Valentine’s Day is Coming…Simple Date Night Tips from Amanda Usen

Date Night

Survivalist reality TV star (and Aries!) Russ Donovan challenges cooking and homemaking reality TV guru Susannah Stone to climb a mountain in IMPULSE CONTROL, the first book in the Men of the Zodiac Series. In turn, she challenges him to cook a simple date night meal. I was tempted to have her tie the Wild Man up in Coq Au Vin knots and Beef Bourguignonne figure eights, but I wanted a menu that was true-to-life doable, and here’s what came to mind: Grilled Steak and Asparagus with Balsamic Vinaigrette and Loaded Smashed Potatoes with Chocolate Ecstasy for dessert. It’s a straight-up satisfying meat and potatoes meal with a gourmet twist.

And guess what, ladies? Valentine’s Day is coming right up! As some of you may know, my husband and I met in culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America. He cooks for me all the time, and I love it. For Valentine’s Day, why don’t you ask your man to cook for you? Or better yet, plan a date where you cook together. Check out these recipes on my website to get ready, and then you two can dance around the kitchen like a crack culinary team.


Wild Man Meat 


Loaded Smashed Potatoes 


Grilled Asparagus 

Usen Balsamic

Balsamic Vinaigrette 

Chocolate Ecstasy

Chocolate Ecstasy 

If my husband and I made this meal, here is how we would divide the labor (after he did the shopping) so that everything would hit the table at the same time:

Him: Puts the potatoes in water to cook, oils and seasons the meat, gets the asparagus ready for the grill, cooks the bacon, yells to me that it’s time to get my nose out of a book and into the kitchen.

Me: Opens a bottle of wine, pours two glasses, measures ingredients for loaded smashed potatoes, whips together balsamic vinaigrette, checks potatoes, tells him when the potatoes are almost done so he can go out into the snow and grill the steaks and asparagus.

Him: (from outside) “You’re not going to make me set the table, are you?”

Me: “Do I have to do EVERYTHING?” Sets table, makes potatoes, drinks wine.

Him: “Dinner is served, my queen, beloved, hilarious, smart, total hottie…”

Me: “I’m a sure thing. Let’s eat first.”

I recommend resting up after dinner, and then enjoying a little Chocolate Ecstasy while snuggling on the couch and watching TV.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you have a hot date night planned! If not, can I recommend a book to keep you warm?

Yum!  Thanks so much to Amanda for this scrumptious meal!

Is anyone else hungry? What would make your perfect date night dinner?


Survivalist Russ Donovan is known on TV as the “Wildest Man In The World.” The last thing this headstrong Aries guy needs is to be wrangled into a cross-promotional TV special with a popular homemaker—even a sexy little thing like Susannah Stone. Besides, the Adirondacks in the dead of winter is no place for amateurs…especially a stubborn homemaker who’s determined to show him up every chance she gets.

Susannah’s a working single mom who knows plenty about roughing it. She can take anything this mountain man dishes out. Now Russ and Susannah are taking their competitive rivalry to new levels, and not even the canned beef stew is safe. Then Russ and Susannah’s on-camera sparks turn into a sizzling off-camera romance, and their two conflicting worlds collide. Sure, major differences can turn chemistry red-hot…they also make compromise nearly impossible.

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