By Amy Reiley

Valentine's Day is well-known as restaurants' busiest night of the year. So why spend your special evening ear-to-elbow with a dining room full of strangers? Making a romantic dinner at home can be less stressful and sexier -- not to mention lighter on the wallet.

The key to preparing a romantic dinner for two is planning. Selecting a menu that incorporates aphrodisiac ingredients can make the evening more successful. Chile peppers and ginger can raise body temperature, cause a release of endorphins and bring a sexy blush to the cheeks. Truffles replicate the scent of male pheromones, champagne brings on a giddy sensation, and the scent of Blanc de Blancs-style sparkling wines offers an aroma similar to that of female pheromones.

On the big night, you want to be able to focus your energy on the one you love. Plan dishes that can be prepped in advance, or that you can make together, like rolling vegetarian sushi. Slow-cooked dishes like Coq au Vin or a seafood stew are smart choices. I sometimes make a turkey meatloaf with chunks of fresh mango folded in for an easy -- but slightly exotic -- dinner. Add a salad of fresh kale (which is good for your skin) with aged Parmesan, thinly sliced apple, and olive oil -- seasoned with salt and pepper -- for a complete meal.

Keep the whole dinner light, including dessert. Try simple sweets like fresh fruit dipped in warm chocolate. You don't need a fondue pot; just bring cream or half-and-half to a near boil, remove from heat and stir in an equal amount of high-quality dark chocolate until smooth and glossy. For added antioxidant benefits and a delicious little crunch, stir in a handful of cocoa nibs.

Whatever you make this Valentine's Day, just remember the most important thing is spending quality time with your partner.

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Amy Reiley is the editorial director of, a cookbook author and an aphrodisiac foods authority. 

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