Guest Post : Forever-alone or Heart-eyed? Here’s what you should cook this Valentine’s Day.

Today on Rinse Before Use we have a special guest by Megan from the Homemade Cook. She gives you some great ideas on how to stay away from all Valentine’s Day hype by cooking at home. Whether you a happily single or love up this V-Day. First a bit about Megan ….

Meh.jpgAn introvert who loves people, Megan needs time alone to stay sane and time being hospitable to stay happy.  She’s happiest when she has a group of people crammed into her little flat and is making food for them. She can’t live without pasta (and butter, and parmesan cheese), her journals (yes, plural), her sisters (they live nearby and are her closest friends) and trees.  See her on The Homemade Cook Facebook and Instagram.

Are you going to spend your Valentine’s Day with your one true love? Yay! You have what many would kill for. Instead of fighting your way into a terribly clichéd, overpriced and crowded restaurant, I suggest you consider eating a special meal at home. I have a menu and recipes for you down below that will make the night sparkle.

If you’ve resigned yourself to a Valentine’s Day alone with your own awesome self, you have three options: 1: Make the heart-eyed menu and eat it all yourself. There are worse things than eating alone – just keep your tears out of the pavlova, else it will go soggy. 2: Make the heart-eyed menu and invite some friends over. You could have a ro-tic evening (you know, romantic without the man) and watch chick flicks. Or (like me) 3: make the forever-alone menu below. It’s the perfect “I can eat whatever I feel like eating” menu. I recommend you pair it with either About Time if you want a great love story movie or The Martian if you want “I don’t need anyone because I’m awesome enough to survive anything alone”.

Heart-eyed Menu

Here are my requirements for the perfect Valentine’s Day meal:

  • It should be prepared in advance.
  • It should be so delicious it makes you groan. You know, that “umhmh, so good” as you take mouthful after mouthful.
  • It should have that special something, either in terms of presentation or awesomeness of the dish, or both.

This is the menu I’d put together for a couple adventurous enough to try something fun and new:

Starter: Bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed with goats cheese (ahem, no pun intended)

Main: Lebanese-style stuffed eggplant

Dessert: “I’m in love with this chocolate pavlova”

Recipes, with South African translations and tips, below.

Forever-alone Menu

My criteria for the perfect alone-meal:

  • Cook whatever I want
  • Eat it all
  • No one to judge me if it’s all carbs

Here’s the menu I’d suggest:

Starter: Why waste time with a starter? Spaghetti is waiting for you
Main: “Just me and a bowl of pasta” spaghetti with caramelised onions
Dessert: “I’m going to eat this all myself just because I can” pizookie

Recipes, with South African translations and tips, below.

Recipes, interpreted for South Africans

Recipes for Heart-Eyed Menu

Bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed with goats cheese, from Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine (Zondervan, 2013).

Recipe online here. As Shauna writes “Bacon-wrapped dates? More like bacon-wrapped clouds of heaven!” They are the perfect combination of salty, sweet, gooey and crispy.

For 2 people maybe you should halve the recipe? But my cousin Paula and I once ate an entire batch, just saying…

Let me give you some South African translations:
– 8oz is 226g of pitted dates.
– 4oz is 113g of goats cheese. Get soft goats cheese like this. And don’t be shy, it just tastes like a smooth, soft, slightly crumbly cheese. Not goat-y at all.
– 16oz is 450g of bacon. I’d get streaky, because imo it’s the most like typical American bacon.
– Bake at 205°C.
Lebanese-style stuffed eggplant, from Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen

Here’s the recipe. I suggest you halve the recipe for two hungry people (i.e. 3 eggplants and 1/4 cup rice etc.)

Some South African translations:
– You’re looking for the small eggplants / aubergines / brinjals we often get – about 13 to 15 cm long.
– In place of the 1 cup of chicken stock I’d use 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of chicken stock powder (or equivalent. Be careful of chicken stock cubes, they are super salty, so use about ¼).
– The tin of chopped/diced tomatoes the recipe tells you to use is the standard 410g one we get. So use half if you are halving the recipe
– Full quantity “ground beef chuck” is 340g of beef mince. Remember to use 170g if half quantity.
– Ground allspice is possible to get. I got mine from Woolworths. It’s worth looking for, because it really gives the recipe the perfect flavour. But this recipe does use very little, so I’d understand if you pass on it. I suggest ground cumin as a replacement.
– Don’t have a melon-baller? A spoon will work, just be careful. Or make hollowed-out boats instead.
– Attaching the eggplant tops back on with a toothpick makes them look like they have little hats on.
“I’m in love with this chocolate pavlova” from Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen

Recipe here. Seriously, go read her writing. She’s awesome.

You should 1/3 this recipe for 2 people (so 2 egg whites). Even so, you’ll have a lot of dessert!

Never separated eggs before? Here’s the traditional way or the life-hack way. Just make sure there is no yolk in your whites, else they won’t fluff properly.

Some South African translations:
– Granulated sugar is ordinary white sugar.
– Semi- or bittersweet-chocolate is dark chocolate or extra dark chocolate. I’d use Albany Dark.
– Heavy cream is cream for whipping. Don’t get pouring cream or the cream that foams out of a can.
– 350°F is 180°C. When the pavlova goes in drop it down to 150°C (that’s 300°F).
– Parchment paper is baking paper (find it with the tinfoil at the shops). It will make serving your pavlova happy rather than chipping-it-off-the-tray-sad. Don’t get wax paper, because wax on pavlova isn’t yummy.
– If you are one-thirding the recipe you should make a circle a bit smaller than 22cm (9in). It will spread, probably not quite as far as 30cm (12in) across.
– To serve, she means invert the pavlova to peel off the parchment, and then flip it right way up to serve, obviously.

Recipes for Forever-Alone Menu

“Just me and a bowl of pasta” spaghetti with caramelised onions. Adapted from Andy Ward from Dinner: A Love Story.

Follow the recipe for Cacio e Pepe here, but after melting the butter and olive oil you must caramelise some onions:

Slice 1 or 2 large onions thickly (they cook down a lot, so I’d go with 2, because caramelised onions are everything). Sauté them over medium heat until deep brown, softened and sweet.

It will take about 45 minutes, but you’ve got time – you aren’t going anywhere tonight.

Just keep stirring them every now and again, and sprinkle with salt half way through.

Then proceed with the Cacio e Pepe recipe.

“I’m going to eat this all myself just because I can” pizookie

A pizookie is a deep dish chocolate chip cookie, served slightly undercooked and gooey, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. We’re making a single-serving size, and you’re going to eat the whole thing. You’re welcome.

Recipe here.

Some South African translations:
– We usually get salted butter here, so use that and skip the pinch of salt.
– Granulated sugar is ordinary white sugar
– Baking soda is bicarbonate of soda
– Semi-sweet chocolate is dark chocolate. I’d use a slab of Albany Dark chocolate, chopped.
– 375°F is 190°C.
– 6 oz ramekin is a little, oven-safe, round dish about 9cm across. If you don’t have something similar, an oven-safe mug would work. Or use a mug and cook it in the microwave; it will probably work fine. I’d estimate about 1 min cooking time in the microwave, but keep an eye on it and go longer or shorter.

I hope that your Valentine’s Day contains some really spectacular food, whether or not there is a hot someone there with you!
If you cook one of these recipes, tag me in the photo on IG (@homemadecookza) or share it on The Homemade Cook Facebook page. I’ll give you a round of applause!!

If these recipes seem like gibberish to you or if you feel like you don’t have the skills to even attempt them, you should probably sign up for one of the online cooking courses I’ve made. The Homemade Cook is for beginner cooks (read: non-cooks), zero previous knowledge required. Next course starts on Monday 13 Feb 2017 – just a few days!
EMAIL me with questions:


  1. Looks uber yummy. Especially those figs wrapped in bacon. Actually anything wrapped in bacon! Yum! But ugh Valentine’s day 😀


    • Agreed, Charley!!! On all accounts 😜 You should definitely try the bacon-wrapped dates!! They might even make you forget about Valentine’s Day. Just think, if you are alone that means you could eat them allllll

      Liked by 2 people

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