Behind the Brand- A Valentine’s Day Lesson from Donatella

Let me introduce myself.  I’m Meredith- Donatella’s right hand woman and I have a secret.  Even though I work for a top chef, I can’t cook. (That’s me on the right..)

meredith donatella morimoto

Before approving directions on her products, Donatella has me follow them. No, not because she values my palate but because she says if I can make it, anyone can.  I am truly her perfect customer because although I LOVE food, I can’t prepare it.  Donatella’s products allow me to pretend that I can. Until she teaches me how to prepare her award winning meatballs, Donatella’s products let me fake it ‘til I make it.

Last week, we were traveling back from HSN and Valentine’s Day was around the corner. Donatella asked me what I had planned for my fiancé, and I had no idea! We had a strategy session, and with her help, I planned the perfect Valentine’s Day. From the meal to the makeup, here’s what I learned from the woman who best knows how to entertain:

valentines day tips donatella arpaia blog

Skip the Restaurant: I know it’s shocking, but Donatella suggests skipping the restaurant on Valentine’s Day. Forgo the crowds, travel time and expense and create the perfect Valentine’s Day at home.

Presentation is Key: Here’s the secret: disposable napkins and placemats used as runners. It’s so easy, looks expensive, and there’s little to no cleanup. It’s as simple as tearing a paper towel off a roll.

valentines day ideas from donatella arpaia

Personalize the Evening:  Take the time to do something special.  At Donatella’s wedding, guests received bags of homemade biscotti.  I’m took a page out of her book and made biscotti from scratch with Donatella’s biscotti mix (from her Chocolate Escape)– wrapping it in pretty cellophane and ribbon, and adding a handwritten note.

donatella arpaia biscotti

Put Together a Menu: Nothing says, “I love you” like a “home cooked” meal and luckily, Donatella did all the work for me! I almost took full credit for it…

Appetizers: Garlic knots and breadsticks made with Donatella’s pizza mix and pesto sauce for dipping. Her meatballs would have been a great appetizer too, but I had them for dinner instead!

donatella arpaia garlic knots recipe

  • Dinner: meatballs with marinara sauce for me and spaghetti and meatballs with arrabbiata sauce for him.  For portion control and a touch of glam, I served them in Donatella’s ramekins.

spaghetti meatballs and ramekin

  • Dessert Part I: Donatella’s bling cupcakes! I adore these cupcakes because they are delicious, all natural, incredibly moist and not too sweet.  They were almost too pretty to eat. I did say almost…

donatellas bling cupcakes

  • Dessert Part II: I LOVE dessert, so why not have another round? Chocolate fondue was perfect for Valentine’s Day- it’s sexy, romantic, and delicious. Like Donatella, my fiance and I love coconut, so we dipped the strawberries into shredded coconut and added chopped pistachios and almonds for crunch.

donatella arpaia chocolate fondue recipe

Makeup: One little secret about Donatella is that she isn’t ALWAYS glamorous. Shocking I know, but like me, she often forgoes makeup completely. Having said that, she knows when to glam it up, and she knows that a little goes a long way. Here are her makeup must-haves:

Donatella arpaia make up musthaves

What to Wear: I borrowed this Cinderella dress that Donatella wore at Manhattan Magazine’s Chef’s Night Out. As always, Donatella suggests a little color and a touch of sparkle!

donatella arpaia valentines day

And for those of you with a few more skills in the kitchen than me, Donatella suggests her delicious chocolate soufflé dish. It’s so delicious, in fact, that it has been featured in Dessert Buzz! Get the recipe here:

Chocolate Soufflé

(Serves 6)

INGREDIENTS:

Molds:

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar

Soufflé:

  • 1 ½ cup dutch process cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tahitian vanilla bean, split horizontally and scraped
  • 2 ounces 66% chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1 ounce white chocolate, chopped fine
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated cane sugar

METHOD:

To Line the Molds:

  • Coat the bottoms and sides of six 5-ounce individual soufflé molds (oven safe coffee mugs work as well) with the butter.
  • Sprinkle the sugar in the molds and rotate to distribute it evenly. Refrigerate the molds while you prepare the souffles

To Make the soufflés

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  • In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the sugar, water and vanilla bean to a simmer. Turn off the heat and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.
  • Turn the heat back to medium, and gradually add in the cocoa powder- making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding more. Continue to whisk until mixture thickens to a pudding-like consistency. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl, and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, begin to whip the egg whites and salt until they reach soft peaks. Add in half of the sugar and continue to whip until incorporated. Add remaining sugar and whip until medium-stiff glossy peaks form.
  • Fold about a third of the whites into the cocoa base with a spatula. Fold in the rest of the whites just until no white streaks remain. Fold in the finely chopped chocolate.
  • Distribute the mixture evenly between the soufflé molds/cups, filling them level with the top. Put the molds on a sheet pan.
  • Bake the soufflés until they rise about 1” above the rim, about 18-20 minutes.
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