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Tips for Romantic Celebrations

Take your next small intimate meal to the next level with a little advanced preparation. Whether you are doing the cooking or ordering in, setting the mood will make all the difference. If you are preparing the meal at home, a little advanced preparation can speed things along and help keep stress to a minimum.

Quick Tips for Setting a Romantic Mood

•Play your favorite music in the background. Keep the volume low.

•Set the table (including serving pieces), arrange the flowers, and chill the wine in advance. A table set with a few unscented candles and a bowl or vase of flowers is a great mood setter. If this is not possible, at least make sure that you know where to find everything and that it is clean and ready to use.

•Greet your ‘guest’ with a hug and a glass of something bubbly to sip on -- Champagne or sparkling wine, club soda or sparkling water with a twist, or a cranberry spritzer (Sprite or any lemon-lime soda with a dash of cranberry juice). Not only will the bubbles open up your taste buds but they just seem to scream celebration! Linger over your beverages.

•You don't need fine China or sterling silver to set a nice table. A friend of mine once used really good quality paper plates, nice napkins, candles and flowers. Her table looked beautiful and no one cared that they were eating off of paper plates!

•A whimsical table setting can be assembled with mismatched China from flea markets and garage sales. Mixing patterned dishes with solid color dishes is a great way to extend your dinnerware.

•Sometimes it is impossible to have everything 'ready' the second your loved one arrives. If this is the case, let them know that you need some time to prepare the meal and that the celebration will begin at that time. When you are almost ready to serve, give them a 10 minute warning.

Advanced Meal Preparation

Make life easy on yourself. With a little advanced preparation, you can make and serve an elegant meal in no time at all.

•For a more elegant presentation and to add more importance to each dish, serve each course separately and always serve at least one small appetizer.

•Know your recipe! Identify all ingredients and equipment, preparation time, cooking times, and identify any steps that can be completed ahead of time.

•Do your grocery shopping ahead of time. Even flowers and bread can be purchased the day before.

•If food needs to thaw out, know how long it takes and the best method to use for safe defrosting. Most seafood and small cuts of meat will thaw nicely overnight in the refrigerator. In a pinch, shrimp can be defrosted in cold water in a colander in about 10 minutes. Individually wrapped chicken breasts or fish fillets can be defrosted, in cold water (leave in wrapping), in about 30 - 50 minutes. Thick steaks or large cuts of meat take longer and should be defrosted in the refrigerator. Never thaw food in hot water or leave out on the counter for extended periods of time.

•Most vegetable can be cleaned and chopped the day before.

•When serving after dinner coffee or tea, have it ready so that you only have to push a button or heat the kettle. Have the cups and anything else (cream and sugar) ready.

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