We had two children in diapers when we started dating at home. All three of them were in bed by 7:00 pm and generally we could count on a quiet house around 7:30. We weren’t getting a lot of sleep at night, they surrounded us morning, noon, and night, and they needed us constantly. In that season it seemed as if our only way to stay connected regularly was to make our home a setting for us to date.
So we shoved the crayons off the table, tucked the dirty laundry under the couch, and maybe lit a candle or two before sitting down to dinner; just the two of us. These evenings turned into a cookbook, as many of you know, and more importantly they sustained our marriage in a time where we had to fight with intention and battle through the exhaustion.
Now our three are in school. They are much more independent, waking up to pour their own bowls of cereal or toasting their own bread. They can handle putting on their pants, packing up their bags, and while we do still step on small toys on an almost daily basis we don’t have to be afraid that any of them will put them in their mouths. They’re in bed by 8:00 but the house is still buzzing with little chatter until 9:00. They have so much to catch up on after being away from one another all day.
Let me just pause for a moment and assure those of you who are reading this with a baby on your lap or a toddler pawing for your attention, that someday those little ones will grow older. They won’t demand as much of you as they do now and they will grow into amazing little people and you get to watch it all. It’s as wonderful, hard, and fulfilling as you hope it will be.
Gabe and I have had a clunky return to dating at home this year. We would set aside the time but without having a book to write and honestly, I had needed a bit of space from it all, it just seemed too hard. But the necessary things in life are often the hardest and our failure to date has, at many times, left us feeling very distant and disconnected. It shows up in small ways like when I take a comment he makes and meet it with defense because I’m feeling guilty for not making more intention to connect. Or when I say something I shouldn’t in a tone that nobody wants to hear because I’m feeling vulnerable. We have felt the effectiveness of our weekly dates and can now quickly recognize the difference in our friendship when we connect regularly and when we don’t.
It wasn’t until we released what those date nights used to be and started to see that now, in a new season, they can be something else completely. The point isn’t the multi-course meal eaten while three kids sleep in the comfort of our home. The point is connection and we must actively pursue that in any and every season for our relationship to continue to thrive. What once worked so well for us may look different now that so many other things in our life look different. Once we embraced that thinking about dating, it felt new, exciting, and possible again.
We still sometimes sit down to our table once the house is quiet, with a glass of wine in hand and a meal that suits our tastes. Sometimes it’s a simple picnic on the beach that is now just a short walk from our new home. Or sometimes it’s going out to breakfast after our three kids are off to school. The point is still the same it just may look a bit different now. No matter the season the point is to continue to pursue one another in friendship. As long as that is the constant we can weather any season.
This particular date we packed a simple picnic and walked down the beach. Most of the items in our basket I picked up from the store like cheese, crackers, pickled things, (my most favorite picnic item) fruit, and wine. I did manage to make us a simple salad. One that has been on repeat since. It’s a mix of all things green: charred green beans cooked until sweet, peppery arugula, green lentils boiled with a bit of bite still remaining, and pistachios. And then, though not green, lots and lots of seeds – toasted until deeper in color and fragrant. The type of seeds depends only on the contents of my pantry but I have found that fennel, cumin and sesame all play a vital role. If pistachios aren’t readily available, pumpkin seeds do nicely as well. We top our salad with large flakes of smoked trout, but I’ll leave that up to you as well.
As I mention in the video below, the picnic really isn’t about the food. Of course that’s what often inspires the trip or gets me giddy about it all in the first place but once we’ve set up the blanket, unloaded the basket, and cleaned our plates, that’s when the purpose of our time reveals itself. Food and a bit of wine become the icebreaker and ease us into the point of it all – connection. It’s why I love food so much; it gives us a purpose for gathering around the table, or in this case, the beach. What happens while the food and wine are being enjoyed is what matters most.
This post was kindly sponsored by Mirassou Winery and they are thrilled to be giving away the picnic basket and blanket you see in the images (not exactly the ones I use, yours will be brand new, I assure you) as well as a few of my favorite picnic items (most made right here in Seattle) including smoked olive oil, Boat Street Pickled Raisins, Ayako & Family Plum Jam, and Salted Chocolate Chip cookie mix from yours truly.
To enter, simply leave a comment below and I will randomly select a winner on October 16th. (Must be 21 years of age or older to be eligible to win. Residents of Utah are not eligible to participate. Link to official rules at LINK HERE.)
Charred Green Bean and Lentil Salad
Serves 2 (with some to spare)
1 cup French green lentils (if you can find them, if not another type will do)
4 ounces (about 3 cups) green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
2 cups arugula
2 tablespoons toasted seeds (sesame, fennel, mustard, poppy, cumin, etc.)
2 tablespoons roughly chopped and toasted pistachios
1 whole smoked trout
Recommended pairing: Mirassou Sauvignon Blanc
Cook the lentils in salted water until just tender. Drain them then run under cold water to halt the cooking. Set the lentils aside.
In a large skillet set over high heat add a couple glugs of olive oil then toss in the green beans. Sprinkle in a hefty pinch of salt then let the beans get a nice char on one side before giving them a stir. Continue to saute in this way until the beans are tender and charred on most sides, about 5 to 7 minutes. Let the beans sit for a moment while you make the vinaigrette.
In a large bowl whisk together the shallot, dijon, honey, vinegar, and olive oil. Season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. It should taste bright and briny as it will taste more mellow once all the ingredients have been added.
To the bowl add the green beans and lentils. Toss to combine.
Finally add in the toasted seeds in whatever variety you have but I really love a sesame, poppy, fennel, mustard and cumin mixture. Nigella seeds are really lovely too if you happen to have them.
Also add the pistachios and finish with a bit of flake salt.
If you are packing this for a picnic line the bottom of your container with arugula then top with the lentils. If a picnic is not in the plans then simply toss the arugula in with the lentils and finish with big flakes of smoked trout. Serve immediately.
At the picnic you can fillet the trout and top the salad there.
Serve with Mirassou Sauvignon Blanc.