photo by James Moes
If you needed a restaurant recommendation in Seattle my husband and I were the ones to ask. After we were married, nearly every Friday night we would have “date night”. For days in advance I’d scour magazines, the Internet and newspapers trying to decide which restaurant to try. We never went to the same place twice.
After the meal he and I would jot down a few notes in our black moleskin; what we ate, what we drank and our general thoughts on the experience. Gabe would snag a business card on the way out and we would paste that right next to our notes.
I recently found one of these dining journals. Instantly wonderful memories of these shared meals washed over me. I relived the tastes as I read the accounts of our meals. Oh yes I remember how intensely rich and perfect that cup of Chocolat Chaud was and how delighted and intrigued we were with the hot bowl of cheese we now know of as Raclette.
As you can imagine our Friday nights look a bit different these days. Those lengthy meals in fabulous restaurants are mostly a thing of the past. I wouldn’t trade it for the world for what we have now – 3 loud and crazy mouths to feed, being done with dinner by 5 pm and barely getting a chance to sit and eat ourselves. But continuing to date is still very important to us, we’ve just had to get a bit creative to make it work.
So we created an in home date night. Here’s how we’ve made it work. We set an evening aside weekly for us to cook together and sit down to a nice, hot meal – without the distractions that is inevitable when the kidlets are awake. Earlier in the evening we prepare a simple meal for the kids and let them eat. Once they are in bed we pour ourselves a drink and begin to cook. We may not eat until 8 or 9 but we don’t mind. When we do eat it’s quiet, it’s delicious and it’s quiet.
Gabe and I use this time to catch up and check in with each other. In this harried season in our lives we so often forget to stop, breathe and say “hey, how are you doing?”
The other rule behind these evenings is that we have to cook from a recipe. When I cook for my family it’s mostly based on what we have in the cupboards and fridge. It’s quick, simple and made up on the spot. But with stacks and stacks of amazing cookbooks, I’m determined to put them to good use. Following a recipe also teaches me about new-to-me ingredients and new techniques.
For our first date night we cooked out of Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday. Any dish with flavors that hearken back to my husband’s Mexican heritage he loves. So we happily set out to cook the Roasted Poblano Tacos with Tomatillo salsa and Cowboy beans.
The entire meal was a cinch to throw together, as are most of the recipes in this book. There wasn’t a staggering list of ingredients yet the flavors were rich, bold and intense.
My favorite part of our first date night meal were the cowboy beans. Smokey and tangy. It was a bean revelation for me – I had no idea you could pack so much flavor into pinto beans. I’ve made this recipe several times since this meal.
I look forward to these evenings. Now rather than scouring the internet for which restaurant to hit up I flip through hundreds of recipes, creasing the pages of dozens as I anticipate many more dates to come.
This weekend my husband and I celebrate 7 years of marriage. In that time we’ve moved 5 times, lived in 2 different states, had 3 children and many memorable dates. We’ve loved one another through the best days of our lives and the worst. He is my best friend and there is no one else I’d rather eat with and date than my husband.
photo by Paul Kawabori
Love for you, babe.
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
from Rick Bayless
2 Tbl oil
8 large garlic cloves
1 pound tomatillos (8 medium), husked, rinsed, and halved
1/2 -1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped – taste salsa for heat before you dump them all in
1/2 – 3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro sprigs
2 to 3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion, rinsed in a sieve and patted dry
In a large skillet heat the oil over high heat. Add the garlic cloves and tomatillo halves. Roast until well browned. Turn over garlic and tomatillos, continue to roast until they are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer roasted garlic and tomatillos to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Add cilantro, chili and onion. Blend. Add water to adjust consistency. Taste for salt.
from Rick Bayless, Mexican Everyday
4 thick slices bacon, cut into small pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans (do not drain)
1 or 2 canned pickled jalapeños, more to taste
½ cup chopped cilantro.
1. In a large (4-quart) saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir for a minute, then add half the tomatoes with their juice (reserve other half for another use). Cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add beans with their liquid and simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.
2. While beans simmer, stem chilies, cut in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Chop into small pieces and add to beans.
3. Taste beans and season with salt if necessary. Ladle into small bowls, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
you two are so beautiful together! the tacos don’t look half bad either…
I love that tomatillo salsa. I made his swiss chard tacos tonight and was just going to write, “try the swiss chard tacos, they are amazing,” but then I glanced up and saw your link above. You are way ahead of me. 🙂 I found your blog through a mutual friend (Aimee) and I am so glad I did! Love the dating idea, raising a family is so much more fun when you are able to enjoy each other.
Beautiful! This post makes me so happy!
What a fantastic post. I love it! Happy Anniversary – may you enjoy many more kidlet-free date nights! 🙂
The picture at the top is one of the sweetest I have ever seen! Happy Anniversary to you guys! 🙂
What a lovely idea! Much more economical than a restaurant ie no babysitter, you can have a couple of drinks and not worry about who is driving and you can cook exactly what you feel like!
What a beautiful and nicely written post! Happy Anniversary!
Well said, well said. Happy Anniversary!
such a sweet post, Ashley. “Mexican Everyday” is special to me too because my huzbeau bought it to cook for me from when I was lamenting having trouble finding Mexican ingredients of my beloved heritage when we lived in Kitsap County (these days Central Market in Poulsbo is pretty well stocked). He was even inspired to make homemade tortillas – and I giggle every time he does because my barely 5 foot abuelita would be amazed to see my 6′ 4″ German husband making tortillas! The cowboy beans have become a staple in our rotation. Sometime I use black beans and chipotle and/or ancho chili powder instead of the pintos and jalepenos. Sometimes a chopped up roasted poblano as well. I often add chopped carrots and zucchini to make a one pot meal – just add tortillas!
Happy A Day! Congrats Such a sweet story about your early dining adventures. You gave me a Christmas present idea. Been meaning to pick up that Bayless book!
So much to love about this post: love the dining journal, love to in-home date night, LOVE the picture from your wedding (because, 1. you guys are so cute! and 2. your wedding was amazing…one of the best ever)…also, I love me some mexican food, and beans + bacon = love.
Hope you guys are well!
I know exactly which restaurant you had the chocolate chaud…..”Conception of Ivy” downtown, right? 🙂 I’m going to try it next time I’m in town..
I LOVE this post and this idea. We are days, or hours, away from having out first and I know that finances will be a bit tight. However, making a meal together, from a recipe sounds seriously perfect. Thanks for sharing!
What a great post Ashley! I love how you make time for each other even with the craziness of your lives. Congrats on 7 years!
I’m a bean fanatic and these look great. I frequently make spicy pickled vegetables and tacos and these will be a fantastic addition! Congrats on 7 years and wishing you many more!
Thanks for sharing this sweet post, Ashley! Brought a total smile to my face~ Happy Aniversary!
What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing your story of love and food. Just so sweet.
It is so important to remember that time together, especially when your hours are consumed by small people. Randy and I got in the habit of eating after the boys when he was working in Redmond and getting home late. Once he moved to Seattle, we kept it up because we really like having that time together to connect. Both of those photos of you two are ADORABLE.
This time of year is so hectic, so frazzling. How nice to read something that made me truly feel “in the moment”, and put a smile on my face. Thank you.
You are most definitely an attractive couple. The top photo is simply perfect. May you continue to grow together over many, many years.
i just wanted to say that this is such a beautiful and inspiring entry. I’m glad that you guys still have time to love each other and share it through food i think that’s so important. I saw your post through bloglovin and i wanted to say that this is such a great entry! thanks for sharing
Happy Anniversary!! I love this story 🙂
I love this post. We do home date night too! Sometimes just knowing that a date night is coming up is what keeps me sane.
I love this story!!! I hope to have the same kind of marriage someday, thank you for sharing! Such a great idea to keep the date nights going. Happy Anniversary!
You are flippin’ genius. Ten years and three kids in, and an in-home date never once occurred to me. Thanks so much for sharing this.
Oh, and also? You two are TOO CUTE! Happy Anniversary, here’s to dozens more.
This is so sweet and loving! Congrats and Happy Anniversary!
This is a really cool story! My wife and I used to love what the kids called sleepover nights (at their aunt’s house), which for us were date nights. Highly recommended! Andrew (To Love, Honor, and Dismay)
what a lovely, lovely post. happy anniversary & thank you for sharing this with us!
You two are too cute. And wow – kids eat by 5? and are in bed with enough time for you to cook again and eat by 8?? I only have one kiddo. Maybe I will learn to master your skills by the time I have 3.
Love this post. We know how date nights have gone by the wayside, and we’ve also done late dinner (we call it a “Spanish Dinner”). Love the idea of making it regular.
What an adorable post! I love what you two have created, it’s very inspiring. Congratulations of 7 years and may the next 7 years be even better! Merry Christmas, Ashley!
Yea for at home Date Nights! My husband and I have done the same thing since our first son was born. We’ve been married for 28 years now and our boys are 21 and 17 but they still know that Friday night is sacred. More than one time I have heard one or the other say “Don’t bug the parents tonight – it’s their date night!”
Oh Ashley, I adore, adore, adore this idea. We’ve been married over 12 years, have 5 kids all 8 and under, so romance/dates/us time has suffered greatly. This idea comes at the absolute perfect time for me. Thank you so much for posting it! Please post more about these little tricks to keep things loving in the midst of mommy chaos!
Thanks for the reminder to continue incorporating date night. Also thanks for the reminder to buy a Rick Bayless book. His recipe are off the hook.
Oh! You guys are adorable, and I love the title to this! Dating my Husband.
Not sure why, it just makes me smile.
This post inspires me along with the other “Dating My Husband” posts. I’m getting engaged within the next few months to my boyfriend that I love dearly. (I know this because he told me to pick out a ring) ha, anyway, I hope to have a happy relationship just like yours. I saw your blog-site on the Finish commercial. I was like “Hm, I love food, I love photography, Let’s check it out! I love your work. And your camera, I love the way that the picture comes out. (: cheers!
What a brilliant idea! I am not married but if I ever am I will have to remember this.
I love cowboy beans. I like to add some coffee to the beans. just a couple of cups. Legend has it that’s how cowboy’s did it. Try it, it’ll change your life!