decided to avoid the crowds, the prix fixe menus, the ridiculous expectations of dining out on Valentine's Day. Instead, you're going to keep the celebration close to home and discover what kind of magic you can whip up in your own kitchen. Well, there are definitely ingredients that will help to spark a flame between yourself and the object of your affection. But, before I get to the suggestions for those ingredients, let me add a few other pointers for how to keep the romance in your Valentine's Day meal:
- . Don't take on so much cooking you feel too exhausted for romance when the dinner is done.
- . Don't plan too rich of a meal since you don't want to have both of you falling asleep on the couch before dessert (however you define that course).
- . Don't cook recipes that are outside your budget. Nothing will kill future romance than stress about the credit card bill.
- . Remember that no matter what you serve, presentation will be important for setting the mood. Low lights, romantic table linens, soft music will go a long way to making the most mundane meal seem special.
Now, on to the ingredients and recipes
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The belief that chocolate can create the mood for romance goes as far back as the Mayans and the Aztecs - that's a pretty good track record! The caffeine in chocolate helps to enhance one's energy for love. The ingredient phenylethylamine mimics the natural chemicals that run through the blood of one who is feeling amorous. The smooth, creamy, melting texture of chocolate is a sensual experience. Finally, high quality chocolates are a luxury ingredient, and when received as a gift can make someone feel loved and want to return the favor.
Open up a strawberry by slicing it down the center and spreading it out, and what do you see? A heart, of course! Imagine filling a plate with these tempting berries, sprinkled with powdered sugar or drizzled with melted chocolate. Now, imagine feeding them to one another, one juicy berry at a time. You may not finish the end of the berries before it's time to move on to the next activity.
The strong sensual reds, orange and yellows of spicy chiles deliver on their promise once they hit your palate. Real chile-heads anticipate the rush from challenging their spicy tolerance. Whether your spice threshold is high or low, spicy food will start your heart pumping, your cheeks flushing, and are a good warm-up for later events.
Oysters, specifically raw oysters, are the classic romantic ingredient. Let your imagination run wild as you decide what the sight of a raw oyster on the the half shell remind you of. Visual suggestions aside, there's good nutritional reason for why oysters are an aphrodisiac. The zinc levels in these shellfish support romantic activity in both genders. As you look at your partner and slurp the flesh off the shell, this will be the start of a beautiful evening.
Photo courtesy Herradura Tequila
I almost hesitate to add cocktails to this list. When consumed in moderation, a cocktail will whet the appetite for all of the delicious offerings that follow. It releases inhibitions and makes it easier to express your feelings for your beloved. On the other hand, cocktails can become too much of a good thing. Whether they lead to sleep, drunkenness, or speaking a little too freely, if having one drink leads to too many, it's better not to get started at all. Only you will know your combined tolerance for drink.