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Cooking Together Can Heat Up Your Marriage
There’s an old saying about how too many cooks spoil the broth but that doesn’t apply to marriage. One of the best things a married couple can do is cook together. Cooking is a creative and nurturing act that can revitalize your marriage as a new shared interest.
Before we married, Scott ate typical bachelor-type foods especially Chinese take-out. He cooked—and I use the term loosely—a few specialties. The pinnacle, or maybe nadir, of those glory days was the Spanish rice sandwich. It tasted as good as it sounds, from what he said. But desperate days called for desperate measures. After we married, I did the cooking because I love to cook. But when I was in the hospital giving birth to our third child, he announced to the other kids that he would be fixing dinner, and they burst into tears. He was aghast that they lacked confidence in his ability in the kitchen so from then on, he put forth more effort into cooking with me. There was a learning curve but he was an enthusiastic student.
Now his cooking rivals Emeril’s. He makes the most tender and juicy steaks and the best pot of chili west of the Texas. His newfound interest has been great for our marriage which previously lacked any joint interests, besides our kids. Now we have a great time cooking together, checking out gourmet shops and farmer’s markets. He can appreciate the virtues of an immersion blender and crème brulee torch which means more toys for me, too!
Even if your spouse has no previous interest in cooking, it’s not too difficult to coax him or her into the kitchen. Here are a few tips:
*Keep it fun and keep it together. The point is to enjoy this new attraction together. No saying, “It’s YOUR turn to cook tonight!” and then flopping on the couch. There are several ways to cook together without getting in each other’s way. First, each person chooses a different dish to prepare. Second, one person cooks while the other person does prep chef duty (the washing, chopping, and clean up as you go). Third, tag team it: One person preps the ingredients, the other mixes, then back to the first person to man the stove or oven. It doesn’t matter how you organize it as long as you’re both in the kitchen at the same time, having fun. That goes for the clean up, too.
*Watch great food shows on cable TV. There are fascinating food and food travel shows for every taste, no pun intended. No longer boring monologues, food shows feature witty hosts and fascinating topics. Check out acerbic chef Anthony Bordain’s “No Reservations” that takes you around the world to learn about and sample exotic cuisines and Food Network Challenges that highlight food competitions.
*Sign up for classes, cooking groups or cooking vacation destinations. Make your new hobby a way to break out of your normal routine. Find low-cost, one meeting workshops through your local community college’s adult ed program. Or, if you’re adventurous, book a cooking vacation in the Italian countryside or the place of your ancestral roots.
*Start easy for early success. Try not to attempt homemade ravioli, sushi or tamales on your first joint kitchen venture. Choose a dish that calls for simple cooking techniques. Successes are encouraging. Mistakes will surely come but laugh and let them be learning opportunities. Sometimes, we dumped the disasters and other times, we just ate them anyway!
*Check out beautiful, mouth-watering coffee table food books for inspiration and knowledge. I love my book titled “Ingredients” with vivid photographs of all sorts of edibles, some of which I’d never heard of before, and also my “Thailand” cookbook with pics of rarely seen country venues.
*Appreciate the effort and hold the criticism. Ok, so he might not hold the blade the correct way or maybe he was too heavy with the celery salt (two real scenarios in our kitchen). Offer constructive comments, like two discerning chefs attempting to improve your wares, but be overly generous with the kudos to encourage repeat performances.
*Create your very own signature dishes. Celebrate your own masterpieces and declare them new family traditions. Or perfect a favorite. One fall, we wanted to learn how to bake the perfect apple pie. And now, Scott makes a magnificent barbecue sauce, and I have to say that my French Vanilla Pastry Cream and my homemade Hot Fudge Sauce are pretty fab as well.
*Make cooking a social activity. Sometimes we combine cooking with social time. We’ll recruit friends to fold won tons because the assembly line method is not work when laughing with friends. Another favorite time is a crab and seafood boil. Everyone loves to stick something in the pot, then all the contents gets poured onto a large table and everyone feasts with bare hands!
It’s my belief that cooking and eating provide far more than mere sustenance for the body. They are sensual and spiritual acts, very bonding for two people and very conducive to falling in--and staying in--love.
Easy Chicken Cacciatore
2 each chicken thighs and breasts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder or 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tsp. onion powder
1 small onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 (28 oz.) can stewed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. thyme
1/2 Tbsp. capers
½ cup white wine, optional
2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped
1 cup dried orzo
2 cans (15 oz.) chicken broth
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
For cacciatore: In a bowl, blend together flour, salt, pepper, garlic and onion powders. In a sauté pan, melt butter in olive oil. Add fresh minced garlic, if using. Dredge chicken pieces in seasoned flour. Brown chicken on both sides in heated butter/oil. Remove to plate. Add diced onion and bell peppers and sauté until soft. Add canned tomatoes, chicken broth, wine, oregano, basil and thyme. Bring to a boil then add chicken pieces, lower heat and simmer until chicken is done, about 20 minutes or until juices run clear. While chicken is simmering, prepare orzo (see note below.) After chicken is done, add capers. Serve chicken on top of cooked, cheesy orzo and pour sauce over all. Garnish with chopped Italian parsley.
For orzo: In a pot, bring 2 cans of chicken broth to a boil. Add dried orzo. Cook until al dente or tender but not soggy. Drain and toss with Parmesan cheese. Plate and serve chicken over cooked orzo.
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