Romantic meals and desserts

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This month, Virginia Willis, the food stylist for "The Main Ingredient," shares some tips on chocolate, preparing your Valentine's Day meal, and a delectable recipe for chocolate truffles! February means Valentine's Day, and Valentine's Day means chocolate! Who among us doesn't relish receiving a box of sexy and delicious chocolate confections along with a beautiful flower bouquet from our beloved on Valentine's Day?

Rich, decadent chocolate has a somewhat mystical quality. Is that quality due to the silky delicious feel of the cocoa butter on the palate? Is it because the candy has really been kissed by the loving powers of Aphrodite? Does chocolate really arouse sexual desire, as Montezuma, the Aztec ruler who drank 50 goblets of chocolate a day, believed? Making chocolates is a fine art that takes years of study and apprenticeship. European companies such as Valhrona and Callebaut are highly regarded for their couverture, or covering chocolate, used in the finest restaurants and chocolate shops in making these little mouthfuls of heaven.

But besides bathing in a vat of sumptuous, molten, silken Valhrona, what else can you do to celebrate Valentine's Day? The easiest decision may be to make reservations at your favorite local restaurant. However, if you really want a just-for-two celebration sans François, the arrogant waiter, and several other hundred couples also trying to be alone, you may want to consider making dinner at home. Have the sitter take the children out to a movie and spend some time alone.

Be adventurous in your dining, but if you feel you're spending a small fortune while shopping at the supermarket, remember that the cost will likely be far less than whatever you might pay if you were to go out to a "fancy" dinner. Once you've returned home, share the responsibility for making dinner. While one cleans the greens for salad, the other whisks together the vinaigrette. As with any other important dinner you'll need to be organized, and don't do everything at the last minute.

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