Thank you, Decoy, for sponsoring this post. I’m just going to say what everyone else is thinking: I am really okay with living in sweats and yoga pants for the rest of my days. Life has thrown us all for a loop this year and, though we never thought it possible, we’ve figured out ways to adapt to our new normal. A while ago, the Soldier and I started doing “Date Night at the Crib”. Just a little something we cleverly created to break up the monotony of 2020. Now I want to show you how to spice up another Saturday at home with a three-course meal that’s ready in 30 minutes (or less)- complete with a wine pairing from Decoy Limited.
Why You Should Have Date Night at Home
We all need downtime, and what better way to spend it than with the one you love most? It doesn’t have to be a romantic partner, either. Have a BFF who you adore? Tell them to use the Decoy wine finder to grab a bottle or two on their way to your place and have a friend’s date night.
Hector and I, we needed some way to unwind after our long, stress-filled work weeks. Sure, we were working from home, but that doesn’t mean we were able to really engage with one another. So, we created our Date Night at the Crib. Turns out it has become an evening we really look forward to; and one that we also guard fiercely. So much so, in fact, we have sworn off going out for the foreseeable future.
Our old date-night routine involved trying to get hard-to-come-by Saturday evening reservations. Then there was the inevitable eyeballing of the kiddos to make sure they behaved while we were gone. Navigating downtown parking was always enough to put me on edge, only to arrive at the restaurant and learn we still had to wait for our table. Our food was mediocre (at best) and don’t even get me started on the wine selections. Seriously, back then date night was more a chore than it was a good time. Now, we create our own menus and cook our own dinners and desserts- together. The wine selection is always in our hands, and we’ve not failed us yet. No parking stress, no waits, shoot! We don’t even need to wear shoes!
Meals You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less
Because the goal of date night at the crib is to relax, I suggest you pick a meal that is easy to prepare.
For me, surf and turf is always a good idea. I love a good ribeye, but a ribeye steak at a restaurant is going to run at least $30 a pop. Instead, grab a couple of steaks from your butcher and prepare them yourself. Likewise, lobster or shrimp will run you a pretty penny out on the town. Our supermarket sells smaller Maine lobster tails for $8. Add to that a tip? Never doubt for a minute that you’ll save money by cooking at home.
Pasta dishes with light sauces are also great options for 30 minute meals and offer vegan and/or vegetarian alternatives if that’s your jam. Seafood- especially fish- is a quick-fix option as well. For me and my guy, however, meat and shellfish are our faves.
Elevate Date Night with The Best of the Best
Since we’re saving money cooking at home, we need to treat ourselves. Wine is the libation I prefer to serve on date night. For my ribeye steaks, I knew I wanted a wine that had some weight and elegance to it. I am, after all, an elegant lady myself. Decoy Limited’s Pinot Noir fit the bill, not only for my steaks, but for the lobster tail and our dessert choice, as well.
When it comes to your wine pairing, don’t settle for a run-of-the-mill blend. You deserve the best of the best, and Decoy Limited is precisely that. Between their Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Red Wine, the Decoy cellar has set a benchmark for all of your future wine selections. Pour a glass of pinot noir and tuck before getting started on the prep for course one.
Our first course is a simple garden salad: a pre-mixed bag of greens takes the work out of rinsing and sorting the lettuce. Simply slice carrots and cherry tomatoes and arrange it them beautifully atop your bed of greens in salad bowls. Be sure to humor your partner when he tells lame jokes.
Other salad courses that are quick to assemble are:
- caprese salad
- Greek salad
- or a caesar salad
Cover your salads and pop the bowls into the fridge while you prep your main course.
Spice Blends Make Meal Prep Fast
Season both sides of your ribeyes (or your favorite cut of steak) with a generous pinch of Meat Spice Blend. If you haven’t the time to make your own spice blend, feel free to use a store-bought version. Even a modest sprinkling of salt, pepper, and garlic powder will get the job done.
If you’re not into red meat, butterfly a couple of chicken breasts and give them the same treatment. Remember: date night is about enjoying the evening. It’s not about stressing each other, or yourself, out.
Broil to Save Time
Many meats are simple to prepare and easy to cook on the grill or in the broiler. Proteins like steaks, chicken breasts, seafood, and burgers (yes, burgers can be date night meals, too) are all suggestions for main courses. Grilling usually takes the same amount of time as broiling, albeit with more prep work. Because we’re stuck in an apartment, I prefer to broil. You do need a good exhaust system when broiling. Just turn on the fans, crank up the vent on your hood, and open a window or two. You’ll be fine.
Position your oven rack so it’s about 8-10 inches away from the heating element, then pre-heat your oven’s broiler to high. Once it’s screaming hot, slide the pan of steaks in and set your timer for 4 minutes. Since we’re fans of steaks cooked to medium-rare and medium, I only broil ours for a total of 8 minutes. You may want to decrease or increase your broiling time based on your preference.
Date Night Meals are Cheaper at Home
While the steaks are in the oven broiling, prep your lobster tails to join them later.
Butterflying a lobster tail is easier than you may think. Grab a pair of kitchen shears and, starting at the cut end of the tail, cut down the middle of the tail, stopping just before the fins. As you cut through the shell, you’ll also cut into the tail meat, which is why it’s called a butterfly lobster tail. It’ll make sense in a minute.
Carefully, slide your forefinger between the meat and the shell to loosen it. Use your thumbs to spread the shell apart slightly and pull the meat up and through the slit. It may take a slight twist to get it up and out.
Ta-daaaaa!! It’s butterflied! Season the lobster tail with a pinch of seafood seasoning or more of the meat spice blend.
By now the timer on your steaks should be ready to ding. Once it has, pull the steaks out and use a pair of tongs to flip them over. Return them and the lobster tails to the oven and set your timer for 4 minutes once again. Because these tails were only 5 ounces, I broiled them for 4 minutes and allowed the residual heat to finish cooking them for 1 additional minute. A great rule of thumb when broiling lobster tails is to broil them for 1 minute per ounce of meat.
Don’t Forget Dessert!
Of course we can’t forget about dessert!
The fantastic thing about our Decoy Pinot Noir is how seamlessly it transitions from prep-work sipping, to dinner time, and on into dessert. The notes of dark, rich berries and spices went exceptionally well- even better than I thought it would- with a spiced pumpkin cake.
If you’re not a baker, no worries- take help from the grocery store or pick up a cake (or some cupcakes) from your local bakery. You can also keep it simple by making sundaes. Sundaes are totally a date night idea (and they also go well with wine)! Just grab a quart of ice cream and use this dessert sauce to make your sundaes special.
I let Hector feel special by handing over the cinnamon-sprinkling duties to him. He did great. Round of applause for him. Yay, Hector.
Take Date Night Outdoors!
If the weather permits, take dinner outside!
We’re in an apartment while we build our forever home, so we set ourselves up on our balcony. Thankfully, the kids had their own evening indoors planned, and we had the space all to ourselves. I mean, it’s not like they would’ve fit out there anyway.
A five-star, al fresco meal and we don’t even have to put on shoes!?! Tell me this isn’t the life!
Bonus for us? The Monarch Migration was happening as we were enjoying dinner, so it most certainly was dinner and a show.
I know this whole post seems super lighthearted and casual, but we really are fortunate to be able to enjoy a bit of calm these days.
Make the Most of Date Night
Seriously, I will look for any way to celebrate life’s special moments; even if the special moment is a Saturday evening with my man and a good glass of vino on my super-tiny balcony. Dessert and butterflies were the perfect way to end this week’s date night. Catching up with one another while the kiddos were chilling inside was precisely what I needed to unwind.
You really do have to make the most out of each day, and making time for one another is so important.
Time Saved in the Kitchen Means More Time for Dating
So, there you have it: 12 minutes for a butterflied lobster tail and a ribeye cooked to medium, quick-fix salad, dessert, along with a perfect pairing of a Decoy Limited wine, and date night is complete. I’ve just proven that there’s always time for a special evening together. You just have to carve it out. And, if you’re honest, you totally deserve it. I know Hector and I do.
Be sure to Pin this date night how-to to your “staying in” boards and find your new favorite Decoy Limited Wine in stores using the Decoy wine finder. Come back to let me know which date night meal you whipped up and which wine you paired it with.
Here are More Ideas for Date Night Meals:
Three-Course Date Night Meal
For the Salad Course
- 3 cups salad greens
- 1 large carrot peeled and grated or sliced
- 10 cherry tomatoes sliced
For the Steaks
- 2 6-8 ounce ribeye steaks
- 1 tablespoon Meat Spice Blend or your favorite steak seasoning
For the Lobster
- 2 6-8 ounce lobster tails fresh or thawed if frozen
- 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning
- 2 tablespoons salted butter at room temperature
- 2 servings cake from the bakery (or ice cream)
- 1 bottle Decoy Wine
Prepare the Salad Course
- Divide the greens evenly between two salad bowls.Top the greens with equal amounts of the carrots and sliced tomatoes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Season and Cook the Steaks and Lobsters
- While your partner is preparing the salads, season each side of the steaks generously with a 1/2 tablespoon of the meat spice blend. Set the steaks on a small sheet pan and pre-heat your oven's broiler to high. Arrange your oven rack to the second highest position (about 8-10 inches from the heating element).
- While you're waiting for the broiler to heat, split the lobster tails. Using kitchen shears, cut the lobster tails down the middle, stopping just before the flippers.
- Pull the meat from inside the shell through the cut you created in the tail. Rest the meat on the exterior of the shell, then season each tail with 1/2 teaspoon of seafood seasoning.
- Once the broiler has heated for 5 minutes, place the pan of steak inside. For rare steaks broil 2 minutes per side. Medium-rare steaks: broil 3 minutes per side. Medium steaks 4 minutes per side. Medium-well and Well-done: 5 and 6 minutes per side. Once the meat is broiled, remove the pan from the oven and tent a piece of foil over it. Allow it to rest for 8-10 minutes before cutting.
- Slide the pan with the seasoned lobster tails into the oven during the final 6 minutes of broiling time. After the meat of the lobster turns opaque white, remove the lobster from the oven and place 1 pat of butter on each. Allow the butter to melt over the lobster tails.
Plate and Garnish Dessert
- Plate your slices of cake and sprinkle each with a complimentary spice, or garnish with whipped cream.
- For sundaes, wait until just before you plan to eat to scoop and garnish.