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If you have any semblance of common sense, you know how to make a reservation at the best restaurant for a nice, romantic meal with your honey. It can be a place on the water, or a perfect corner table at a trendy bistro or classic Italian restaurant. You also might know how to call for the perfect takeout, knowing what her favorite meal is. But to really impress her, you have to know how to cook the meal yourself. And guys, if you learn how to cook one complete meal, make this one it. Now, I don't mean "this" as in a specific meal I'm going to tell you about or show you how to make. Instead, I mean one meal that you learn how to make that suits your abilities and her taste in food. Also make sure that if you're this much of a novice, that you change up the meal for each lady you're entertaining. But hopefully if you took the time to do something romantic, you're thinking of her as more than a one-night stand.

Romantic DinnersSo let's see. Most guys are not real organized, and even if you are, you might find it difficult to juggle having her over, cooking the meal and paying enough attention to her. And let me tell you right now, this is all about her and making her feel special. If you keep that mindset, you can't really screw up, right? Right? Anyway, the key to being sure you can pay attention to her is to do as much in advance as possible. So that means planning your menu, going shopping for food and some good wine, and then prepping what can be prepped ahead of time the day before or morning of your meal.

One of the easiest and sexiest things to make is pasta, and in a column on Bullz-Eye's Grub for Guys a few years ago I outlined making a bistro-quality tomato and basil pasta that I believe is the perfect romantic entrée. I also included a quiche recipe that a guy shouldn't be embarrassed to make, and that could either make for a nice appetizer or (if you're feeling frisky and confident) breakfast the next morning. But here are some other ideas:

  • Assuming she eats red meat, a nice steak with a wine and mushroom sauce. Here is a good one.
  • You might try a chicken dish that is similar, such as a chicken Marsala. Tyler Florence of Food Network has a good one you can check out here.
  • If she and you like seafood, you might even attempt something simple and elegant, like shrimp scampi.

Now, those are the main courses. Here are some ideas for appetizers:

  • Make a simple salad with interesting salad greens, sliced beets, cucumber, tomato and feta cheese. The beets are key -- I am not sure why, but they have a romantic undertone.
  • If you're not making the scampi, a shrimp cocktail with spicy cocktail sauce is always good, and it's easier than ever to buy frozen cooked shrimp that you just need to defrost.
  • Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts marinated in soy sauce are easy, classic and will make you look like a genius. And best of all, they taste amazing. Of course, this is assuming she eats meat, and we're assuming you've found that out first.
  • Good, sturdy tortilla chips served with homemade guacamole like this one. Of course, guacamole is generally vegan in nature, so this is a good one if she doesn't eat meat, but homemade guac is great even if she loves meat.

Romantic DinnersFor a side to meat dishes, baked potatoes are easy. Twice-baked potatoes are easy and make you look like a pro. Just bake the potato, take out the pulp, and mash it with lots of good cheddar cheese, milk, butter, salt and pepper and spoon back into shells. Then broil until the tops are brown. If you need better directions, my recipe for twice-baked potatoes is here. For that matter, my steak with tomato relish on the same page is another good idea for a romantic meal.

You can also make roasted vegetables. Seriously, this is so easy a monkey could do it. Here is a guideline for that.

Now, we're almost there. Make sure you make dessert such as a kickass chocolate mousse.

Finally, make sure you pick up some good wine -- a couple bottles each of red or white wine depending on what meal you're making, or based on what you know she likes. (Please tell me you know what kind of wine she likes.) And by good, I don't mean $50 a bottle. You can get great wine for $10 or even less per bottle these days. Just ask someone at the liquor store to help you. And if she doesn't drink? Get some sparkling grape juice.

But most of all, as I said earlier, do as much as you can in advance. That means making the salad and dessert, setting up the shrimp cocktail, chopping vegetables, etc. That way you can get the meal prepared quickly and enjoy the rest of the evening, including the meal itself and whatever else that might entail.

Check out our Get Real Guide for Men regularly for more tips for the everyman!