Dinner and dessert ideas to impress your sweetheart for when you’re planning a romantic night in.

Anyone can order off the menu, but for those of us without professional training, it can be hard sweaty work to pull off such fine cuisine at home. That’s what makes the home-cooked meal such a big gesture—and even if it wouldn’t cut it on an episode of Chopped—it’s still something your sweetheart won’t soon forget.Here are 8 recipes to help you set the mood:

Winter Citrus Salad (with Avocado)

Citrus-salad-recipeThe avocado is the key ingredient in this fresh starter. Read: aphrodisiac.

Tuna Tartare

tuna tartareOur Food and Travel Editor Neal McLennan is a big fan of tartare for romantic at-home meals, because it’s surprisingly simple to make thanks to a small list of ingredients—yet still impressive. Just don’t skimp out on the tuna, your date deserves the best sushi-grade albacore you can find.

Tuscan Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

short ribs and shrimp cakesThis red wine-braised beef recipe from Top Chef Canada‘s Nicole Gomes is a guaranteed hit, and you can do it several days in advance. Gomes says to serve it with local root veg laces with fresh thyme, salt and honey and some roasted or mashed potatoes with rosemary and olive oil. For greens go with green beans sauteed with sliced shallots, toasted pine nuts (only the best for your guy or gal!), garlic, olive oil and chili flakes. Make it all ahead of time, then reheat to serve.

King Crab Risotto with Herbs and Green Peas

king-crab-risottoThis elevated take on the classic Italian risi e bisi is a flavourful, yet light so you can save room for dessert.

Pan-Seared Halibut, Peruvian Style

ancora-halibutWe checked out Vancouver’s new Peruvian restaurant, Ancora, back in the fall and one of our favourite takeaways from Chef Ricardo Valverde’s stellar menu was this deceptively simple Pan-Seared Halibut dish. Our resident food guy Neal McLennan even went so far as to say that this halibut dish—with its forbidden rice chorizo paella—is one of the best dishes served in all of Vancouver last year. Needless to say, this dish is going to KILL on date night. And this recipe even comes with the chef’s plating instructions.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Tart

chocolate truffle tarrtAs fancy chocolate desserts go, this set-it-and-forget it chocolate tart is perfect for the beginners and will satiate any chocolate lover. But it’s not too simple—raspberry gives it that added swank factor.

Classic Chocolate Fondu

Classic-chocolate-fondue-recipePart dessert, part activity, chocolate fondu is the perfect opportunity to get some classic chocolate-covered strawberries and bananas (also an aphrodisiac) in the mix. It’s simple to make, you can cater the dipping fodder to your date’s desires—plus you can even do it dairy free.

Chocolate Eclairs

classic eclairsThis classic French pastry filled with vanilla cream and covered in a chocolate glaze is a bit extra work, but comes with a big payoff. You might want to try a few practice runs first before the big night.