Manage those February 14 expectations.

Cast-Iron Cowboy Steak Recipe
Credit: Photo: Hector Sanchez

If you're one of the people whose heart flutters at the thought of Valentine's Day, not from fuzzy feelings, but heart palpitations brought on by stress, you are not alone. When you crack the pretty chocolate shell of a nationally sanctioned day to focus on and relax with your significant other, all that's left is just a gooey mess of heightened expectations and pressure to make the most of it. The best way to alleviate some of that? Don't go out to eat. Why? Here is why.

1. It's amateaur hour: Valentine's Day has a way of bringing out the couples who have been hiding in their homes all year for any number of reasons including parenthood, introversion, or Netflix. Suddenly your favorite restaurant is inundated with unusual faces who have forgotten how to eat something besides Blue Apron or take-out. They fumble with small plate choices and agonize over dessert trying to squeeze every last moment of their special night until they ultimately kill any of the joy. Let them have this night. You can make this cast-iron steak for two and finally catch up on Stranger Things.

2. Prix Fixe Pandamonium: Hoping to splurge on a certain dish at a restaurant you and your special friend have been dying to go to? Chances are on Valentine's Day it's been replaced by an abbreviated tasting menu on a smaller piece of cardstock your server will pass to your defeated self. While this kind of menu is often necessary to keep kitchen employees from having their own heart palpitations due to five-alarm crowds for hours on end, it's never quite the same as having the full array of options. You know what's better? Staring into your lover's eyes over a tray of fancy nachos.

3. Cut the charade: Is it just us or does it feel like the whole country is putting on a school play on Valentine's Day? The getting dressed up, the scripted situations, the pressure to act accordingly: no, thank you. You know what will put the element of surprise and adventure back into your relationship? Cooking a dinner together that doesn't have the taglines "15-Minute Meals" or "3-Ingredient Pasta." Try this high-low Herb-and-Potato-Chip-Crusted Beef Tenderloin or Creamy Shrimp Piccata.