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After we had Bensen, our date nights changed a little bit, but really didn't take a lot of extra effort to make happen. He was a really good baby and made the perfect third wheel. We'd take him to dinner with us and he'd entertain us while we waited for our food then take his regular dinner time nap while we ate and enjoyed each other's company. He was also a great sleeper so we could always count on him to fall asleep early enough in the evening that we had time to continue our date night at home. Date nights in the four and a half months since Emmy joined our family have not been quite as easy.
I would say that finding a way to have regular, quality date nights was easier to do while Emmy was in the hospital, even though our time together was limited. Having a premature baby right before winter means that we stay home more often than we go out because we don't want to take her to public places where she might catch something. Our energetic, adventurous toddler isn't quite as easy to take out anymore as well. We've often taken advantage of family living close and being willing to come over and spend a couple of hours with the kids so that we can get out. However, sick kids, weather and other things always seem to come up, and we can't expect our families to watch our kids every week, so more often than not, our date nights happen at home.
This stage of life won't last forever, I know. In a few years, we'll be leaving our kids home with a sitter often and a few more (ish) years after that, they'll be old enough to take care of themselves for a couple of hours. Even further down the road, the entire family may be off doing a variety of different things every weekend, and before we know it, we'll be empty nesters with the time, resources and freedom to do whatever we please. But rather than rushing my little ones to grow up, we will enjoy the current stage of our lives and make date night wonderful, no matter where it takes place or what we are doing.
One of my favorite things about date night at home is that it's relaxed and we have the potential to really connect and have fun together. So often we resort to ordering takeout and getting a movie from Redbox, but the more that we spend date night at home, the more I've tried to think outside the box and find something new to do together. Rather than just sitting down to eat, I thought it might be fun to prepare a meal together. We'd get to work together as a team and enjoy the results of our hard work. This meal was simple but felt fancier than our every day dinner. And Joe said that it tasted "excellent".
I wanted to find a meal that we could cook together, where each of us would have our own thing to do but we'd still be working side by side in the kitchen. This Chicken Parmesan with Vegetable Chips and pasta is perfect for that! I'll take you step by step through this date and how you can enjoy time together in the kitchen, no matter what stage in life you are currently enjoying. Full recipes can be found at the end of this post.
Read: Make Date Night Fun for the Kids Too
1. While the oven is preheating, one of you will prepare the chicken while the other prepares the vegetable chips. They can be put in the oven together so that they're done cooking at the same time.
This is probably the more time consuming portion of the date, but if you work on opposite sides of the counter from each other, you can talk while you work. When we're on a date, we try not to talk about our parenting responsibilities, work, bills or other adulting topics. We dream about the future, get to know each other better, and try not to take life too seriously. Date night should be stress free and bring you together rather than having the potential to end in an disagreement. If I'm being honest, even after the kiddos are in bed, we're often interrupted by one or the other of them, so our parenting responsibilities tend to cut in, but we try our hardest to keep the evening wonderful and carefree.
2. After the chicken and veggies are in the oven, one person will get the sauce and pasta cooked while the other prepares the chocolate mousse for dessert.
We sauteed mushrooms in olive oil before adding the sauce to the pan to heat up. For our pasta, I picked Barilla ProteinPLUS® when I was grabbing the rest of the ingredients that we would need from our local Smith's Food & Drug (Kroger banner store). As a new mom, I add protein to my meals wherever possible. It's important for me to be able to continue to feed my baby and helps to keep my energy up. Any parent knows that when you have little ones running around, you need all of the energy you can get to keep up with them, run your household throughout the day and still have some left to spend quality time with your spouse at the end of the day. I love that Barilla ProteinPLUS contains 17g of protein per serving and pairs perfectly with their sauces to bring authentic Italian flavor, well being and quality taste to our dinner table.
3. When everything is done cooking, dish up your plates and sit down to enjoy a leisurely meal together.
Any time we want our meal to feel like more of a special occasion, we pull out our fancy glasses and a bottle of sparkling cider. If you take care in "plating" your food, you might forget for just a minute, that you are in your own kitchen with sleeping babies upstairs and instead, feel like you're out for a romantic dinner at your favorite restaurant. This meal was so delicious, it sure felt that way to me, but instead of being somewhere crowded and noisy, we were able to enjoy each other's company in the intimate setting of our home.
4. After dinner, enjoy dessert while you play games together.
Too often, we're quick to turn on a movie after dinner. There's nothing wrong with a cuddling up together on the couch and watching your favorite show, but some of my favorite memories are when we've played a game together instead. I asked some other married couples what their favorite two player games were and got a lot of great suggestions! It's easy to come up with ideas for a group date night, but I can usually only think of a few that we can have fun playing as a couple. A few that we love are; Battleship, Uno and Life. Some that were suggested to us and that I plan to try in the future are; Clue, Yahtzee, Pie Face Showdown, Mancala, Five Crowns and Sequence.
The babysitter cancelling, sick kids or just the desire to stay home doesn't have to mean that date night is a bust. Get creative and find ways to make date night "wonderful your way" at home. We still enjoy going out together once or twice a month, but I've really started to love a stress free night together at home more and more the past few months.
Bonus: Bensen and I went on our own little mini date to Smith's to get everything we needed for this meal while daddy stayed home and snuggled with Emmy. He enjoyed the time with me and it was in the pasta aisle, while I was choosing my Barilla ProteinPLUS and sauce that I found out that he knows how to say "mayonnaise". It's funny how the littlest things are so exciting as a parent!
How do you make date night in more special than your every day night at home? Click here for more Barilla "Wonderful Your Way" recipe inspiration to enjoy on your next romantic evening in.