Happy Friday!

Not that I’m ready for the weekend or anything…but this week has been beyond crazy. The kind of week that makes me really ready to step outside of reality for a bit and experience a little magic. For me, that means Date Night. When we were in college, date night meant dinner at Chili’s and a movie. These days, with four kids, it’s not so easy to head out for the evening, so date night happens at home. And I think it’s a lot more romantic – for one thing, there are no waiters interrupting that perfect moment to ask if you’d like a refill.

The magic starts with the setting. It’s amazing what glamour you can work with a few candles and a nice tablecloth. But the real star of the show is the food, so I thought I’d share a quick, easy, and magical date night menu with you, since it’s Friday and all.

Appetizer: Meat and Cheese Platter.

Arrange prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves on a nice plate. Add other meats, cheeses, crackers, or olives if you like. I like to set this out while I’m boiling the pasta, and we munch while we cook.

Main Dish: Fresh pasta with pesto.

Buy (or make, if you’re ambitious!) fresh pasta and pesto from the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Add sundried tomatoes cut into thin strips. Serve with bake and serve Italian bread and olive oil to dip.

If you have food allergies, make or buy gluten free pasta. Pesto contains pine nuts, so replace it with another sauce if you are allergic to nuts. A butter and olive oil sauce with a splash of the wine you’re drinking is delicious!

Wine: Rich, oak-y Chardonnay.

Dessert: Melon salad.

Cut cantaloupe or lemon drop melon (my newly discovered favorite!) into bite-sized chunks. Top with fresh mint leaves cut into thin strips, and drizzle with honey and limoncello. Let this sit while you eat dinner. Yum!

And no, I don’t have pictures because I haven’t made dinner yet. If you’d like to see what this all looks like, leave me a comment and I’ll post them on Pinterest 🙂

The holidays – at least for me – are all about the food. The decorations, gifts, and visiting family and friends are wonderful of course, but really – really if we’re being honest, the holidays happen in the kitchen. Planning holiday meals is one of those things I love doing every year – except this year, I’m totally stuck!

favorite cookbooks

Some of my favorite books

I remember, when I was in junior high, my mother started taking the month of December off work. I loved that time – even though I was still in school, I knew when I got home we would dig through cookbooks and plan wonderfully elaborate menus and bake prodigious amounts of cookies. By the time I reached high school, I started pushing the boundaries, making those cookies and candies more and more elaborate and complicated and wonderful. Insisting on trying new and interesting menus instead of the traditional fare.

Those were good times.

These days are a little different. I’ve been trying to come up with menus for two holiday meals – Christmas Dinner, which will involve just our immediate family, and Christmas Eve lunch with my in-laws. And I’ll be honest: I’m stuck – trying to balance everyone’s tastes and dietary restrictions, as well as my own desire to unleash some wild creativity in the kitchen isn’t as easy as it sounds!

This is what I’ve got so far:

Christmas Eve Lunch:

  • Egg nog (homemade, of course! Don’t worry, there’s enough booze in it to kill any bacteria.)
  • Fleur de Sel caramels covered in chocolate

Christmas Dinner:

  • Mulled wine for the adults, cider for the kids
  • Pork shoulder stuffed with garlic and apricots

Ok, so clearly I’m thinking in terms of drinks…Any suggestions? What do you love to cook for the holidays?