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By Francesca Arniotes   


“Groundhog found fog. New snows and blue toes. Fine and dandy for Valentine candy. Snow spittin'; if you're not mitten-smitten, you'll be frostbitten! By jing-y feels spring-y.”    ― The Old Farmer's Almanac


That’s February in a nutshell. It’s deep winter. It can be bleak. (Except look where we live! Is it ever not glorious to wake up in Colorado?)  And we have Valentine’s Day. Try this for a special dinner date. Set the table, pour yourselves your favorite beverage and team up in the kitchen to make this dinner in 90 minutes or less! If you’re game, do the shopping, and empty the dishwasher so you can throw everything dirty in at the end. Use your senses along the way, make it the way you like it and most of all, have fun!



Radicchio with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Baked French Onion Soup

Skewered Sirloin Cubes with Mushroom Cream Sauce

    Or Roasted Filled Portobello Mushroom 

Pilaf of Long Grain and Wild Rice

Sauteed Swiss Chard

Scandinavian Chocolate Cake


For 2 people, you need

2 large onions,


a carton of organic beef or mushroom stock,

a head of radicchio,

8 oz mushrooms,

Cherry or grape tomatoes,

a sprig of parsley,

a box of Lundberg or Ben’s wild & long grain rice,

 a bunch of organic Swiss chard,

a French bread hoagie roll,

a piece of blue, Roquefort or Gorgonzola cheese,

a small ball of part skim mozzarella,

a small piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano,

olive oil,

 a pint of heavy cream,


a handful of walnuts,

a thick cut of Choice beef sirloin about 12 oz,

chocolate chips,



2 eggs

and a lemon.

The portobello recipe is at the end of this article.

Have 2 oven safe soup bowls, 2 salad plates, 2 dinner plates, 2 dessert plates.

1 microwave safe bowl for cake + mini springform or ramekins.

Use 3 small to medium pots, 1 skillet w lid, broiler pan, 2-4 thin metal skewers.


Read through these steps before beginning.


1)  Shred the radicchio and arrange on salad plates, Slice wedges or crumble the cheese and scatter walnuts on top. Leave in fridge until ready to dress and serve.


2)  Put one oven rack in the middle and another up high. Preheat to 350°.


3) Make the cake. Recipe is below. When in the oven, set the timer for 15 minutes .


4) While it’s baking, slice the French bread roll about 1/2 " thick and put slices on the oven rack to dry out for 10 minutes or so. 


5) Cut onions in half, slice into ⅛” slices reserving half of a half. Chop that remaining onion.


6) Put the onion slices and some olive oil (or butter) into the largest saucepan. Turn heat to low and cook until onions are translucent and soft, but not brown.


7) Start on the chard while they cook. Then when they’re ready, add about  20 ounces of broth, black pepper and some minced parsley and heat through. Taste and add salt if needed. Keep warm.  


8) Check the cake. When it comes out, place on a rack. Close oven door so you can keep the heat in.


9 ) Wash the chard, cut off tips of stems and discard them. Cut stems off and slice lengthwise into strips. Rough chop leaves about 2 inch pieces. Place in skillet with ½ cup of water, ¼ teaspoon of salt, 2 smashed & peeled cloves of garlic and 3 T olive oil. Partially cover with lid and cook gently until water has evaporated. 


10) While chard is cooking, follow package directions for rice. If desired, begin by sauteeing a little chopped onion in oil and then proceed. 


11) While rice is cooking, slice mushrooms, reserving 4 small ones.

In saucepan #2, place chopped onion, a minced clove of garlic and extra virgin olive oil and turn heat to low medium.  When onions and garlic are translucent, add the mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes. Add some thyme, salt and pepper. Add ¼ cup of broth and ½ cup of heavy cream. Simmer gently until reduced to your desired thickness. Then keep warm. 


12) Dry steak and cut  into large chunks (about 1 ½”)  and skewer with cherry tomatoes and the reserved mushrooms. Place on broiler pan.  Brush with olive oil. 


13) When rice is done, keep it warm. 


14) Grate the mozzarella cheese and the Parmigiano.  


15) Whip the remaining heavy cream with a pinch of sugar and some vanilla  for the cake.


16) Serve the radicchio plates, drizzled generously with olive oil, a little lemon juice, salt and a grind of black pepper.


17) Set oven to broil but leave the rack in the middle. 


18) Put the hot onion soup in the bowls on a baking sheet, place bread on top of the soup, top with the cheeses, and pop them under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is melty and toasty. Leave broiler on. Serve the soup.


19) Sprinkle salt on skewers and place on upper rack. Turn after 90 seconds. Remove in another 90 seconds for medium. Remove from oven. Place a serving of rice on the plate, arrange the skewer. Top with the mushroom cream sauce and place a serving of Swiss chard. If you have more minced parsley, use it for garnish and serve.


20) Serve the cake with whipped cream and a cherry.




Meatless main: remove the stems from portobello mushrooms, put on baking sheet and brush with butter or olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put under broiler for 90 seconds.

Change oven to bake 375. Fill caps with a mixture of handfuls of chopped spinach, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, chopped tomato, some minced onion and garlic, the chopped mushroom stems, breadcrumbs and a beaten egg with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the top with olive oil or butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Serve topped generously with Boursin cheese, garnished with some toasted pine nuts and minced fresh parsley. Serve with roasted red peppers on the side.



¼ c flour

¼ c sugar

2  medium or large eggs

3 T butter

½ c  chocolate chips,  60 - 75% cacao (or 2 1/2 oz bar chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350° with rack in center.

Melt chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl for 2 minutes at 50%, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth.

Stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture with a spoon.

Sieve in the flour.

Add eggs. Beat vigorously for half a minute until smooth and satiny.

Put into a greased 4” springform (or three 3" ramekins, filling them ½ full).  Bake 15-20 minutes or until the top is domed and surface begins to crack. 

Enjoy as is or with a spoonful of heavy cream or add a dollop of strawberry or raspberry preserves.

NOTE: If you want to double this recipe, double flour, sugar, butter and chocolate, but use 3 large eggs.

High altitude: Bake at 365°. Adjust time as needed.


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