Because the season of love is almost here.
And eating (and feeding) the people you love well, is love. Of the best kind.
And when I say “well”, I mean good. As in good food. Taste wise, but also for your body.
Like a healthy version of foodie food.
Where you get to keep all the best, most beautiful, most flavorful and enjoyable parts of a meal, but without any of the negatives while (or after) you eat it.
I’ve been into this thing for a long time. This healthy but fancy thing.
Now, especially. In the cozy low-lit days of winter, I just can’t seem to stop.
Coming from a let-me-dress-up-and-go-get-a-fancy-drink-at-a-bar-anyday, kind of a girl, I still feel surprised by it sometimes.
I think it’s just one of those seasons.
That instead of fighting for it to not be winter, it seems better to just embrace it.
It probably helps that we’re saving all our pennies for a wedding. Timing wise, at least.
That over the course of the last year, Kyle has taken on this funny little habit of playing hipster bartender everytime we have people over (meaning a well curated cabinet of amaro’s and apertifs, just begging to be used again).
Which I tease and complain about, but secretly love. Those beautiful, foreign little bottles, so worldly and mysterious, even when we don’t leave the house.
Plus, I’m learning to cook meat better. Like, a real piece of meat, not just the ground stuff or organic turkey sausage or a roasted chicken. It’s a life skill that I’m working on. Only with the grass-fed stuff, of course. A girl’s gotta have her limits.
And, that rain. It just keeps ticking down the side of the windows, inching me closer to the fire and my ridiculous faux fur blanket that hasn’t left the couch in months, instead of upstairs to my heels and red lipstick.
Tick, tick, tick.
Our little curated spotify playlist on the speakers.
It’s a phase, I am sure. But a sweet one at that.
I light all the glassybaby. Even when it’s just 3pm. On a Saturday.
Kyle starts at the far counter, a real serious look on his face, as his hair starts to fall in front of his face, crafting and zesting with the patience and care that I so often lack in my own craft.
I watch, at first. Maybe it will rub off on me.
Hmm. Probably not.
So instead, I turn to the stove.
I start to cook a little dinner for us, which inevitably always ends up being enough for 6 people, because, let’s be honest. I have no restraint. I mean, I might as well if my hair is already up in that messy bun.
But, instead of anything super crazy, or over the top, my method for these little dates is a little different.
I’m not going for anything fancy or overly decadent that’s gonna take me hours.
Just good food. With lots of options. Think fun platters to share, things to dip in, and lots of things to test and try, instead of formal plated dinners like the restaurants.
And leftovers that are useful. And healthy. And can be combined in a million different ways. Not the otherway around, like most dinner parties you’d have at home.
It’s like the remix version of your favorite meal. It’s interactive and more playful and makes the whole meal a experience too, not just the cooking part.
We’re not too serious about it. We laugh. I go for more veggies and the totally (and completely) cooked meat. He tries to eat all the potatoes. Dips food into all the sauces like a little kid. And we might even get a little competitive over the best combo.
I can’t believe I just told you that.
Well. Welcome to my house.
There is actually only one rule: only paper napkins are allowed.
It’s date night.
It’s fancy, but not fussy around here. That’s the second rule.
You should try it.
Not that anyone ever needs an excuse for these things. But, taking the time to make a more beautiful or intentional meal at home, feels like a little daily joy. If you let go of all the things you think it’s supposed to be (fancy, more formal, decadent, etc).
And in doing this more, it’s not just a little daily joy. It’s one of life’s most beautiful BIG things.
And it’s not that hard to do.
So, whether your “date night” is a solo one (I love these too), a lady one, a friend one, or a full blown family love night. Make it a good one.
A fun one. A delicious one. And a cozy and light giving one, even if that sun has already set.
A little how-to today on the essential components:
Let’s get started, shall we.
Where it always starts.
(Healthy) cocktail hour, of course.
A little raw cheese sampler (goat milk gouda and iberico sheep), black sesame rice crackers (gf), castreveno olives (all from Whole Foods Market), and these two seasonal beauties: the italian greyhound (my fav), and the maple old fashioned (Kyle’s fav).
The Italian Greyhound
Notes: No added sugars or syrups are needed for this upgraded beauty. Plus, campari is a natural bitter that will help with digestion. Serves 1.
1/4 rio or texas grapefruit, squeezed, plus 1 peel for garnish
1 splash campari
3 oz club soda
1.5 oz prosecco, vodka or gin (optional)
Stir or shake grapefruit juice, campari and vodka/gin with ice (if using). Pour club soda into a glass with ice, top with grapefruit mixture and gently stir. Garnish with a grapefruit peel.
The Maple Old Fashioned
Notes: Instead of using a simple syrup, try a splash of grade b maple syrup. It has such a great flavor, no added cane sugar, and even has some great trace minerals to boot. Plus, those awesome for you bitters. Serves 1.
1.5 oz high quality whisky
1 splash grade b maple syrup
2 dashes bitters
orange peel to garnish
Shake or stir whiskey, bitters and maple syrup with ice. Pour into a short cocktail glass. Ice optional. Garnish with an orange peel.
And that collection of glassybaby? Stop it. I wish I could say I owned them all. Maybe someday.
But, did you know they rent them out? And not just for big parties. It’s like having the perfect ambiance in a box. You can pick your colors and create little sets, depending on what kind of event you’ve got up your sleeve.
And now they even have these beautiful drinker glasses (above). I mean, tell me what little bevvie wouldn’t look fancy and fun in there, right? I grabbed the bellini and single malt colors.
With them, I paired whiskey, courage, passion and grateful red glassybaby colors for a little more of an elegant, warm and understated romantic, wintery kind of feel.
Next up: The salad.
Stick with a simple one. I mixed kale and arugula with heirloom tomatoes. And a little bit of fresh parm.
The dressing is just olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper.
I know, that’s not even a full recipe.
But you don’t need one here, I promise.
And then, we go interactive.
Big dipping platters with sauces. Our favorite kind of dinner jam.
Grilled shrimp with parsley and lemon. With a horseradish mustard dip option (aka, just mix horseradish mustard with a bit of olive oil and blend).
A big fat platter of roasted veggies (potatoes, carrots, asparagus) and my favorite roasted red pepper harissa (if you have my cookbook already, that’s the one. I will never ever get sick of this sauce).
I go platter style on the veggies for the dipping fun, but also because this piece can easily be made ahead of time. As with those sauces.
See how I roll?
Date nights are for enjoying, not spending the whole day in the kitch.
Add in a bottle of red wine or sparkly prosecco, and baby you’re golden and glowin’ in that pretty little light.
As will be those leftovers, later.
And your hearts, hopefully.
Because that’s really, what’s it’s all about anyways:
Loving those around you well.
Enjoying the moments you get with them, however big or little or fancy or simple.
And creating more of those moments, in the first place, to enjoy.
Because that’s the healthiest and happiest kind of life I can think of, at least.
To you, my loves.
Sarah Adler is the founder of Simply Real Health, author of the Simply Real Health Cookbook, and is a woman on a mission to teach people how to eat more simply, more beautifully and with more fun, so they can free up their lives for the things that really matter most.
Her work is featured in Cooking Light Magazine, Brit and Co, Clementine Daily, 425 Magazine, Seattle Magazine, Well + Good, Refinery 29, and Women’s Day. She writes, speaks, coaches and teaches her philosophy of a healthy life, made simple all across the country.