A guide to planning and cooking a surprise romantic meal for your other half. How to set the scene, picking the right recipe and keeping it a secret. I’ve had the blessing and good fortune lately of many romantic meals prepared just for me — from bell peppers stuffed with orzo to yummy curry tofu and it always makes me feel special. ~aa

The holidays may be just around the corner, but Valentine’s Day is not far away either. Of course you never need an excuse to do something romantic, just a little inspiration perhaps.

When was the last time you and your partner did something romantic together? If it has been a while, then planning a nice meal in could be the perfect way to rectify that, and it’s easier than you might think.

Planning a romantic meal really is all about the preparation, so without further ado, here is a simple guide to pulling off a lovely evening in – even if you can’t really cook.

Keep It A Secret.

Most people like nice surprises, and the look of delight on your partner’s face is worth all the preparation. Not keeping it a secret will not ruin the event, but if you can spring a romantic meal on your partner, particularly at the end of a busy day, it will make his/her day.

Keeping it a secret is all about the planning, try not to give anything away if possible. If you can’t keep it an absolute secret though, just tell your partner that you have a surprise and that they can’t ask any questions.

Pick the Meal.

What meal you prepare depends on your cooking skills. If you rule in the kitchen already then knock yourself out. But most people aren’t that confident, so if you are the type to avoid cooking at all costs, do yourself a favor and keep it simple.

A romantic meal doesn’t have to be sophisticated; do a little research in advance and consider recipe options that you can manage. Doing a simple meal well is better than messing up an overly fussy one, and sometimes simple but a little bit different is the best option.

Set the Scene.

It is cliché, but setting the scene can be every bit as important as the actual meal. Remember to do the simple things, such as cleaning the dining room, setting the table etc… Candles are a nice touch, but totally optional.

Appetizers are always well received. If the extra cooking burden is a problem, just buy some ready-made canapés which can go right in the oven whilst you cook. A nice simple desert is a nice touch too, and again, a store bought one is just fine.

The Logistics.

The trickiest bit is figuring out how the whole thing will slot together, especially if you are trying to keep it a secret. You will need to find time to do the shopping without raising suspicion, and you may need to put food in the fridge.

You will also need to check your partner’s schedule to ensure that they don’t have any prior arrangements. Contacting their best friend and conspiring might be necessary. A close friend can often get your partner out of the way while you prepare your meal and get ready to launch the surprise.

Practice Your Cooking Swag. Why not?

Cooking isn’t difficult but practice can make perfect where unfamiliar recipes are involved. Try to take the time before hand to either practice the full recipe, or at least run through the basic process. Get it right in your head so that you know what to do as soon as you arrive in the kitchen.

Either way, it’s the LOVE that counts.

Think Differently.

Of course this isn’t the only way to have a romantic meal. If your partner likes things a bit different, then try being creative; a meal around a campfire or in a sunny field can also be very romantic, so don’t be afraid to think outside of the dining room.

Bonus romance tip: Wear something cute to cook the meal. We love a cute apron, here. Get a personalized Valentine’s day teddy to wear for your beloved. Being romantic is fun really, just a little surprise here and there is all it takes. Thanks for reading!