Every time we parents make dinner, family cooks work to strike a balance between what the kids are willing to eat and what the grown ups actually want to eat. Sometimes holidays make this balancing act even harder. Ever make a heart-shaped pizza and call it dinner on Valentine’s Day? Yeah, me too. This year, if you’re staying home for Valentine’s Day, we’ve got a better idea. With the help of Ashley Rodriguez, a favorite family cookbook author and a top food blogger to follow in 2015, we’re offering up 3 great ideas for Valentine’s Day dinners that will make all of your loved ones happy, even if you eat it in shifts.

Here’s the plan: Make one of these three dinners for your kids, adapting it the way Ashley recommends below. (Like leaving out the green stuff.) Then you can set enough aside to serve later for a romantic adult dinner, since these recipes are special enough that you can enjoy them grown-up style after the kids go to bed.

It’s a perfect plan–except, of course, if a kid wakes up.


1. Arroz con Pollo

Family friendly Valentine's Day dinners: Arroz con Pollo | Not Without Salt

This Arroz con Pollo, which translates to “chicken with rice,” has flavors that satisfy most children and also feel special enough for a date night meal. This recipe is made a bit more indulgent with Chanterelle mushrooms, but feel free to substitute a different mushroom or leave them out entirely.

If your kids are anything like mine, serve this to them without the green garnishes. You might even separate the rice from the chicken for super picky eaters. And if your dinner date is anything like my husband, serve his portion with a side of hot sauce.


2. Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Fennel, Apple, Radicchio Slaw

Family friendly Valentine's Day dinners: Pulled Pork Sandwiches | Not Without Salt

While the kids may not go crazy for the slaw on these Pulled Pork Sandwiches, I’m willing to bet that the tasty, slow-cooked pork will be a winner with everyone in the family. For the kids, serve the meat in tortillas for a pork taco or in buns sans slaw. The great thing about roasting a pork shoulder is that there will be plenty of leftovers which can be easily transformed into many meals stuffed into sandwiches, in tacos or quesadillas, on hearty salads, or alongside eggs. Almost anything benefits from the addition of pulled pork.


3. Butter and Herb Roasted Chicken

Family friendly Valentine's Day dinners: Best Roast Chicken | Not Without Salt

A roast chicken is for everyone. This one gets made in our house on a regular basis and yet each time I make it it still somehow marks an occasion. The key to an unforgettable roast chicken is to season the bird with salt and pepper at least one day in advance and then sear the meat before roasting, breast side down. If you’re sharing this with super picky eaters, slice up some white meat from the breast and pull off the chicken skin; save that for yourself.

Butter and Herb Roast Chicken recipe from Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship 


1 (3 to 4 pound / 1,360 to 1,815 g) whole chicken
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 cup / 5 g finely chopped herbs, plus more for garnish (such as chives, parsley, tarragon, and basil)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare your chicken 1 to 3 days ahead: remove the giblets and sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper inside and out. Place in a small roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered*.

Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes prior to roasting. Pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a small bowl, stir together the herbs, garlic, mustard, and butter. Carefully separate the chicken skin from the breast and tuck some of the herbed butter under it, massaging to move it all around the breast. Spread the remaining butter over the chicken skin and in the cavity.

Heat the olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over high heat until the oil is just starting to smoke. Carefully add the chicken to the pan, breast-side down. Allow the breast to sear for 4 minutes without moving. Remove from the heat and place the pan in the preheated oven.

Every 20 minutes, spoon the butter-and-herb-laced drippings from the pan over the chicken, coating the skin. Roast for a total of 60 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 165°F deep in the thigh, away from the bone.

Remove the chicken from the pan and let rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes before carving. Serve the chicken with the golden, crisped breast side up and garnish with chopped fresh herbs.

*Note: Refrigerating the chicken without a covering such as plastic wrap dries out the skin and gives you an extra-crispy skin.

(Top photo: Boone Rodriguez)