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Dinner Ideas for Valentines Day: Inexpensive and Easy Ways to Make a Meal Special

The easiest and most inexpensive way to go all out on a special Valentine’s Day meal is to add a lot of red food to the menu. Nearly any pale colored food, from mashed potatoes to vanilla frosting to onion dip can be turned Valentine red or pink with a little food coloring. For a more natural approach, use the juice from red fruits like cherries or raspberries as dye.

If the idea of pink mashed potatoes is not so appealing, there are other ways to add some Valentine touches to a meal without going overboard. As a bonus, many brightly colored, naturally red food choices are rich in nutrients.

Red Sauce

A simple way to dress up regular pasta, chicken, fish or meat is with a red sauce. Besides providing Valentine color, these sauces can add a spicy touch to simple recipes.

While supermarkets carry a wide array of pre-made tomato or marinara sauces, it’s easy to find recipes to make a basic tomato sauce to use on pasta or meat. Some simple recipes include The World’s Best Spaghetti Marinara Sauce Recipe or Simply Recipes’ Basic Tomato Sauce.

Enchilada sauce is another option that adds a Valentine red color to not only enchiladas, but also meat, fish, chicken or rice.

A wine sauce made with a red wine base is another way to add some color. It can be made from scratch easily, or purchased from gourmet shops.

Side Dishes

Another way to add some red touches to a family meal is with healthy side dishes like beets, red peppers, radishes, tomatoes or red potatoes – either served alone or mixed into a salad. Bright red peppers can be added to rice or other vegetable dishes to provide color and a boost of vitamins.

Cranberries are another versatile red dish – either standing alone as a side or in a dessert. To make cranberry sauce from scratch, just boil one cup of sugar in one cup of water. Add four cups of cranberries to the water. Once it returns to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the cranberries are tender. Strain the burst berries and stir into a bowl.

Whole cranberries and other red fruits like strawberries and raspberries make a pretty topping for yogurt, oatmeal and pudding.

Fruits and Desserts

Many other fruits can add red to your table, either as easy desserts, snacks or toppings. Red fruit – whole cranberries, cherries, strawberries, red grapes, raspberries, apples – can be used to top pudding, ice cream, cakes and yogurts. Fruit can be used in fondue or dipped in chocolate. Other fruit desserts with a touch of red include strawberry shortcake and mixed fruit salad.

Jello, strawberry ice cream and red velvet cake are some classic Valentines Day desserts. Cakes or cupcakes topped with pink or red icing, sprinkles or cinnamon hearts are an easy and festive touch.

Simple Ideas

For an even simpler approach, just show some Valentine spirit in preparing everyday food. Cut bread into a heart shape and top a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some strawberry jelly. Pour pancake batter into heart shapes. Use ketchup, squeezed in a heart shape, of course – to add a Valentine touch to burgers or fries. Choose red or pink colors for staple meals and snacks like yogurt or jello.

It’s easy to add a little – or a lot – of Valentine magic to a meal, with very little preparation and without spending a lot of money.

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