LOVE AT FIRST BITE
Let's face it, restaurants are not the place to be on Valentine's Day. Marked-up fixed-price menus, large crowds, and backed-up kitchens are hardly the ingredients of romance. Instead, create an intimate setting at home and ramp up the mood with a special home-cooked meal. From simple and seductive to intricately impressive, these aphrodisiac-infused menu items are budget friendly and sure to fire up the passion.
OYSTERS ON THE HALF SHELL
Oysters are probably the first edible aphrodisiac that comes to mind. While they can be quite expensive on restaurant menus, they're relatively affordable at seafood markets. Make the indulgence a fun bonding experience by shucking the oysters together. (Check out the shucking tutorial on YouTube.) Serve the bivalves with a simple mignonette sauce made with coarsely ground pepper, chopped shallots or sweet onion, red or white vinegar, and salt.
Fondue is one of the sexiest dishes, from the texture to the act of dipping and eating delicate morsels off a long utensil that practically begs to be used to feed one another. Chocolate fondue, like the one contributed by Caroline Yeh to Food&Wine, ratchets up the romance. Show your affection by taking turns customizing each bite with chunks of fruit and/or cake.
Hot and spicy foods are considered a powerful aphrodisiac that get the romantic juices flowing. As presented in the recipe from Spicy Southern Kitchen, these bite-sized hot peppers suffice as a side dish or appetizer. Enjoy as a finger food, because eating with your hands is so much more sensual.
Avocados are rich in protein and healthy fats, which provide a burst of energy to your brain and make you feel satiated but not heavy – two qualities that explain why avocados are among the most loved aphrodisiacs. Use halved avocados as a boat for any number of fillings, such as the shrimp salad suggested by Delish. The recipe works well as a first course or as a hearty component of the main course.
Shortbread is a not-too-sweet dessert to serve alongside an after-dinner cup of coffee or tea. Lavender is thought to be an aphrodisiac due to its calming and relaxing properties. Using flowers in a recipe is also a romantic way to enhance the festive mood of Valentine's Day. The recipe from Allrecipes calls for fresh lavender, but dried lavender flowers can be used instead.
Truffles often evoke that fancy, rich feeling, which for some people is definitely sexy. An inexpensive snack, truffled popcorn is sure to set the mood with its intense and alluring truffle flavor. To prepare, salt freshly popped corn with a sprinkling of high quality truffle salt, about one-quarter teaspoon for each 2-cup serving of popped corn, or to taste.
This sleek and elegant-looking dish is easy to prepare and adds punch to an appetizer course or as a side dish for fish, poultry, or steak. The simple recipe by Once Upon a Chef takes minutes to prepare, leaving plenty of time to focus on other elements of the evening.
SILKEN CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
In addition to its aphrodisiac qualities, chocolate is known to boost feel-good chemicals in the brain, which is another reason for its association with the day of romance. The silken texture of the vegan chocolate mousse posted on Food.com is elegant and sophisticated, looks sexy when eaten with a spoon, and feels sensual in the mouth.
They may not be 50 shades of gray, but the whipped Yukon gold potatoes in a recipe contributed to Food&Wine by the chef Thomas Keller flaunt a sultry, smooth texture. The simple, comforting flavor mingled with the luxurious consistency adds elegance alongside any entrée, especially perfectly cooked meats.
Fresh, light, and packed with lots of nutrition that will boost mood and energy levels for any late-night workouts, tuna tartare is a classically sexy dish. Framed Cooks suggests serving the tuna mix atop finger-friendly cucumber slices for freshness and fun.
A dessert that literally is on fire, bananas Foster is hot in so many ways. The fruit is high in potassium, which helps boost energy and libido, and the cold ice cream creates a temperature contrast that excites the taste buds and all the sensitive parts of the mouth. Make post-meal kissing extra delicious with this recipe posted on New Orleans Restaurants and contributed by Brennan's, the originator of the dish.
Steak is a favored protein for an intimate DIY Valentine's Day meal, but why not make it sexier by preparing skewers to feed to each other? Steak cut into small chunks also helps control the internal temperature so that each bite is cooked consistently and flavored throughout. Taste of Home's herb-marinated recipe lets the natural flavor of the beef shine through.
Strawberries are a natural aphrodisiac, as well as bright red, the color of intense passion. Promote some mess and fun by setting out the components separately so lovebirds can assemble their own layers of cake, berries, and whipped cream. Or, skip the cake and just serve a bowl of berries and whipped cream and see where the dessert course takes you.
COFFEE-RUBBED LAMB CHOPS
This restaurant-quality dish, posted on Live Well Network, will appeal to culinary adventurers eager to show off their prowess in the kitchen. Lamb chops are a signature component of classic romantic meals, and the coffee rub, a natural aphrodisiac, adds flavor as well as a hit of caffeine to counteract any post-dinner drowsiness.
Preparing any kind of noodles and eating from a communal plate is a cute way to emulate Disney Movies' Lady and the Tramp with your sweetie. Take things a step further and coat the noodles in Andrew Zimmern's aphrodisiac-laden pumpkin seed pesto or the creamy avocado sauce with fresh vegetables from Damn Delicious.
SPICY HOT CHOCOLATE WITH MARSHMALLOWS
Chocolate and chilies are a classic combination enjoyed for thousands of years in Central and South America. Gimme Some Oven's version of Mexican hot chocolate gets a spicy kick from cayenne pepper powder. Top this thick, creamy, and decadent cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows. Watch them melt into a gooey texture while your heart melts a little, too.