Celebrating Valentine’s Day In

February 1, 2012 by Amy Clark

Photo Credit: Nancy Lary Studios

My husband and I have been together since my junior year in high school which is an awfully long time now that we have been married for eleven years and have two children of our own. I am sure you can imagine how Valentine’s Day dinners have evolved since our early years of dating. We have gone from a jar of mom’s Ragu sauce and a box of spaghetti to fancy restaurant dates out to returning to delicious dinners at home.

When our children were small, we didn’t have a lot of money to splurge on a dinner out and a babysitter. We learned that taking advantage of those hours after they went to bed and relocating our setting to another location in the house made for a romantic evening without the ouch factor to our wallet.

Set up your dinner somewhere new whether it is dressing up a simple folding table with a pretty tablecloth, using the dining room (maybe for the first time), or just sitting a few pillows on the floor and setting the table on the coffee table. Just a change in scenery can make it feel like a bit of a getaway even when you are in your own home. Don’t forget to break out the beautiful things you have tucked away in your cupboards.

After being together as long as we have, the romance stays alive through our mutual appreciation for each other, good food, good wine, and great films. I love to pair a delicious dish with a great bottle of vino and a fun rental from Redbox or Netflix.

I wanted to share with you the recipes I will be using for our elegant feast at home to help inspire your own Valentine’s Day evening in. Save your money and create a restaurant-worthy evening at home!
Yes, the romance is still alive in our house even if our dinners have evolved from nights spent out to nights in so we don’t have to get a sitter. I hope you can try a few of these ideas for a romantic night in with your loved one!

This Penne with Spicy Vodka Cream Sauce was an amazingly easy and delicious dish that would be perfect for entertaining or just a midweek luxury meal for a cheap date night at home. Almost as easy as just opening a jar of sauce and a fraction of the jarred vodka sauces on the shelves, it is a recipe that is a surefire winner. It is creamy, hits you with a little hint of heat from a little red pepper flake, and a sauce that really does a great job hugging the noodles perfectly.

Penne With Spicy Vodka Cream Sauce

  • 1 pound uncooked penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. In large skillet, heat oil over moderate heat. Remove casing from sausage and add to skillet. Cook, breaking up the meat, until brown. Add garlic and red pepper and cook, stirring until garlic is golden brown (approximately one minute). Add tomatoes and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Add vodka and cream and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and add pasta, toss for 1 minute. Stir in fresh parsley and serve!
Side Note: When reheating this dish, rewarm in a skillet and add a little milk to the sauce to restore the creamy consistency of it.
Recipe Source: Adapted from AllRecipes.com

It is all about fun meal traditions in our house and one of our favorite traditions is to share a cupcake at the end of our fancier meals. If you haven’t sampled a Magnolia Bakery cupcake, you are in for a real treat with this recipe. These vanilla cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery are divine and the buttercream icing is absolute perfection for piping and for eating. The icing hardens to add a bit of crunch texture to the top, while the vanilla cake itself remains moist and delicious.


  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Vanilla Buttercream, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 (1/2 cup-12 capacity) muffin tins with cupcake papers.
In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Vanilla Buttercream:
The vanilla buttercream we use at the bakery is technically not a buttercream but actually an old-fashioned confectioners’ sugar and butter frosting. Be sure to beat the icing for the amount of time called for in the recipe to achieve the desired creamy texture.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 8-1o hours
Serving Size: 24 cupcakes
Source: Food Network

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day with your spouse? Do you have any special dinner traditions?

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark has been the driving force behind MomAdvice since 2004. In addition to running a successful community for women and running after her two kids, she has appeared on The Early Show, and in Parents magazine, Redbook, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, MSN Money and The New York Times.