Intro

If I could to speak to myself on the day of my wedding over eight years ago, this is what I would say…

I understand you’re a bit scared. You’re young and you are about to make a decision that will affect the rest of your life. You think it’s the right choice, you think you love him but what really is love? I know that’s what you are thinking because I am you.

For months leading up to the wedding day you’ve been asking everyone who would listen to help you understand what love really is. Sure he gives you butterflies and you can’t imagine not spending every day with this man. You’ve lost countless hours of sleep just clinging to his presence and not wanting to waste a moment with him. But is that really love? Is that enough to sustain a marriage that will survive moves across state lines, financial stress, young children, loss, and much more that we have yet to experience?

In case you do read this you should know that you made the right decision. But you didn’t really know love. The love you felt on the day you stared at him down the aisle, anxiously awaiting that glimmer in his eyes as he saw you for the first time in your wedding dress and the last time you weren’t his wife, that love was just the start.

At the time you thought love was how he made you feel. You questioned love the moment the butterflies didn’t flutter as rapidly as you thought they should. You resented him for shining light on parts of you that were selfish and gross. He didn’t complete you in the way you expected him to and surprisingly he didn’t completely understand you from the moment you both said, “I do.”

Love isn’t simply about how he makes you feel. I know that now. Love is a choice and love is action.

Now you realize that love is him warming up the espresso machine for you in the morning so it’s ready when you wander sleepily down the stairs. Love is how he saves the last scoop of ice cream for you, every time. Love is the way he wrestles with your sons (you have two and I can’t wait for you to meet them) after a long day of work. Love is the way he dances with your daughter (she’ll make you melt with each glance into her big brown eyes).

You slowly start to understand that when your dad told you, “Love is a choice”, he wasn’t being as unromantic as you first thought. You’ll realize that each day you have a choice. You can either choose to love Gabe and allow your feelings and actions reflect that or you can choose to allow the daily difficulties and his imperfections (yes, I know you can’t see it now, but he’s not perfect – and neither are you) to become a disease in the marriage.

Some days are better than others but over time you’ll realize that praying for and encouraging him is more useful than resenting him. You’ll start to see all the things he does for you and your family rather than focusing on what he doesn’t do. And you’ll realize that on the day you married him you really had no idea what love was and that eight years later you love him in way that you never thought possible.

It’s going to be hard. You’ll find out things about yourself that you really wish could have stayed hidden and yet, through it all you slowly become a better person. One that really knows and understands love – at least I hope that’s what happens, I’m not quite there yet.

What I do know is that no matter how tired you are, no matter how much you would just rather curl up on the couch and tune out the noise of the day, every once in awhile you need to put the kids to bed a bit earlier and ask your husband out on a date, even if that date happens at home.

You’ll plan the meal with great excitement and get inspired staring at the vibrant produce at the store while Ivy (that’s your daughter) tries her best to pull everything off the shelves and into the cart. You’ll spend the next 7 hours, on and off, preparing for a meal that you and your husband will devour in 10 minutes. He’ll appreciate every minute of your effort and you’ll love every chop of an onion and knead of the dough. You remind yourself of this moment and how many times before you’ve learned the same lesson – choosing him over your own selfish desires is what love is all about.

Menu
orange and avocado salad with shallot vinaigrette
pulled pork with a fennel, apple and raddicchio slaw on a sesame bun
piment d’espelette roasted new potatoes
caramel walnut tart with whipped creme fraiche

 

Plan
To eat around 8:00 pm the pork should be in by 1:30pm at the latest. So plan to put the rub on the pork that morning or the night before.
The tart and both dressings can be made the day before.
I pulled the pork out of the oven for close to an hour and set it over very low heat on the stove top while I roasted the potatoes and baked the buns.
When the pork was nearly finished we made the orange salad and enjoyed that as our first course. As the pork cooled, I finished up the cole slaw.
All that and it was gone in under 10 minutes but we’ve been eating incredible left overs for days.

Orange Salad with Avocado and Shallot Vinaigrette

 

1 Tbl chopped shallot
3 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbl fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspon salt
fresh pepper, to taste
2 large oranges
1 avocado
2 Tbl thinly sliced red onion (optional)
1 Tbl chopped Italian parsley

 

Combine the first five ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together, taste, and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
Cut the peel away from the orange then slice in ¼” rounds. Arrange on two separate plates, top with sliced avocado and red onion, if using. Spoon a bit of the dressing on each plate. Top with fresh Italian parsley and serve immediately.


Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Fennel, Apple, and Radicchio Slaw

Pork Rub
for a 5-7 pound pork shoulder

3 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ teaspoon cayenne
3 Tbl paprika
3 Tbl kosher salt
1 Tbl brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 Tbl yellow mustard

 

In a morter and pestle or a food processor, mince the garlic then add the spices and salt. Stir in the mustard. Rub this over the pork and let sit for at least 1 hour or overnight in the fridge.

After the pork has bathed in the rub place in a large roasting pan and roast at 300*F for about 6 hours or until falling away from the bone.

Barbeque Sauce

1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbl yellow mustard
½ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh black pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 small shallot, chopped
a few drops of natural hickory smoke

 

Combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside.

Once pork has finished roasting remove from the pan and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Add ⅔ of the bar-b-que sauce to the juices left in the roasting pan and scrape up any crusted on bits on the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently while the pork rests.
Using two forks and possibly your hands too, pull apart the pork into bite-size shreds.
Add the pulled pork into the sauce. Taste and add more sauce if you think it needs it or reserve remaining bar-b-que sauce to serve with the sandwiches.

On a freshly sliced sesame bun add a good amount of pork then top with the fennel slaw. Enjoy immediately.

Fennel, Apple and Radicchio Slaw

½ cup creme fraiche
2 Tbl mayonnaise
2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tbl lemon juice
3 green onions, sliced
1 fennel bulb, julienned
1 apple, julienned
1 cup thinly sliced radicchio

 

In a small bowl combine the first six ingredients. Set aside.
In a medium bowl add the fennel, apple, green onions, and radicchio. Toss with about ¼ cup dressing to start. Taste then add more as needed.
Can be made up to an hour in advance. It keeps for a day – perfect for leftovers – but doesn’t look nearly as fresh and starts to droop a bit.
The dressing could be made up to 3 days in advance.

Sesame Seed Buns
makes 9-12 buns
The point of a date night is not to exhaust yourself before the date actually happens, so I realize that after roasting a pork shoulder for 7 hours many may feel that making your own buns is just asking too much. I’m okay with that. I am, however, a bit crazy and can’t get enough of playing in the kitchen, especially when doughs are involved. So I’ve included the recipe for those who are like me or if there comes a day when you do decide to make your own buns.

 

2 teaspoons yeast
1 ⅓ cups warm milk
2 Tbl honey
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 Tbl (1/2 stick) butter, soft
2 Tbl sesame seeds
1 egg, lightly beaten (egg wash)

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, milk and honey. Let stand for 10 minutes as which point you should see lots of bubbles and some definite growth happening.
Add flour, salt, and egg and mix with the dough hook to combine. While the mixer is running on medium-low add the soft butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape down the bowl then continue to mix for 8-10 minutes.
Cover with a dish towel or plastic wrap and let double, about two hours.
Roll the dough into tight balls estimating that you will get between 9-12 buns. This is just a bit under ½ cup of dough per bun.
Place on a parchment lined sheet tray (you may need two if you don’t want them to touch at all) then cover with plastic wrap and let double again, about 1 ½ hours.
When the buns are just about doubled, pre-heat the oven to 400*. Brush the buns with the additional egg and top with sesame seeds.
Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes, until deep golden on top and bottom.
Let cool on a wire rack to prevent steaming.

Piment d’espelette Roasted Potatoes
It’s worth the online order or visit to a specialty store to gather this ingredient. Similar to paprika without the intense smoke and a stronger, fresh heat in place of it. A dear friend brought this back from France and I can’t help but put it in nearly everything.
If you can’t find it you could use paprika or simply do a perfectly delicious garlic roasted potato.

 

1 ½ – 2 pounds new potatoes, cut in rough ½” pieces
1 ½ Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons piment d’espelette
¾ – 1 teaspoon kosher salt

 

Pre-heat your oven to 400*F. Combine all ingredients and roast on a parchment lined sheet tray making sure the potatoes are not too crowded or piled on top of one another. Roast until interior is tender and the exterior edges are crispy and deep golden in places, about 40-50 minutes.

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Orange Salad // Pulled Pork Sandwich with Radicchio Slaw // Sesame Seed Buns // Roasted Potatoes

Orange Salad with Avocado and Shallot Vinaigrette

 

1 Tbl chopped shallot
3 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbl fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspon salt
fresh pepper, to taste
2 large oranges
1 avocado
2 Tbl thinly sliced red onion (optional)
1 Tbl chopped Italian parsley

 

Combine the first five ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together, taste, and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
Cut the peel away from the orange then slice in ¼” rounds. Arrange on two separate plates, top with sliced avocado and red onion, if using. Spoon a bit of the dressing on each plate. Top with fresh Italian parsley and serve immediately.

 

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Fennel, Apple, and Radicchio Slaw

Pork Rub
for a 5-7 pound pork shoulder

3 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ teaspoon cayenne
3 Tbl paprika
3 Tbl kosher salt
1 Tbl brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 Tbl yellow mustard

 

In a morter and pestle or a food processor, mince the garlic then add the spices and salt. Stir in the mustard. Rub this over the pork and let sit for at least 1 hour or overnight in the fridge.

After the pork has bathed in the rub place in a large roasting pan and roast at 300*F for about 6 hours or until falling away from the bone.

Barbeque Sauce

1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbl yellow mustard
½ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh black pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 small shallot, chopped
a few drops of natural hickory smoke

 

Combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside.

Once pork has finished roasting remove from the pan and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Add ⅔ of the bar-b-que sauce to the juices left in the roasting pan and scrape up any crusted on bits on the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently while the pork rests.
Using two forks and possibly your hands too, pull apart the pork into bite-size shreds.
Add the pulled pork into the sauce. Taste and add more sauce if you think it needs it or reserve remaining bar-b-que sauce to serve with the sandwiches.

On a freshly sliced sesame bun add a good amount of pork then top with the fennel slaw. Enjoy immediately.

Fennel, Apple and Radicchio Slaw

½ cup creme fraiche
2 Tbl mayonnaise
2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tbl lemon juice
3 green onions, sliced
1 fennel bulb, julienned
1 apple, julienned
1 cup thinly sliced radicchio

 

In a small bowl combine the first six ingredients. Set aside.
In a medium bowl add the fennel, apple, green onions, and radicchio. Toss with about ¼ cup dressing to start. Taste then add more as needed.
Can be made up to an hour in advance. It keeps for a day – perfect for leftovers – but doesn’t look nearly as fresh and starts to droop a bit.
The dressing could be made up to 3 days in advance.

Sesame Seed Buns
makes 9-12 buns
The point of a date night is not to exhaust yourself before the date actually happens, so I realize that after roasting a pork shoulder for 7 hours many may feel that making your own buns is just asking too much. I’m okay with that. I am, however, a bit crazy and can’t get enough of playing in the kitchen, especially when doughs are involved. So I’ve included the recipe for those who are like me or if there comes a day when you do decide to make your own buns.

 

2 teaspoons yeast
1 ⅓ cups warm milk
2 Tbl honey
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 Tbl (1/2 stick) butter, soft
2 Tbl sesame seeds
1 egg, lightly beaten (egg wash)

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, milk and honey. Let stand for 10 minutes as which point you should see lots of bubbles and some definite growth happening.
Add flour, salt, and egg and mix with the dough hook to combine. While the mixer is running on medium-low add the soft butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape down the bowl then continue to mix for 8-10 minutes.
Cover with a dish towel or plastic wrap and let double, about two hours.
Roll the dough into tight balls estimating that you will get between 9-12 buns. This is just a bit under ½ cup of dough per bun.
Place on a parchment lined sheet tray (you may need two if you don’t want them to touch at all) then cover with plastic wrap and let double again, about 1 ½ hours.
When the buns are just about doubled, pre-heat the oven to 400*. Brush the buns with the additional egg and top with sesame seeds.
Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes, until deep golden on top and bottom.
Let cool on a wire rack to prevent steaming.

Piment d’espelette Roasted Potatoes
It’s worth the online order or visit to a specialty store to gather this ingredient. Similar to paprika without the intense smoke and a stronger, fresh heat in place of it. A dear friend brought this back from France and I can’t help but put it in nearly everything.
If you can’t find it you could use paprika or simply do a perfectly delicious garlic roasted potato.

 

1 ½ – 2 pounds new potatoes, cut in rough ½” pieces
1 ½ Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons piment d’espelette
¾ – 1 teaspoon kosher salt

 

Pre-heat your oven to 400*F. Combine all ingredients and roast on a parchment lined sheet tray making sure the potatoes are not too crowded or piled on top of one another. Roast until interior is tender and the exterior edges are crispy and deep golden in places, about 40-50 minutes.

 

 

120 Responses to “Dating My Husband”

  1. katie.

    Oh, Ashley. So well said. Did you know that your blog posts make me cry… and often. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that, but sometimes, you just hit the nail right on her pretty little head. Josh and I have been married for 10-years this year. I think I’ll make him this meal (which he’ll love!) for our anniversary… xo.

    Reply
  2. Kat

    I loved reading this. As a relatively recently newly-wed it reminded me why I got married and I can only hope that in 8 years’ time I can have a similar love and appreciation for him to how you described. In the meantime, I will be making the pork this weekend… looks delicious.

    Reply
  3. Aesc

    A bit weird, but I actually just came here thinking, “I really want another Dating my Husband post.” And here it is. Wonderful.
    Also, I can’t wait to make the walnut tart.

    Reply
  4. lisa

    this is such a wonderful, honest and heartfelt post. I will remember them when I get to this stage. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  5. Lyn

    What a beautifully written post! I firmly believe ‘date nights’ and choice are an integral part of what has kept my marriage going through four sons & 25 years.

    Reply
  6. katherine

    I am always inspired by this blog, by your recipes, photos, words, and philosophies. Thank you for all! This post finds me with perfect timing as I am getting married on Thursday!

    Reply
  7. Morgan

    Such a beautiful post, Ashley! As a newlywed (my husband and I were married this most recent New Years Eve) I absolutely love reading this. We started date nights last July when we got engaged because I was so inspired by your date nights with Gabe. I am definitely going to try this menu in the upcoming weeks!! :)

    Reply
  8. Gabby @ Gabby's Gluten-free

    Such an inspiring, beautiful post. As someone who is just a 3-month newlywed, I love everything in your letter to yourself.

    Reply
  9. kimmy@lighterandlocal.com

    This is perfect. So indescribably true and honest. I’ve been married 5 years, and some of this struck the perfect chord. Love is a choice, so is happiness. You can choose to focus on the bad, or on the amazing good. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  10. Kate

    We’ll celebrate 10 years of marriage this coming August, and I could have written this post, as every word of it rang true with us. Thank you for being so clear on a topic that brings so much emotion, both good and bad. Amazing words.

    Reply
  11. Cara

    So lovely. I’m getting married this fall, and while my fiancé and I do find love in the meals we make together and for each other, it’s hard to picture life when we’re married, a bunch of years down the road. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  12. MikeVFMK

    This is beautiful. Ever since I read Leo Buscaglia say Love is a Verb, it changed my perception and reality. Love isn’t a word or a belief or a voice. It’s an action.

    It seems that you two prove that. Often.

    Beautiful. The recipe. Photos. Words. Actions.

    Reply
  13. Erica

    What an insightful post. I agree with you wholeheartedly that love is a choice. The first time I heard that was from an adult leader at my church youth group. I, too, thought it sounded terribly unromantic! I did not understand it at all. Over the years, however, I came to understand how true those words are, and how important to sustaining a marriage. Thanks so much for the wonderful words and the delicious-sounding recipes :)

    Reply
  14. la domestique

    Such a beautiful post! My husband and I will be married 5 years in October, and I’m amazed at how much our love has changed over time in the same way you describe here. I think back to the beginning and how much we’ve each grown in our own way. There is a depth and kindness to our love that only time can develop. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  15. Tina

    What an encouraging post. My husband is away on Army duty for the next 2 months and that has really given me time to realize how much I love and miss him. Date night’s? they are rare in this house, by the time he get’s home I am whiped out from a 16 month old, 8 yeard old and 4 month+ pregnant belly. I LOVE LOVE LOVE baking and cooking and the such (I HATE the mess and clean up).. Your blogs and yourself are so inspiring to me, your a mom, lots of kids, loves her husband and a wonderful chef.. ( Can I be like you when I grow up?) lol.. Anyway, I am having a hard time with balance and my husband usually gets cut out of the equation. I have to do this for him, at least once a month. Your website is always my “go to” when I am looking for something to cook however, I may just need a clone to accomplish what you did with this one! Great job! keep on inspiring :)

    Reply
  16. Bethel

    I love your “Dating My Husband Posts”. Although my husband and I have been married for a little over a year, we’ve only lived with each other for about 6 months now because of his career with the Navy. It has been quite the adventure and it hasn’t been easy, but I have yet to regret saying “I Do” on our wedding day. When I read this post, I could genuinely feel every word of what you said come to life in my heart. I’m new at this wife business, but I feel so much joy when I can prepare Tim a good meal. There is a sense of satisfaction that I have, knowing that I can give him these simple gifts of delicious food because I love him so much. I am so grateful for his hard work and dedication to our country, and to me. I think he deserves a good pulled pork in the near future. Thank you for the all of the recipes that have graced my kitchen these past 6 months, my husband appreciates it :)

    Reply
  17. Esther Sam

    Ashley, this is such a great post and honestly true. I myself have been married for two years now and completely agree with everything you said. Thank you for sharing your heart and being honest about what love is. It is refreshing!

    Reply
  18. Megan Gordon

    Oh, Ashley. There’s so much to say here and I don’t even know where to start. This is one of those posts where I feel like I need to sit with it for just a little while … such truthful, beautiful writing on love, the cycles of love , compromise, and what it all means. And such honesty — something I think people are scared to do when it comes to talking about their partners and their relationships. Not to mention the absolutely epic recipe action happening here. Looks like a wonderful date night, and I hope YOU have a wonderful week. ~m

    Reply
  19. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence

    A beautiful post and a beautiful menu. Your man is lucky! I like to have date nights at home and I always try to make each one special. I get dressed up, clean up the house, cook a full menu, set a unique table, lights some candles, stream our favorite playlist, etc. I want date nights as home to be even more special than our ones out :)

    Reply
  20. Deanna

    That is great advice. I’m not married, or even close to it, but I will be filing it away for the future. I think homemade buns are worth the effort. They are so much better than store bought.

    Reply
  21. Sarah

    Such a perfect, honest, and much needed sentiment. I needed that reminder today. Our lives are so busy and chaotic that it’s so easy to let love go by the wayside and forget that sometimes focusing on love can often actually be easier than focusing on what’s wrong. Thank you for reminding me to choose love… and the fantastic looking recipe!

    Reply
  22. Hairee

    This post was inspiring both at the content level and form. I’m a blogger also and I never occurred to me to start a recipe post this way with a short essay seemingly unrelated to the food. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  23. sara

    Oh wow, those sandwiches look so insanely good! Love the slaw on top – I’m a huge fan of slaw on pulled pork sandwiches, and that one looks especially crunchy and delicious!

    Reply
  24. jo-lyn's cup cakes n' candies

    Fabulous post! So much truth! Great recipe, too!! =) I have been married 18 years (October 30, 1993) and it just gets sweeter and sweeter! But we have been through the loss of our ten year old son and many many other struggles that most people wouldn’t be able to overcome. We CHOOSE to stay together through whatever God brings our way, with His help!! Blessings to you and yours. Thanks for an encouraging post today!

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Jo-Lyn, Thank you so much for commenting here. Your post was so incredibly powerful. I can’t even imagine the pain of losing a child and the struggle to move beyond that. I am inspired by your strength and I appreciate you adding your wisdom here.

      Reply
  25. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe

    What a stunning description of love and marriage. And a stunning feast for date night! I don’t have anyone special to make this for at the moment, but I just might have to make it for myself. I’ll consider it practice. ;)

    Reply
  26. Christi's Chirps

    Great post! What an incredible menu! I can’t decide what is my favorite item on this list! :) The sesame seed buns look better than any I’ve ever seen! I need the orange and avocado salad right now!

    Cheers,
    Christi

    Reply
  27. lindsey @ a pear to remember

    Boy, I thought after an exhausting day, I would make this little Greek Risotto for me and the hubs… all i can think about now is how I have ALL the ingredients for sesame buns and I need to make some THIS WEEK. Thank you for making them so accessible!

    Reply

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