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Last Minute at Home Date Night Ideas

By on February 10, 2018

Last Minute at Home Date Night Ideas (for Valentine's Day or whenever!) - www.agirlcalledcarol.com

Even if you think Valentine’s Day is a made-up greeting card holiday, it’s still hard to ignore. After a few years of going out and paying too much for a mediocre prix fixe meal I’ve learned my lesson. Save your eating out budget, and time, for another day during the month of February and celebrate Valentines at home with an at-home date night.

The key to a successful at home date night? Mix it up! Most of us eat plenty of meals at home and then we crash in front of the TV, so it’s time to do something different. Dress up. Cook together. Eat dinner in bed. Don’t turn on Netflix.

Whatever is out of the ordinary for you and your partner, do that! The great thing about a date night is that you get to do something fun, and stray from your routine, while spending quality time with your partner. So in order to keep that spirit alive for at home date nights you’ve got to break the mold.

Two big advantages of an at-home date night are that it’s less expensive than going out, and there is very little planning needed. So here are just a few -last minute- ideas to get you started…

Last Minute at Home Date Night Ideas

Cook together
If you’re like me and do the majority of the cooking, AND don’t really like anyone messing with your space, then find a recipe online or try one of those meal services. It will be a new recipe with all the instructions clearly laid out, so neither one of you has the advantage. Maybe get a little crazy and let your partner take the lead!

Have an indoor picnic
Or “floor picnic” but that sounds dirty and not in a good way. An unrelated note: make sure your floors are super clean before attempting said floor picnic. I get it, you think picnic and you envision soft grass, birds chirping, and the warm sun on your shoulders (or something like that) but it’s winter and it’s cold (for some of us). An indoor picnic can add a little more intimacy to your meal, you can sit together for one thing, so pull all the pillows off the couch and snuggle up. Don’t forget to light the fireplace or a few candles to set the mood.

Play a game
When we visit with my side of the family every night turns into game night, and it’s such a blast! For some reason we rarely think of doing it with just the two of us but there are plenty of games out there that can be entertaining for just two. Rummikub is one of my absolute favorites, but card games are also easy and don’t require you to store any big board games. You could even add a little wager to whatever game you choose, I mean a little competition never hurt anyone!

Dress up
Put on your cocktail best and meet up at the table for a candle lit dinner (even if it’s just take-out pizza!). It might seem silly but putting in that extra effort -while not required- can bump your date up to the next level. It’s like when you have a cold but you also have to go to work so you put on your favorite outfit and spend a little more time getting ready, and somehow, someway, that extra effort makes you actually feel better? Same thing applies here; feeling good about yourself puts you in a better mood which is guaranteed to make your at-home date a success.

 

Need help with your menu for this fun date night you’re planning? My favorite is to put together a meat & cheese & extras plate to enjoy at home. Super simple and super satisfying. Click on over to see how to easily put yours together!

Now send your partner a text or leave them a note that date night is on the calendar, whether it’s for Valentine’s Day or any given Tuesday.

 

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Food | Home

Create the Perfect Date Plate

By on February 9, 2018

Create the Perfect Date Plate for your at-home date night (or party!) - www.agirlcalledcarol.com

After years of dating my -now- husband and I have realized that when we go out to eat our favorite way to order is to just get a bunch of small plates to share, and we always start with a meat and cheese plate. Eventually we just started to do at home (because, hello, cheaper!) and now we call it a date plate.

Date plates are perfect because they encourage grazing and chatting (and sipping wine!), there is something for everyone, and -the best part- there is little to no cooking involved. Bonus: my toddler also loves date plate nights, apparently eating off a shared plate is second only to eating right off of mom or dad’s plate.

Creating the perfect date plate is all about mixing tastes and textures. You’ll want a few of each: cheese, meat, fruit, bread, nuts, spreads/dips, and any other vegetable or extra. It’s also fun to go shopping for ingredients together – and no need for this to be an expensive endeavor: buy in small quantities. Check the specialty cheese section of your local grocery store for smaller portions (there’s usually a basket of leftovers that have much smaller pieces), and see if your deli counter has cured meats then you can grab slices rather than buying the whole package. The salad bar and olive bar will have an assortment of little goodies so swing by those too. Below is a typical run down of our date plate “ingredients”.

Anatomy of a Date Plate - www.agirlcalledcarol.com

 

Date Plate for 2:
Soft Cheese – like brie or camembert
Hard Cheese – I love to try a new sheep’s milk cheese but manchego is always a safe bet
Sharp/Bold Cheese – an aged cheddar or a blue cheese if you’re into that sort of thing
Prosciutto – plain and simple
Spicy or Flavored Salami – so many good infusions out there, get creative!
Something “Easy” i.e. soft and mild – like coppa or maybe a cured beef!
Nuts – 1-2 kinds, start plain and then add in candied or spiced nuts
Grapes – and berries too
Spreads/Dips – aim for at least one savory (like mustard) and one sweet (like honey)
Breads – you need a vehicle for all that yumminess, try any kind of baguette, crackers, or toasts
Extras: dried fruit, olives, marinated vegetables, pickles, bruschetta etc. (our absolute favorite is a side of artichokes)

…and don’t forget a little oil & balsamic vinegar for dipping.

Create the Perfect Date Plate for a party or at-home date night! www.agirlcalledcarol.com

You guys, it’s so easy and can really be a full meal -feels fancy with very little work, which is pretty much the best thing ever.

 

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Food

Hearty Stovetop Chili

By on February 6, 2018

I don’t know about you, but it’s still winter here and despite there being little to no snow on the ground the temps are still freezing and I need a winter pick-me-up! There was really only one option that would perfectly fit the bill: chili.

Hearty Stovetop Chili - www.agirlcalledcarol.com

 

I think we can all agree that chili ranks right up there towards the top of the list of comfort foods. It’s warm, filling, and consumes your kitchen with deliciousness while it simmers on the stove.

For me, it goes beyond that; chili reminds me of my Grandfather. It was one of the foods he loved to make, and he always made a pot when we came to visit. For years I made his recipe, but eventually started to play with it. Below is the result, and I think it’s *superb* if I do say so myself.

The secret I found that lifted my Grandfather’s chili into superb territory is the addition of salsa. It adds a kick of flavor without having to add a bunch of different extra ingredients. Pair it with some sweet cornbread and you’ve got the perfect meal to warm up with on a cold winter day.

Hearty Stovetop Chili from agirlcalledcarol.com

 


Hearty Stovetop ChiliHearty Stovetop Chili

Ingredients:
1lb ground beef
1 medium white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (15oz) can dark red kidney beans
1 (15oz) can light red kidney beans
2/3 cup salsa*

3-4 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:
In large pan over medium-high heat, brown ground beef. While the beef is browning, open both cans of beans and rinse them in a colander, pour diced tomatoes in the same colander to drain.

Then, drain off excess fat and set meat aside in a bowl. In same pan, sauté onion until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add in garlic and sauté just until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Stir the ground beef back into the pan and sprinkle the salt over the mixture.

Add in the remaining ingredients (tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beans, salsa and spices). Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. then cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally.

For best results: around the 1 hour mark, taste test and add in additional chili powder, cayenne pepper, and/or salt & pepper as needed. Note: as the chili sits it will get spicier, so watch your cayenne pepper if you plan on having leftovers!

Serve warm with a little cheddar cheese on top (plus sour cream if you’re feeling it), and a side of corn bread.

*Use basic, jarred, store-bought salsa. Steer clear of fresh/pico de gallo varieties, that isn’t the flavor we’re going for here.  I usually use mild to medium Pace or La Victoria – whatever is on sale. 


 

Hearty Stovetop Chili - www.agirlcalledcarol.com

I know the new year is all about healthy eating and changing habits, blah blah blah, and this chili doesn’t masquerade as a calorie-free salad but it’s exactly what I needed today! After this chili is gone ::ahem, probably in less than 24 hours:: I’m going to be looking for some more comfort food – what’s your favorite dish to make when the temperature dips down?

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