Romance is in the air this time of year but with three children in tow, sometimes it can be tricky to find alone time to go out to a nice dinner with hubby. When we were dating, we’d plan our Valentine’s dinner weeks in advance, making sure to secure a prime table at our favorite romantic dinner spot, complete with chocolate fountain and bubbly drinks. Nowadays, Valentine’s Day takes on a different look, with chocolate kisses perched on the placemat of each son’s spot at the table, alongside a fluffy stuffed toys-just in time for breakfast. The once romantic dinners are replace with celebratory dinners for five, with chatter and lots of hugs and kisses.

There’s no better day than Valentine’s Day to make dinner feel like you’re going out to a fancy restaurant—kids in tow–without actually leaving the house.

Here’s what will happen at Chez Beth this year on Valentine’s Day:

1. Determine the menu. A quick trip to the fancy food section of the grocery store goes a long way, whether it’s a simple addition to the regular fare of a gourmet cheese or a full-on entree featuring an item you normally reserve for holidays. Drink-wise, I like to give the kids a sparkling drink like cider, while my husband and I will probably go with a nice merlot.

2. Break out the fancy table dressings. Set the table with special linens and dishes. A fun mom-child bonding moment can come with simply finding a fun way to fold napkins and doing it together. Delish lists a few great how-tos here.

3. Set the mood. A typical checklist might include: Light candles. Turn off the TV. Break out the classical or jazz music collection. Also, if you’ve got an easel and dry erase board, I think it’s fun have the kids help me write out the menu, fancy resto-style.

4. Get the whole family in on the action. Part of what makes a restaurant a restaurant is that it’s not a one-woman/man-show. Have each family member play a part. I like to have my youngest show everyone to their seats and explain “today’s specials,” the two older boys serve as my trusty sous chefs, and my husband be the sommelier, who chooses and explains the wine selection. (The perfect job for a guy who doesn’t get home as early as the rest of us!)

5. Course it out. Instead of typical dinner at home, where you have everything all at once on the table, it can be fun to bring things out at different times. It also keeps everyone at the table longer, so I like to come up with a fresh supply of conversation-stimulating topics, asking funny/engaging questions to get everyone talking. I also like the trick of having everyone read something that interests them earlier in the day, to share their “news” story with the family.

There are so many perks to this special Valentine’s night, that a few extra dishes are worth it. Just think: you have full control of the menu (no crazy transfats, no ridiculous portions, etc). The price is always right. There’s no traffic or parking drama included. Plus, there are a lot of ways you can make it easy and efficient* while still taking time to savor the aroma of the foods, the extra time with the family, and the other little things that can make any day extraordinary.

P.S. if you need some inspiration for the perfect dessert, let “The Confections of a Foodie Bride” entrance you with her chocolate covered cherry cupcakes.

Bon appétit!