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Valentine’s Day, though dismissed by many for being overly commercial, remains a holiday widely celebrated by couples everywhere. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But this year, let’s switch things up a little and celebrate instead . . . with friends! Here’s how to plan your February 14th with the people you have known and loved for so long.  

A menu as nice as your guests

Don’t try to impress your guests with a fancy dinner, and instead keep it simple. You don’t want to spend all evening in the kitchen—you want to be able to fully enjoy the moment with those you love. So forget about the 5-course meal, elaborate dishes with a never-ending list of ingredients, and complex cooking methods. Quick and delish is the way to go!

1. A poutine bar to whet the appetite

Yes, you read that right! Indeed, what’s tastier or brings people together more than a good ol’ poutine? The wonderful thing about this option is that you can prepare the base—the fries and the sauce—beforehand and then lay out a selection of toppings for your guests to choose from. For a lighter version, prepare your fries in an air fryer with only a dash of oil. Red and yellow potatoes are great for making beautiful golden fries, but sweet potatoes are a nice way to switch things up.

When it comes to the sauce, you can obviously opt for store-bought, but preparing your own only takes a few minutes and makes all the difference in the world. Butter, flour, garlic, broth and cornstarch is all you need to add loads of flavour to your poutine bar.

Obviously, the best cheese to top your poutine with are the classic curds. But if you or any of your guests prefer a vegan option, there are lots of yummy plant-based cheeses to choose from, too.

Tasty toppings:

  • caramelized onions or minced green onions;
  • steam-cooked snow peas or green peas;
  • pickles;
  • your meat of choice (pulled chicken, pork, duck, or beef);
  • pulled tofu (firm grated tofu sautéed with onions and mushrooms).
Tasty toppings

2. Fondues are always fun

Everyone loves Chinese fondue—not only is it delicious, but everyone can pick and choose what they eat, plus there’s almost no prep to do beforehand (except maybe blanching the broccoli and cauliflower and baking the potatoes). You can offer a selection of protein for your guests to choose from: beef, chicken, fish, shrimp, tofu, etc.  

Next come the sauces. Think curry (mayonnaise, plain yogurt, curry powder, and turmeric), which pairs well with just about anything. Or how about finely chopped onions, olive oil, mayonnaise, tomato paste, white wine vinegar, and sugar? A classic!

If you and your friends are fans of all things cheese, why not prepare a cheese fondue? It’s quick, easy, and delicious! Lay out a selection of ingredients to dip, such as fresh baguette, green apples, grapes, cubed ham or sausage, cherry tomatoes, and blanched broccoli.

Feel like going full-on fondue? Then end the meal with a decadent chocolate fondue! All you need is 35% cream and the chocolate of your choice (dark or milk) . . . and of course loads of fruit to dip!

Now get ready for some juicy gossip!

3. Hearty soups that warm the soul

In the mood for a meal that doesn’t generate a mountain of dishes? Hearty soups are often prepared in a single pot, using whatever ingredients you have on hand. Simply combine mixed legumes and pearl barley in the broth of your choice, then add whatever vegetables you have in your kitchen, such as carrots, onions, celery, and canned diced tomatoes. For some extra flavour, stir in some garlic and turmeric, then top with croutons. That’s it!  

For a touch of exotic flavour, try making an Indian, Mediterranean, or Asian soup. Think a beef, pork, or tofu Pho soup. Add some fennel, cilantro, cloves, ginger, star anise, and cinnamon, then garnish with rice noodles, green onions, and sprouted beans. 

No Netflix tonight!

No TV tonight! Instead grab some boardgames and get ready for lots of fun and laughter! Charades, drawing, comedy, bad decisions, word associations, singing . . . there are so many different types of games to choose from. Head to your local bookstore or specialized shop to peruse. Some stores even rent games out. You could also join some Facebook groups for inspiration. And used games are also a great option—they cost less than brand-new games, plus buying second-hand is better for the environment!