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My Thursday Thing: Three Easy Courses to Romance

Do you wish you could prepare a three course meal for your significant other for Valentine's Day but you have no idea how to boil water? Well, I've got just the meal for you. It will have your loved one thinking you've been slaving away for hours, but the whole thing will be done in under an hour. And don't worry, I won't tell if you don't. We'll start the meal with a super flavorful cucumber and herb cheese "bruschetta" to wake up the palette. Then for the main dish, a healthy, yet satisfying roasted salmon with spinach rice pilaf. And for dessert, you'll feel like your camping out under the stars with chocolate pudding s'mores.

Here's your entire shopping list:

  • 1 small French bread

  • 1 cucumber

  • 1 small bunch of dill

  • 12 ounces salmon fillet (cut into two 6 ounce portions)

  • 1 lemon

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/2 cup long grain white rice

  • 1/2 cup orzo pasta

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock (or 2 cups of water and 2 packets of chicken bouillon)

  • 1 cup fresh spinach

  • 2 cloves of garlic

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 package instant chocolate pudding

  • 2 cups whole milk (1% or 2% will work as well, just don't use skim)

  • 1 container Marshmallow Fluff

  • 3 graham crackers

Ok, here's how you get it all done. About 30-45 minutes before you are ready to start eating, get the pudding made for the dessert. Just follow the directions on the box, which basically means using an electric hand mixer to beat the pudding mix and the 2 cups of milk for 2 minutes and then refrigerating for 5 minutes. If you don't have an electric mixer, just use a fork or whisk, but it might take a few extra minutes for the pudding to get thick. Place the graham crackers into a plastic zip bag, press out the air and close the bag. Gentle use your fist to break up the crackers into a bunch of crumbs, ranging from dust to small bite size pieces. Set the bag aside. Then, move on to prepping the salmon.

Cut 2-4 slices of lemon, depending on the size of the lemon, each 1/4 thick. That should use about half the lemon. On a sheet pan, drizzle about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Lay the salmon pieces on top, then pour another 1/2 tablespoon over the salmon. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper over the salmon, then pick off about 1 tablespoon of dill leaves and sprinkle over the salmon as well, and top each piece with the lemon slices. Set the pan aside.

Now, prepare the appetizer. Cut 6 slices of bread about 1/2" thick on a diagonal. Cut off about a 2" piece of cucumber and peel it, then slice into 6 pieces. Spread a healthy portion of the Aloutte cheese over each slice of bread, top with a few pinches of dill on each slice and top with a cucumber slice. Place the bread on a nice plate or cutting board and cover with plastic wrap.

Almost dinner time now! Time to make the rice pilaf. Turn on your oven to 400 degrees. Finely chop the garlic and roughly chop the spinach. Place a large frying pan (that includes a cover, but don't use the cover yet) on your stove top on medium high heat. If you are using an electric stove top, turn on another burner to medium low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the garlic to the pan. As soon as the garlic starts to sizzle, add the rice and orzo pasta and stir to coat with the oil. After about 1-2 minutes, the rice and orzo should start to lightly brown. Immediately add the chicken stock (or water mixed with the chicken bouillon) and a good pinch of salt and pepper. When the liquid begins to boil, cover the pan and turn down the heat to medium low or move the pan to the other burner you turned on if you are using an electric stove. Set a timer for 18 minutes and don't even think about checking the rice before then.

When the timer reaches 8 minutes, place the salmon in the oven. This will give you salmon with a medium temperature in the middle which means it will be tender and moist. But if you prefer your salmon more well cooked, put it in the oven with 10 minutes to go instead of 8. Now sit down with your significant other an enjoy your cucumber and herb cheese "bruschetta". When the timer goes off, remove your salmon from the oven. Take your rice off the heat and remove the lid. If there is still some liquid remaining, put the top back on and cook a few more minutes and then check again. When all the liquid is absorbed, use a fork to lightly fluff the rice. Then add the spinach and stir it into the rice. Cover the pan and leave off the heat for a few minutes until it wilts. Time to eat! Find two nice plates and spoon the rice in the center of the plates. Place the salmon on top of the rice and enjoy!

When you are done with dinner, take a little break to digest and enjoy each others company. Then assemble the dessert. In two nice serving bowls (I actually like to use a tea cup), put about 1/4 of the graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of each. Spoon about 1/2 cup of chocolate pudding into each, then top with about 1/4 cup of marshmallow fluff in each. Finally, top with the rest of the graham crackers. Serve with some coffee or tea if you like and savor the flavors of the campfire!

Congrats, you've made an amazing, yet very simple three course romantic dinner for that special someone. Happy Valentine's Day!

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