If love means never having to say you're sorry, then skip the expected dinner out and invite your valentine to eat in. If you do it right, instead of appearing cheap, you'll create an evening of ultimate indulgence.

Preparing a meal together can be a wonderfully sensual experience, a delicate two-play that can happily turn to foreplay. Cooking involves all the senses—taste-testing each recipe, inhaling the aroma of spices, touching each ingredient, and feasting your eyes and palate on the results. But if the thought of love and cooking in the same night sets your heart fearfully aflutter, relax: These raise-the-heat recipes for two are healthy and easy to prepare, leaving your special someone begging for more.

Tropical Meal for Two
These dishes will remind you of gentle sea breezes and sand between your toes. Add a fruity drink with a paper umbrella to transport you and your partner to your own fantasy island.

Georgie Girl's Mango Salad
Monkfish with Curry Oil
Sweet Yams with Ginger
Bundles of Love and Chocolate

Georgie Girl's Mango Salad

Serves 2 / My first valentine, my mom, gets credit for this recipe. It's a delightful combination of Mediterranean and tropical flavors.

1 mango, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 medium butter lettuce leaves, washed and dried
Fresh oregano, for garnish

1. In a small bowl, gently mix mango and feta cheese. Spoon salad into lettuce cups and garnish with oregano.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 144 calories
Fat: 7g
% fat calories: 38
Cholesterol: 25mg
Carbohydrate: 19g
Protein: 5g

Monkfish with Curry Oil

Serves 2 / While monkfish won't win any beauty contests, it's known as "poor man's lobster" due to its similarity in texture and flavor. Ask your fishmonger to remove any gray membranes from the fillets.



2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 monkfish fillets (about 1 pound total)
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup green tea
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch of cayenne pepper

1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the fish. Sear fish until brown on all sides, about 5-8 minutes depending on thickness, and remove from pan.

2. Lower heat and loosen brown bits off pan bottom. Add curry powder and cook 2 minutes until fragrant.

3. Return heat to medium-high. Add green tea, honey, and cayenne. Bring to a simmer. Add fish back to pan and cook until sauce is thick and syrupy. Serve.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 319 calories
Fat: 17g
% fat calories: 48
Cholesterol: 57mg
Carbohydrate: 10g
Protein: 33g

Sweet Yams with Ginger

Serves 2 / Richly colored yams and toasted coconut make this a lovely and nutritious side dish, served in individual ramekins.

1 large yam or sweet potato, peeled
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon unsweetened grated coconut

1. Place peeled yam in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to boil; cook 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain and return to pan.

2. Preheat broiler and lightly oil two 1/2-cup ramekins. Mash yam with orange juice and honey or maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine ginger and coconut. Spoon yam mixture into ramekins, and sprinkle ginger mixture over top.

3. Broil until tops are golden, about 3-5 minutes. Watch carefully; coconut burns easily. Serve hot.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 308 calories
Fat: 2g
% fat calories: 7
Cholesterol: 0mg
Carbohydrate: 70g
Protein: 3g

Bundles of Love and Chocolate

Makes 4 / These little pastry packets filled with the sweetest of aphrodisiacs—figs, nuts and chocolate—are the perfect temptation. For extra flair, tie each one with a red ribbon before serving.



3 tablespoons honey, divided
1 tablespoon soft butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon melted butter
3 sheets phyllo pastry (wrap leftovers in wet towel and refrigerate)
2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate pieces
2 tablespoons pine nuts
5 dried figs, coarsely chopped
Cotton kitchen string

1. Mix 2 tablespoons honey and 1 tablespoon soft butter until smooth. Set aside until serving time.

2. Preheat oven to 375°. While working, keep phyllo pastry covered with a wet cloth towel to prevent it from drying out.

3. Mix vegetable oil and melted butter in a small dish. Place one phyllo sheet on the counter and brush with oil mixture. Repeat with the second and third layers. Cut sheets into four equal rectangles with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors.

4. In a small bowl, combine chocolate, pine nuts, and figs. Place a spoonful of chocolate mixture in center of each pastry. Drizzle with a little honey. Draw up pastry edges to center and twist gently to form a package. Tie loosely with kitchen string.

5. Bake 6-8 minutes until browned. Spoon 2 teaspoons honey butter in center of each plate and set each warm phyllo pastry on top. Remove string and serve.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 314 calories
Fat: 18g
% fat calories: 47
Cholesterol: 15mg
Carbohydrate: 11g
Protein: 3g

Romance On A Timetable
Make this menu early so you can squeeze in a relaxed moment with your sweetheart after a busy day. See notes at the end of each recipe for reheating instructions. If you'd like, round out this meal with store-purchased crostini or sourdough bread rolls.

Porcini Timbales Scented with Rosemary
Early Peas with Garlic
Asian Poached Pears

Porcini Timbales Scented with Rosemary

Serves 2 / These beautiful timbales and sultry rosemary-tomato sauce will tantalize your palate with earthy porcini mushrooms and the evergreen scent of rosemary.

For Timbales
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup warm water
1 cup orzo pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, peeled and chopped
8 small crimini or button mushrooms, washed and ends removed
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
For Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup reserved porcini mushroom broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup soy milk creamer
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh basil and tomato, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly oil two 6-ounce ramekins or ovenproof glass bowls.

2. In a small bowl, soak porcini mushrooms in warm water for 15 minutes. Remove mushrooms from water and wash thoroughly to take off any grit. Strain mushroom-soaking liquid through paper towel or coffee filter. Save this broth for the pasta and sauce.

3. For sauce, in a medium nonstick skillet, heat olive oil on medium-low heat. Sauté shallot until opaque. Add rosemary and heat until fragrant. Add 1/2 cup mushroom broth and tomato paste. Stir until tomato paste is incorporated. Turn up heat; simmer for about 5 minutes until raw tomato flavor is gone. Add soy milk creamer, plus salt and pepper, to taste. Keep warm, but do not boil. (To reheat, warm carefully over low heat. Add creamer if too thick.)

4. For timbales, bring 3 cups water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add orzo pasta and cook for 3-5 minutes until al dente. Do not overcook. Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water. Drain orzo and set aside.

5. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat. Sauté shallot until translucent. Add porcini mushrooms, 1/2 cup mushroom broth and reserved pasta water. Bring to simmer for 2 minutes. Lower heat. Add cooked orzo and stir until heated through. The pasta should absorb all liquid but still be moist. Remove from heat and stir in cheese.

6. Place 4 crimini mushrooms, top-side down, in center of each ramekin. Fill each ramekin with orzo mixture, packing each dish to the rim.

7. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until pasta begins to pull away from the side of the dishes. Remove from oven. While still hot, invert a serving plate over each ramekin. With gloved hands, turn ramekin upside down onto serving plate. Shake gently until pasta releases from sides. Remove ramekin. Spoon sauce around sides of the timbale. Garnish with fresh basil and tomato.
(To reheat, bake timbales on a baking sheet at 325° for 20 minutes until heated through.)

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 646 calories
Fat: 22g
% fat calories: 31
Cholesterol: 16mg
Carbohydrate: 89g
Protein: 25g

Early Peas with Garlic

Serves 2 / Frozen peas are fine for this dish, but for the best flavor, be sure to use a good-quality olive oil.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
1-1/2 cups frozen baby peas
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a small sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until light brown. Remove garlic from pan and discard.

2. Add peas, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook 5 minutes until heated through.
(To reheat, warm on high in microwave for 1 minute.)

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 205 calories
Fat: 14g
% fat calories: 60
Cholesterol: 0mg
Carbohydrate: 15g
Protein: 6g

Asian Poached Pears

Serves 2 / Blush-red pears and Asian five-spice make a perfect match in this valentine's dessert. Look for a firm pear that is slightly ripe.

1 red pear
1 teaspoon Asian five-spice blend
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup water or sweet dessert wine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 scoops vanilla frozen yogurt

1. Halve pear and scoop out center core with a melon baller. Coat each cut side with Asian five-spice.

2. In a small lidded skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add pear halves, cut-side down. Brown for 5-10 minutes.

3. Add the liquid and brown sugar. Simmer gently, covered, for 10-20 minutes until tender (turn once to cook evenly). Remove pear halves and keep warm. Cook remaining sauce until it coats the back of a spoon. Don't overcook or sauce will caramelize.

4. Place pear halves, cut-side up, on a serving dish. Place a scoop of frozen yogurt in center of each and surround with spice sauce.
(To reheat: Stop cooking process as soon as pears are heated through. Store in refrigerator in poaching liquid. To serve, reheat pear halves and sauce, and proceed with recipe.)

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 257 calories
Fat: 8g
% fat calories: 28
Cholesterol: 22mg
Carbohydrate: 41g
Protein: 4g
Kimberly Lord Stewart is a former caterer who specializes in recipe development, freelance editing and media consulting. She is currently at work on her first cookbook about preparing quick and healthy meals.