Date Night Dinners in the Age of Isolation

Date Night Dinners in the Age of Isolation
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When my husband and I were dating, we rarely went out to eat because we made dinner for each other. Now that we’re married, we don’t have to impress each other anymore. We still cook on weekends to have leftovers for the rest of the week. However, Friday is date night, when we usually go to dinner with friends.

Before we were under stay-at-home orders, I decided to stop eating out until the pandemic passed. As I write this, we’re on week six of home-cooked meals. While I have a repertoire of go-to recipes, I’ve been pushing my cooking skills.

This has been tricky because we don’t eat meat during Lent, and my husband dislikes vegetarian meals. Also, since we’ve been on lockdown, I’ve been having a stress flare. To settle my stomach, I’m eating a lot of rice and pasta.

I thought sharing our date night menu might inspire others in the kitchen.

Week 1: ‘Laissez les bons temps rouler’

The first weekend was the last time I was able to go grocery shopping. To avoid crowds, I went to a nearby Asian market, where I bought the last 10-pound bag of rice, live crawfish, and shrimp. We only had enough crawfish for one meal, but with so much rice, I made enough of Justin Wilson’s shrimp creole to last us through the week.

Week 2: Making do with what’s on hand

After seeing pictures of long supermarket lines, I was glad I bought an 8-ounce tub of crab meat the previous week so that I wouldn’t have to venture out. Crab cakes have always been one of my favorites, but I never made them from scratch until my husband shared his simple recipe. For a healthy spin, instead of mayonnaise, I mixed a spoonful of Greek yogurt with the crab, one egg, a squirt of mustard, bread crumbs, and Cajun seasoning. I then browned the cakes to a crisp in a frying pan lightly coated with olive oil.

Week 3: Resorting to ramen

The third week, I sent my husband on a shopping excursion. He wasn’t able to buy everything on our list, but he came home with a pound of shrimp. With bare store shelves, I scoured our pantry and deep freezer for ingredients. I found three bricks of old ramen, shelled edamame, and broccoli.

I sautéed some fresh cabbage until tender, added the shrimp, and sprinkled in a packet of ramen seasoning. Then, I mixed in the cooked noodles and thawed vegetables. I finished it with a second ramen seasoning packet, a splash of soy sauce, oyster sauce, hot sesame oil, and Sriracha sauce until everything was heated. We couldn’t decide whether to call the concoction shrimp quarantine or lockdown lo mein, but we both agreed it was delicious.

Week 4: Restaurant flavor at a pantry price

We were beginning to miss eating out, so I made a restaurant favorite: shrimp fra diavolo. Anything in Italian sounds fancy, but it’s just shrimp in spicy tomato sauce.

After sautéing the shrimp with red pepper flakes, onion, and garlic, I added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of crushed tomatoes. I seasoned the sauce with garlic powder, salt, pepper, oregano, and a dash of cayenne and let it simmer before stirring in al dente spaghetti to soak up the flavor. The only thing missing from our meal was garlic bread.

Week 5: Chinese eat-in

With one week left of Lent, I was running out of shrimp recipes. Wanting to try something new, I found an easy recipe for honey orange firecracker shrimp. I tossed lightly fried shrimp with sautéed broccoli in the sweet and savory sauce. We served it over white rice with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and green onions. I could have had a month-old fortune cookie for dessert, but I had to wait until Easter to eat cookies again.

Week 6: So nice, I made it twice

Because my husband finished the leftover honey orange firecracker shrimp, I decided to make the dish again with a few tweaks. I added scallops (my favorite), green beans, and edamame to double the recipe. I cut back on the honey because it had been too sweet for my taste. This time, however, the sauce wasn’t sweet enough. I’ll need to find the right balance next time.

Future meals

Although we miss socializing with friends, we’re saving money by not eating out every week. Also, I’m halfway to reaching my goal weight because I’m not gorging myself on bread and chips while waiting for my entrée. With the warm weather, my husband is firing up the grill and has taken over more of the cooking duties. If the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, I’m glad I’m stuck with someone who appreciates food as much as I do.

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Note: IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of IBD News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.

Emmeline is a 47-year-old Crohn’s warrior and primary sclerosing cholangitis survivor. Her column encourages patients and caregivers to advocate for better healthcare and educates readers about her rare autoimmune diseases. She also freelances as a communication specialist, offering writing, editing, and graphic design services. Emmeline (an Auburn fan) and her husband Patrick (an Alabama fan) enjoy watching SEC football and spending time with loved ones in Austin, Texas. Thanks to a liver transplant in 2017, Emmeline is training for her third-degree black belt in the Korean martial art Mu Sool Won.
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Emmeline is a 47-year-old Crohn’s warrior and primary sclerosing cholangitis survivor. Her column encourages patients and caregivers to advocate for better healthcare and educates readers about her rare autoimmune diseases. She also freelances as a communication specialist, offering writing, editing, and graphic design services. Emmeline (an Auburn fan) and her husband Patrick (an Alabama fan) enjoy watching SEC football and spending time with loved ones in Austin, Texas. Thanks to a liver transplant in 2017, Emmeline is training for her third-degree black belt in the Korean martial art Mu Sool Won.

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