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"Cooking with Love in the Kitchen - Just in Time for Valentines Day" ♥ by Marybeth Gregg --------------------------------------- Remember when you made a homemade card for your first girlfriend or boy friend and they were so happy they couldn't stop smiling? You couldn't figure out what you did that was so great but as you got older you began to realize that giving is best when we give not just 'things', but when we give of ourselves. Valentine's Day is a perfect holiday to give to others by doing something special. Even though you may not spend much time cooking in the kitchen, wouldn't you like to treat your love to an easy, delectable and romantic dinner? A special meal is not just about food- it is about the effort and meaning that goes into it. These ideas will make it easy for you to create a memorable meal for Valentine's Day, or any other time when you want to show someone your love.

Make it Easy on Yourself o What kind of meal you want- brunch or dinner? Write down your menu and all ingredients from your recipes you'll need in an organized way. List the stores you need to shop at. o What do you want to serve? Keep it simple ? have 3 or 4 items, and not everything has to be homemade.

Cook an easy recipe. Get a great dessert -go out and buy the most decadent chocolate cake you can find, or find fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate from your local candy store. o Choose food that your partner likes, not just what you like. This shows that you have put a lot of thought in to this and care, which is the point, right? o Be sure to start several days in advance.

If you save everything for the day of the celebration, you'll be frazzled and in not much of a mood to enjoy this time together. Remember that this is about Love, not Technique. o As with other activities associated with love, cooking does not have to be totally perfect. If something does not come out in time, or if it doesn't look exactly like the picture in the cookbook, relax.

Stay in the mood you set out to create- being grumpy or upset defeats the purpose. Laugh and have fun! It's the Total Feeling ? Ambiance Counts o Setting your table is important in creating the mood you want to set, which is romance. Use your nicest dishes, silverware and the best, sparkling glasses or crystal you can get. o Choose a color scheme. You may want to use a white tablecloth and add color with the napkins and candles, or two beautiful place mats with matching or contrasting colors. For example, red or soft pink on a white background, with a small container of white flowers and lots of red votive candles looks beautiful.

o Turn off the cell phone! Keep music soft and tender, but not so slow that it makes you want to fall asleep. Just Show That You Care o Show your genuine love in what you say and do. That is what will come across as caring. The fact that you took the time to make this event happen, that you cooked a few things, mostly from scratch, will help this to be a beautiful memory for both of you! ♥REMEMBER OTHERS WHO MAY BE ALONE ♥ This holiday is really geared to couples ? and I want to suggest that you also included others- reach out for someone who may be alone. An elderly neighbor, or someone who has been recently widowed or divorced, someone who is ill and can surely use a lift.

It is amazing how a call, a card, a little plant such as a yellow primrose , a pink or red cyclamen, or forced-bulb lavender hyacinth or tulip, will make everyone feel a little better! Most of these treats are under $5.00, but think of the joy that someone will get by this unexpected gesture of love. AND REMEMBER THE KIDS? Not just with candy but also with a hand-written card, a lunch out together, making a Valentine's craft such as construction paper and doily hearts to put in the windows, making cupcakes and decorating with all those yummy red candies and icing.

Make some time to do this now because they are out on their own all too quickly. _______________________________________ RECIPES FOR LOVE?. If you want to impress someone with your culinary delights, I have some easy and enticing recipes - An easy-to-make appetizer called "It's a Date" A delectable "Oh, Baby, Here's my Heart (of Palm) Salad" And a scrumptious and simple seafood or chicken entrée in parchment called "A Package of Love-I'm all Wrapped Up for You." You won't believe how easy and delicious these recipes are! Write to me at Marybeth@cook-with-confidence.

com and I will send you these recipes at no cost! _______________________________________ Valentine's Day is just one holiday in February, which we think of as such a slow and dreary time of year? In my next article, I will share some thoughts with you for Chinese New Year, which begins on February 9th. This article will have lots of great ideas and recipes for this wonderful celebration, and some discussion about a very important issue, which is American Heart Month as it especially relates to women's heart health and nutrition. Contact me with any thoughts or questions at: Marybeth@cook-with-confidence.com .

By: Marybeth Gregg


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freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbs.


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