entertaining/round up

What to Cook When You Want to Impress Your Date But Don’t Really Know How to Cook

Posted February 6, 2018 by Stephanie
japanese avocado toast - www.iamafoodblog.com

BEGINNER You haven’t really cooked much before but you have access to a kitchen and some basic tools and you’re very willing to try new things in an effort to impress your person.

japanese avocado toast - www.iamafoodblog.com

To Start

I think starting with nibble-ly things is the best way to go – you don’t have to worry about timing or whether or not your food is hot, which is a big bonus in my eyes.This little bite is perfect if you don’t have a lot of cooking skills, but want to impress. All you need to do for this Japanese-inspired avocado toast is know how to cut an avocado without hurting yourself. From there, it’s just a question of assembling all of the ingredients that you’ve bought from the Asian grocery store (drive to the Asian grocery store, it’s worth it!) Thin and crispy toast is topped with roasted seaweed, baby arugula (or baby greens of choice), thinly sliced avocado, toasted sesame seeds and ikura. They sell ikura (salmon roe/caviar) at most Asian grocery stores or you can hop on over to your favorite sushi joint to see if they’ll sell you a tiny amount. You don’t need a lot of it, but it adds an awesome pop of flavor.

braised chashu pork shoulder recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com


There’s nothing quite like a bowl of fluffy rice and some tender, super flavorful slow braised Japanese chashu pork. The pork is easy: everything is essentially put into a pot, brought to a gentle simmer, then finished off in the oven for about 6 hours. It’s hands off which gives you lots of time to figure out how to make rice. Oh, and bonus, you can make it the night before (it’s always good to test drive recipes when you’re a beginner cook) and then just reheat gently on the stove in the sauce when it’s time to eat.

How to make rice: take 1 cup of rice (I prefer short grain, Japanese rice), and place it in a pot (2-3 quarts, must have a lid, heavy-bottomed preferred) with 1.25 cups of water. Bring the pot of rice and water to a boil over high heat. When it’s boiling, pop the lid on, then turn the heat to low. Cook, without peeking, for 17 minutes. When the time is up, remove the pot from the heat source, and let it sit, with the lid on, for another 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes are up, it’s time to fluff! You just made the perfect pot of rice :)

Pop the rice into a bowl, top with some of the pork and braising liquid and you’ve got yourself a cozy bowl of comfort. For bonus points, throw a soft boiled egg and some sliced green onions on it.

By the way, cooking is supposed to be fun. So even if you mess up, it’s no big deal. And if your date makes a big deal out of it, it’s not worth it anyway – you want your person to be chill and fun, just like this chashu rice bowl.

Mini Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com


No one can say no to a warm chocolate chip cookie, especially when it’s topped with ice cream. Make these guys the night before and cover them with plastic wrap. When it’s time for dessert, heat up the oven, bake them off and prepare yourself for all the “mmmmmmmms.” Pro tip: if you don’t have mini skillets (and why would you if you don’t cook much), make this recipe in a regular skillet and pull out two spoons to share because sharing is caring. Also pro tip, if you want to make regular chocolate chip cookies, that would go over well too. Nothing says love like a warm chocolate chip cookie. This recipe is my favorite, just make the dough the night before, scoop out the cookies, cover them, put them in the fridge, and bake off as needed.

CHILL VIBES You cook regularly but want to pull out the stops because nothing says “I love you” more than a good home cooked meal.

To Start

Do you love dumplings and shrimp? Then these crispy pan fried shrimp potstickers are for you and your date! Maybe you can even make them together. Or, maybe not. Let your date have a relaxing evening while you fry up some homemade potstickers. You can make the filling the night before and fill them up right before you fry, or you can make the dumplings, freeze them and cook them from frozen. Either way, dumplings are true love.


dashi butter steak - www.iamafoodblog.com

Steak seems to be a pretty common Valentine’s day main and I fully support it! What I don’t support are over priced steak houses. Skip the steakhouse and make your sweetie steak at home. More specifically, make them this dashi butter basted steak. Dashi (a classic Japanese soup stock) and butter go hand-in-hand (just like you and your boo) to create a rich and deeply flavored umami crust that gives way to a perfectly cooked medium rare inside. I recommend serving this with creamy mashed potatoes, a simple salad, or maybe even rice :)


beeramisu recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

These tiny pots of beeramisu – just like tiramisu, but made with beer instead of coffee – are the perfect last bite. Sweet and a little bit complex, with a hint of mystery, just like the chemistry between you and your date. They’re dead easy to make and even easier to eat. Make a batch the night before for maximum deliciousness.

ADVANCED You’re looking for some bonus points because you live in the kitchen and often pretend you’re the star of your very own Food Network show. Ahh, who am I kidding? You guys have planned your Valentine’s menu months in advance.

If you’re looking for a starter, might I suggest this: silky smooth mashed potatoes topped with a jammy sous vide egg, salmon roe and green onions. Toast on the side. Super decadent and luxurious. Plus, it’s all pretty much hands off so you can concentrate on the rest of your menu!

poached egg on potatoes recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

Happy cooking guys! Hope your Valentine’s dates are cozy, romantic, and just the right amount of sugar and spice ;)
xoxo steph


  1. Kristel says:

    Which Staub dishes are those? They’re so perfect!!

    1. Stephanie says:

      they’re the mini 8 ounce roasting dishes. they’re TOO cute :)

  2. Great guide! I love the idea of using something like salmon roe to impress! Also, that cast iron is gorgeous! xo

    1. Stephanie says:

      thanks kelsey :)

  3. Willa says:

    That chashu pork is going to be my next instapot dinner!

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