A Simple and Easy . . . . Fancy Valentine’s Dinner

Before I share my menu plan for the week, I thought I’d share what has become our traditional family Valentine’s Dinner.

Maybe it’s just me . . . . but I have big dreams about creating special family times and lifelong memories for my children.

Dreams . . . but sometimes not plans.

Valentine’s Day generally sneaks up on us.  It seems to always fall on the night of a basketball practice or church or some other obligation.  But it’s important to me to use it as a time to make my family feel special.  If I don’t take advantage of these kinds of days, we can go way too long without any reason to set a pretty table or have a meal that stands out from the ordinary.

A few years ago, I decided to make French Dip Sandwiches for Valentine’s Day.  Now, it’s tradition . . . as my 7 & 9 year olds passionately pointed out this year.  (It totally warms my mommy-heart to hear my kids reminisce about special dinners from  years past.)

French Dip Sandwiches, the way I make them, are about as easy a supper as you can possibly make.  But they’re special, they’re delicious to kids and parents, and their quick, assembly-only prep means that you can take a little time to make the table look special.

And that, for kids, is enough.

This is one of those “recipes” that isn’t really a recipe, but because we love them so much, I thought I’d share.  If you don’t have any ideas for a special dinner tonight, you could stop by the store on the way home from work and be able to do this.


Shaved Roast Beef from the deli.  (We use one pound for six decent-sized sandwiches.)

Sliced provolone cheese.

Sub rolls.

Two cans of beef broth.

We serve with tator tots and salad.

Put your tator tots in the oven.  Then, if you’re me, clear the Dining Room table.

Separate the tops and bottoms of buns and divide the meat over the buns.  Cover the meat with slices of provolone.  I used two slices, overlapping, for these.  (Somehow I didn’t think to take a picture with the cheese on there.)  If your beef is shaved, the cheese slices will help it to not fall out of the sandwiches as easily.

Put the half sandwiches into the oven with the tator tots until the cheese melts.

While the sandwiches are in the oven, light some candles on the table.

Don’t take a picture.  Pictures make candles look terribly crooked, even though in reality they don’t seem all that crooked.

Dining by candlelight is automatically fancy, no matter what’s being served.  The dim lighting also means that clutter on the edges of the room isn’t as noticeable.  Not a valid plan when hosting your mother-in-law, but for your family who lives there and knows the truth, it’s great.

Pour the cans of beef broth into a microwave safe bowl.  

Once the sandwiches are warmed through, the cheese is melted, and the tator tots are done, put the top halves of the bread under the broiler.  Don’t try to do anything else at this point.

Trust me.

For our “traditional Valentine’s dessert” we have strawberry shortcake.  At some point, but not while the bread is under the broiler, slice strawberries and sprinkle them with sugar.

While you’re eating your dinner, they’ll get all juicy and yummy.

Serve the sandwiches with a ramekin of warmed-in-the-microwave beef broth ultra fancy au-jus for dipping.  Kids love this.

Dessert is equally fun, while equally simple.  Top store-bought shortcakes with the sugared strawberries and whipped cream.

Yes, I do still dream of making a truly elegant and labor-intensive meal, but for this time in my life . . . our simple and easy tradition works.  And I can say with confidence that it produces the same wow-our-mommy/wife-loves-us-so-much-she-made-this-fancy-dinner results.

And now for the rest of the week’s menu:

(We had our Valentine’s dinner last night.)

Monday – Homemade pizza

Tuesday – Beef Stew

Wednesday – Tator Tot Casserole

Thursday – Chicken Breasts and Baked Potatoes

Friday – Out to Eat

Saturday – Potato Soup (Didn’t have that this week, since it became our V-Day dinner night.)

Check out more menu plans over at


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  1. 1

    i love your valentine's day tradition! it's not the food that makes the occasion, it's the love.

  2. 2
    Absentminded Mother says:

    This is a great idea. I need to make holidays more about home then a commercialized holiday. We went to Cheese Cake Factory and spent $70 on four people. It was my husband's idea, and since he never wants to eat out at a sit down restaurant I went for it. At this price this could be our only dining event of the year. Happy Valentine's Day!

  3. 3


  4. 4

    I love how you gave the steps to this meal- it truly makes it seem very do-able! And your comment about the dim lighting totally cracked me up. 🙂

    An Oregon Cottage

  5. 5

    That is wonderful. I have not made that cause I thought it was too hard. Thank you for posting. And I love your blog:)

  6. 6

    That's one of our favorite meals too, and I haven't made it in ages! Love the tip about using the beef broth for au jus.

    "Don't try to do anything else at this point.
    Trust me."

    LOL – Been there. Done that. So true!

  7. 7

    our “traditional” valentine dinner usually consisted of a heart-shaped meatloaf (made on a pizza pan) with “be mine” written on top in ketchup or bbq sauce. my kids are all grown now, and i actually miss making that silly meatloaf. 🙂 i think we had tater tots with that too. 😉

  8. 8

    If anyone is looking for great ideas that are easy and makes dinner look gourmet with out all the fuss. I have left my website here for you so look at. I believe in the food that is why I sell it, but please don’t consider this a spam or crazy ad. I love this blog, it helps with the slob in all of us and motivates me to clean up the counter top piles myself. Gotta love the junk mail. Happy Valentine’s Day to all and may your home cooked meals be what your kids remember the most.

  9. 9
    Sarah Moya says:

    This sounds so good and so simple! Going to try this tomorrow night! I would on Valentine’s Day but already decided to try to make a pecan pie. That’s enough for me!! I think I can, I think I can.

  10. 10

    We love french dip around here and we do a very simple verison, too. But, instead of warming it in the oven, I stick the store-bought sliced roast beef in the au-jus and either warm it on the stove, or if in a hurry, stick the au-jus/meat in the microwave to warm up. The au-jus we use is store-bought, too, and keeps in the cupboard, just add water, heat, and stir. Yum!

    Hmm, I think we will be having this for dinner tomorrow night. Tonight I am going to try your super easy pizza in a cupcake pan thingies, but I have to find the link again first! LOL

  11. 11

    Thanks for the idea…gonna try it with my boys tomorrow night! Happy Valentines Day!

  12. 12

    This is fantastic, and YES to candles (and my 10 year old writes a menu and place cards to make dinner even MORE fancy…lol)!

  13. 13

    Love it! We started candle light dinners with kids too and our menu changes but its not anything dance . We use valentines paper plates and have desert too!

  14. 14

    That’s exactly how I make french dip, except I don’t separate the sub rolls. I just lay them open faced, and I pu the cheese on the bread to act as a barrier of spills if the roll splits. We also use au jus packet. But it’s super easy with just shaved beef and provolone! I love having easy meals my whole family loves and this is an almost weekly staple i our house!

  15. 15

    Thank you for this! I have never thought of making French Dip sandwiches this way, so simple, brilliant! I agree, memorable moments are what’s important to the kids. I feel better about using dollars store decorations. 😉

  16. 16

    I love this! We’re big on having a family Valentine’s Day dinner too. I’m not sure what I’ll be making this year but hopefully I decide before the day. ;).

  17. 17

    Love it! I’ll just “borrow” this idea for Saturday night. 🙂

  18. 18

    Interesting… We have hosted people for “singles awareness day” even after becoming a couple, but it never occurred to me that couples with kids would have something that involves the kids. (In the years when hubby isn’t actually there to arrange a “singles awareness day” dinner, I just ignore that it exists.)

    Then again, 40 days is a long time to go without a holiday… what do you do for the summer equivalent?

  19. 19

    “Dining by candlelight is automatically fancy, no matter what’s being served.”

    I laughed at this because I have a five-year-old daughter who loves ‘Fancy Nancy’ and I think she actually says this in one of the books. My daughter even dressed up as Nancy for Halloween.

    Even though we are passed Valentine’s Day, this made me realize that we need to do a fancy dinner at home a lot more often. 🙂

  20. 20

    I would love your tator tot casserole recipe please and thank you

  21. 21

    Just wanted to say thank you. I read this and thought, “I can DO that.” I bought my lunch meat and got out my candles. This is the first time I’ve even attempted to do something like this…for any reason. Guess I’ve been over-thinking it. Analysis paralysis. Anyway. I’ve learned a lot from you. Thanks and Happy Valentines day.

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