Saturday, February 6, 2016

Homemade Valentine's Day Dinner for Two

Nothing's more romantic than a homemade Valentine's Day meal - it saves time, money and sets the tone for a wonderful private evening for two. Turn on the love songs, light the fireplace and make a decadent dinner with help from Nielsen-Massey Vanillas. Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors, and is a scent associated with love.

Cooking cupids can experiment with vanilla and pure flavor extracts as they are not only used in traditional dessert recipes, but are also used in savory dishes such as chicken, beef and vegetables. Below is a selection of recipes to help create a romantic at-home dinner for two.

Kheer Royale cocktails, Cherry Vanilla Chicken á la Nielsen and Vanilla-Mocha Café Cake with Cherries Jubilee Sauce are sure to delight every Valentine. Add a loaf of Artisan bread and pair the recipes below with a favorite salad and vegetable to round out the meal. 

Set the table with the flower of the season - a rose, and start the meal with a rose flavored cocktail.

Kheer Royale
Photo:  Fashionably Bombed
Courtesy of Flannery & Katherine Good of

1 ounce Cardamom Simple Syrup
1 ounce Saffron-infused Vodka
4 drops Nielsen-Massey Pure Rose Water

Add saffron-infused vodka, simple syrup and rose water to a champagne flute.  Top with champagne and gently stir. 

Cardamom Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
10 cardamom pods (crushed)

Combine water, sugar and cardamom pods in a medium saucepan. Boil until sugar has dissolved, stirring frequently. Let sit for at least one hour. Let cool, strain and store in refrigerator.

Saffron-infused Vodka
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 teaspoon saffron strands

Combine Vodka and saffron strands in a sealed container. Let sit over night, shaking occasionally. Note: the longer you let the saffron soak, the more intense the saffron flavor will be.

Makes 2
Accompany the Kheer Royal with Cherry Vanilla Chicken - an easy-to-make, yet impressive main dish. Plate two chickens and enjoy the leftovers for lunch.

Cherry Vanilla Chicken á la Nielsen

From Nielsen-Massey Vanillas A Century of Flavor

3/4 dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1 cup dry white wine

Soak the cherries in the vanilla extract in a bowl for 10 minutes. Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Cut a pocket in the thickest part of each chicken breast. Spoon 1/2 tablespoon of the vanilla paste into each pocket and stuff with the marinated cherries, reserving some for the sauce. Secure each pocket closed with two wooden picks.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof skillet. Sauté the chicken in the hot oil over medium-high heat until golden brown on each side. Sprinkle with the rosemary. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or to 160 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Remove the chicken from the skillet and place one on each of four dinner plates. Remove the wooden picks. Place the skillet over medium-high heat. Pour the wine into the skillet, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, to deglaze the pan. Add the reserved cherries and vanilla extract. Cook until the liquid is reduced. Spoon approximately 2 tablespoons of the cherries and sauce over each chicken breast.

Note: Reduce is when a liquid is cooked until the liquid amount decreases and thickens, which intensifies the flavor.

Serves 4

After cherry chicken, mocha cake will please the sweetest of taste buds. Make it in a heart-shaped pan to add to the ambiance! Slice two pieces and save the rest for later.

Vanilla-Mocha Café Cake
From Nielsen-Massey Vanillas A Century of Flavor

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup cooled brewed black coffee
2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Pure Coffee Extract
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Chocolate Extract
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Beat the eggs, canola oil, yogurt, coffee, vanilla extract, coffee extract and chocolate extract in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer on low speed. Add the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes; the batter will be thin. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the cake tests done. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto a serving platter. Serve with Nielsen-Massey's Cherries Jubilee Sauce.

Serves 12 to 16

Nielsen-Massey's Cherries Jubilee Sauce
2 (21-ounce) cans sweet cherries in heavy syrup
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Chocolate Extract
2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract

Combine the cherries, brandy, brown sugar, chocolate extract and vanilla extract in a large sauté pan. Cook over medium heat for 8 to 10  minutes or until the sauce thickens. Serve over Vanilla-Mocha Café Cake.

Makes about 5 cups

Valentine cooks can't go wrong with a delicious homemade meal, a rose decorated table, dim candlelight and romantic music.

Source:  Nielsen-Massey

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