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Romantic Recipes for Valentine's Day

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It's almost that day again: you know—that 24-hour stretch when passions soar and red roses line our hopes of heart-shaped boxed chocolate dreams: Valentine's Day. Think of the excitement: deep red everywhere, the promise of true love, and sweets for the sweetest, my funny valentine. Then there are the presents to be bought, reservations to be made, long lines to stand in, and overpriced meals with French nametags a la mode.

On second thought . . . why not spend Valentine's Day chez vous (translation: at home)? You may not be a five-star chef; not even close. So what if cracking open a recipe book is "all Greek" to youno problem! L'amour is French, ma chere. Don't let words like sauté and vichyssoise scare the soufflé right out of you, and leave the meal planning to us. This loving and romantic multi-course Valentine's Day meal for two is easy, delicious (and still good for you!), and aims to hit your target of love more precisely than Cupid's arrowno French required. (And that's a fact, Jacques.)

Heart in HandsIs it hot in here, or is it just me?
First thing's first: set the mood before you set the table. Come to your senses to create the perfect atmosphere for a Valentine's Day dinner that's as hot as your oven and begs for a second helping. It's the combination of sights, smells, sounds, and tastes that is the appeal of romantic restaurant atmosphere. The good news is you can create it at home, and in many ways, it can be even more romantic and intimate when it's tailored for just the two of you.

See those sparks fly between you and your significant other by catching the glimmer in those beautiful eyes gazing towards you like they've never seen you before by dimming the lights—if you can, light a few candles. The flickering light of a soft flame is its own aphrodisiac, and while the meal alone will fill the air with enough salivating scents to excite the senses, a warm-scented candle can only add to the anticipation of the main event (dinner, of course!).

Equally important as lighting to set the mood is music, and you're the DJ d'amour—unlike restaurants, you choose the playlist. A romantic home-cooked meal destined to strike a chord in the key of hearts-on-fire needs music with soothing chords of its own to accompany your pleasure-seeking palate. Try a little smooth jazz, old-time big band, or some classic romantic standards. But if Coltrane or Frank isn't your bag, you can still do it your way: classical, old school R&B jams, or maybe even a little ambient electronica. Now that you've set the mood, let's get cooking.

I Love YouLet's get cooking . . .
So, you've set the stage and named the tune, sweet romancer, and now it's time put your money where your mouth isin the kitchen. Without further adieu, here is this year's romantic Valentine's Day menu that will no doubt give rise to a very happy endingthose restaurant-goers don't know what they're missing! (Total calories: 853 for vegetarians and 903 for the meat eaters.)

Menu

Appetizers
Warmed Vichyssoise

Roasted Garlic on French Bread

Beverage
Lemon Crush

Main Course
Poulet (Chicken) Tarragon*
(*Tofu Tarragon for our vegetarian lovers)

Green Beans with Scallions

Dessert
Berry Custard Brûlée

Warmed VichyssoiseWarmed Vichyssoise
This healthy version of the French classic is served warm rather than cold to kick your special night off to a heart-warming start. The combination of leeks, nutmeg, and chives is an excellent accompaniment to the second-course appetizer of Roasted Garlic on French Bread.

1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 leeks, washed and white part sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup nonfat milk
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
Salt
Ground black pepper
Nutmeg
Chives, to garnish

Sauté the potatoes in the olive oil, stirring often, until tender. Be sure to not let the potatoes brown. Add the stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Slowly blend the milk and yogurt into the stock and potato mixture either with a blender or food processor. Return to pan and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Garnish with chives before serving. Serves 2.

Nutritional Breakdown
Calories 291 Carbs 57 g Fiber 4 g
Fat Total 7 g Saturated Fat 1 g Protein 16 g

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French BreadRoasted Garlic on French Bread
No butter required! Cooking the garlic softens it into a paste is more tasty and less fattening than butter, while packing an immunity boost.

1 head of garlic
1 tsp. of olive oil
French bread

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut off just the very top-most portion of the garlic head, exposing the cloves. Drizzle oil over the cloves and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes. When finished, the garlic is ready to spread on a couple of small slices of French bread. Serves 2.

Nutritional Breakdown
Calories 144 Carbs 31 g Fiber 3 g
Fat Total 5 g Saturated Fat 0 g Protein 12 g

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Lemon CrushLemon Crush
Keep that crush alive long past the garlic! Here is a light, refreshing palate-pleaser to lead you into the main course.

2-1/2 cups of plain (no sugar) seltzer
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. honey

Divide the lemon juice and honey between two glasses and fill each to the top with seltzer. Serves 2.

Nutritional Breakdown
Calories 20 Carbs 6 g Fiber 0 g
Fat Total 0 g Saturated Fat 0 g Protein 0 g

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Chicken TarragonPoulet (Chicken) Tarragon* or Tofu Tarragon
(*Substitute extra-firm tofu for a vegetarian version)
This hearty and romantic main course nicely complements the succulent, but simple, side dish, Green Beans with Scallions.

12 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast*
(*substitute extra-firm tofu for vegetarian version)
1/4 cup fry, fruity wine (like Chardonnay)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 bay leaf
1 spring fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. whole wheat flour dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon, to garnish

Place the chicken (or tofu), wine, onion, stock, bay leaves, salt, and pepper in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer chicken (or tofu) to a dish, leaving the cooking liquid behind in the pan. Add flour and yogurt to the cooking liquid in the saucepan and return to a boil. Add the chicken (or tofu) back to the cooking liquid and heat through. Sprinkle with the fresh tarragon before serving. Serves 2.

Nutritional Breakdown (Tofu/Chicken)
Calories 236/286 Carbs 11 g/16 g Fiber 1 g/3 g
Fat Total 3 g/12 g Saturated Fat 0.5 g/1.5 g Protein 25 g/20 g

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Green Beans with ScallionsGreen Beans with Scallions
1/3 lb. fresh green beans
4 cups water
1 Tbsp. scallions, finely chopped
Ground black pepper, to taste

Wash the beans, trim the ends, and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and place the beans into the water and boil for five minutes. Drain and add scallions. Season with pepper before serving with Poulet (Chicken) Tarragon. Serves 2.

Nutritional Breakdown
Calories 12 Carbs 2 g Fiber 3 g
Fat Total 0 g Saturated Fat 0 g Protein 1 g

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Berry Custard BruleeBerry Custard Brûlée
This low-calorie and low-fat dessert is the perfect finale to your Valentine's Day meal. The caramelized sugar topping serves as the brûlée in this recipe. It can be tailored to suit your individual tastes, depending on which berries are available to you, and which ones you prefer. The custard can also be made one day ahead of your feast, if you prefer.

2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1/2 beaten egg
1 Tbsp. light sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 cups fresh berries: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, or halved strawberries (any combination to equal 1-1/2 cups)

In a small saucepan, combine one tablespoon of sugar and the cornstarch. Add the milk and egg and cook on medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble. Remove immediately and let mixture cool at least 5 minutes. Whisk in sour cream and vanilla and chill for up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, divide the berries evenly between two dessert goblets or dishes and spoon chilled custard over the berries. To make crispy sugar topping, heat remaining tablespoon of sugar in a small saucepan over medium to high heat until sugar begins to melt, shaking occasionally to heat evenly (do not stir). Reduce heat to low and stir as necessary until golden brown in color. Quickly drizzle caramelized sugar over each custard dish and serve. Serves 2.

Nutritional Breakdown
Calories 150 Carbs 29 g Fiber 4 g
Fat Total 2 g Saturated Fat 1 g Protein 5 g

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