Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Own 'Date Night In'

Thank you for your patience, dear readers. I have been away far too long, working under an insane deadline for a web content project. I had so much more time for blogging when I wasn't working full time!

But I would like to share my own recent experience with a Date Night In.

I was inspired by a speaker at last year's Food Bloggers of Canada conference. Ashley Rodriguez, of Not Without Salt fame, was about to release her second book, titled Date Night In. The idea sounded intriguing. Something I hadn't even considered before.

When my kids were smaller, and I was more housebound overall, the concept of a date night in sounded horrible. I just wanted to get the hell out. Besides that, I was struggling to continue as a local dining columnist, which meant any and every rare date opportunity had to involve dining out at my next review location.

Now that my kids aren't waking up every two hours to nurse, and we can get through a movie from 8:30 to 11PM without someone waking up crying, and now that the intensity of my work life has increased exponentially (it's good, I'm not complaining), I find the prospect of a quiet night at home, eating dinner together after the kids go to sleep, much more appealing.

The event was not without challenges. First, was explaining to my kids why we weren't going to eat dinner with them. Since we almost always eat together, this was not going to go unnoticed. Then came G's fretful questions:
"If you're going on a date, who will look after us?" We're not going anywhere, sweetie, we'll be right here the whole time.
"How come I never get to have a date?"
How do I even answer that? What can I say kid, you live a life of abject deprivation.

My own challenge with the concept of a date night in after kids are in bed is that we'll be eating late. The idea of a heavy meal late in the evening didn't really appeal to me. My husband wasn't much help. When I asked him what he'd like to eat on our 'date', he said, "well, steak sounds good..." Good, yes. Not so much on the light side though.

My own approach, whenever I get to cook a meal that my kids aren't going to eat, is to fit in the things that I like that they don't: spice! mushrooms!

I started building a meal plan around steak, using what we had in the house as much as possible, and also fitting in some of my cravings, while not going overboard with dishes that were too heavy so late at night.

Here's what I came up with:
T-bone steaks on the grill, seasoned with smoked salt and smoked peppercorns and topped with blue cheese
Roasted butternut squash with spicy onions (spicy, see?)
Braised hardy greens with mixed mushrooms (mushrooms!), from Nava Atlas' Wild About Greens
...and red wine of course...Altos de Luzon to be exact.

The Universe stepped in to up the romance quotient. The steaks were seasoned, the squash was roasting, and I was just prepping the ingredients for the braise, when I suggested to my husband that he light a fire in the fireplace. Then the power went out.

"I guess I'd better light the fire sooner than later, eh?" he said. First he got some candles so I could continue preparing dinner.

I did a quick inventory of what needed an alternate fuel to electricity. My range is gas, but the oven is a combination of gas and electric, which means it kicked out when the power went out. I decided to switch the pan of roasting squash to the outdoor grill, hoping that we had enough propane for both the squash and the steaks.

We didn't have enough propane in the tank that was on the barbecue, but we had a backup, so my husband did some scrambling, swapping out propane tanks, hauling in wood, and lighting a fire.

Our meal was by far more romantic by candlelight. So much so, that when the power came back on midway through, we just turned out the lights and continued with the candlelight. I was relieved that we wouldn't have to worry about frozen pipes or piling the kids into our bed to keep warm without a furnace overnight. Modern convenience is much preferred, even if it means candlelight is optional.

Romantic candle-lit dinner for two; who wouldn't love a date night in?
Our meal was wonderful. I was pleased with how all the flavours blended. We hit all the elements: sweet squash, spicy onions, creamy goat cheese, pungent blue cheese, earthy greens and mushrooms... I marvelled at how everything that goes well with steak (robust greens, garlic, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, red wine) can be found in a vegan side dish (oh, the irony). We finished our meal warm, comfortably full, with the flavours still swirling on our tastebuds and ready to skip dessert in favour of more romance.

We're sold on date nights in. I'll keep you posted on the next one!

No comments:

Post a Comment