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By "Today" Food Editor
updated 2/2/2007 8:40:22 AM ET 2007-02-02T13:40:22

For most of us, Valentine’s Day “food shopping” consists of little more than a quick scan of the heart-shaped boxes of chocolates that has become the almost mandatory accompaniment to a more personal gift.

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And if your sweetheart is really lucky, a last-minute bunch of flowers.

I have four words for you: Same old, same old.

So, instead of the tried and true — and boring — why not spice things up a bit this year? My suggestion for this Valentine’s season is to create a fabulous Week of Love, starting on Monday, Feb. 7, and leading up to the big day — when you prepare a sensual feast of aphrodisiac foods (which I’ll tell you all about in next week’s column).

Don’t know a crumb about cooking? Let chocolate and flowers (and, OK, cards) do the work!

First, the flowers
Wonder why red roses are thought of as the flower of love? Well, it’s not the rose part that is so important — it’s the fact that they are red.

Studies have shown that as we see red flowers, red cars and even red street signs, the color actually increases our blood flow.

So no matter what flower you like — choose red! In fact, my suggestion is to select a different single flower for each of the seven days. Pick flowers that are sumptuous and rich. (You may need to find a florist with a wide range of exotic blooms.)

Then the cards
Get to the card store early. Most years, the best Valentine’s Day cards sell out early, and since this is sone of the occasions where a card that is late (even by hours) is unacceptable, retailers tend not to overstock.

And buy eight cards — yes, eight. The first seven are for each day leading up to Valentine’s; with the most romantic for the actual day.

Vary the message and design, choose funny ones, sensuous ones and even look for more unusual ones. One category that offers a pleasant surprise is those Valentine’s Day cards that are designed for kids and teen sweethearts!

Finally, the chocolates
To make your seven-day experience complete, present your loved one with a single piece of individually wrapped chocolate each day. Famed for their aphrodisiac qualities, chocolates are a sure way to the heart — and a different selection every day will add to the excitement. I prefer to start off with a heart-shaped dark chocolate leading up to a liqueur-filled, chocolate-covered cherry.

Remember that dark chocolates contain the most antioxidants and polyphenols, the chemicals that give you those warm feelings. It’s the polyphenols which release endorphins, the so-called happy hormones.

And don’t forget…
Timing is everything! And that means, if possible, presenting the seven days of love first thing in the morning. Start off each day with your flower, card and chocolate on a tray brought to the bed or breakfast table. For those who are still wooing, chances are things will have to wait until the evening — but try to make it a regular daily occasion.

Phil Lempert is food editor of the “Today” show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to phil.lempert@nbc.com or by using the mail box below. For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at www.supermarketguru.com.

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