okay for some smaller pieces to remain. Spoon the tub of vanilla frosting into a medium mixing bowl and fold in the processed cinnamon candies.
  4. Place one of the cake layers top side down on a cake plate. Spoon a little less than half of the frosting on top of the cake and evenly spread it out to the edges. Place the second cake layer on top, bottom side down. Spoon the remaining frosting on top, and spread it out evenly to the edges of the top cake layer. Decorate with additional cinnamon imperial candies, if desired.
  5. Slice and serve! Any leftover cake can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Hot Chocolate Brownie Pie

Hot Chocolate Brownie Pie

Created by: Erin Sellin, Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts

Hot Chocolate Brownie Pie is a fudgy hot chocolate brownie topped with a layer of chocolate pudding mousse and fresh whipped cream. And of course lots of marshmallows when it is time to serve!

Ingredients:
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup hot chocolate mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ baking powder
  • 2 packages (3.4 oz. each) instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 2 cups cold milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • ½ cup powdered sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
  • Mini marshmallows
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9” spring form pan or pie plate with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together vegetable oil, cocoa powder, and hot chocolate mix until you get a paste. Beat in eggs and sugar. Fold in flour, salt, and baking powder until just combined.
  3. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until the edges are set and a test toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
  4. Once brownies have cooled, make the pudding mousse. In a bowl, whisk together pudding and milk for 2 minutes. Set aside for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, whisk 1 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form.
  5. Add ¼ cup powdered sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract and whisk until the peaks become stiff. Fold whipped cream into the pudding mixture and spread over the cooled brownie. Place in fridge for 2 hours to set.
  6. When it is time to serve, make the whipped cream. Using an electric mixer, whisk the remaining heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and vanilla extract, and whisk until the peaks become stiff. Put a dollop of whipped cream and a small handful of marshmallows over each slice to serve.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Homemade Valentine’s Day Truffles

Homemade Valentine’s Day Truffles

Created by: Jessica Williams, Butter With A Side of Bread

Just a handful of ingredients yields the most delicious homemade chocolate truffles ever. Smooth, creamy and perfectly sweet, your sweetheart will swoon over these tasty little treats. Add a festive touch with a contrasting chocolate and colorful Valentine’s Day sprinkles on top!

Ingredients:
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2⅔ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ tsp. almond extract
  • 2½ cups total dark and white chocolate bark, or dipping chocolate discs
  • Valentine's Day sprinkles
Directions:
  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add in cream and stir. Heat until mixture just barely comes to a boil. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate chips. Whisk gently, combining the chocolate with the butter-cream mixture until it’s smooth.
  2. Stir in almond extract. Transfer to an airtight container and place in the fridge for several hours until solid.
  3. Using a melon baller or spoon, scoop out small balls of chocolate from the chilled container. Use your hands to shape the balls into smoother rounds and place on a wax paper-lined pan. Repeat until all chocolate is used. Place pan of truffles in the freezer for at least 1 hour.
  4. Heat 1 cup of each kind of dipping chocolate in a glass bowl until melted and smooth. Dip truffles one at a time using a fork, then place on wax paper to cool.
  5. Melt remaining chocolate and transfer to small baggies. Cut a corner to drizzle chocolate on truffles, then top them with Valentine's sprinkles.
  6. Store truffles in an airtight container in the fridge. Let sit out for 10-15 minutes before serving, if desired.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Toffee and Chocolate Dessert Cheeseball

Toffee and Chocolate Dessert Cheeseball

Created by: Sharon Garofalow, Cupcakes and Cutlery

This simple dessert cheeseball is perfect for all ages to make, and it’s a treat the whole family can enjoy together after dinner. I love to see the look on my kid’s faces as we dig into a dish they helped make! Spending time in the kitchen with your kids is a great way to make memories on Valentine’s Day.

Ingredients:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp. caramel sauce
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  • ¾ cup mini chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup toffee bits
  • ¼ cup pecans, chopped
  • Animal crackers, graham crackers, green apples and pretzels for serving
Directions:
  1. Beat the cream cheese, butter and caramel sauce until fluffy.
  2. Add in powdered and brown sugars and beat until combined.
  3. Add in ½ cup mini chocolate chips and ½ cup toffee bits. Mix to incorporate.
  4. Cover and chill in the fridge for about 2 hours.
  5. In a shallow bowl, add the remaining chocolate chips, toffee bits and pecans.
  6. Form the cream cheese mixture in to a ball by hand.
  7. Coat the outside of the cheeseball with the chocolate chip mix.
  8. Serve with a mix of cookies, fruit and pretzels. Refrigerate any leftovers.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Mini Heart-Shaped Puff Pastry Pizzas

Mini Heart-Shaped Puff Pastry Pizzas

Created by: Nicole Leggio, Cooking for Keeps

These mini pizzas pack in a double whammy – not only are they miniature, but they are heart-shaped, which means they’re infinitely more adorable than your average pie. I also love that these are a perfect way to include the kiddos in your Valentine’s Day festivities.

While you caramelize the onions and grate the cheese, the kids can use heart-shaped cookie cutters to make the individual pies. Put everything together and you’re ready for Valentine’s Day snacking!

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2½ tsp. sugar, divided
  • ½ tsp. salt, divided
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 4 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ tsp. oregano
  • 1½ cups shredded fontina cheese
  • ½ cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Add butter to a medium non-stick skillet. Turn the heat to medium and add onions, ½ teaspoon sugar and salt. Toss onions to coat in butter, sugar and salt and let caramelize, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
  3. While the onions cook, use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out pizzas from the puff pastry sheet. Use the excess dough to make more pizzas by forming it back into a ball and rolling it out with a rolling pin (you may need to use a little bit of flour to keep the dough from sticking). You should end up with 8 pizzas.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, salt, tomato paste, water and oregano. If you like your sauce on the thinner side, add more water. Season to taste with salt.
  5. Use a spoon to spread pizza sauce on the pizzas. Evenly divide cheese between them and sprinkle with onions and roasted red peppers.
  6. Bake until pastry is puffed and cheese is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Chocolate Truffles With Dates, Cocoa and Coconut

Chocolate Truffles With Dates, Cocoa and Coconut

Created by: Julia Mueller, The Roasted Root

Whenever possible, I try to keep my dessert recipes on the clean end, using whole food, un-processed ingredients. Of course, chocolate treats that don’t require a huge time investment and only call for a few ingredients are an ultimate bonus. This chocolate truffle recipe is not only quick and easy to prepare, but also melt-in-your-mouth delicious all while staying on the healthful end of the dessert spectrum.

Perfect for sharing with friends and family, these truffles are great as gifts!

Ingredients:
  • 30 pitted Medjool dates (about 8 oz.)
  • 5 Tbsp. raw cacao powder, plus more for rolling the truffles
  • 2 Tbsp. walnut or coconut oil
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut for rolling, optional
Directions:
  1. Add the dates and cacao powder to a high-powered blender or food processor. Pulse/blend a few times to chop up the dates.
  2. Add in the oil and process/blend until everything is combined and you get a thick, sticky mixture.
  3. Using a spatula, scrape all of the mixture out of the food processor/blender and into a bowl.
  4. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. This allows the mixture to set up a bit so it’s easier to work with.
  5. Roll the mixture into 14 balls. Roll each ball in additional cacao powder and/or unsweetened shredded coconut.
  6. Store truffles in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
Tips:
  • Get creative with what you roll the truffles in. Try chopped raw nuts in addition to (or in place of) the extra cacao and coconut.
  • You can also add ingredients to your liking to change up the flavor of the truffles. For instance, add vanilla or almond extract, dried cranberries or blueberries, and/or any nut or seed.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Bubbly Raspberry Vodka Crush

Bubbly Raspberry Vodka Crush

Created by: Nicole Leggio, Cooking for Keeps

There’s something special about making a drink completely from scratch, and when it comes to Valentine’s Day, only red and pink will do!

Ingredients:
  • 2 pints raspberries, divided
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2½ cups water
  • 12 oz. vodka
  • 6 oz. Chambord
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 12 oz. chilled club soda
  • Crushed ice
Directions:
  1. Add water, sugar and 1½ pints raspberries to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until sugar has melted and raspberries are broken down, about 5-6 minutes. Pour through a sieve into a measuring cup or small bowl and push out all of the juice with the back of a spoon. Chill in the fridge for least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Add simple syrup, vodka, Chambord and lemon juice to a pitcher. Stir to combine.
  3. Fill glasses with crushed ice. Pour raspberry vodka mixture until the glass is ¾ full. Top with chilled club soda and garnish with the remaining raspberries. Refrigerate any leftovers.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Creamy Strawberry Shake

Creamy Strawberry Shake

Created by: Julia Mueller, The Roasted Root

Strawberry shakes are one of my favorite treats to make throughout the year, but they’re particularly lovely on Valentine’s Day since they’re a pretty pink hue. Try out this recipe this Valentine’s Day in place of a sugary cocktail and you’ll get all the same delicious, special occasion flavor with none of the side effects.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup strawberries, frozen*
  • 1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp. honey or pure maple syrup, to taste
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 6 ice cubes

*For best results, use fresh strawberries that you de-stem and freeze.

Directions:
  1. Add all the ingredients to a high-powered blender. Blend until completely smooth and serve with a sliced strawberry garnish.
Tips:
  • The only downside to these shakes is strawberries aren’t in season during the winter months, making the flavor more tart. You can balance the tart flavor with more honey or pure maple syrup, or even a ripe banana.
  • This creamy fruit shake works with just about any fruit. For instance, the strawberries can be replaced with raspberries (just note there will be a lot of seeds), blueberries, peaches, oranges, mango, pineapple, etc.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Risotto with Asparagus

Risotto with Asparagus

Created by: Leigh Ann Hieronymus

Use good-quality Parmesan for a winning risotto. This recipe works well with fresh mushrooms, too!

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice, uncooked
  • 1 can vegetable broth, 29 ounces
  • 1 pound asparagus, cut into 1" lengths
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
Directions:
  1. Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender. Stir in rice and 1 cup of the broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook 8 to 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently.
  2. Add lemon zest; mix well. Cook an additional 15-17 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring frequently and adding additional broth 1/2 cup at a time as necessary (there may be a small amount of broth left). Stir in parmesan cheese. Steam asparagus and add just before serving.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

5 Tips to Make Valentine’s Day Extra Special

5 Tips to Make Valentine’s Day Extra Special

Created by: Erin Sellin, Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, so here are 5 tips to make it extra special for everyone in your life.

  1. Don’t Try To Do Everything
    Sometimes there is a lot of pressure to go all out on Valentine’s Day, especially when it comes to gifts, not to mention dinner at a high end restaurant. That is just too much! If you focus on doing one thing well and making your sweetheart feel loved, it will mean so much more than trying to do a little bit of everything.
  2. Make it a Family Affair
    Valentine’s Day can be expensive. And if you have kids, trying to find the time to get away and hire a baby sitter can feel impossible. Instead, make Valentine’s Day an event the whole family can enjoy. Have a movie night in, where you can curl up on the couch with popcorn and your favorite candy. Or cook a nice dinner as a family and get everyone involved. You can make Valentine’s Day special without it being a couples only event.
  3. Start Traditions
    I think that all holidays, no matter how big or small, should have traditions. Typically when we go out to dinner, my husband and I always eye the appetizers on the menu, knowing we don’t need them with the other food we’re getting. But one year, we decided that Valentine’s Day would be the day to order the appetizers we resisted the rest of the year. Once we had kids, it was a fun way to celebrate with them as well. Now we look forward to it each year.
  4. Take the Day Off
    If your job allows it, give yourself the entirety of Valentine’s Day to spend with your significant other. Take the time you don’t normally have to do all of your favorite activities: Do you love movies? Rent a movie and stay in. Do you like the outdoors? Find a nearby trail and go on a walk together. It doesn’t matter what you do, just enjoy the extra quality time you are spending together.
  5. Make a Heartfelt (Not Grand) Gesture
    Huge displays of affection are great, but they’re not required to show the people you love that they are important to you. Oftentimes it’s the smaller gestures that really count. Give someone a really heartfelt card, or make their favorite meal to show you care. I am not great at finding the perfect gift for my husband, but I know his favorite dessert. So I like to make that for him on Valentine’s Day.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

5 Ideas for a Date Night at Home

5 Ideas for a Date Night at Home

Created by: Sharon Garofalow, Cupcakes and Cutlery

My husband and I made a pact to try and have a date night at least once a month. Dining out can be costly, and after a busy week I often want to stay in and relax. So I created 5 simple date night ideas you can easily do at home.

  1. Cook Together
    Being in the kitchen is so much fun with someone else! Turn on some music, open a bottle of wine and catch up on what’s been going on as you prepare dinner together. Have each person choose one thing to make and then work together to create your date night meal. It’s a great way to share the dinner responsibility and interact.
  2. Movie Night
    It’s fun to create an at-home theater experience. Choose a movie to watch that you both want to see, or missed in the theater. To make this experience feel different than just watching TV together, we make an effort to stay in the moment. We put together a tray with our favorite movie theater candy, popcorn and wine close by. We bring out cozy blankets and turn down the lights just like a movie theater. If the weather is nice, you could also set up an outdoor theater with a projector and speakers to make the experience even more unique.
  3. Game Night
    My husband and I love to laugh, so game night is always a fun idea. To make it feel more like a date, I bring out some pillows and throw blankets for lounging. We pick out our favorite games, put together snacks and enjoy each other’s company as we play games that remind us of when we first met in high school. Fresh flowers are always a nice way to make the moment feel more special!
  4. Go for a Walk
    This might not sound like a date idea to some, but taking a walk is a great way to spend alone time. Holding hands as you walk to the corner store or park is an easy way to connect with your spouse while getting a little bit of physical activity. Since your kids are not coming along, you are free to walk farther than usual, making it a great time to explore your neighborhood.
  5. Spa Night
    Visiting a spa can be expensive, but you can create your own relaxed atmosphere easily in your own home. Burn some scented candles and take turns giving each other foot massages. Put on our bathrobes and turn on some quiet music that reminds you of your favorite spa. Make spa water (water with cucumber slices) or sip on hot tea. Dim the lights and create a serene space for you both to enjoy.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

3 Tips for Hosting a Valentine’s Day Dinner Party

3 Tips for Hosting a Valentine’s Day Dinner Party

Created by: Sharon Garofalow, Cupcakes and Cutlery

My husband and I love to host people in our home. But to some, the idea of throwing a dinner party can be overwhelming. I have 3 tips to share that will help you host without the stress and provide a wonderful experience for your guests.

  1. Prep Ahead
    If you’re hosting your dinner party on Friday night, don’t wait until Thursday to start planning! Plan your menu well ahead of time and make sure that you aren’t trying out a new dish that night (it might turn out differently than you expected). Hit the grocery store for all your supplies several days before your party so you’ll have time to pick up anything you may have forgotten. Are there dishes you can make ahead of time? Do it! Create your playlist in advance too so you only have to hit “play” on the day of the party. Make a list of all the things you need to do to feel like your dinner party will be successful and mark off the tasks as you complete them.
  2. Keep it Easy
    Always try to incorporate a few store-bought items to round out the meal so you don’t have to prepare everything from scratch. No one expects you to make your own dinner rolls, so don’t! Opt for simple items like a cheese platter for when your guests arrive. That way there are snacks to keep everyone happy while you’re making adjustments in the kitchen. You also don’t need elaborate tablescapes or centerpieces. Pick up a few grocery store bouquets and group like-colored flowers in their own vases.
  3. Pay Attention to the Details
    Do your guests love a certain wine? Serve that at dinner. They will notice, and it will make them feel special. Browse Facebook in the days leading up to the party and see if there are any events or topics you could bring up as conversation starters. Have your spouse help keep the small talk going as you finish up dinner, or consider having a neighbor or close friend over to help you with service. It’s helpful to have another set of hands to pour drinks, keep and eye on the food and make sure that every guest is taken care of.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Handmade Valentine’s Day Cards

Handmade Valentine’s Day Cards

Created by: Emily Buys, Clever Housewife

Many people skip the big gifts on Valentine’s Day, opting for a heartfelt card instead. Well, nothing is more heartfelt than making a handmade card from scratch. These glittery Valentine’s Day cards are easy to make and offer a great opportunity to get the kids involved.

Set up a card making station where adults and kids alike can glue and glitter to their hearts’ content, and you’ll have a handmade card for everyone they love in no time. Using cookie cutters as your template, you can make a variety of cards so no two are the same.

Things You'll Need:
  • Blank greeting cards and envelopes
  • Heart-shaped cookie cutters, or other Valentine’s Day-themed cutters
  • Glue
  • Pencils with erasers (or small paint brushes)
  • Glitter
Directions:
  1. On the front of a blank card, trace your favorite Valentine’s Day-themed cookie cutter with a pencil. Set the cookie cutter aside and apply glue over the traced lines, using the pencil eraser or a small paint brush.
  2. Sprinkle glitter over the fresh glue and gently shake off any excess.
  3. Allow card to dry completely before writing a meaningful message inside.
Tip:

If using more than one color of glitter per card, only apply glue to one section at a time so the colors don’t bleed.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Frost Your Own Cookie Bar

Frost Your Own Cookie Bar

Created by: Amy Christie, this heart of mine

Sugar cookies are delicious, there is no doubt. A sugar cookie bar is a great reason to gather with family and friends and enjoy something sweet this Valentine’s Day. Whether you eat all the finished products or give them away, just enjoy and have fun!

Things You'll Need:
  • Heart-shaped cookie cutters
  • Frosting
  • Sprinkles
  • Small bowls
  • Knives or decorating bags and tips
  • Baking sheets and trays
  • Paper plates and clear wrap, small bags or treat boxes
  • Optional: ribbons, stickers, bows, tags
Cookies:

For a cookie bar, the cookies are the obvious star. Sugar cookies are a traditional and delicious choice for Valentine’s Day, but consider thinking outside the box. Chocolate chip, chocolate or even gingerbread work as well, especially for other holidays. As for shapes, hearts are applicable for Valentine’s day, or go with circles or squares (or dinosaurs and bears for a kids’ theme). Work to have all the cookies baked and cooled before the gathering to reduce stress and prevent the frosting from melting off the hot cookies.

Frosting:

The frosting options are endless: store-bought or homemade, vanilla or deep, dark chocolate. Choose a few of your favorite options (in various colors) to keep the workload down and avoid overwhelming your guests. A good rule of thumb is one to two choices for a small group, two to four choices for a larger gathering.

Sprinkles:

Sprinkles are the glitter of the edible world. For little hands, whole bottles work best. For older children and adults, consider putting the sprinkles in small bowls for more accessibility.

Work station:

The workstation should include cookies, frosting, sprinkles, knives, decorating bags and tips. Place the baked cookies on plates in the center of the table along with bowls of frosting and the sprinkles. Putting items in the center allows more people access from all sides. If using decorating bags and tips, depending on the size of the gathering, consider preparing more than one bag of frosting per color to keep the decorating going.

Collect cookie sheets and trays in a stack and have them ready to fill with the finished cookies. Use them to transport the cookies from the work station to the packing station.

Packing station:

In a separate area, lay out packing options like paper plates and clear wrap, treat bags or boxes, ribbons, stickers and tags. Putting them in a different area prevents congestion and messy packages.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Homemade Truffles and Gift Card Bouquet

Homemade Truffles and Gift Card Bouquet

Created by: Nellie Tracy, Butter With a Side of Bread

Can’t decide whether to give your sweetheart chocolate, flowers or a gift card for Valentine’s Day? This easy-to-make bouquet is the perfect blend of all three!

Things You'll Need:
  • Chocolate almond bark
  • Lollipop molds (hearts or flowers)
  • 1 Mason jar
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Decorative gems
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors
  • Roses, silk or fresh
  • Gift card
Directions:
  1. Fill the jar with decorative gems.
  2. Place lollipop sticks into molds. Melt almond bark according to package directions and pour into the molds. Let sit until hardened.
  3. Place chocolate lollipops and roses in the jar. Place the gift card among the flowers and lollipops, then tie a ribbon around the jar.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Woven Heart Treat Bag

Woven Heart Treat Bag

Created by: Amy Christie, this heart of mine

Spread the love (and sweet treats!) in a handmade Woven Heart Treat Bag. It’s very simple, although it does require a bit of precision. Your Valentine will know your gift is from the heart.

Things You'll Need:
  • Printable template
  • Colored cardstock in two different colors
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick or tape
  • Ribbon (optional)
  • Sweet treats or small gifts
Directions:
  1. Print the template onto two different sheets of colored cardstock. Two pieces will create two hearts.
  2. Cut out each oval template.
  3. Fold the oval template in half and cut along the lines. Repeat with the second oval.
  4. Align two folded oval halves at a 90 degree angle to create a heart.
  5. Begin weaving the first strip through the opening in the opposing color and continue with an outside-inside pattern.
  6. Do the same with the second strip, alternating the starting color.
  7. Repeat the weaving with the third and fourth strip.
  8. Glue or tape a ribbon or strip of cardstock at the point of the heart to create a handle.
  9. Fill with yummy treats!

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

DIY Heart T-shirt

DIY Heart T-shirt

Created by: Emily Buys, Clever Housewife

Show your kids how much you love them this Valentine’s Day by crafting a DIY heart t-shirt with them. The kids can make mom a homemade t-shirt as a thoughtful gift, or they can craft up a shirt for to wear on Valentine’s Day. It’s a win-win, and super cute.

Things You'll Need:
  • Plain white t-shirt (other light colors will work too)
  • Large heart cutout from a white piece of paper or cardstock
  • Red fabric paint
  • Paper plate
  • Pencil with eraser
Directions:
  1. Lay the t-shirt out on a flat surface and squirt a small amount of paint onto a paper plate.
  2. Place the heart cutout wherever you want the heart to appear on the t-shirt.
  3. Dip pencil eraser into the paint and press onto the shirt, around the edges of the heart. Press down firmly the edge of the heart, then release the pressure as you move farther from the edge. The paint should become lighter and lighter, creating a faded effect. Repeat until you’ve gone around the entire heart, dipping back into the paint as necessary.
  4. Remove the heart cutout and allow the paint to dry completely before wearing or gifting.
Tip:

To make a perfectly symmetrical heart, fold a piece of paper in half crosswise and draw half a heart from the center-fold. Then cut it out and open it up.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Heart-Shaped Lollipops with Candy Canes

Heart-Shaped Lollipops with Candy Canes

Created by: Erin Sellin, Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts

These Valentine’s lollipops are a super easy craft that you can do with your kids. They will have a great time helping, and you have an edible treat afterwards! You could wrap them in cellophane with a red or pink ribbon, and have a great gift for teachers or friends too.

Things You'll Need:
  • ½ lb. white chocolate almond bark
  • 40 mini candy canes
  • Valentine’s Day sprinkles
  • 20 lollipop sticks
Directions:
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap the candy canes and place them on the sheet in pairs, the tips touching to form a heart. Place a lollipop stick in the center of each heart.
  2. Melt the almond bark until smooth. Spoon or pipe the chocolate into the center of each heart. Fill enough to reach the edges of the candy canes. The chocolate should be level with the height of the candy canes as well. Immediately add the sprinkles.
  3. Let the lollipops cool and harden completely before removing from the tray.
  4. Store in an air tight container.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Flower Crown Valentine’s Party

Flower Crown Valentine’s Party

Created by: Elizabeth Mayberry, Oak + Oats

As an adult, I miss making Valentine’s Day boxes for school and writing Valentines for everyone in the class to pass out, so each year I try to celebrate a little bit and share the love with my friends.

I’ve been wanting to try to make flower crowns ever since they started making their rounds across Pinterest but I never had a reason to (I suppose just because I wanted to would have counted ;)) but Valentine’s Day (or Galentine’s Day) this year seemed like the perfect time to hit up Kroger’s Floral Department and load up on pink carnations and pretty greenery.

What I love about throwing a party like this is that it can be for girls of all ages and all amounts of people. As long as you have enough adults around to balance out the littles, this can be such a fun activity for everyone. All you need to throw a party like this is a table, flower crown fixings (I’m sharing the how to below), and some girls you just want to laugh and celebrate beauty with! Take out the pressure of perfection and replace it with the joy of community and the power of friendship!

Things You'll Need:
  • Flowers: I picked up these stunning Carnations for our crowns because not only are they festive, but January is Carnation month so they are in full bloom in the floral department!
  • Greenery: You will also want some greenery to weave in with the flowers. I made sure it matched the Carnations I picked out and was enough for filling in and also wrapping around our heads.
  • Floral Tape
  • Floral Wire
  • Wire Cutters + Floral Shears
Directions:
  1. Start by measuring around your head with the floral wire and twist it together. This will be the base of your crown.
  2. After that you have a ridiculous amount of freedom as you create! We started by wrapping greenery around the entirety of the loop securing it with floral tape.
  3. Then we started adding flowers. To do so, cut the stems near the top and add to your crown by wrapping floral tape or wiring to secure it. If you have extra stem still hanging off, feel free to trim it!
  4. Keep attaching flowers to your liking.
  5. Wear them and enjoy them!
Tip:

Fresh Flower crowns don’t have a lifespan of forever so make sure you get out and enjoy them! Take fun pictures of everyone at your party holding and wearing their crowns. This is a day to have fun dressing up and celebrating together! Have a blast feeling princess like in your crowns! Share the love this Valentine’s Day!

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Carnation Bouquet with Printable Tags

Carnation Bouquet with Printable Tags

Created by: KC Coake, The Real Thing with the Coake Family

I've got a simple and beautiful DIY gift idea for you that is great for Valentine's day, teacher appreciation day, a sick friend or a pick me up for someone going through the loss of a loved one or a hard time.

To start with, I visited my local Kroger and bought grower's bunches of carnations. The grower's bunches are great because they are one type of flower and are generally very reasonably priced. I went with pink, mini red and white carnations since I was thinking of Valentine's Day (National Carnation Day in January 29th). You can easily change the colors for the occasion or holiday. I added some baby's breath to use as filler.

  • I started with 6 stems of pink, 6 stems of white, 4 stems of mini red, and 2 stems of baby's breath. Vary yours according to your color scheme, but I think it is nice to have more than one color.
  • Cut the stems. You can see that I cut mine a good 4-6".
  • To make a bouquet you can carry, start with tissue or wrapping paper cut to 18.5 x 14".
  • Lay three stems of flowers on the paper. You can see that I varied the colors. Then add another layer of flowers. Mixing up the colors and since this is going to be a carried bouquet; you can bring the flowers down just slightly with each layer.
  • If you are worried that your flowers will shift around, you can place a rubber band around the ends. Just place it up high enough that you won't see it and it will be covered by the paper.
  • I used both tissue and wrapping paper to give a sturdy and pretty look. If you are doing the same, carefully wrap the tissue paper over the flowers and tuck it underneath, folding the tissue back so as to not cover the flowers.
  • Do the same thing on the opposite side and repeat again if you are using a wrapping paper layer.
  • Finally, tie your bouquet with some pretty and/or matching ribbon and add a tag - printable tags here!

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

How to Create a Simple Carnation Flower Arrangement

How to Create a Simple Carnation Flower Arrangement

Created by: Tara Kuczykowski, Unsophisticook

This stunningly simple carnation flower arrangement is nearly effortless. Trimming down the stems and using a low, round bubble vase shows off these blooms to perfect. All you need is a sharp pair of floral shears and about five minutes of time!

Choosing your Carnations

The number of blooms you’ll need depends on the size of your bubble vase and the size of the flowers. I have a larger vase that’s about 6.5-­‐inches tall with roughly a 5-­‐ inch opening, so I grabbed 2 dozen carnations from Kroger’s floral department. Talkabout a steal! The lighter pink carnations were $6 for the dozen, and I found the darker pink ones with the markdowns priced at just $2.99.

Preparing your Carnations

Start by trimming each carnation so that it’s just slightly taller than your vase. Use a sharp pair of floral shears for a clean cut, and trim at an angle to allow the flower to take up plenty of water. Blooms that haven’t quite opened up all the way can be gently coaxed outward with your fingertips.

You'll also want to remove any leaves that will be below the water line, which usually ends up being just about all of them. This will help keep your carnations looking beautiful longer.

Arranging your Carnations

Choose the largest, fluffiest bloom for the center of your bouquet. Add the rest of the carnations around it, alternating sides and criss-­‐crossing the stems.

I started with the darker pink flowers, and set them in the vase after I was satisfied with the bouquet. As I mentioned, 12 flowers wasn’t enough to fill out my larger bubble vase, so from there I tucked the lighter pink blooms in between the darker ones until I was satisfied with the overall appearance. I happen to adore the two-­‐ toned look, but one solid color is equally impressive.

Flowers that are around the edges of the vase may need trimmed slightly to maintain a domed shape, but don’t overthink it. The beauty of this simple carnation flower arrangement is that it’s not too structured and fussy.

Caring for your carnation flower arrangement

Carnation arrangements require very little care to keep them looking beautiful for days and even weeks. Just add water as needed and change the water completely every 4-­‐5 days. Finally, try to keep your arrangement away from drafts, direct sun and/or excessive heat.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Date Night Carnation Tablescape

Valentine’s Date Night Carnation Tablescape

Created by: Madison Wetherill, A Joyfully Mad Kitchen

Looking for an easy date night in for Valentine’s Day this year? This easy tablescape is the perfect way to wow your sweetheart this year.

Plan a gorgeous tablescape with stacked plates of different colors, mixed metals and fresh carnations for a stunning look! The key to a perfect at home date night dinner is making it special. One way I love to make the table shine is by really designing a tablescape. It starts with the right plates and gets morphed into the perfect themed tablescape.

  • I really have a thing for layering plates so for this table design, I started with a gold charger then added a plastic red plate, a white dinner plate and finally an adorable ceramic heart plate. The varying sizes, shapes, colors and materials really elevate the look to make this a not your average casserole dinner kind of table.
  • I also have this thing for mixed metals lately, so I loved using my great grandmother’s antique silverware from the 1940’s, rose gold vases and mercury glass votives.
  • The key to a really great table design though, is always something fresh. Fresh flowers and greenery are my absolute favorite. There’s nothing that will brighten a table design more quickly than a few vases of fresh flowers. The peach and pink carnations I picked up from Fry’s were the perfect final touch for this Valentine’s Day tablescape. Fry’s had such a vast selection of flowers it was a bit difficult to choose. But there’s something so timeless about carnations. They are simple yet beautiful and the smell is amazing, too!
  • I arranged the carnations in a really easy way. In the mercury glass votives I paired together two carnations of one color and one of the other (two pink and one peach) and then in the second glass votive, I used the opposite combination (two peach and one pink) instead to add variety to the table design.

You can create a simple tablescape by adding carnations individually, in a wreath or bouquet and it will liven up your table! I always love when we can have fresh flowers around the house, especially when I can use them for multiple purposes, like center pieces on my dinner table!

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

Valentine Love Bug Fruit Cups

Valentine Love Bug Fruit Cups

Created by: Jamielyn, I Heart Naptime

These Valentine’s Day love bug fruit cups are the perfect non-candy Valentine for kids. They would make a great class party snack or lunch box treat.

I made these darling orange love bugs with some of my favorite finds at my local Kroger: Kroger mandarin oranges fruit cups, a poster board, sharpie and duct tape.

Things You'll Need:
  • Fruit cups
  • Red and white poster board (or cardstock paper)
  • Red or Black mini duct tape
  • Glue (Elmers or hot glue)
  • Black marker
Directions:
  1. Cut out 2 1-inch hearts. Then tape or glue onto the bottom of the fruit cup.
  2. Cut out 1/4″ white circles for the eyes and draw a black circle inside. Alternatively, you could use googly eyes. Glue onto the front of the fruit cup.
  3. If creating a lady bug, draw a line down the middle and then polka dots around the fruit cup.
  4. Cut out a piece of tape about 2 inches long. Fold in half and then round off the top. Repeat with a second piece of tape. Tape or glue the two together on the bottom of the fruit cup to create the antennas. For an extra special touch, add two hearts to the top.

View Party Plan: Valentine's Day

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