How-To: Vegetarian Valentine

(Photo by Isabela DeLeon)

How-To: Vegetarian Valentine

By Jacqueline Napoli

Nothing says “I love you” like an amazing dinner lovingly prepared and beautifully presented.  Here are a few sumptuous options. Two are simple, and one calls for legitimate cooking.  All three show a little love to our animal friends by way of our not eating them.  

Set the table with candles and flowers. Dessert will be, of course, hand-dipped chocolate strawberries.

Girls’ Night:


Difficulty level: Very Easy; Total time: 20 minutes; Serves 4


  • 2 regular bags butter lettuce
  • ½ bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2/3 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 bag Morningstar Farms buffalo wing nuggets
  • Ranch dressing


Cut tomato and onion while heating buffalo wing nuggets according to directions. Empty lettuce and cilantro into salad bowl. Arrange wings in the middle of the lettuce, placing tomatoes around the wings, and the onions around the tomato. Toss with dressing immediately before serving.

A Family Valentine’s:


Difficulty level: Easy; Prep time: 20 minutes; Total time 40 minutes; Serves 6


  • 1 sweet Maui onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 package soy chorizo
  • 1 large can vegetarian baked beans
  • 1 package King’s Hawaiian Hamburger Buns
  • 1 large Caesar salad kit


Sauté onion and coconut oil in medium saucepan until translucent. Slice the chorizo casing and crumble in and add beans.  Cook over medium heat till bubbly and heated through. Serve on Hawaiian buns with tossed Caesar salad.

Sweetheart Valentine’s Dinner:


Difficulty level: Moderate; Prep time: 30 minutes; Total time: 90 minutes; Serves 2 plus leftovers


  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 white or red onion, diced small
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes – save can for adding water
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cans beans (kidney, black, cannellini, pinto are good choices)
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 3-5 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. vinegar, your favorite kind
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 single shake of cinnamon
  • Fresh sourdough bread from the grocery store’s bakery—bread bowls if they have them

Cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions for garnish

I know this is quite a list, but you will never have to really shop for chili       ingredients when you keep these things on hand. Once the spices are              bought, that’s it. Beans, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and quinoa last a long time. You can have a chili-ready kitchen any time the mood strikes.


First, sauté the onions and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.(Grocers sell bagged fresh or frozen chopped onions in case you don’t want to cry on Valentine’s Day.) When the onions are translucent, add the garlic and heat a couple more minutes. Don’t let them turn brown or they will grow bitter.

Add tomatoes, sauce, paste, and one can of water to onion/garlic mixture.

Rinse beans in colander until the water doesn’t bubble. This is vital because you are literally washing away flatulence. Add to saucepan.

Next, rinse the quinoa in a mesh colander or a bowl. There are bitter, slightly toxic saponins present on the surface, and these, too, will bubble when rinsing. Drain excess water and add to chili.

Add in the rest of the ingredients, adding salt and cayenne to taste.

Bring to a boil, stir well, then reduce heat to a gently bubbling simmer. Cook for an hour stirring often and scraping bottom of saucepan. Add water if chili gets too thick because of the quinoa.

During last 10 minutes, heat up sourdough bread or bread bowls. Bread bowls need to be cut at top third and hollowed out after heating.

Serve chili with sourdough, and add cheese, sour cream, and/or green onions if desired.



Difficulty level: Moderate; Total time: 25 minutes


  • 1 Pint Strawberries
  • 1 bag Wilton Candy Melts


Wash and dry strawberries. Melt chocolate at 50% power at 30-second intervals, stirring in between. Dip strawberries and lay flat on wax paper, they will harden in a few minutes. Excess chocolate can be smoothed on wax paper laid on a cookie sheet, and broken into chocolate bark.