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The Blonde Cucina: Valentine's Day tips for going out or staying in

by on February 12, 2015 8:51 AM

Valentine's Day is coming up quicker than any of us would like to admit. In case you forget, its Saturday, Feb. 14.

Now, I’m sure you’re starting to stress. Do you need to call the florist? Do you have dinner reservations? Did you get a gift? Well, the good news is that Valentine’s Day is on a weekend, so you cam celebrate it Friday, Saturday, Sunday or all weekend long. And, you want to remember this one thing — it’s the thought that counts! 

You don’t need to make reservations at a five-star restaurant. Heck, you don’t even have to leave your house.  

Let’s start by discussing your date night out, if that's the option you pick.

Think about picking an off-the-beaten path restaurant. They are much cozier, much quieter and more romantic. If you want to be nostalgic, make reservations at the place where you went on your first date.  Believe me, your date will be shocked and pleased that you remembered.     

Once you've picked the place, ensure you get seated by picking a reservation time that isn’t during peak meal hours.

Also, if you're struggling for a gift idea, remember that some restaurants will allow you to have flowers delivered there. Some will even have flowers or candy for sale right there — they are always thinking how they can better serve you, especially during these stress-filled holidays.

My tip: Get a balloon bouquet. Balloons last longer than flowers and they are cheaper and draw much more attention.

Let’s talk about candy. Don’t go for those heart-shaped boxes of overpriced chocolates. Don’t even go to the store's Valentine's Day candy aisle — it’s a trap! Go to the regular candy aisle and get a few favorite candies you know your significant other will like. Then, come up with cute sayings to attach to them.  (For example, Werther’s Originals can have a cute saying attached such as, “Valentine, you're 'werth' the toothache.” Lifesavers can say, “Your love is a 'lifesaver!'” Gummy bears can say, “Have a 'beary' sweet Valentine’s Day.”) This is a cute and thoughtful idea, and one you can even use for mailing packages to friends and loved. 

Now, let’s talk about that dinner date during which you stay in. You can get a movie to share, get some candles and a bottle of wine, and call for takeout. However, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can make dinner and dessert for your valentine.

You also can do the same balloon bouquet, perhaps having it delivered or secretly put in that person's car, or delivering it by hand to show a little extra love. As for your candy gift, that’s totally up to you.  You can mail it, deliver it or leave it in a special place to be discovered.

Now to the menu, for you ambitious folks. Remember, you don’t have to go all out — have a simple meal and a simple dessert.

This is a full-proof pasta dish that your valentine will love, and it’s super simple. You’ll get the points, without the headache.


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon white wine

1 pound angel hair pasta

10 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half

4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

In a pan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter. Cook shrimp, garlic and white wine for about 5 minutes.

Remove shrimp from the pan with tongs and set aside, making sure to leave white wine mixture in the pan.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain.

While pasta is cooking, add tomatoes and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to wine mixture. Cook tomatoes over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until tender and skin begins to come away from  tomato meat. Toss hot pasta with shrimp and tomato sauce.

Add grated Parmesan cheese and toss one more time. Serve immediately.

For dessert, you want it to be tasty and light and read “Valentine’s Day.” I have this full-proof dessert for you.


Servings: 4


1 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar

2 cups frozen raspberries and strawberries

1/2 cup sugar


In a mixer, whip together the whipping cream and 1 tablespoon sugar.

In a food processor, blend together the frozen fruit and 1/2 cup sugar.

Once the fruit has been blended, fold it into the whipping cream.

Evenly distribute the dessert between wine glasses and refrigerate until ready to eat.

(Notes: You can make this dessert in advance the morning before serving it. Also, you can use any type of frozen fruit that you would like. You can use fresh fruit, however it gets more pureed than frozen fruit does.)

Folks, whichever plan you go with, it’s always the thought that counts. Valentine’s Day is a day to show love, not dollar signs. It’s the little things that count, and no matter who your valentine is — a friend, a parent, a significant other or all the above — remember to show love and thought, and Cupid will do the rest! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ciara Semack is the owner of The Blonde Bistro in Bellefonte. She is the mother of one and a lifelong resident of Centre County. Her column appears every other week in the Gazette. Questions, suggestions and comments can be directed to [email protected]
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