Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Valentine's Day Dinner (and winner for give away!)

What a jammed packed week this past week was! It was mostly good stuff though and it was fun to end the weekend on such an up note with our Valentine's day celebration. 
Sunday is our "family day" around here and we typically have a big Sunday dinner every week. With Valentine's day falling on Sunday it made the perfect day for me to celebrate the "loves" in my life and I was so excited to do it. I just love a good excuse for a fun themed party any day!!

I just had to throw this picture in there. This is my youngest daughter (3 yrs old) watching the fire I had just lit before our guests arrived. She is such a precious girl - just look at that face!

I would love to share with you what our celebration and dinner included as it was a huge hit with young and old alike.

Our breakfast and hearth room. I had set out the kid's "affirmation books"  (read more about those below) on the breakfast table as we had originally planned for them to eat dinner in here, but in the end we moved everyone into the dining room and enjoyed our dinner in there - all 11 of us :)
It was dumping snow on us outside so we had a warm fire burning in the fireplace and the house smelled so good with the aroma of the roast cooking.

The kids especially loved the conversation hearts left out in the middle of the table....who needs real food when you can just eat and endless supply of sugar?! 

Our guest list included my five children (ages 14, 12, 9, 4 & 3 years old), my husband, my mother and father in law, my mom who was in from out of town and staying the night with us and our Au Pair, Morgan.

I had really wanted a fun, festive and love filled environment and I think it was accomplished. It was snowing outside - we ended up getting about 3 inches total - so everything seemed that much more warm and cozy inside. 

Our dining room - can you see all the beautiful snow falling outside and covering the trees? It was so beautiful :)

 In my dining room mixed a few quick and easy festive ideas I had collected off Pinterest. I used plastic cups filled with conversation hearts to hold tea light candles in the center of the table. I also took some heart garland and placed it in the center on the glass "lazy susan" where our dinner platters, etc would be sitting. I also put our personalized "affirmation books" in the center which I moved onto to eat person's place setting just before dinner was served. 

Just before I put dinner on the table I asked everyone to come on into the dinning room and take a seat.  Everyone had their own personalized (I wrote their names on the front with a sharpie! ;) "Affirmation Book" at the place setting and they were asked to take theirs and pass it to the left. Once they had done this they were instructed to write a positive word, sentence, etc. about the person who's book it was and then pass it again to their left. We did this until everyone had written something in everyone else's book and they had their own book back. It took about 10 minutes. 
What a way to "spread the love"! 

While they were completing this I put all the food in the center of the table so we could dig into dinner.

The "Affirmation Books" were just little pocket notebooks purchased at Michael's Craft store the day before the party and had cost about $1.00 for a pack of 10. They were great to write little messages in and made the perfect pocket or purse sized reminder of why you are LOVED! 

Everyone taking a moment to write in each other's book....I love this so much! Even my 3 & 4 year old girls scribbled a message in each person book :)


Messages from some of the different books....

This is my youngest daughter's book. She can't read one bit, but we read what everyone wrote to her and she is still carrying the book around with her 2 days later (she's 3 yrs old!). She has even almost worn off the permanent marker on the front! If you doubt the power of a kind, loving and affirming word to others then just look at her example. Just knowing what is written in this book is good enough for her! 

We enjoyed a roast that I had slow cooking for about 8 hours for dinner. It is probably the best roast recipe I have ever made and it is super easy. This was the second time I have made it and I did it with a bigger roast than normal this time (4 1/2lb), but it is still the same basic process. 
I usually take about a 2-3lb rump roast (use grass fed beef if you can find it - it does make a difference in how it cooks and taste) and brown it in a skillet on med-high with olive oil and salt and pepper. Once all sides at browned I place it in a slow cooker. It the same skillet I browned the roast I pour about 1/2 cup of red wine (not cooking wine - I typically use a Malbec and then serve the rest with dinner) and 1/2cup to 1 cup of bone broth (homemade chicken or beef stock that I keep on hand) and scrape all the bits and pieces from the bottom of the pan until it's all free mixing well with the liquid. This usually only takes about 4-5 minutes. 
Pour that in the slow cooker over the roast. Throw in 2 onions that I've peeled & sliced into eighths, 6-8 full sized carrots that have been chopped into 3-4" pieces and 2-3 minced cloves of garlic. Liberally salt and pepper everything once it's in the slow cooker and cover on low for 6-8 hours. When you pull it out to serve it will be falling apart and will melt in your mouth! It is the perfect old fashioned beef pot roast - truly. Sorry I didn't take a picture of it. Maybe I'll add a pic next time I make it :)

Actually the only part of dinner I took a picture of the cornbread - I forgot to take dinner pictures before everyone started digging in so this is the only one I have and it's half gone by the time I get the pic - LOL!

This cornbread is worth mentioning because it is my guests' favorite every time. My oldest son can not have gluten (and I avoid it most of the time) so I started buying this a few months ago. It is just so so yummy and better than any other cornbread I have ever made in the past.  If you haven't tried it you need to! 
It is available at Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme and even in my Kroger in their "healthy & organic" section so I would think you can find it many places now. 

 After dinner we enjoyed a few homemade treats and coffee. 

For dessert I made peanut butter chocolate hearts, heart shaped Rice Krispies Treats and strawberry jello cups topped with whip cream and strawberries. 
For the jello cups I used this recipe and it turned out great and they were so cute (sorry I didn't get a good picture of them).  I doubled the recipe so everyone at the party had one and they went fast so I was glad that I did! 

The Rice Krispies hearts were the basic recipe (find it here), but I added a little more marshmallows than it called for (maybe a couple extra handfuls) & one drop of red food coloring that I didn't mix in all the way in order to give it the uneven color. I pressed the mixture between two sheets of parchment paper until they were the thickness I wanted and then I used a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut them out. I had to work fast because once the mixture starts drying in it really hard to work with.  As soon as I cut them out I sprinkled a little Valentine sprinkle mixture of candy hearts and red/pink/white jimmies. 
After they were cut out and awaiting some sprinkles.

All covered up in plastic wrap to stay nice and fresh until after dinner - They turned out so cute!

For the chocolate peanut butter hearts I followed this recipe I found on Pinterest. The only variations was I didn't put the salt on the chocolate coating, I used Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips, a cookie cutter to cut out the heart shapes and I added the same heart & pink/red/white jimmies sprinkle mix that I had used on the Rice Krispie treats on the chocolate. 

The key to being able to cut them out was using a metal cookie cutter (like these or I used these exact ones) and getting the consistency right. I messed around with the milk/sugar ratio a few times until I got it right.

These turned out amazing and were definitely the biggest hit! I have to say that I have never had a peanut butter chocolate candy that was better and I have always made a pretty "mean" buckeye (think I may be switching up my recipe! ;)
My son's 14 y/o friend was over after dinner and after he ate one (then two and three.... ;) he asked me repeatedly if I made them. Asking, "so, you actually mixed everything up and really made them? Like, you made the peanut butter hearts and put chocolate on them? You didn't buy these, right? They are amazing! " LOL

So that is pretty much it for our Valentine's Day dinner and LOVE celebration! I hope that you had a wonderful weekend and were able to celebrate love this weekend as well. 

And now DRUM ROLL please...........The winner of the $50 gift certificate from my Romantic Getaway and Giveaway post is:

Janet B. from Monroe, OH

Congrats Janet!  I have sent you and email per your linked contact info. I hope you also check back here and see that you have won. Please contact me by Friday so I can get your certificate out to you  :)

Have a great week everyone!

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