Kitchen Shrink: Cupid makes a house call on Valentine's Day

Up ante with home-cooked meal for two

In anticipation of Valentine's Day, here are some simple, delicious and recession-proof ways to have a sexy little soiree for two at home.

On your A(phrodisiac)-list are two key items - mood and food. For setting the right mood, I have one word - baby sitter! Better yet, take the children to the grandparents' home or a friend's and do a sleepover, since Valentine's falls on a Saturday this year.

Now that the two of you are alone, to paraphrase Marilyn Monroe, the only thing you should have on is an Anita Baker CD. Dim the lights and make a guy-friendly tablescape.

Tiffany crystal candlesticks, a damask tablecloth, bone china and an exotic floral centerpiece are not going to convert Mars into Venus. Romantic lighting to men is a flashlight and flowers are about as mood enhancing to them as watching the March Madness college basketball tourney is for us. So do casual place mats, ceramic dishes, votive candles and a toolbox centerpiece with a nice arrangement of remote controls and other recreational items favored by your significant other. It is also cheaper than a floral centerpiece.

Now, for the second prong of the romantic mission statement - the food part. Well, I still believe a way to a man's heart is through his stomach, especially if it includes the ilk of pizza, dogs, burgers, chips and salsa. But girls, you can up the ante by slipping in some "love foods" or edible aphrodisiacs into the menu.

Throughout history, ancients have been prescribing herbal concoctions and tantalizing morsels as remedies for sexual anxieties and infertility. The lusty food list is a long one that started with the almond as a fertility symbol back in the Bible days. Its heady aroma was thought to elicit passion in the woman. Samson wooed Delilah with these nuts loaded with vitamin E, magnesium and fiber to boost energy and well-being.

The spear-shaped asparagus - packed with potassium and vitamins A, B and C - was thought to enhance potency, especially since it increases histamine production that amps up certain pleasure points for everyone.

Arugula tossed with orchid bulbs and parsnips made an aphrodisiac antipasto in the first century. The Aztecs considered the avocado an erotic fruit. They also revered chocolate as "nourishment of the gods," since it contains a substance that affects the romantic wiring in the brain. Bananas are packed with potassium and vitamin B to jump start sex hormone production. And mustard is thought to stimulate the sex glands and boost desire.

The Romans discovered oysters in the second century as a high-octane aphrodisiac loaded with zinc. Casanova was said to have consumed 50 raw oysters a day. Basil, a fragrant first cousin to the mint plant was a "royal herb" to the Greeks as its aroma was attributed to curing headaches…wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Ginger, nutmeg, honey, figs, licorice, garlic, raspberries and strawberries also make the titillating list.

Now that we have the secret, sexy ingredients, here's the rest of the spicy recipe. Prepare the meal ahead of time so you're not wiped out from all the cooking and clean up. Use the day to pamper yourself.



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