Put the kids to bed, turn on the mood music, and light the candles. It’s time for Date Night dinner. This month, Food Network star Sandra Lee has put together a stunning but simple menu, using her trademark 70/30 philosophy, which combines 70% ready-made products with 30% fresh and creative touches. Date Night dinner has never been so doable – or so delicious.
March Date Night Dinner Menu:
Artichokes Gratinee and Champagne Poached Chicken, followed by a Chocolate Box filled with Easy Chocolate Mousse.
Add a few of Sandra’s timesaving tricks, and even the busiest mom can pull off a gourmet meal that ladles up a lot of love for just a pinch of time and money:
– Plan ahead. Choose dishes you can make in advance and refrigerate or freeze.
– Keep it simple yet make it spbecial. The menu below is easy to pull together but looks and tastes spectacular.
– Let the bakery help. Dress up a store-bought cake, or doctor a cake mix, and let it double as a centerpiece. Mix a colorful cocktail and savor every second.
Prep time:10 minutes
Cook time: 18 minutes
Makes 4 servings
Plain breadcrumbs, Progresso®
1 jar (12-ounce) marinated artichoke bottoms, drained and patted dry, Luna Rossa®
1 1/2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese, DiGiorno®
1/4 pound soft sheep’s milk cheese or Brie, rind removed
1 cup European-blend salad greens, Ready Pac®
2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette, Newman’s Own®
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of breadcrumbs onto parchment where each artichoke bottom will sit. Set drained and dried artichoke bottoms, cupped sides up, on breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the top of each artichoke bottom with a pinch of breadcrumbs and 1/4 teaspoon of Parmesan.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and preheat broiler.
4. Divide sheep’s milk cheese onto each artichoke bottom. Broil filled artichokes, 6 inches from heat source, for 3 to 4 minutes or until cheese melts and starts to bubble and brown. Serve on mixed green salad tossed with balsamic vinaigrette.
Champagne Poached Chicken
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 18 minutes
Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 bottle (750 ml) champagne brut, Korbel®
2 teaspoons lemon-juice, ReaLemon®
2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon white sauce mix, Knorr®
1. In a large straight-sided frying pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Add Champagne, lemon juice, and parsley to pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to keep a slow simmer.
2. Slide chicken into Champagne mixture and poach, 15 to 18 minutes, turning once. (Use an instant-read thermometer to be sure the internal temperature is 165 degrees F.) Remove chicken with a slotted spoon to a plate, and tent loosely with foil to keep warm.
3. Ladle 1/2 cup of poaching liquid into small pot set over medium heat. Add cream and bring to just under a boil. Reduce heat and simmer. Slowly whisk in white sauce mix. Simmer 1 minute, stirring constantly.
To serve chicken, spoon sauce over top and garnish with parsley.
Chocolate Box with Easy Chocolate Mousse
Makes 1 box
Prep time: 15 minutes
Chilling time 20 minutes
1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed, Cool Whip®
2 containers (3.5 ounces each) prepared chocolate-flavored pudding, Kraft Handi-Snacks®
3 chocolate bars (4.5 ounces each), milk chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, Cadbury®
1 container (16-ounce) chocolate frosting, Pillsbury Creamy Supreme®
Special Equipment: Pastry bag, Large star tip
1. Place whipped topping and pudding in large bowl. Using rubber spatula, fold just until blended. Refrigerate chocolate mousse until ready to serve.
2. Cut chocolate bars crosswise in half. Attach sides with chocolate frosting to form box (see photo, above). Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.
3. Fill pastry bag with chocolate mousse and pipe into chilled chocolate box. Top with raspberries and serve.
Note: The chocolate mousse is also delicious on its own. Serve it in large wine goblets and garnish with whipped topping and raspberries for an elegant presentation.
Makes 40 cherries
Prep time: 20 minutes
Chilling time: 40 minutes
These chocolate-covered cherries are absolutely addictive. For a fun yet elegant dessert, pour a splash of cherry syrup into a martini glass, then top off with white- and dark-dipped cherries. For a more spirited dessert, spike the syrup with brandy or a fruit liqueur, like Grand Marnier®. Eat the cherries, then drink the syrup for a nightcap chaser. To add black-tie style to a dinner party or buffet, group filled glasses on stacked silver trays and have them do double duty as a centerpiece, or set a filled glass at each place setting to complete your tablescape. To make thoughtful gifts for anniversaries and other special days, fill a red take-out container and give that special someone a box of cherry bonbons.
40 maraschino cherries with stems (packed in heavy syrup), drained well
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels, Nestlé®
1/2 cup (3 ounces) premier white morsels, Nestlé®
1. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Pat cherries dry with paper towels.
2. Melt semisweet chocolate and white morsels separately in stainless-steel bowls set over pans of simmering water, stirring until smooth.
3. Holding stem of cherry, dip cherry into either melted chocolate or melted white morsels to coat. Transfer dipped cherry to prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining cherries and melted chocolate or melted white morsels.
Refrigerate for about 40 minutes or until set.
Modern Mom’s new food and entertaining contributor, Sandra Lee, is an internationally acclaimed life and style expert who has revolutionized the way people think about creating from scratch. With her trademark 70/30 philosophy, which combines 70% ready-made products with 30% fresh and creative touches, Sandra has become the advocate for the over-extended homemaker. Learn more about Sandra at http://www.semihomemade.com