Everyone, it seemed, told me that a weekly date night was the key to a happy, long-term marriage. “It’s time you set apart for you and your spouse to just connect,” “Romance! Romance! Romance!” and “You have to prioritise your relationship” were the mantras drilled into my brain.

Husband and I had grand plans of date night-ing after we got married. He would plan one week, and I the next. It would be filled with romance, special memories and fun.

You can probably guess where this is going. Our first date nights were disasters. So disaster-like that we decided not to have date nights anymore. In hindsight it makes sense. We spent every evening except for one and every weekend together; date-nighting was too much pressure and not needed for that season of our life. We were around each other all the time, and we were living out what it meant to be married instead of working toward it.

Now that we’ve been married for almost 11 months, one thing I learned is that some of the best traditions evolve and happen naturally. They don’t need to be forced, and they work not because everyone is doing it, but because it works for us. Our Friday evenings have been some of our most memorable lately, so I started cooking a more-special-than-normal meal for it. Something that would taste good, look beautiful but not necessarily take too much time.

This week’s recipe was a hit. Taken, as always, from my favourite source – Taste. I do not know what I would do without that website. For how tasty it was and how great it looked, it really was too easy a recipe, and it had minimum preparation time and very little fiddling around during the cooking phase.

  • Chicken Roasted with Red Wine and Grapes    I followed the recipe almost exactly, adding a few more bay leaves and more balsamic vinegar. There were only green grapes at the grocery store, and it was no problem to use the green ones, but I imagine that red grapes would be a better complement to the red wine. Cook the chicken for the exact amount of time the recipe recommends as it stays moist that way.

The thought of writing has not been too appetizing for me these days as evidenced by the lack of current content. We are still eating, and I am still cooking. But I will also admit to a few trips to the freezer section of the grocery store these days for frozen lasagna (a meal we’ve had four times now). My only excuse is a short attention span that is currently consumed by craft projects, so that’s receiving the full weight of my creative energy. Goodbye blog, in other words.

I am still loving the cooking, creating and eating process, so here are a few recaps of Husband’s and my exploits in the kitchen.

My Christmas present from Husband was a subscription to Delicious magazine, easily one of my favourites from Australia (although this is the UK version). When I received my first one last month, I turned to it for many an evening meal including the Indian version of a chicken salad, photographed above. A lovely alternative to the typical chicken salad, this one has mango, chicken, mango chutney, yogurt, curry spices and coriander in it.

Husband made this fantastic warm beef Mexican salad. It was perfect for the warm late spring days that we’ve been having.

Then we had an Easter lunch of a roasted leg of lamb – the same as our Christmas lamb – with an Easter salad and a delicious potato salad. Our desire is to keep a consistent food thread at our meal table for Christmas and Easter, so that our children will connect the two days in the hearts, heads and stomachs. This was the Easter salad, a fantastic recipe, full of crunchy green veggies. It was fresh tasting and packed with great flavors.

For my daily lunches – when I’m not eating frozen lasagna, ha! – I tried a few quick and easy veggie stir fries. This one has egg in it if I remember correctly. I could not say what else went into it except the other basics: broccoli, carrots and brown rice.

And finally Husband made these burgers that made my mouth salivate. I have no idea what he put in it, but the burger was tasty, and the sweet chili sauce was a classy touch instead of the typical ketchup. Who would have thought that asparagus could work on a burger? The dense whole wheat buns were great as well. We should call this the Not Your American Burger burger.

That’s all for now, folks. With the Small One’s pending arrival, I have no idea how much cooking, photographing or writing I will be doing. I will probably be eating though. One never knows how having children will change my cooking. I have often wondered if breast milk can be used for anything other than feeding babies. Oh the uncharted frontiers to come…

It’s been a while since I made Thai food at home. Normally it is one of our favourite cuisines to eat, but I overdosed on it when I first arrived in Geneva. My attitude toward cooking tends to mirror my attitude toward life. Variety needed! All the time! Change! Change! Change! What this means is that I frequently make something we love once and don’t make it again for months. When it comes back to mind, the recipe is gone or I’ve forgotten.

Thai food is mercifully easy to figure out even if I haven’t made it in a while. (Disclaimer: Thai food in a western kitchen is easy to figure out; the original stuff is a different story altogether, I’m sure.)

I first made these pork lettuce wraps several years ago as a starter. It is a great starter, unique to look at, oh-so-tasty and easy to cook and assemble. What I’ve discovered is that it also makes for a great lunch, which is how I had it today. The key ingredients for the flavour are fish sauce, brown sugar and lime juice. Depending on your preference, go heavy or light or medium with the three. I like mine a bit more sour and salty than sweet, so I took it easy with the sugar. I would recommend adding the three ingredients slowly, stirring and tasting as  you go if you want a more balanced taste. It takes maybe five minutes to get all the ingredients ready, 10 minutes to cook and about five minutes to assemble.

  • Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps I did follow this recipe fairly closely (from Taste), but I always add more garlic and then alter the fish sauce, brown sugar and lime juice ratios to my taste. I used a mix pork and beef mince – it was on sale at Coop. I imagine that using chicken, turkey, pork or beef mince should all be fine. I also added spring onions for the last few minutes that it was on the stove before adding the chopped coriander.

Every day of the past week I wondered if the weather could be any better. I don’t think it can. Glorious sunshine, cool air, spring flowers and most people seem happier. Spring is the loveliest time of year, and I appreciate it more living in Europe with our cold winters (even though this year’s was not bad). Spring comes ever-so-gently with a bit of green here and there, small buds, the twittering of birds. It’s the kind of transition that doesn’t rock or jarr, but it takes you by the hand and kindly leads you into what is next.

Asparagus is probably my favourite spring vegetable and embodies all the best features of its season. Not aggressive in taste but distinctive on its own, joyful to the eyes when cooked properly, fresh and simple. We’ve had it twice in the past week, basically the same way, oven roasted with salt, pepper and olive oil. When its cooked just right, it doesn’t need anything else.

Once again I went to Taste for a basic potato and leek soup base, then I added the asparagus. This soup was fabulous and an easy way to eat asparagus with a few other veggies. The potato in it makes it a bit more filling. I would say the thin cream is optional depending on your taste. Happy spring eating.

  • Potato, Leek and Asparagus Soup I followed this recipe somewhat closely except that I used small potatoes, left the skins on and blended the soup with a stick blender. Potato skins have lots of nutrients. Small One (and I) need nutrients. It’s easier to not peel and chop a potato. Everyone wins, really. Toss the asparagus in olive oil, salt and pepper and pop into the oven at about 200 for as long as it takes to be perfectly roasted. You should be able to pierce it with a fork, but it should not be too soft. It will be a vibrant, green colour. Check on it sooner rather than later, very few things in the food world are sadder than over-cooked asparagus. Chop up the asparagus and add to the soup at the very end (you can turn the soup off when you add it in).

It’s been a long, six-week absence from writing. I didn’t spend the winter in hibernation, swallowing down comfort foods and drinking hot chocolate. We had visitors every few weeks it seemed, which made for lots of talking, cooking, eating and walking but not a lot of energy for writing. What can I say, Small One has been consuming more of my physical and emotional reserves lately. When I started this blog, I made one small internal vow – I didn’t want blogging to get in the way of cooking and meal time, so if I don’t feel like taking a photo, I don’t take one, and there is no blog entry about beef stroganoff. The eating has been good this winter, the cooking continues to become more natural, and maybe one day writing will also be more of a normal part of my life.

In the mean time, spring seems to be seducing us in Geneva. The past few weeks have been sunny and even warm during the day. Today I was out in capris, running shoes, a t-shirt and fleece jacket. I wasn’t planning on inventing a spring drink, but at my last doctor’s appointment, I was slightly anemic. Enter the plan to get more iron into my diet without going overboard on red meat.

I have read about spinach smoothies and was intrigued by the idea, so I tried making one of my own with ingredients that sounded good to me. I now drink one every day. Today I am on my second. Husband was disturbed by the idea at first and told me nicely that he hoped I enjoy it, but it wasn’t going to become a part of his life. But even he was won over in the end. I think it has to do with three special ingredients. (Spinach is not one of them.)

  • Spinach Smoothie put into a blender any combination of fruit that you like (warning: even a bit of banana goes a long way). Mine usually have strawberries and oranges. In this one (you can see it in the blender at the top) there is: spinach, strawberries, frozen berries – a cheaper alternative to fresh ones and orange juice. If you like it to be more like a juice with more liquid, just add more juice or water. Now for the three special ingredients that change everything – ginger, mint and honey. Be generous with the ginger and mint; it gives the smoothie life and a wonderful freshness. Half a lime has also been tasty with it. Lots of people put yogurt in smoothies, but I don’t in this one because calcium inhibits the absorption of iron, which is what I need from this smoothie (although the vitamins and minerals don’t hurt)
  • Another warning: spinach smoothies tend to not look very appetising. The only reason why this one looks half decent is because of the frozen berries. Normally it’s a puke shade of brown.