Last week was my birthday, and I was lucky enough to spend the whole week celebrating with my friends, family and lots of food. It all culminated over the weekend with a visit from Keri and her fam. We spent an entire afternoon and evening in the kitchen together, cooking for a night in with the husbands. Don’t get me wrong, we love a good date night out. But we also love a night in. Here’s why:
- Informality…or formality…you choose! You can come to dinner in whatever attire you want. You want to prep and eat in your PJs like Keri did? Do it! Prefer stretchy yoga pants? Awesome. Want to go full on glam in cocktail attire? 80s prom? The roaring 20s? Beachwear? Go. For. It. You can be as formal or informal as you want, and you don’t have to worry about being under or overdressed because it’s your night in. (I went with jeans and a sweater this time, in case you were dying to know).
- No reservations. Getting a sitter, getting ready, and getting out the door is just hard right now. We work, the husbands work, the toddlers get tired, and remembering to make a reservation is hard, let alone make it to one on time! A night in gives us the flexibility to be on our own timeline. We don’t have to be somewhere at a certain time, and we can take as long or as short of time to eat as we please. We opted to start our dinner in peace after the kids went to bed, and we spread it out over a couple of hours.
- More social. From the cooking to the actual eating, it’s just more intimate and social. We get to enjoy cooking together. We can chat, tell stories, joke around – it’s fun for us. If you’re doing a night in for several people, it allows way more interaction amongst the group than sitting at a long restaurant table. We all know what it’s like to wonder what on earth the people at the other end of the table are saying! Cook with your guests, taste tests (we love little tasting spoons so everyone can share the love), and generally just enjoy the moment.
- Way cheaper. There isn’t a lot to say here. Just like during the week you know you spend less money cooking at home, the same principle applies here. We did four courses for four people and spent less than $75 on food. You can’t beat that!
- Experimenting. We love any opportunity to experiment in the kitchen and play with our food. We really, really do. And nights in are a fantastic way to do that. You can try new recipes you’ve saved, make up your own, learn a new cooking technique, bring in friends or significant others to cook with you – the sky is the limit. We tried a new recipe for one course, and we made the rest up! See below for what we cooked and how to make it.
- You’re in control. With a night in, you can make it exactly what you want. You can control the cost, the guest list, exactly what’s on the plate, the number of dishes. If you want to do a course pairing (we did wine), you can – beer, wine, cocktails, mocktails, infused water, whatever you want! You can use it as a learning experience and try out complex dishes. Or you can keep it completely simple. We’re big fans of the 80/20 rule, in a lot of ways. We did a cake that had several steps, but the rest of the meal we just kept simple. This goes for prep and what’s on the actual plate. With a night in, we can pack in the veggies, make the most of the dishes healthy-ish, and still indulge too. Enter that decadent cake we tried!
A four-course wine pairing with our husbands, in our PJs, on the cheap, with no rushing – any day! Try it, we promise you’ll love it. Don’t stress about it, even if you aren’t comfortable in the kitchen. Again, it’s a great chance to experiment, socialize, relax and laugh off any mishaps, like reading three cups of powdered sugar instead of three tablespoons. Let’s just say our first batch of frosting didn’t make it.
What We Made
- Grapefruit & Avocado Salad
- Salad: grapefruit slices, avocado slices, arugula mix
- Dressing: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, whole grain mustard, salt and pepper (simply mixed to taste!)
- Seared Apples & Sharp White Cheddar
- 2 fuji apples, peeled and sliced
- ½ Tbs. butter
- Juice of half an orange
- ¼ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
- Sliced sharp white cheddar cheese
- Heat butter in skillet. Add apples, cooking for 10-15 minutes (we like ours extra crispy, so we seared a bit longer!). Add pumpkin pie spice and vanilla. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Let cool. Place an apple slice on top of a slice of sharp white cheddar – it’s delish!
- Sweetheart Chili Burgers
- Burger: 2# ground beef mixed with 4 oz. can diced green chilis (drained) and salt and pepper to taste.
- Sweetheart sauce: 8 oz. whipped cream cheese mixed with ½ cup of your favorite pepper jelly (we used raspberry jalapeno)
- Build it: grill the burgers (we did charcoal because it’s our first love!), spread the sweetheart sauce on a brioche bun, add the burger, and top with caramelized onions.
- Baker by Nature’s Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake. We don’t really need to say anything else here – the title pretty much says it all. It was indeed as divine as it sounds.
Are you ready for a night in? Comment below with questions or to share your menu ideas!
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