A DIY Valentine’s Day dinner By Stacey Stein An intimate, relaxed atmosphere, the satisfaction of a homemade meal, and the absence of an exorbitant bill at the end of the night – this Valentine’s Day, you may want to consider skipping a fancy restaurant in favour of a DIY style V-Day dinner in the comfort of your own home. Putting together a special V-Day dinner doesn’t have to be complicated – in fact, chances are your sweetheart will appreciate a simple night in just as much as – and likely even more than – an extravagant, all-out affair. What matters most is the thought that goes into planning an evening at home and doing something special for your loved one – after all, that’s what Valentine’s Day is really all about. Setting the mood Although food is undoubtedly a very important element, a DIY V-Day dinner is about more than just the meal. The right music will help set the mood for the evening. Interior and craft stylist Debra Norton recommends creating a playlist of special songs. “You can use a music app like Spotify or Songza to pick out some music you know your date loves,” she advises. Decorations will also help make the evening special. No need to do anything fancy or expensive – simple is usually best. “You can’t go wrong with fresh flowers and candlelight – it’s classic romance,” Norton says. She recommends using unscented candles because you wouldn’t want an overpowering scent competing with your delicious meal. While long stemmed red roses are classic, Norton suggests changing things up by experimenting with a different colour palette and style of flowers. If you’re unsure about mixing colours, try sticking to similar tones – for example, different shades of pink. Now that you’ve created a romantic atmosphere, it’s time to think about the main event – your special Valentine’s Day dinner. A romantic dinner for two There are two ways to approach your DIY V-Day dinner – you can prepare everything yourself ahead of time and surprise your sweetheart, or maybe you want to cook together – this can be a romantic prelude to the evening ahead. Here are some ideas for a special Valentine’s Day meal, with options for both a make-ahead dinner and one that you prepare together. AppetizerMake it yourself: These cheese-filled apps can be made ahead of time, and in keeping with the theme of the evening, shape them into hearts rather than stars. There’s also an option for adding in some fresh jalapeno if you want to dial up the heat. Registered dietitian Shannon Crocker recommends serving these apps with some veggies and a cilantro-lime dip. Make it together: Combining cucumber, lime cream and jumbo shrimp, these canapés are fun to assemble with a partner. If you want to make these a bit lighter, Crocker recommends swapping sour cream for the 35% cream. Main Make it yourself: A hearty stew – like this one featuring beef and mushrooms – will help warm up your romantic night in on a chilly February evening. Crocker recommends serving it with a spinach salad. For an exotic main, try this Bombay butter chicken – it’s another warming dish that can be made ahead of time. You can pair it with rice, or for a more heart-healthy option, try barley. Make it together: For a more casual evening, these Mexican fajitas fit the bill. They’re also fun to make together and you can incorporate a lot of veggies – toss in a variety of peppers and onions, and be sure to stuff your tortilla with fresh tomato salsa along with a generous helping of cheese. If you’re looking to strike a more elegant tone, try making this halibut with lemon plum sauce together, pairing it with rice and sautéed green beans. Dessert Make it yourself: It’s Valentine’s Day, so why not treat yourself and your significant other to something sinful? Combining cookies and whipped cream, this cookie caramel cheesecake fits the bill. You can also indulge with these decadent cappuccino dessert cups, which can be prepared up to two days ahead. Make it together: Strawberries with whipped cream is a classic romantic dessert. This recipe uses sour cream instead, which helps cut down the fat. For some extra sweetness, try adding in a few pieces of high quality dark chocolate. Beverages Why not create a special cocktail for your special evening? You can try making a fancy cocktail just for your sweetheart. Other ideas include sparkling water with mint or prosecco with raspberries. Later on, once you’re both full and satisfied, this nutty coconut coffee is the perfect coda to your romantic evening. More ideas There are many ways to get creative with your DIY Valentine’s Day evening. Here are a few suggestions from Norton: Have a picnic. Lay out a blanket on the floor and spread out some wine, cheese and something sweet. Make a fondue for two. Don't forget the strawberries and chocolate. Short on time? Order in – perhaps sushi or Indian food – and set the table according to the type of cuisine. Or let someone else prepare components of your meal – order dessert from a local bakery or a cheese tray from your local fromagerie. Personalize it. Think about your loved one’s preferences and incorporate them into the menu, décor or in a gift. Focus on something you know they love and use that as a jumping off point for ideas.