How to Cook for Your Sweetie

Whether you waited until the last minute and can’t get a reservation at a decent restaurant or you want to surprise your sweetheart with a little (or a lot) of romance, 7mgg a home-cooked meal will earn you bonus points in the double digits.

Chef Pat Mould (owner Louisiana Culinary Enterprises, a restaurant consulting firm, and executive chef of the Louisiana School of Cooking) knows what it’s like to be a guy in the kitchen. Cooking skills or not, he says he can turn any guy into “her hero” with some cooking tricks and techniques.

Chef Mould’s tricks for guy-style cooking start at home by picking recipes that are easy and taste good (simple enough right?). He loves guy-ready recipes with zesty ingredients and just a few steps. But that doesn’t mean you can “half cook, half talk, and half woo your gal.” There are a few rules to follow for romantic cooking. “Luckily, they’re easy,” he says.

Do your homework. After you pick two to three main recipes, write down your ingredients, and shop accordingly the week before at the grocery store.

Know your batters and sauces. For most dishes, these are the make or break points, and recipes should be followed accordingly. When it says 1/4 cup, measure 1/4 cup. When it says stir constantly, just do it.

Be aware of the way you’ll be cooking. Don’t get distracted — try to get the main recipe prepared before she arrives. Also, follow your appliance’s cooking instructions and make sure there is a fire extinguisher nearby. For a fryer, there are two options. Either use a propane fryer outdoors following the manufacturer’s safety instructions, manguerose or use an electric deep fryer inside a covered outdoor building or structure or carefully use one indoors on a sturdy surface or floor. Never leave a fryer unattended-starting a fire isn’t sexy.

When cooking, and especially when you’re counting down to her arrival, wear oven mitts and avoid alcohol, Mould says.

One secret: You can pull off your romantic dinner for two without breaking the bank. Chef Mould can make a three-course spread using his own recipes for around $20.

The other secret is what you used to get this far with her: confidence.

“It never ceases to amaze me when people say they love to eat but can’t cook. Anyone can cook with the right amount of confidence,” says Mould.

Chef Mary Beth Lawton Johnson offers this advice for pulling off a disaster-free dinner for your sweetheart: avoid gassy foods like broccoli. Both of you will feel uncomfortable and a bloated tummy usually means no romance. Instead of looking for the way to the bedroom she’ll be raiding your medicine cabinet for Tums.

TLC’s hottest bachelor Chef Curtis Stone, star of “Take Home Chef”, says wooing the ladies is easier than you think. “There is nothing more personal and intimate than entertaining at home, roomidea” he says.

Try his bachelor tips for a totally stress free experience:

Use fresh seasonal ingredients: Stick with what’s in season. Don’t try to get tomatoes in the dead on winter. Instead, use juicy pears, roasted walnuts and dried fruits like cherries or apricots in your dishes. If you use fresh, seasonal ingredients, everything you make will taste of the best quality.

Get some help from the store: The produce section of the supermarket is making things super simple for the home chef. Go for the pre-cut and assembled assorted vegetable trays and buy the pre-washed bags of lettuce and spinach. If you’re making a salad or need a delicious dip for your pre-cut veggies, you can also pick up a high-quality refrigerated salad dressing like Marie’s. In the interest of saving time, Marie’s eliminates the fuss without sacrificing the taste.

Choose a theme: Remember that you don’t have to serve a five course meal. Instead, invite her over for some mulled wine and an assortment of appetizers. If you do want to serve an entire meal limit yourself to three courses; appetizer, entrée and dessert. Doing it this way won’t make the task of entertaining intimidating. If you’re a real beginner in the kitchen, you can even serve up a salad as your main meal by including a simple protein, like steak, shrimp or chicken. Be creative and think outside the box with your menu!

Setting the Mood

It’s easy to get carried away. You want the focus to be on the two of you and not on two dozen heart-shaped balloons. So keep the atmosphere simple. “Lay down a tablecloth with some nice dishware, light a few candles and put on your favorite music,” says Chef Curtis. “If you’re serving up something sultry and romantic, put on some ambient jazz.”

Chef Lawton Johnson also recommends a softer approach. Loud, spaice head-banging music may not have the right effect. On the other hand you don’t want to cheese her out with love ballads from the 80s, so choose wisely.

For beverages, chilled vodka paired with oysters is an alluring way to begin the evening (and are known to be aphrodisiacs when paired). With dinner, serve a nice chilled white wine or rose and set the table with soft candlelight-just make sure the candles aren’t too tall. Tall candles cast eerie shadows.

David Speer, Personal Sommelier, Wine and Chocolate Inc. recommends serving a rose champagne. “The cherry flavors match well and the acid compliments everything,” he says. “Champagne also elevates the mood, and feels sexy to drink. Plus you get the bonus of looking good because you’re drinking something pink, showing off your softer side.” Specific brands Speers suggests: Gruet NV Brut Rose for a budget drinker, otherwise a Brut Rose from Pol Roger, Vueve Cliquot, or Tattinger. If you’re really going all out try Krug NV Brut Rose-it’s guaranteed to impress!

Conversation Starters

So you’ve got the meal under control and the mood is set. But if you say the wrong thing the dinner will tank in ten seconds flat. Can you guess the three words any woman wishes her guy would say to her – even on the first date?

“It’s not ‘I love you’, ‘You look hot’, or even ‘Do that again’,” says Mary Jo Fay, author of The Seven Secrets of Love, When Your Perfect Partner Goes Perfectly Wrong, and Please Dear – Not Tonight: The Truth About Women and Sex . “It’s ‘Tell me more! If a gal isn’t sure that her guy is really listening to her, when he says, ‘Tell me more,’ she’s getting reinforcement from him that not only is he listening, he’s interested!”

One other major consideration before she rings the doorbell is your goal for the evening-is it romance or sex? “Is this romantic dinner a prelude to sex, or is this the great long-term relationship you’ve always wanted?

If sex is the key, then you can allude to sexual messages all throughout the meal … subtle, but suggestive. If the long term match is in mind, stay away from any sexual suggestion, innuendo, and jokes.” Even if the night could have ended with amour, your guest will start to squirm (in a bad way) when you turn everything she says into a sexual innuendo when what she’d rather hear is how much the two of you have in common.

For safe conversation starters, Fay suggests:

o What do you think is the most romantic food/meal?

o What was the most romantic Valentine’s you can remember?

o Who was the first boy you ever wished would give you a Valentine?

Relationship expert Lissa Coffey offers up these conversation ice-breakers (feel free to shamelessly steal them):

o Which reality show would you rather be on and why? “Survivor”, “Amazing Race”, “The Apprentice”, “The Bachelor” (or fill in any other reality show)?

o What is your favorite holiday and why?”

o If you had $100,000 and you had to spend it in 3 days what would you spend it on?

o Which birthday of yours do you remember the most?”

o Who is your favorite author/actor/humanitarian, etc. and why?”

o Your first car/kiss/crush/job, etc?”

o 2 weeks off paid and a round trip ticket anywhere in the world – where do you go?

Some of her answers are big clues as to her priorities and personality. If she says she’s trying out for the next season of The Bachelor, chances are she’s not that serious about you!

What not to say on a date

But there are some topics left off the table (discussion-wise)-for that special night anyway. Recent survey data from OkCupid, a free online dating site, on first date no-no’s and what people wish they could ask when it comes to conversation.

The 2006 survey polled 5,060 OkCupid male and female users on their opinions about what they wish they could ask and what they definitely shouldn’t ask on a first date to start the conversation.

1) Which of these impolite questions would you most like to ask on a first date?

Do you still live with your parents? – 27.41 percent

Are you on the rebound? – 24.49 percent

Do you have an STD? – 21.20 percent

How many people have you slept with? – 15.04 percent

How much money do you have / make? – 6.01 percent

Are you on prescription medication? – 5.84 percent

2) Which of the following are you least likely to discuss on a first date?

Money – 35.61 percent

Sex – 24.39 percent

Politics – 22.14 percent

Religion – 17.86 percent

Overwhelmed yet? Take a deep breath and relax. “What it all boils down to is being bold,” says Paul A. Falzone, CEO of The Right One and Together Dating. “Express yourself, show your feelings, and go out on a limb for that special person in your life. Actions speak louder than words, so find a way to show her you care; you’re interested; you’re there.”


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