Most of the time, my living room looks like this. Yes, that is a salad spinner in the middle of the floor. Some Boy's been discovering the finer points of culinary art.
But every once in awhile, it looks like this.
I try my best to take advantage of those less hectic times by making a nice date night dinner at home once in a while. Nate and I both work really hard and it's easy for us to get into a routine of just slumping into the couch after a long day when the kids finally, FINALLY fall asleep. But that routine doesn't do a whole lot for our marriage. I recognize that it's important to shake up our routine a little bit and take time to focus on each other. What better way to do that than with a little at-home picnic? Whipping up a nice meal for us with a special presentation shows him that I care, but the real key is getting it ready FAST. I usually have a 15-minute window between when the kids konk out and when Nate walks through the door at the end of the day. I've become quite a pro at maximizing that time.
How I make Date Night Dinner in 15 minutes
The biggest key to a fast date night dinner is enlisting the help of some time-savers in the kitchen. I obviously want something fancier than take-out or a microwave meal, but now's not the time to be fussing over a date night dinner from scratch. I've use ready-made sauce and spice packets as my go-to date night dinner solution since the kids came along and they are a HUGE timesaver. My favorite are these Campbell's Skillet Sauces that I pick up at Albertsons near the instant rice for less than $3 a piece. They have six varieties – Creamy Chipotle, Fire Roasted Tomato, Toasted Sesame, Marsala, Scampi, and Thai Green Curry – that can be added to meat in the skillet for a delicious meal in a hurry. For our recent date night dinner, I served Toasted Sesame Chicken over pasta and Creamy Chipotle Chicken over rice. All it took was these simple packets and some basic ingredients that I already had at home: a couple cups of broccoli, a couple cups of rice, olive oil, a handful of spaghetti and a package of chicken breasts.
My rice maker is a Godsend. It has this quick cook function, so I can toss the rice and water in there while I'm getting Some Boy ready for bed, and it's good to go by the time I'm done with the rest of the meal. I also get any other accompaniments (such as pasta, hard boiled eggs, artichoke…anything that takes awhile to cook but doesn't need to be tended to frequently) on the stove before story time.
After I tuck the kids in, I start dinner by heating up some oil for the chicken. I usually pick cast iron or high-heat pans so that I can pop them in the oven and keep dinner warm until Nate gets home if he winds up having to work overtime.
We always have boneless chicken breasts on hand, so I simply slice them up into strips or cubes and get that cooking on medium heat. A high-quality, sharp knife is crucial in the kitchen for making quick meal prep a breeze.
While the chicken cooks, I rinse some broccoli and put it in the steamer basket above the rice.
Then comes the part that really makes the meal: adding the skillet sauces to spice things up. I just stir it into the chicken, bring the mixture back to a boil, and then turn the heat to low and let it simmer for about five minutes.
While the chicken simmers, I try to make our little picnic area presentable. I grabbed a vase that I always have out on display and threw some greens in there that were leftover from my birthday bouquet. Candles are waiting in a cabinet, already in jars so they can easily be brought out at the last-minute for occasions such as these. This tray is always stored on a little ledge beneath our kitchen counter, so it's an easy go-to solution for corralling meal supplies or silverware. For the picnic blanket and linens, I just raided our guest closet where I keep extra blankets and throw pillows. It's nice to use stuff we don't see everyday to make our date night dinner feel a bit more like a special sort of escape from the mundane.
And voila! Dinner's ready.
A quick straining of the pasta and stirring of the rice and we're good to go! I got extra-fancy and served two types of chicken with our broccoli tonight because these skillet meals are really that easy. I figure if I'm making one I may as well make two…then we have leftovers for lunch the next day.
There's a coupon on the Campbell's Skillet Sauces store display and on Facebook during the month of January, as well as an IRC on Sanderson Farms Chicken – making this meal a real time-saver AND money-saver!
Do you ever do date night dinner at home?
I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® and Campbell’s #cbias #SocialFabric #dinnerin15