We’ll admit, some of our cooking dates have been complete disasters. If you’ve listened in on our podcast, you may remember our anniversary pizza disaster (10 points for anyone who knows which episode). After a lengthy hashing out of how we’d celebrate — Go out, or stay in? If out, where? If in, what to make? — we decided on staying in and making grilled pizzas to commemorate our honeymoon in Italy. What we ended up with was one broken pizza stone, two completely ruined pizzas (as in, chunks of uncooked dough covered in cheesy pesto goo), and one blow-out argument. Luckily it was one of our first cooking dates in our first year of marriage, and we’ve learned a lot since then — so much so that we advocate other couples try it as well!
If you’re planning to stay in on Valentine’s Day, we’ve got you covered with 5 different Valentine’s Day meal ideas. Even if you don’t make any of them, we hope you’re inspired by the ideas — and that you can learn from our mistakes! Here are a few tips for a cooking date that we’ve learned the hard way:
- Plan ahead! Pick a theme and get those ingredients in advance — no cooking or shopping while you’re hungry!
- Don’t be overambitious! Maybe now’s not the time to try a new cooking technique you just found on Youtube (like grilling pizzas). If you’re not ready for some added risk, don’t stray too far outside your wheelhouse. Also, make sure to plan a doable amount of dishes and choose recipes from sources you trust. We’ve picked the menus below to be purposely slim — just a few dishes for simple prep. The most involved meals we’ve made aren’t necessarily the hardest — they’re the ones with the most courses / elements! So choose wisely.
- Do plan the mood! As we’ve mentioned quite a bit, cooking together is all about setting up a good environment for success. If you’re hungry, tired, or rushing to get food on the table, it will NOT BE FUN. Turn on some tunes, have some quick munchies around if you get hungry, and be ready to enjoy the experience.
- Do make contingency plans. Sometimes, recipes don’t work out — which is a total bummer, since you’ve spent lots of time and money to get there. However, do know that everyone has a failure now and then (or at least something that doesn’t taste quite up to par). If you expect for a potential flub here or there, it’s not quite as jarring when it happens. We always try to have something on hand in case of failure — like bread and cheese. There’s nothing a good grilled cheese can’t fix.
- Just have fun! In the failed anniversary disaster, my biggest problem was that I wasn’t there to have fun. I was focused on the result: pizza, instead of the whole point of it all: to have fun and celebrate with my husband. All I needed to do was laugh and eat cheese pesto dough balls and suggest going out for ice cream for dessert! Instead, all I could do was mope about our shattered pizza stone and dough-spattered kitchen. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s to stop putting pressure on myself in the kitchen: it’s about connection, not perfection!
Below are a few cooking date menus we’ve created for you. As I mentioned above, we’ve tried to keep them from being overly complicated so that you can enjoy time together. We’ve included a few vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free choices as well for those with special diets. Happy cooking!
Simple Italian Feast
Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta)
Tuscan Raw Kale Salad
Flourless Chocolate Almond Cakes
Romantic French-Inspired Dinner
Salmon en Papillote or White Beans en Papillote (Vegan/GF/DF)
Fancy Pants Pizza Party
White Pizza with Scallions and Egg
Cozy Spanish-Style Dinner
Shrimp and Artichoke Paella or Simple Vegetable Paella (Vegan/GF/DF)
Green Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
Two Potato Hash with Soft-Boiled Eggs
Blood Orange Rosemary Sparkling Water
Fresh Baked Bread (Homemade or Purchased)