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Valentines Dinner for 2 - Cocoa-Rubbed Filet Mignon and Fondue Scalloped Sweet Potatoes


Valentines Dinner for 2 - Cocoa-Rubbed Filet Mignon and Fondue Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

Special breakfast. Box of chocolates. Cute card. Lavish surf and turf dinner. This was every Valentine’s Day in my mama’s house. Although it was my parents’ home, holidays belonged exclusively to Mama Chin. My mom decorated (and still does) for every holiday. Coordinating festive table linens, appropriate lighting, and music when applicable. No holiday complete without a special meal, and she’s get creative with things from her homey Minnesotan Betty Crocker mental stash or Food Network magazine. Before Pinterest, food influencers, and mommy bloggers alike, there were just really crafty moms doin’ their thing.

So while Valentines Day is a holiday where people think of their significant other, I’ll always think of my mom, who managed (and still manages) to make every holiday even more special than the previous. Food is a gift, an act of kindness, and a love note all in one, and my hope is that I can make holidays special with food as my mom did with me.

If you’ve made it past the first two paragraphs without needing a Kleenex like I did, congrats. You’ve moved on to recipe talk. This recipe is an amped up, gourmand’s version of fondue and chocolates. Cocoa-chili-rubbed filet mignons that are toasty and tender, fondue cheese scalloped sweet potatoes that are moist and savory. If you can look past the simplicity that is classic “steak and potatoes” you’ll see the beauty in this meal, and you’ll find yourself wishing you’d reserved the two servings for you and you alone.

Happy Valentines Day!


Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour Serves: 2


for the steaks

  • 2 4-6 oz petit filet mignon steaks

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1 tsp chili powder

  • ½ tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 2 tbsp european-style butter

  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

for the potatoes

  • 2 tbsp european-style butter

  • 1 c heavy whipping cream

  • 1 c chicken or vegetable broth

  • 1 c shredded gruyere cheese

  • 1 c shredded parmesan cheese

  • ¼ c all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp minced garlic

  • ½ tsp brown or dijon mustard

  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

  • ¼ tsp black pepper

  • Salt, to taste

(optional) for the baby broccoli

  • 6 heads and stems baby broccoli (broccolini)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 lemon, sliced

  • Salt and black pepper, to taste



  1. Pat the steaks dry and rub them with the salt, chili powder, and cocoa powder on all sides. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  2. Take the steaks out about 15 minutes before they’re ready to cook so they get closer to room temperature.

  3. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high and in it, melt the butter.

  4. Once the butter is melted and on the verge of sizzling, place the steaks down into the skillet and cook for 4 minutes, constantly basting with the pan butter.

  5. Flip the steaks to the other side and baste again, adding pepper to your crust and salt as desired.

  6. After steaks have cooked for about 4 minutes each side (or more if you’d like them more well-done than medium-rare), remove them from heat and on to a cutting board to rest.

  7. Serve after about 7-10 minutes of resting.


  1. Peel and thinly slice the sweet potatoes so that they’re just thick enough to not be see-through.

  2. Preheat oven to 375

  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on medium high heat

  4. Add the heavy cream and broth, then incorporate the garlic, nutmeg, mustard, and black pepper. Bring to a rolling boil.

  5. Once boiling, whisk in the flour and turn the heat down to low, whisking until you have a thick, gravy-like consistency.

  6. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and incorporate the shredded cheese into the sauce. Taste the sauce to make sure it’s just salty enough to off-set the sweetness of your potatoes

  7. Grease a small baking dish with neutral oil with butter, and layer potatoes and cheese sauce on top of each other until the potatoes are covered.

  8. For softer potatoes: Bake at 375 for 30 minutes then broil at 475 for 5 minutes

  9. For ‘al dente’ potatoes: Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes then broil at 475 for 5 minutes

  10. Your potatoes should have a nice bubbly-brown crust on them. Serve hot!


  1. Heat neutral oil in a grill pan or skillet on high heat for 2 minutes

  2. Char the slice lemons in the pan for 2 minutes on each side, until you see grill/char marks

  3. Carefully add a little more oil to the pan and the broccolini, and char for 3 minutes on each side.

  4. Salt to taste. Serve immediately with the charred lemons.




Spicy Brussels Sprouts Skillet with Bacon and Candied Pecans


Spicy Brussels Sprouts Skillet with Bacon and Candied Pecans

Dinner doesn't always have to be meat, veggie grain, sometimes it can be a bunch of good stuff thrown together in a skillet and that's totally OK. It's not lazy to want all of your food cooked in the same pan, and if anything it makes for a harmony of flavors with easier cleanup.

Going dairy free for the month of January meant getting creative, and it's challenged me to come up with recipes that'll make me feel full without shaving 1/2 a pound of cheese over everything. Getting my fat from other sources like avocados, coconut milk, and cooking oils is a nice change from the ordinary cream sauces and wintery-baked dishes.

If you've ever had fried cabbage, this skillet kind of invokes the same feeling of nostalgia. It's got bacon and red chili flakes which my mama usually adds to her fried cabbage, but I've added paprika and candied pecans for sweetness, and garlic and dijon for a savory spiciness.

You can easily throw this skillet together in under 15 minutes and eat it on its own, but it works great as a side dish accompanying some grilled chicken breast, steak or even salmon. I hope you enjoy it like I did.


  • 1/2 lb brussels sprouts, halved
  • 4 strips pork bacon
  • 1/4 c candied pecans (if you can't find them in stores you can make them)
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp minced or fresh garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp paprika 
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes


  1. In the skillet that you'll cook everything else in, fry the bacon strips on medium-high until they're cooked but not completely crispy, then set them aside on a paper towel.
  2. With the skillet still on medium-high, toss the sprouts in the oil, along with the dijon, garlic, paprika, and salt.
  3. Cook for another 7-10 minutes, splashing the skillet with apple cider or other vinegar if the pan gets sticky. 
  4. Top with crushed candied pecans and red chili flakes then serve.


Grown-Up Tomato Soup


Grown-Up Tomato Soup

I'm calling this "grown-up" tomato soup because 1) there's wine so duh and 2) it can be left unaccompanied, although a grilled cheese on the side wouldn't hurt.


Carne Asada con Ensalada


Carne Asada con Ensalada

You know that spring time smell? If you haven't lost your sense of smell due to allergies you know what I'm talking about; fresh cut grass, smoke off the grill, blooming flowers, it's perfect.