Valentine’s Day

Celebrate February 14th with your significant other—or, if you don’t have one, gather your friends and family together. There are plenty of fun ways, both big and small, to enjoy the holiday. We have some great ideas to make the day festive—and don’t worry, they’re all relatively easy and budget-friendly. For those with a significant other, sometimes it feels like there’s so much pressure to do something extravagant for date night or give something grand, but we’ve put together five unique date ideas and gift suggestions that are thoughtful, not excessive. If you’re throwing a party, you’ll want to see these Valentine’s Day decorations you can make yourself. And, of course, what’s a Valentine’s Day celebration without some delicious sweets? These pretty homemade cupcakes are sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Plus, we can’t forget classic cards to send to your closest loved ones, like these DIY Valentines and store-bought (but still sincere) cards.

Chipotle Pork Loin With Black Bean Salad

This chipotle-spiced main with a black bean salad on the side requires just 10 minutes of your time—and results in a satisfying meal the whole family will love. First, the pork loin gets rubbed with a mixture of chipotle chili pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, and olive oil. Once that goes in the oven, it takes just a few minutes to mix the salad—beans, avocado, cilantro, scallions, chili pepper, lime juice, olive oil, and salt. Then, you’ve got just over an hour to sit back and relax while your kitchen is filled with the aroma of a cantina south of the border.

Lemon Cornmeal Sandwich Cookies

Cornmeal cookies might not sound like much. But these lemon juice and zest-flavored stunners prove that when it comes to desserts, often the simplest pleasures are the most satisfying. By adding just a half-cup of cornmeal to the dough, we created cookies that are both sweet and savory, crunchy and chewy. As the cookies cool, you’ll mix cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and more lemon juice to create a creamy, tart filling for the sandwich cookies. For optimum enjoyment, refrigerate the finished cookies until the icing firms up a bit, about an hour (but feel free to taste-test one or two as you’re working).

Kitchen Sink Chocolate Bark

We wanted to develop a crave-worthy chocolate bark recipe. But, we wondered, should we go nutty or fruity? Savory or sweet? Ultimately, we wanted it all. So here it is: The Kitchen Sink Chocolate Bark that combines sweetened shredded coconut with mixed salted nuts, a mess of dried fruit (try raisins, dried cherries, cranberries, chopped dried apricots or even papaya), and pieces of salty pretzel, all sprinkled over semisweet chocolate. Think of it as the everything bagel of desserts. The variations, as you can imagine, are pretty limitless, so pick and choose which flavors you love and whip up your very own batch.

Lollipop Cookies

A homemade lollipop recipe that doesn’t require a candy thermometer—or, actually, any special equipment? Yes, please! Our Lollipop Cookies delight kids of all ages. Simply mix together a sugar cookie-like dough, but rather than cooling it and rolling it out, drop mounds of the dough on a baking sheet and insert a lollipop stick in each before flattening and baking. Once the cookies are cooled completely, ice them any way you like, and add plenty of extra toppings, candies, and adornments. File this recipe away for the next rainy day, too: Kids love decorating, and chowing down on, their very own creations.

Whole Roasted Chicken on a Bed of Cauliflower

A whole roasted chicken is dramatic enough on its own. It’s one of those great kitchen tricks (that’s actually easier than it appears) every home cook should have in his or her back pocket. But this version? Above and beyond. We tried roasting an entire chicken over a layer of cauliflower “steaks,” and the result is pretty glorious. The vegetable soaks up flavor from the chicken and gets crispy and caramelized around the edges. The chicken roasts to perfection and doesn’t get soggy on bottom. And, another plus: No need for gravy. Turn the pan juices into a fast, tangy vinaigrette with some herbs and lemon juice.

Espresso Truffles

Don’t let the total time in this recipe for homemade truffles turn you off: Most of that’s hours spent letting your chocolate mixture cool and harden in the oven. In reality, these Espresso Truffles are a snap to prepare, and boy, do they go quick (which is why we devised a recipe that gives you four dozen truffles). Intense bites of coffee, two kinds of chocolate, and cocoa powder, the sweets have a sophisticated, adult taste. Meaning the kids won’t deplete your supply. Store finished truffles in the fridge, and bring to room temperature before serving. Psst: They make a great homemade gift, too.

Waffle Cookies With Marshmallows and Jam

That’s right, we took standard waffle cookies and transformed them into a delightfully adult version of s’mores that you can whip up all year long. No need for a campfire: Use your broiler to roast a few marshmallows, then place the gooey treats on a waffle cookie covered in raspberry jam, followed by another cookie. While our version is delicious as is, it’s also a pretty flexible template. For a spread, try whatever you find in the pantry or fridge, be it peanut butter, Nutella, or any variety of jam. And hey, we won’t judge if you wait to fire up the broiler until after the kids go to bed.

Black and White Cookies

Traditional black and white cookies, spotted in bakeries and cafes all over New York City and Long Island, are things of beauty. Soft, cake-like vanilla cookies, topped with equal parts vanilla and chocolate frosting, the treats are simple and satisfying. So what if you have a hankering for the dessert long after your trip to New York has ended? We devised this recipe after tasting our fair share of these suckers, so anybody could recreate the cookies at home. They do take a fair amount of time, since you’re making two batches of icing and a light, fluffy batter. But you can bet they’re worth it.

No-Bake Salted Dark Chocolate Cookie Bars

Like a fresh-from-the-oven chocolate cookie, only better, these no-bake treats combine the most delicious aspects of a few different desserts. Is it a bar? A cookie? A sea-salt truffle? All of the above. First, you’ll blend a chocolate-wafer crust and press it into a pan. Top that layer with melted chocolate chips mixed with a chocolate spread, before sprinkling the top with flaky sea salt and letting it firm up in the fridge. Cut into bars and serve with a bit more sea-salt sprinkled on top, if desired. These sophisticated bars keep in the fridge for five days (though we doubt they’ll last that long).

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Our Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin recipe delivers a delicious, double-meat main that’ll blow your standard pork tenderloin out of the water. Save a few slices of bacon from Sunday brunch for a weeknight supper. By wrapping the cut in bacon and browning it in a cast-iron skillet over the stove before transferring the whole dish to the oven to roast, you’re locking in moisture and adding extra flavor with a very minimal work. In the same pan, you’ll cook fennel and dried apricots, for a sweet side that plays off the bacon, and crisps up nicely thanks to the pan juices. Garnish with fresh dill, if desired.