1. Be spontaneous.If your other half knows he is coming home to a romantic meal, it won't be as special. If you feel the urge to make a romantic dinner, do it without the other person's knowledge – it will be a nice surprise! Or...
2. Prepare your meal together.Shopping for and cooking a meal together can also be a great way to connect. If you both have the time, meet after work at the grocery store, pick out the ingredients, and cook a meal together.
3. Surprise his taste buds with something deliciously different.If you always eat pasta or chicken, try making steak or seafood. It will be a welcome change from the usual meal routine.
4. Try exotic or ethnic ingredients.Browse the ethnic section of the grocery store or pick up something wild at the farmer's market. New, exotic or ethnic ingredients can turn a humdrum dinner into a stimulating feast for the senses. You can even pair new ingredients with familiar fare to add intrigue to oft-eaten dishes.
5. Keep it simple.Don't exhaust yourself creating an over-elaborate multi-course meal. Keep the meal simple enough so you and your lover can truly enjoy it, from beginning to end. Limit yourself to a salad or easy appetizer, main course with a quick side-dish, and, of course, a sweet finale.
6. Definitely don't forget dessert.Dessert can be the best part of the meal…and it can always be worked off later!
Makes 2 servings
1 pound red and/or yellow beets, scrubbed under cold running water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
6 ounces fresh goat cheese cut into 1-inch discs
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss beets in a roasting pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread beets in a single layer and roast for 15 to 20 minutes for small beets or 45 minutes for larger beets or until fork tender. Remove pan from oven and let beets cool.
2. When beets are cool enough to handle, remove skins using paper towels, they should easily slip off. If using large beets, slice them into bite-size pieces. Pour flour on a plate and breadcrumbs on another plate. Beat egg in a bowl. Dip each slice of cheese into flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.
3. Heat canola oil in a skillet. Fry goat cheese 1 minute per side. Combine beets, basil, and thyme and top with fried cheese.
Makes 2 servings
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1-1/2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, and/or chives)
1. Combine milk and water in a large pot. Whisk salt and cornmeal into mixture until there are no lumps. Heat over medium-heat until just boiling, careful to not scorch the milk.
2. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, until almost all the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. If towards the end of cooking, the polenta is too thick, add a bit more water to loosen it up.
3. Stir butter, cheese and herbs into mixture to combine. Serve warm.
Makes 2 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
3 pounds beef short ribs, on the bone, cut into 2 portions
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/8 cup tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1-1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 rosemary sprig, 1 thyme sprig, 1 oregano, tied in cheesecloth
1/4 cup whole-grain mustard
1/4 cup honey
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle short ribs with salt and pepper, add them to the pan and brown them, about 4 minutes per side. Move ribs to a roasting pan.
2. Place the onion, carrots and celery to the skillet and cook 5 minutes. Add the pepper, garlic, tomato paste, wine and broth. Bring to a boil and pour over the ribs. Transfer the pan to the oven, add the herbs in cheesecloth and cook 1-1/2 hours or until tender.
3. Take the pan out of the oven and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Move ribs to a platter. Strain liquid, discarding solids, and save liquid for serving.
4. Preheat grill to medium heat. Whisk together mustard and honey and brush on ribs. Grill ribs 10 minutes (or they can be cooked in the oven) until the glaze is caramelized. Brush glaze on throughout the cooking. Serve ribs with liquid from pan.
Makes 1 cake
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1-1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries or dried cherries
4 ripe pears, peeled, cored, halved and sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine 1 stick of butter and brown sugar in a small saucepot. Heat, stirring, until a syrup forms. Lay pears in an overlapping circle pattern in a cake pan. Top with cranberries and butter-sugar syrup.
2. Beat 1 stick of butter with granulated sugar until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix in the vanilla and milk until combined.
3. Spread batter over pears in pan. Bake about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cake can be made ahead up to two days. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream.
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