Romance shouldn’t be hard work for a married couple. When two people know each other well it should be easy to laugh, talk, flirt, hold hands, and gaze into each other’s eyes. And yet, when we’re so busy, it can be difficult to let that easy romance happen.
We fall into our ruts of talking about the kids and work and then watching TV in bed instead of focusing on each other.
My five best tips for adding romance to dinner are little ways to stop you from falling into that rut. These are things you can cook and ways you can dine so the two of you spend time together and focus on each other at dinner, which is a great place for romance to begin on an otherwise busy day.
Romantic Dinner Tip #1: Interact with the food, interact with each other.
It’s so often the case that we fall into the trap of talking about the kids, the same old work issues, etc. If you want to get out of the rut and start some different conversations, cook up some food that makes you interact with it and with each other. It gives you something to do with your hands, it lengthens dinner, giving you more time to talk, and the food itself is a great conversation starter.
And it’s fun!
If you don’t know what I mean about interactive food, it’s things like fondue and raclette, where you’re actively doing something at the table other than just eating. It can even be as simple as cheese and crackers, but where the cheese is in big chunks and you need to slice wedges off with a knife as you go. (Pick up a cracker, spread it with some preserves, pick up the knife, cut a piece of cheese, put the cheese on top of the preserves. See, lots more to do than just lifting your fork to your mouth.
Image: Courtesy of Cook the Story
Romantic Dinner Tip #1b: Cook together (or not)!
Part of interacting with the food and with each other could mean that you cook together. But for some couples, this is not an ingredient for blissful romance but instead fires up the fights and frustrations. It’s the latter for me and The Hubs.
But we do like to watch each other cook.
So we talk while one of us does the cooking. The other person is in charge of pouring wine, keeping the music going, setting the table, and complimenting the cook on how amazing everything smells and looks.
Here are some interactive dishes from around the web. These are great for sharing at the table, whether or not you cook them together:
- Warm Goat Cheese Dip with Lemon and Basil
- Cheese for Dinner (with 101 Cookbook’s Oat Bread) by Amateur Gourmet
- Chicken Mango Lettuce Wraps by Simply Recipes
- S’mores Fondue For Two by Kokocooks
- Dark Chocolate Mocha Fondue by Katie’s Cucina
Romantic Dinner Tip #2: Make a meal of small nibbles.
A meal of small nibbles stretches your romantic evening out longer. Also, putting a plateful of little tastes in front of the two of you means that you’re sharing (and thus interacting, as in #1 above).
If it’s a plateful of finger foods, all the better.
There’s something sweet and special about sharing finger foods. Often your hands touch when reaching for the food. And, also, having something to do with your hands makes silences less noticeable and can even help start up a conversation (about something other than the kids).
Perhaps more importantly, a meal of small nibbles leaves room for breaks. You can stop after your first round of nibbles for a dance to a favorite song or to go sit outside and look at the stars or to ... erm ... go spend time together someplace more comfortable.
If you instead sit down to a bit honking meal, you’re not going to get up halfway through to go and do anything.
Here are a couple of my recipes for romantic nibbles that you can share:
And here are some romantic nibbles from a couple of my favorite bloggers:
- Pomegranate Ricotta Toasts with Honey and Rosemary by Miss in the Kitchen
- Tart Cherry Mini Pockets with Brie by The Little Kitchen
- Broiled Pear and Prosciutto Toasts by A Spicy Perspective
Romantic Dinner Tip #3: Make sure it’s a quick and easy dinner to prepare.
If you spend half the day making your romantic meal, you’re going to be exhausted by the time you finally sit down together to eat. If you’re exhausted, you’re not going to be relaxed and happy. If you’re not relaxed and happy, you’re not going to feel romantic.
If you’re not feeling romantic, there will be no romance.
Also, I find that if I’ve worked a lot on a meal it’s hard for The Hubs to just relax and talk with me. I think he feels pressure to really concentrate on the food and make a big deal about it.
For a romantic dinner, I want his focus more on me than on the food.
I think that we sometimes think that effort and hard work shows our partner how much we care. But talking with them and making time to listen, shows caring just as much, if not more. If you want to put in effort and hard work, why not make a simple dinner and then afterwards offer your sweetie a massage?
A partner rubbing my shoulders is definitely more romantic than one frantically running around the kitchen sweaty and harried trying to make an elaborately perfect meal.
Two of my own favorite easy dinners are:
- Seared Halibut with Bacon and Corn Relish
- Easy Raclette at Home (and here's a video of me showing you how to make raclette at home without any special equipment)
One of the simplest, most delicious and most romantic dishes, in my opinion, is pasta, especially if it has a bit of a creamy sauce. Here are some easy, creamy pasta dinners from some of the most awesome bloggers in the universe:
- Champagne Chicken and Mushroom Pasta by The Snappy Gourmet
- Gnocchi with Broccoli and Parmesan Cream Sauce from Small Wallet Big Appetite
- Angel Hair Pasta with Blush Sauce by Jersey Girl Cooks
Romantic Dinner Tip #4: Make sure to get in the romance-type stuff before you fill up too much.
As Dan Savage repeatedly reminds his readers and listeners, better to hit the sheets before dinner than to find that you’ve eaten too much and drunk to much and then find yourself wondering why Valentine’s Day never ends the way you want.
It instead winds up with you both dozing on the couch in front of the TV.
My advice? It may seem too early in the evening but, seriously, suggest to your valentine that the two of you take your appetizers to the bedroom. That way, if you find yourselves full and tipsy and watching The Daily Show after dinner, you won’t care because your Valentine’s Day has already been a romantic success.
Here are some portable appetizers from some beautiful bloggers that you can try together:
- Fontina-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates by The Brown Eyed Baker
- Easy Spicy Walnut Brie Tarts by Unsophisticook
- Asparagus Parmigiano Puffs by Bell’Alimento
- Cantaloupe Bruschetta with Balsamic Glaze by Country Cleaver
- Mozzarella, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Roasted Peppers in Puff Pastry by me
Romantic Dinner Tip #5 (I’ve saved the best for last!): Go on a culinary adventure together at the dinner table.
Now I do not mean that you, the cook, should find some new wacky idea on Pinterest, shop for it, make it, and then spring it on your partner in a “Surprise, guess what we’re trying tonight!” kind of way.
That puts pressure on both you and your partner. If your sweetie doesn’t really like the new thing, then he’ll feel awkward saying so. And if you’re unsure whether he likes it or not, you spend the meal worrying and asking, “Do you like it?”
Trust me, that uncertain questioning tone is not romantic.
What I do mean is that you should talk together about the meal beforehand and try to think of some new little twist on an old favorite that you can easily make. Or maybe there’s a fruit or vegetable you haven’t tasted before or a spice or a type of cuisine.
Go into it together.
Then you can talk about what you expected and how it met or didn’t meet those expectations. Neither of you is caught surprised or needing to explain why you didn’t like something and nobody has hurt feelings when their partner doesn’t like the new thing that was sprung on them.
Here are some simple recipes that might just give you some new things to try out.
If you’ve never had Sriracha before, or if you’ve never attempted to sear scallops for yourselves at home, this recipe is for you.
What happens when you try mixing up flavors that you would never think to put together? Sometimes they really work, as do the asparagus and mint combo here. And if you’ve never tried blackening a lemon to use its caramelized juices, you get two new things in one recipe.
Couscous is such a simple and delicate grain. If you haven’t tried it before, this is a great chance. I’m positive it will become a staple in your house after Valentine’s Day.
Have you heard people talking about how good chocolate and spicy heat go together, but have been afraid to give it a try? This cake is so quick and easy to make (it’s done in one minute in the microwave) that if you decide that the flavor combination is a no-go for you, you can whip up another spice-free cake in minutes. A fun taste test with no risk, since you still get your chocolate fix!
Cardamom is a spice that we in North America don’t tend to use very often. But once you try it, I bet you’ll fall in love. Here it has a subtle note with the chocolate. A romantic introduction, indeed!
Those are all my tips and my list of favorite romantic recipes. Looking for another touch of romance for your evening? I have a deliciously fun and romantic Valentine’s Day card available as a gift to my Facebook Fans. Click here to become a fan and get your copy of the card:
I hope you have a romantically delicious Valentine’s Day with your sweetie!
Now tell me, what are your best tips for adding romance to dinner? Do you rely on certain kinds of foods or are there specific recipes that you particularly enjoy together? I’d really love to hear how you get into a cuddly, loving mood on Valentine’s Day!
Chris from Cook the Story
Where it's all about the story (except when it's about the food)
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