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Sometimes, you just want to spend a day showing someone how much you love and care about them by preparing a wonderful meal and dessert. It is especially true for Valentines Day, since that day is supposed to be all about your love for one another. This past February 14th, was just such a day. I also wanted a bit of time to primp for Dear Husband, so I wanted a large part of the menu to be able to be done in advance. It did not hurt that finding an elegant, gourmet restaurant to go to....was just NOT in the cards. So, like all cooks worth their salt (hahahaha), I began with dessert. BOTH desserts. I know it's overkill....but hey, that's how I (sometimes) roll! Start by rinsing and drying some beautiful strawberries...

Then, line a cookie sheet with some wax paper, and place it in the freezer...this will help your chocolate firm up later. See where I'm going here?

Now, put a bowl on a saucepan that has two inches of water in it, and bring to a simmer.  Melt some lovely semi sweet chocolate in it (you can use chocolate chips, too). On low heat...stirring to encourage the melting...

Here are mine about halfway through the melting process..

Here is what you are looking for in terms of looks and liquidity..

Now add about a teaspoon of this...

This is the "secret ingredient" that gives your chocolate that lovely, sealed-looking sheen that the professionals get....mix it in well. Now, here is the best method I have found for keeping the berries from dropping completely into the chocolate...stab them!

I don't know about you, but whenever I attempt to use a skewer, or some other method, the strawberries just fall into the chocolate. Now, pull your cookie sheet out of the freezer, and begin dipping your berries, and placing them on the cold sheet....

Here are mine, done and ready to go into the refrigerator..

For the main dessert, I wanted to make one of DH's favorites...coconut cream pie! So I scoured the inter-galactic web, and found this recipe...yay Emeril! Click here to see it. So, I took a shortcut and got a frozen pie crust out, and blind baked it (baking the crust unfilled).

Now, check out how easy, and how few ingredients it takes to make this beautiful pie...

Clockwise from bottom left; coconut, milk, cornstarch, vanilla, sugar, eggs, and butter. That's it! First, toast your coconut in a non-stick skillet on medium low heat, stirring to encourage even toasting...

Then, heat the milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved...about ten minutes on medium to medium low heat...

Now, separate the three eggs, and put those whites aside in the refrigerator...they will be your meringue, later. Beat the yolks, and add a very small amount of the milk/sugar mixture into them...you add a little at a time, so the yolks don't cook/scramble on ya....it's called "tempering". Here are mine being tempered..

Now, dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining (cold) milk..

Now, add your tempered mixture and cornstarch mixture right back into the saucepan, and bring to a simmer, stirring, so it can thicken from the cornstarch, but not burn on the bottom of the saucepan.

Keep giving a little stir to your coconut from time to time, too...even though it is on low heat, it should be starting to toast.

Now, that the egg mixture has thickened...stir in your vanilla and butter...

Now, stir in your toasted (incredibly yummy) coconut!

Guess what? You are about done with dessert! Pour the mixture into your baked pie shell, let it cool down at room temperature for a while, then, put it into the fridge for later.

Now, I wanted to make Dear Husband something he loves for his appetizer, but did not want to do it at the last minute ~ after all, I had hair and makeup to worry about! So, I prepared his bacon-wrapped scallops in advance....with three simple ingredients...

Scallops, creole seasoning, bacon. That's it! All you do is pat the scallops dry with a paper towel...

Cut two slices of bacon in half...

Then, tuck in one end of the bacon, as you wrap the strip around the scallop...

Now, simply sprinkle both sides of the scallops with the creole seasoning, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for later. See? Two desserts and an appetizer are done ~ and I should tell you, at this point it was only 11am.

By now, your chocolate has firmed up on your berries, and you can remove them to a plate, cover and refrigerate for the big night!

After a "quality control" check....OK, I admit it! I snitched one.....or two. GUILTY! Now, on to the prep for the main course, which after careful thought, I decided should be grilled shrimp, herbed new potatoes, and just a simple can of white sweet corn. YES! I used canned corn! Hey, after this meal, I think one should take all the help one can get! First, I shelled and deveined the shrimp...

Once again, this is a do-ahead kind of feast.....so, when the shrimp were done, in the fridge awaiting the marinade, I got out some new potatoes, scrubbed them up, cut them in half, and placed them in the pot to steam later....

Now, time to marinate the shrimp, and take the rest of the day to primp and foo-foo (the technical term for beautifying oneself....ahem). I should put a caveat here....this was the recipe I used for grilling the shrimp - but I was not overly impressed with the flavor, and in future, will use a different grilled shrimp recipe. That having been said, here's how this one went....gather these ingredients..

Then, chop the cilantro, red onion and mince or press the clove of garlic...

Place all (including olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, the salt and basil into a plastic zippy bag (yes, that's what I'm calling them...it's um, zippy!).

Into the bag with the marinade....go the shrimp

Also, in make-ahead land....we have our special, crunchy cocktail sauce! Crunchy? Yes, let me explain....first mix ye up some ketchup, lemon, Worcestershire sauce and horseradish..

Then, simply add in some finely diced celery!

Dear Husband and I had cocktail sauce like this whilst in Alaska, and we've never been the same...it takes normal cocktail sauce to a whole (tastier) new level...bad photo, but you get the drift...

I wanted a nice herb butter to toss the new potatoes in, and I wanted it (big surprise) done ahead of time, of course...so, we melt some butter in a saucepan....

And gather some fresh and dried herbs....I used these...

Pepper, tarragon, mint, basil, salt and green onion...chop the fresh herbs fine..

Mix the fresh and a teaspoon of each of the dried herbs, along with salt & pepper to taste, into your melted butter...

Simply set aside for pouring all over your steamed new potatoes, later!

Now, go get foo-fooed for your evening, take a nap, do whatever you need to do...the hard part, is done! When you are ready, and the supper hour has arrived, simple sear the scallops, with the seam down, and rotate until the bacon is mostly cooked through..

Here are mine - halfway through the searing process...

Then, place them on a broiler pan, and broil until cooked through...about another 3 minutes per side..

Now, plate with a nice slice of lemon, and voila! Appetizer - done!

Yes, Dear Husband loved them! Now, let's finish the feast, so we can watch romantic movies and snuggle on the sofa...first, turn on your pot of new potatoes to steam, and drain the shrimp from the marinade...

Grill them for about two minutes per side...

And when your taters are fork-tender, toss them in the herb butter...

Heat up a can of corn, or whatever vegetable of choice you have decided upon, and serve!

You have just made a gourmet restaurant jealous....because you did not spend your money there!  Now, after enjoying this lovely dinner, go get those nice cold egg whites out of the fridge, and beat them until they form stiff peaks...

Spread the egg whites on your lovely, made-ahead coconut cream pie...

Then, run under the broiler until nicely browned...you are done!

Enjoy the fact that you made a gourmet meal, elegant, chocolate-dipped strawberries, luscious pie, and even an appetizer for far, far less than such a meal would cost you in some restaurant. Now, before the inevitable questions come - I do NOT cook like this every day...but, for the one you love, when you cook from the heart.....it can feed their soul.

Love and kindness to all,

Pixie

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