Date Night In - A Date Night At Home Cookbook

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This past Christmas, Joe gifted me the Gilmore Girls cookbook. It was thoughtful and something that I would love, but I already owned it. We decided to return the book and I got to use the refund to purchase something else that I wanted. I'd had my eye on this Date Night In cookbook for a while, so I snatched it up and waited anxiously for it to arrive. The day it was delivered, I hardly put it down and when I wasn't reading it, it was sitting on the kitchen counter where I could admire it.

Date Night In Cookbook

The Date Night In cookbook is gorgeous and really great quality. The cover itself is enough to make any book lover swoon. The pages of the book are amazing and the entire thing is bound, making it easy to open to a page and cook from while still allowing the book to stay in good shape. The pictures on each page are styled in a way that is simple but still gorgeous and appealing. Every time I turned the page to a new recipe, I was bookmarking it so I could plan to make it for date night in the future.

My most favorite thing about this cookbook is the way that the content is laid out. It reads like a blog in book format but functions like a cookbook. Each chapter contains a menu and the personal story behind the inspiration for that particular date night meal. The menu for each meal includes a main dish, side dish, dessert and an appetizer or drink, sometimes both. Scattered throughout the book, you'll find photos of the author and her husband enjoying moments from their date night in meals.

Date Night In Cookbook

The author, Ashley Rodriguez, is also the creator of the website, Not Without Salt. She tells the story of how she and her husband met and fell in love over delicious food and how a lot of their date night memories include the food they enjoyed while they were connecting with each other. Ashley shared that the idea for the book came when she started a monthly series on the blog sharing meals that she and her husband connected over on date night. Those nights that they spent at home cooking together and eating the meals that they made helped them to "stay connected, feed [their] marriage and [gave them] space to fall deeper in love." Ashley said it best when she said, "Date Night In is the story of nourishing a relationship and the food that brings us together."

"Nourishing a relationship and the food that brings us together." - Ashley Rodriguez

I loved reading through the book and hearing the story of the meals that Ashley and Gabe enjoyed when they were dating each other outside the house that inspired the recipes they invented for couples to create during their own date nights at home. There are date night meals for every season and to fit any taste. I immediately bookmarked 15 of the 25 included in the book, which means we have at least one date night a month taken care of for over a year, then we will try the others in the book and repeat our favorites for years to come.

The first meal that we decided to try was "Our Burger". It included recipes for Oven-Baked Onion Rings, Our Perfect Burger with Special Sauce and Bittersweet Chocolate Malted Shakes. Ashley says that burgers have played a significant role in their relationship, acting as a sort of grounding force during the harder times. The stories she shares in the beginning of the chapter illustrate how this meal brought comfort and hope to their family at many points in their marriage. I feel the same way about burgers, onion rings and milkshakes and the good that they can do for the soul.

Date Night In - Our Burger

In the middle of each chapter of the Date Night In is the most helpful page you'll ever find in a cookbook. On it you'll find three lists; the first is a timeline, the second is a grocery list and the third is a list of items you'll need from your pantry. The week before our date, I reviewed both ingredient lists to ensure that I had everything we would need for our date. Then I looked over the timeline and made notes on my daily to do list to make sure that I prepped the things that needed to be ready ahead of time.

Date Night In Cookbook layout

The timeline list can help make the time that you have on date night, more fun and less messy. If most things are prepared ahead of time, the two of you will have the simple task of cooking and assembling the meal. I loved that with the Our Burger meal, we could both hang out by the grill, chatting and sipping on our milkshakes (I'm a dessert first type of girl), while the onion rings cooked. We could also split the tasks, which we did on this night. Joe manned the grill while I set up our burger building station and kept an eye on the onion rings in the oven. I wish you could smell the meal through these pictures because our house smelled divine!

Date Night In Cookbook - Our Burger

This meal tasted as delicious as it looks and was perfect for the summer weather that we've been experiencing lately. It was the perfect first meal to try from the cookbook and made me even more excited to incorporate the book into our date night routine. I'm already making plans for our next "date night in"! I think we'll make the By the Fire meal which includes Fire-Pit Fontina with Tomatoes, Rosemary and Lemon, German Pretzel Sandwiches, Smoky Potato Salad with Sour Cream and Dill and S'more Terrine with Smoked Salt. It seems like the perfect meal to accompany the backyard camp out date that I have planned for us next month. 

Date Night In Cookbook
Date night at home with the Date Night In Cookbook

Whether you love cooking together, are looking for ways to change up your date night routine, aren't going out as often to save money or are looking for new hobbies to enjoy together, I think you'll love the Date Night In cookbook. Everyone who I have shown it to in person has exclaimed over how gorgeous the book is and I can't get enough of the real life relationship stories that are included. I'm looking forward to our next date night with the book!

Date night at home with the Date Night In Cookbook
The perfect cookbook for date nights at home.

How Your Marriage Could Benefit from a Few Date Nights at Home

One thing that I hear often when I'm talking to people about date night is, "We haven't had a date night in months because..." followed by a variety of reasons including no money in the budget for a babysitter, opposite work schedules, no money to go out, not a lot of things to do close by and no time to travel, etc. In an ideal world, we'd all get to go out for a few hours each week to spend one-on-one time with our spouse.

The reality is, a lot of stages in life make it difficult to get out of the house or put money toward a babysitter and a date every single week. The good news is, you don't have to wait until you have extra cash, a night off or even a large chunk of time together to go on a date. At home date nights have become one of our favorite things over the last couple of years and they could benefit your marriage as well. By being more intentional and a tiny bit creative with your time at home, at least one night a week, you can still make date night a priority in your marriage every single week.

make at home date nights a positive thing for your marriage.

We had to rely on at home date nights for intentional time together a lot in the year after Emmy was born. Because she was a preemie and born right before flu and RSV season, we couldn't take her out on dates with us like we did when Bensen was a newborn. Those date nights with him were perfect; We'd play and giggle with him and then he'd take his usual dinnertime nap while we ate and enjoyed one-on-one time together until he woke up just in time for people watching and more family time. Not only was Emmy not able to go with us to public places when she was a newborn but she needed a lot of extra attention and care. Combined with a busy toddler, Bensen, the two of them were a lot for babysitters and sometimes even grandparents to handle.

We knew that it would be a while before we could get out of the house together for date night on a regular basis again, but we didn't want to put our relationship on the back burner. Each week we made sure to set one night aside for date night and we'd take turns planning our activities. Some weeks we grabbed takeout after the kids were in bed and sat on the couch to watch Netflix or a movie from Redbox and other weeks we got creative and did something a little more adventurous or unique. In order for that night to count as a "date", we followed our date night guidelines, stepped away from our regular routine and gave each other our full attention.

How your marriage could benefit from a few date nights at home

With kids in the house, there were often interruptions, especially with a newborn who cried from 10pm to 1am every night. Some weeks our date only lasted a few minutes before we had to tend to their needs and a lot of times, we weren't able to get back to what we were doing. I remember one night in particular, we got the kids to bed and had an hour planned to play Mario Kart together, but we didn't even get through one game before Emmy was crying upstairs. I nursed her and played my game one handed for about half an hour before we decided that the situation was more frustrating than it was fun and opted for a movie while we cuddled with our third wheel. But those moments that we were intentionally spending together did more good for our marriage than the ones that we would have been not spending together or sitting side by side working on our own personal projects, so we took them.

Now our at home date nights are easier because 90% of the time, our toddlers stay in bed and asleep after we put them down for the night. We appreciate our at home date nights now more because we're able to enjoy them fully and because we've taken time and effort over the last years to find creative ways to date each other without leaving the house. I also feel like those dates at home help us to appreciate and make the most of the nights when we are able to get out together.

How your marriage could benefit from a few date nights at home

Favorite At Home Dates

Movie Night - You need a classic dinner and a movie date at least once a month, in my opinion. Sometimes the decision of what to watch takes up more of our date night time than we'd like. We've discovered some great date night movies that we both can agree on. Click here to grab that list.

Talking and Dessert - We love sitting down with a treat and talking about life. Click here for our favorite date night dessert. Rather than just sitting on the couch, we try to find somewhere "romantic" to hang out. Some nights we lay on a blanket in the backyard watching the stars, on the couch in our front room enjoying a rainstorm, or out on our rooftop.

Indoor Camp out - This is one of our favorite dates from this winter. We got takeout, watched a comedy show on Netflix, and played a game to get to know each other better. Click here for the full post and everything that went into the perfect at home camp out. You could take it outside during the summer months, make it a fun family date at first, then enjoy the outdoors alone after the little ones have gone to bed. (I don't think you'll be successful in camping on your own if your kids are older, but if you have toddlers like us, you just might be able to get away with putting them to be in the house after a fun campfire adventure.)

Cleaning or Projects - This date idea might seem lame, but it's been one of our favorites. We've been known to drop the kids off at grandma's for a couple of hours and tackle the mess in the house while enjoying 90's pop on Pandora. I'm planning a date night next month to get a few little projects out of the way after the kids are in bed. Click here to read about our cleaning dates.

How your marriage could benefit from a few date nights at home

Don't let your inability to get out of the house together regularly keep you from having regular date nights! Plan dates out of the house whenever possible, but don't let the time in between become routine. Make time for your marriage every week and you won't feel the need to say, "I can't remember the last time we went on a date" anymore.

Photography by Sadie Banks Photography

At home date nights can be just as good as date night out is for your marriage.

Am I Paying the Babysitter Enough?

I have wondered on multiple occasions, how much I should be paying our babysitters while we're out on a date. And it's a question that I revisit time and time again. Once I settle on the hourly rate that we pay our babysitters, I start to wonder if that should vary based on the time of day they're at our house, whether the kids are napping or not, if the sitter has to put together a meal, how late at night we're gone and whether or not they had the kids pick up their mess before we got home.

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How to Make the Best Use of Your Date Night Time with a Babysitter

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with a group of women in my neighborhood to talk about marriage and date night. We were joking around about how we always end our date nights out at the grocery store or Target. A lot of times it's to pick up a few things that we need for the weekend, but most of the time, we're looking to extend the time that we're away from home and ensure that our kids are in bed by the time we get home. I know that we're not the only ones who do this because on Friday and Saturday nights, the aisles are filled with couples carrying a basket, grabbing just a few things before they head home. That conversation inspired this post on my local date night blog and it also inspired the post that you're about to read.

I know that hiring a babysitter for date night can be expensive, and that those kid free date nights can be far and few between when you're on a budget. That date night time is precious and you want to use it in a way that benefits your relationship. Date night allows you to escape your responsibilities for a few hours and really enjoy your time together. While I'm not against kid free grocery shopping or errand running, and have done a bit of that myself, we really try to spend the majority of our babysitter nights doing something fun and memorable together. If you're at a loss of what you want to do on your next kid free night, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Enjoy a Leisurely Meal

We always throw a meal into our date night plans and we usually pick a restaurant that has a relaxed and romantic atmosphere, one that we know encourages a long dinner, or one that's new to us or that we've always wanted to try. Most of our meals at home are chaos with two busy toddlers and although they're enjoyable, we don't get to use that time to talk one-on-one with each other or even really enjoy the food that we're eating.

Enjoy a Family Activity, Kid Free

One of my favorite things we've done in our marriage was going on a Disneyland trip before we had kids. I look forward to experiencing Disney with our little ones, but I'm grateful that we took advantage of the opportunity and enjoyed the parks just the two of us. Make a list of activities that you would normally involve the entire family in and pick one two use for date night every once in a while. Visiting a local amusement park, going to the park, a movie in the park, etc. Don't feel guilty if you don't involve your kids in all of the really fun things that you know they'd love.

Plan a Late Night Adventure

From the time that we first started dating, my husband and I have always loved to go on late night walks together. Now that we have two kids who go to bed early, we still go on walks but they aren't as late at night and usually as a family. Those things that we feel like we can't enjoy anymore because it interferes with the kids' bedtime are perfect for date night. Sometimes we take our tennis shoes and pick someplace for a long walk together after dinner and our activity. Go to the drive-in movies, find a park to stargaze or enjoy a late movie showing.

Watch the Sunset

We love to find a scenic overlook and watch the sunset together. You could bring along your romantic playlist so that the two of you can slow dance together after the sun has gone down. Pack a picnic to enjoy eating while the sun goes down. Or stick around after and watch the stars come out.

Cross Something Off Your Bucket List

Every year, we create a date night bucket list of activities that we have always talked about trying or that we think would make a really fun date. I love to put them on the calendar throughout the year and get a babysitter so we can adventure together and cross things off our list. 

When you have a babysitter at home with the kids, you are free to spend quality time together without potential interruptions and the distraction of the to do list that you have at home. Make the most of that time and use it to strengthen your marriage relationship. You don't have to do something grand and elaborate to make the most of date night, but being intentional with your time will make it count. Some nights we come home from our date and I find myself wishing I'd thought of doing something different or planned ahead better. This weekend's date night is a babysitter one and I'm determined to fill it with lots of fun, connection and quality time.

Six Tips to Keep Your Babysitters Coming Back

In the three years that we've been parents, we've only ever had our nieces, parents or siblings tend for us, but I've still worked hard to make the experience a positive one for them so that they'll want to continue tending our kids. Now that we're looking to diversify our babysitter pool, I have been thinking about these things more than ever. What are the things we can do to make babysitting our kids a fun experience and make our home one that sitters are excited to come back to? These are just a few of the things that we've done or are doing to make babysitting a positive experience for anyone who enters our home.

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