My husband Rob and I have a long-standing tradition (14 years and counting!) of weekly date nights at home. The structure and set-up has shifted over the years, morphing into something different each season as we take into consideration our growing children, work commitments, and general responsibilities, but the effort to maintain them has turned our ordinary, happy marriage into one with a splash of spiciness and extra fun.
As I wrote in my book, we officially started these dinners for two when our boys were toddlers. Born less than two years apart we set out with a goal to ‘keep the romance alive’ amid the happy chaos that accompanied new parenthood. While our initial intentions may not have been to have a date per se, but rather a peaceful dinner void of interruption and cartoon character place settings, we quickly realized that we could add a movie, board game, or great conversation to our meal and replicate many of the great nights out that we cherished but found difficult to organize. We originally chose Wednesday nights because it gave us something special to look forward to, adding an extra dose of fun to an ordinary weeknight.
Today, our at-home date nights have moved to Thursday because that’s what works best for our family. With a baby underfoot they are admittedly more simple than they have been in the past and usually involve wine and cheese, wine and take-out, or wine and dessert accompanied by some mind-numbing TV, but it’s nice to know we have a night penciled into the calendar that’s just for us. Once the baby is asleep our phones are put away—and sometimes even off shut off (!!)—and our older boys keep themselves busy and try not to interrupt too often.
You can imagine how delighted I was when popular food blogger Ashley Rodriguez released a book last year all about, you guessed it, date nights! Date Night In speaks loudly to me, with its message to take time for your relationship by creating special meals, memories and moments at home. As busy moms, we’ll happily celebrate a fabulous report card or big hockey win with ice cream sundaes or homemade cookies, but all too often we forget to make a special meal for and with the one we love the most. Divided by seasons, the book is filled with recipes for two and inspiring stories about how Ashley and her husband, determined not to let their relationship deteriorate, instituted a weekly date to reconnect over simple, thoughtful dishes. Sounds familiar.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, why not pencil an at-home date night into your calendar this month? I even have the perfect recipe to help you get started! Adapted from Ashley’s book, this cafe au lait pudding is made with six ingredients, can be made up up to two days in advance and makes just two servings, perfect for sharing with your sweetheart.
Tell us, do you have date nights at home? If not, would you be inclined to start?
P.S. I’m often asked what the kids eat for dinner when we have date night, and I can assure you it’s something simple that they love. I will usually designate this as the ‘breakfast for dinner’ night, or make a favourite like chicken finger and French fries. This usually means they’re as excited about date night as we are, so it’s good for the whole family!
Cafe au Lait Pudding
Adapted from Date Night In
Makes 2 servings
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 ½ tsp espresso powder
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Whipped cream, for serving
- Cocoa nibs or chopped chocolate, for serving
Prep and Cook:
- Whisk the cream and espresso powder in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cornstarch and stir until they’re are no lumps.
- Add the sugar mixture to the cream mixture and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Stir in the salt.
- Divide the pudding between two bowls and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
- Refrigerate until cold. Pudding can be made up to 2 days in advance.
- Serve with whipped cream and cocoa nibs or chopped chocolate.