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Having a baby changes everything. You know this when you’re pregnant, but you don’t really know it. I was excited for the change, but little did I know finding time to brush my teeth would be so hard. I’m ashamed to say that for a few weeks, once a day was all I could manage. I never saw the light at the end of the tunnel. But there is one, friends. I promise. Once my baby Camille was on a semi-regular sleep schedule (and personal hygiene was back to regular levels), I was anxious for pieces of my former life to return. The first thing I wanted to bring back to our lives was date night. My husband and I are avid proponents of date night. It’s a chance to reconnect, talk about our life goals, and of course, talk about how wonderful our baby girl is. That subject never gets old. But we knew that date night out at a restaurant wasn’t an option. My Mama heart forbade a distance greater than 100 feet between my daughter and I. So, a date-night in it would be!
Now, here’s the thing: I cook. A lot. I run a food blog, I write cookbooks, and I cater and private chef on the side, too. So, how was I going to make Friday night dinner feel like more than just a regular night of cooking? I came up with a few tips to help new parents like us feel like the kitchen table is actually the best seat in the house of a 5-star restaurant.
My specialty is developing recipes that serve just two people. I’m pulling recipes and tips from my latest book, Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two to help make your date-night in extra special.
ONE: First things first: clean that table! My kitchen table is a magnet for junk mail, baby teethers, and a pile of used tea bags that started accumulating at 6am that morning. Clear the space! Give it a good wipe down, and pull out a fancy table cloth. If you have them, I recommend cloth napkins, too. I recently made the switch in my house, and it makes every meal feel fancy. If cleaning the table and cooking dinner is too much to ask, this is fine to pass off to your partner.
TWO: Plan date night far in advance. When Monday hits you like a ton of bricks, daydream about Friday night. If you commit on Monday night to have a great date night, you are even more likely to make it happen. Think about the music, the plates to use, and the menu.
THREE: Which brings me to the food. When it comes to the menu, it needs to be something special but approachable. It’s not the best night to try a new, complicated recipe. Though, if you do and the night ends in delivery pizza, it’s not the end of the world.
I’m the only cook in the house, except for the annual occasion when my husband makes his famous deep-dish pizza (not sure how a California boy developed such a penchant for deep-dish pizza, but it’s delicious nonetheless). Since I do all of the cooking, I’m guilty of falling into a routine of meals. And if I’m quite honest, it’s meals that I personally enjoy. After 3 years of marriage, I still manage to get artichokes of some form onto the dinner plate each week even though my husband dislikes them. So, for our date-nights in, I try to make dinner especially for him. I recall the things he’s recently ordered at restaurants to take my cues. When I cook something I know he’s going to like it’s a win for me too because I like to stretch my cooking repertoire. And who knows, maybe I’ll discover a new favorite!
For our first date-night in, I made homemade pizza. I typically make pizza every few weeks, but this time, I made it with him in mind. As a semi-vegetarian, it never occurs to me to put more than one type of meat in a dish—this makes it easy for me to pick it out, depending on my mood. However, my husband was frequently ordering flat breads piled high with an assortment of charcuterie at restaurants. I decided to make a meat-lovers pizza. I developed a recipe for a small pizza for two made in a skillet. It comes together quickly, and is customizable to your taste!
FOUR: If your partner is up for helping you in the kitchen, accept the help! I’m one of those cooks that moves at the speed of light, flitting from one end of the kitchen to the other in a flash. So, when people offer to help me cook, I generally say no, or worse: I treat them like children and give them menial tasks. But, spending time in the kitchen is my passion in life, so I would be wise to let others come in and enjoy it with me. If you have more hands in the kitchen, pick a meal that keeps you both busy.
It takes two to stir up Shrimp ’n Grits for two, or to sear a Perfect Filet Mignon with Twice-baked Potatoes. Better yet, grab an extra set of hands to make Lasagna for two in a loaf pan, or comforting Meatloaf that you actually crave!
FIVE: My best tip for a date-night in is to always serve dessert. Since Dessert for two is my passion in life (I even wrote the book on it!), a meal must always end with a little something sweet. If baking isn’t your thing, I have you covered—my no-bake, no-cooking-required Easiest Chocolate Pudding for Two is your choice. I also love to make my mini Bread Puddings for Two with Brown Sugar-Whisky Caramel. I can always find an excuse to make my sweetie’s favorite Slab Apple Pie—I just scaled it down to serve two in a loaf pan.
GUEST BLOGGER: Christina Lane
Christina Lane is the author of the popular food blog DessertForTwo.com, well-known for its small-batch recipes. Her food writing and photography has been featured on popular food websites including The Kitchn, Tasty Kitchen, and The Huffington Post. She has also been featured on The Today Show and QVC. A Texan by birth, she has lived all over the States, and describes her recipes as a unique blend of Southern, Californian, and Midwestern. She bakes and eats dessert daily.
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