Date night meals have been unique and even innovative for a lot of folks during the pandemic, mostly because instead of jumping in the car and heading for the nearest $$$$ restaurant, we’ve been forced to plan, create, and cook (clean up/boohoo) at home. Ordering food online or even shopping only once a week to limit time in stores means we must think ahead, deciding on a menu and making sure all of the ingredients are available, ready to use, and even thawed. (I hate thawing.) Not only that, there’s setting the table. Locating a bottle of wine. Turning on some decent music. Maybe finding a movie you haven’t seen. Getting out of your pajamas for dinner. Or not.Continue reading
If you’re a Meatloaf fan, I’m thinking you’d do anything for love, but… I’m more likely to do anything for meatloaf. Fond memories of my own mom’s meatloaf or even of my own sometimes nudge (read that, shove) me into grabbing the loaf pan soooo fast, simmering and mashing up some root vegetables, and then waltzing around waiting for the, “it’s meatloaf night” aroma sailing all over the house. I know sometimes meatloaf gets a bad rap and…I don’t know why. Does it seem cheap? Old fashioned? Silly? Oh-too-simple? Housewifey? Slow? Fattening? Full of dry oatmeal? I have none of those problems; I’ll eat it every which way. My beef meatloaf is one of those dinners I unapologetically still use a couple of packaged, processed ingredients in and couldn’t care less. (Dried onion soup mix and tomato sauce, in case you’re wondering.) Sometimes I make two to make sure we have plenty for leftovers as there is absolutely nothing like a meatloaf sandwich — something I never had until I was once visiting my old college friend Danny Izzo at lunchtime when he casually asked, “Would you like a meatloaf sandwich?” He had no clue what he was starting, but I’ve never since stopped making them. And I am not a sandwich person. (Don’t forget the mayo, lettuce, and tomato. Maybe a thin slice of red onion. Ok, bacon.) Thanks, Danny.Continue reading
Cooking in your own kitchen for date night has this wondrous side result: you get to eat at home. There are no ever-louder-as-they-drink-more folks at the table next door and your comfy jeans are fine to wear all night long.
The wine glasses happen to be the ones you like best, maybe purchased at an estate sale or while on a trip, or even inherited from your great-aunt. Music? Whatever you like, not what the restaurant manager thinks will best go over to all age groups. Hey–you also get to set the table or ask your partner or guest to do the honors while you stir up a little dinner.Continue reading
For as long as I’ve had my own kitchen, I’ve been making scratch brownies out of the 1971 BETTY CROCKER COOKBOOK. People say things like this, “That’s the best brownie I’ve ever eaten in my whole life.” And you know why? It’s not because I’m the best brownie baker or Betty’s the top of the recipe developers, it’s because most folks are used to boxed mix brownies made with cocoa instead of luscious whole bars of melted chocolate. You know, brownies are nothing but fudge on steroids. Think of them as fudge with flour… and eggs… … and sometimes a little leavening. But unless you make scratch brownies, you don’t know that.Continue reading
There’s little to recommend a restaurant--any restaurant–on Valentine’s Day. There are exceptions, but often the specials are lackluster, the kitchen is slammed, the servers are exhausted by 7, the other diners are trying to pack a year’s worth of romance into one night (doesn’t work), and the prices are jacked up like the red roses at the florist. Instead, cook at home that night. And, while you’re at it, think about an IOU for the roses when they’re not $75 a dozen. Some quiet unknown evening in April or May, just pop in with them and call that good sense.Continue reading
Nothing says lovin’ like something from the…top of the stove. I hope you’re skipping the long wait and perhaps not-so-great-service at the restaurants on Valentine’s Day. Go to your favorite spot some other time and give your best servers a break… Instead, stay home and fix this luscious meal for you and your happiest partner, you and a friend, or just for yourself.
When you’re looking for food to fit specific diets or food preferences and you’re not used to cooking or baking those profiles, it’s best or easiest, anyway, to pick dishes that are naturally gluten free, for instance, or come perfectly vegan all by themselves, for another. Extra-Bittersweet Chocolate Pots de Crème is a simple, happy dessert for a gluten free eater. No flour to replace there. Sumptuous summer strawberries and raspberries glistening with finely minced mint fills the bill for vegans, I’m thinking, because who doesn’t like strawberries and raspberries?
Have a healthy, happy Valentine’s Day!
Lately I’ve been looking for something I could make that would include:
- whole grains
- dark, leafy greens
Dave and I both love meals in bowls. The búns and salads at one of our favorite local Vietnamese restaurant, Saigon Cafe, are perfect one-dish meals because they’re full of noodles or greens, herbs, chicken or tofu or shrimp, and are happily topped by a tiny load of peanuts. The Chipotle bowls and salads are addictive and are happy layers of rice and beans with loads of spicy meat or crumbled tofu, my favorite vegan lunch to eat out. Rich and filling without being fattening, you can add cheese or guacamole if you’re feeling lean. The bright and just spicy enough pico de gallo is usually enough for me and I skip the extra fat calories.
At home I occasionally throw together similar meals, but generally leave it to the restaurants so we can enjoy the bowls there. But when you eat all three meals together at home as we do (except when one of us travels, which is often), you begin to look for something that will be cooked up at either lunch or dinner, yet could provide leftovers for the next day so that you’re not always trying to create meals from scratch. Today I spent the entire day going over the changes needed to be made to the book after the proof readers had their way with it. I was buggy-eyed and sore-backed by the time I got out of my chair at 5. (While it seems like it’s taking God’s own time, I’ve only been working on this book for a year and a half. It’s just that I figured it’d be done just a bit more quickly. Insert scream.) In other words, I needed simple. Continue reading