Skip to content
Home / Cooking as a ‘Love Language’: Healthy Valentine’s Day Dinner Ideas

Cooking as a ‘Love Language’: Healthy Valentine’s Day Dinner Ideas

Everyone communicates and receives love differently. In Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, he suggests five different styles of expressing love. These styles include words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. According to YouGovAmerica, quality time is the love language preferred by most people. If this love language resonates with you, you probably enjoy creating special moments together and value uninterrupted and focused conversations with your partner. 

Many people express love for their family and friends by making food for them. Cooking is also a great way to spend quality time together. It can be an intimate activity that involves teamwork and communication. Bonus – there’s an edible aftermath involved. Here are three plant-forward, heart-healthy dishes you’ll love:

Roasted Cauliflower “Steak” Over Red Pepper Sauce with Pesto – Serves 4

This plant-forward and colorful dish is packed in fiber and antioxidants from bell peppers, basil and cauliflower. While cauliflower may not be a meat lover’s idea of a juicy steak, it won’t disappoint the tastebuds.

For the Red Pepper Sauce


  • 3 bell peppers, cored and halved, stem removed
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil, separated 
  • 1 head garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. basil pesto

For the Cauliflower “Steak” 


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup cashews, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup basil pesto
  • 1 Tbsp. grated parmesan


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare 1 or 2 baking sheets with foil or parchment paper. You may be able to fit both the cauliflower steaks and red bell peppers on the same baking sheet depending on the size. The bell peppers need to roast for 15 additional minutes, so it’s best to start this first.
  2. Prepare the red pepper sauce. 
    • On the baking sheet, place bell pepper halves cut size up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. 
    • Trim the head off the top off garlic head and place it on top of a square of aluminum foil. Drizzle a drip of olive oil and salt and pepper and wrap tightly. Place on the baking sheet with bell peppers. Roast for 45 minutes or until the peppers are soft and lightly charred. 
    • Let garlic head cool. Then in a blender or food processor, add roasted bell peppers, head of garlic, pesto, 2 Tbsp. olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.
  3. Prepare cauliflower steaks. 
    • Remove the outer leaves and trim the bottom of the core, leaving the core intact. Slice into ¾ -inch-thick slices. Plan on getting three steaks out of each cauliflower head. Roast any scraps as florets.
    • In a small bowl, thoroughly combine olive oil, thyme, onion powder, paprika, honey, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Brush this mixture on both sides of the cauliflower steaks.
    • After the roasted bell peppers have been roasting for 15 minutes, add the cauliflower to the oven. Roast the cauliflower for 15 minutes, then carefully flip, brush with any additional olive oil mixture and roast for another 15 minutes. 
  4. On a plate, spread ¼ cup of the red bell pepper sauce, place a cauliflower steak on top, drizzle with pesto and top with chopped cashews.

Date Night Easy Tomato and Garlic White Wine Pasta – Serves 2

This simple pasta dish consists of fragrant garlic in olive oil and sweet cherry tomatoes reduced down to a delicious sauce. Enjoy this recipe alone or combined with a protein such as pan-seared chicken.


  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2.5 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh basil plus a few leaves for garnish
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
  • 2 cups pappardelle pasta, cooked
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese


  1. In a large pan over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and add garlic. Sear until fragrant.
  2. Add tomatoes, oregano and red pepper flakes, and turn the heat up to medium. Allow tomatoes to sear until some water is released, about 5 minutes. Add white wine and basil. Allow to simmer. 
  3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions. For al dente (hard to the bite), cook for a minute less than the package instructions.
  4. Reduce temperature to medium-low on the pasta sauce and allow the sauce to reduce until desired texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with pasta, serve in pasta bowl, grate parmesan on top and add basil for garnish.

Spiced Brown Sugar Baked Pears with Cardamom Yogurt – Serves 4

Pears are roasted to tenderness and caramelized with brown sugar and warm baking spices. A touch of cardamom adds complex flavors and aroma to this cozy dish.


  • 2 pears, preferably Bartlett
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp. ground cardamom, divided
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, 2-5% milkfat
  • 2 tsp. honey


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Halve pears and remove the core, leaving skin and stem on. Place in baking cut-side up in a baking dish.
  3. In a bowl, thoroughly combine melted butter, brown sugar, honey, 1 tsp vanilla extract (save the other half for the yogurt), 1 tsp cardamon (save the rest for the yogurt, other baking spices, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Pour and brush the mixture over the pears and flip cut-side down. Bake for 30 minutes, or until tender this depends on the tenderness of the raw pear). Flip the pears cut-side up, and bake for 5 minutes, or until tops caramelize. Reserve the liquid mixture at the bottom of the baking dish.
  4. While the pears are baking, prepare the yogurt. Thoroughly combine Greek yogurt with honey, and the remaining vanilla extract and cardamom.
  5. To serve, spread ¼ cup Greek yogurt on a plate. Place a pear half on top. Drizzle reserved liquid mixture on top for extra flavor. 

Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan based in Detroit. Passionate about the science of nutrition and behavior, Shanthi has experience working in clinical nutrition, public health and teaching in the university setting. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, exploring the outdoors, working on art and spending time with family. For more recipes and health information, visit

A Healthier Michigan
Author: A Healthier Michigan

Our mission is to help everyone in Michigan get healthier from the inside out. This means everything from giving you resources to help you make better decisions about diet and exercise, as well as information on creating and sustaining nurturing communities and successful businesses — everything you need to help create a healthier Michigan.