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Celebrate Love At Home

This Valentine's Day, why not plan a night in with your special someone, complete with a feast full of aphrodisiacs to spice up the mood?

Valentine's Day is today, and The Early Show celebrity event planner Colin Cowie shows how to prepare for the evening with no lead time, and still make it spectacular.

This is the night to reconnect, Cowie says. Whether you do it with food, lingerie, lighting, drawing a bath and filling it with rose petals - it's all about igniting the fire in your life.

You can do it even if you start just on the morning of Valentine's Day. To make it more fun, a couple could flip a coin and use that to decide which person has to pull off the romantic evening.

The only part that may be more difficult is making the carnation balls, but everything is available at local stores. The beauty of it all is that it's really all about options: you can choose which parts work best for you and your loved one (and your time and budget). This is a night that should be totally infused with your personality and taste.

The key is to used prepared foods, with a little something extra. Cowie's special Valentine's Day dinner is composed of an assortment of small dishes designed to satisfy every craving and desire.

The traditional foods and drinks we think of on Valentine's Day are chocolate, strawberries, champagne, oysters, caviar, etc.

But here are Cowie's suggestions:

Cocktails

Red-Ruby Margarita
Champagne Kir Royal
Vanilla Jasmine Martini

Salty Dishes
You can pick and choose which ones you would like to serve:

  • Asparagus spears with basil mayonnaise
  • Artichokes (steamed and filled with tomato, basil, croutons and balsamic vinaigrette on side)
  • Prawns presented in a martini glass with lettuce and a wedge of lemon
  • Oysters on the half shell
  • Chilled lobster (you can buy it cooked anywhere and put chilled pasta in the shell)
  • Stone crabs from Joe's in Miami (12 of those. People won't be able to necessarily get these crabs for tonight unless they live in Miami, but you can find stone crabs in a lot of places, including New York)

Desserts
  • Chocolate mousse (classic and simple)
  • Long-stemmed strawberries
  • Flambe cherries with vanilla ice cream
  • Marshmallow fondue with peach schnapps

Ambiance

Lighting 101 - One of the easiest and inexpensive things anyone can do is to change the lighting. Cowie suggests changing all of your light bulbs to red bulbs (or you can use red gels) to create romantic lighting.

Decor/centerpieces

  • Rose in a glass. By simply taking a glass from Steuben and using a single rose, some marbles and bear grass, you can make a lovely decoration.

    To create the rose in a glass, simply take some marbles and put them in a rocks glass, and then take bear grass and make a nest in the top (for a green element); and in the top, insert one single rose bud. It's simple and graphic. You could put one at each place setting or a couple in the middle of the table.

  • Carnation balls. To make the carnation ball, buy oasis in round balls from any farm market. Soak them in water for 20 minutes and then take the carnation heads, cut the stem off and insert a toothpick into the stem. Then, just pack them in tight around the ball so it looks like a pave pattern. When it's covered, you have a fabulous flower ball to use as decoration.

Recipes

Chocolate Mousse
Serves 6
From Chef Randall Price

Ingredients:
10 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
3/4 cup whole milk
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch kosher salt
2 cups heavy cream, cold plus another 1/2 cup for garnish
3 tablespoons dark chocolate for shavings

Method:

  1. Put the chocolate and coffee in a heavy saucepan. Heat gently over low heat until the chocolate starts to melt; then set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk until bubbles begin to form around the edge; don't let it boil. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and a pinch of salt just until well blended.
  2. Whisk half of the hot milk into the egg yolks. Return the yolk mixture to the milk in the saucepan. Cook slowly over low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon. The time it takes for this thickening to occur will vary. It may take a few minutes or as many as 20, but once it begins it will happen quickly, so keep a close eye. Do not let the temperature exceed 160 F. Immediately pour the custard through the strainer over the partially melted chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and let cool, stirring occasionally. Don't let the mixture set or the mousse will not be smooth. (If it cools too much, set bowl over a pan of hot water briefly and whisk until smooth.)
  3. Beat two cups of heavy cream until it holds soft peaks. With a rubber spatula, gently fold half of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture until no white streaks remain. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Spoon the mousse into six goblets or one large bowl. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.
  4. To serve, top with dollop of remaining whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:
In a small bowl, combine vinegar, mustard and garlic. Add the oil in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Vanilla and Jasmine Martini

Ingredients:
1 shot vodka
4 whole vanilla pods
3/4 shot chambord
1 1/2 shots jasmine tea (steeped and cooled)
1/2 shot vanilla vodka
1/2 shot sugar syrup

Split and sever vanilla pods and scrape the seeds of two into a shaker with the other ingredients. Shake vigorously. Jasmine tea should be steeped and cooled ahead of time. Garnish with one split vanilla bean.

Red-Ruby Margarita (from Dale Degroff)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 oz. tequila
1/2 oz. cointreau
1/2 oz. grand marnier
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. pomegranate juice or a couple dozen pomegranate seeds

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garn