Isn't it romantic? Sitting across the table from your Valentine, exchanging knowing glances over appetizers, playing footsie between courses, and shouting at each other over the deafening din of the overcrowded restaurant? "If you're going out on Valentines day, that's the one day I suggest you stay in," says Martha Hopkins, author of the aphrodisiac cookbook "InterCourses." "Besides Mothers Day, there is no day that people eat out more." Instead of doing the usual date night out, shake up your routine this Valentine's Day with breakfast in bed or a picnic in your own living room.
For Breakfast: Valentine's Day Forecast -- Sunny Side Up
Surprise your Valentine with an impromptu breakfast date -- in bed. Even if you're not that handy in the kitchen, making heart shaped eggs is as easy as buying a heart shaped cookie cutter. (Hint: This tip also extends to pancakes as well.)
For Breakfast: Ridiculously Easy Handmade Mocha
What's the quickest way to be the best Valentine? Surprise your sweetie when they wake up by waltzing into the bedroom with a steaming freshly made mocha. Just put two tablespoons of ground chocolate and one teaspoon of sugar into the coffee mug before filling it, and you'll have your very own coffee shop-worthy drink.
For Breakfast: Last Minute Baked Goods
Maybe you procrastinated. Maybe you don't like to cook. Whatever the reason, you don't have a sweet wake-up treat for your significant other. Go to the nearest bakery and get yourself a couple baked goods, whether they're chocolate croissants or healthy bran muffins. Arrange them on a plate, write a quick note and make a little production of it -- it's the thought that counts.
For Lunch: A Picnic
By deciding on a picnic, your work is pretty much done. Picnics are already romantic, so all you have to do is take a quick trip to the store (or just grab the nearest bottle of wine and cheese). Bad weather is not an excuse. It is perfectly acceptable to picnic in your living room, and, with the right mood lighting, it can be even more romantic.
For Lunch: Pack Surprise Snacks
If your Valentine still takes brown bag lunches to work, use this as an opportunity to sneak him or her a sweet treat. You can pack his favorite dessert, her favorite kind of chocolate, or you can pack little notes with cryptic clues about the rest of your evening.
For Dinner: Simple Steak or Chicken
"Keep it simple," Hopkins says. "If you're not good in the kitchen, sear a steak. Throw some asparagus in a pan. That whole dinner, start to finish, takes 20 minutes." Valentine's Day isn't about the gifts you buy or chocolates you eat, it's about the person you're with. "If you're busy or uncomfortable cooking, or if you just want to enjoy each others company and not be in the kitchen the whole time, keep it simple," Hopkins says.
For Dinner: Heart-Healthy
It's the holiday of hearts, so it's important to keep your own heart healthy. Salmon, fresh veggies and brown rice are all included in the Mayo Clinic's heart healthy diet guide and together (maybe with a little lemon) you have a meal that will make your heart happy for many Valentine's Days to come.
For Dinner: Take Out
There's more than Kung Pao chicken in that box. Sometimes, the most romantic thing you can do on Valentine's Day is make it stress free. Order in from your favorite restaurant, pick it up before the dinner rush (you can keep it warm in the oven) and enjoy Valentine's Day on your own time.
For Dessert: The Literal "Love Drug"
Chocolate. Why do we obsess over it? "Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a chemical related to amphetamines," says Ellen Kuwana, in "Discovering the Sweet Mysteries of Chocolate." "Like amphetamines, this chemical causes blood pressure and blood-sugar levels to rise, resulting in a feeling of alertness and contentment. Phenylethylamine has been called the 'love-drug' because it quickens your pulse, as if you are in love." Here's to a pulse-racing night.
For Dessert: His or Her Favorite
Finish off the evening with your Valentine's favorite dessert. "If you're not good at baking, go get your favorite dessert from your favorite restaurant, but pick it up at lunch," Hopkins says. Now use the time you would have spent baking to write a little love note and savor the sweet ending to your evening.