Couples counseling in the kitchen!

Submitted by Judy on Mon, 03/17/2008 - 6:09pm.

Pastor Paul Wirth of a Tampa area church made headlines last week – I swear I’m not making this up! – when he challenged married couples in his congregation to have sex for 30 days in a row as a reaction to the nation's 50-percent divorce rate. (Unmarried couples were encouraged to abstain.)

Note that this pronouncement came after Valentine’s Day and not before, causing me to ponder – why is only one day a year set aside for showing love? A new cookbook proves the old maxim: A couple that cooks together stays together. Okay, that’s not the maxim, but you get the idea.

Meredith Phillips, best known for her starring role in ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” has compiled her favorite couple-friendly recipes in “The Date Night Cookbook: Romantic Recipes for the Busy Couple” (Terrace Publishing, $29.95).

Lamb Vindaloo, Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne, Buffalo Chicken Satay, Rosemary-Orange Cream Brûlée. Think these dishes are only for “company”? Read on.

“Food is about nourishing people, but cooking together is about nourishing your relationship,” she writes. “People today seem so much busier than they were in our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. It’s hard to make time to cook a meal at home.”

Phillips, a classically trained chef, met her live-in boyfriend Fritz in cooking school. Drawn together by their love of food and cooking, they make one day a week date night, but with a twist. On this night they stay home and cook together.

“When we’re cooking we have fun, which is so important in a relationship,” she says. “Our tastes and styles intermingle, especially on date night, because it’s done together and with love.”

Like all of us, this is a busy couple with neither the time nor energy for time-consuming food preparation. These are uncomplicated recipes – ranging from fresh and light to hearty and rich – that nourish your body as well as your relationship.

“The food we cook on date night is all about ingredients, flavor and fun, not about fancy names or elaborate presentation,” notes Phillips.

Come on, Meredith. You’re being modest! These dishes may not be elaborate, but they’re gorgeous! Eating begins with the eyes, and one look at the photos created by master stylist Denise Vivaldo ( and expert photographer Jon Edwards will send you right to the kitchen!

The book includes date night menus with fetching titles such as “Let’s have a quickie! Dinner on the table in 15 minutes (or so)” and “Feed me! A meal to eat with your hands,” a dinner menu composed of just appetizers.

“There’s no law that says you have to eat with a fork.” she says. “Licking your fingers (or somebody else’s) is perfectly acceptable behavior behind closed doors.”

With the emphasis on ease, all the recipes include cooking and prep times. “And remember, when you’re cooking together, the prep work takes half the time,” she points out.

Case in point: Thai Chicken and Lemongrass Soup, which can be prepared in thirty minutes. Add jasmine rice and you have a complete meal.

“Each of the dozens of restaurants in Los Angeles’s Thai Town has its own variation of this delectable soup,” notes Phillips. If you prefer a spicier soup, add whole or sliced Thai or Serrano chiles – remove the seeds and membranes.


From “The Date Night Cookbook” by Meredith Phillips

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced bamboo shoots
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 stalks lemongrass, cut in half and bruised to release flavor
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 can light coconut milk, shaken
Juice of 1 medium lime

1. Set a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat and add oil. Sauté onions until translucent and soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add bamboo shoots and sauté another 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, fish sauce, lemongrass, and ginger. Simmer 15 minutes to let flavors meld.

2. Add chicken and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, or until just cooked through. Stir in coconut milk and lime juice, remove lemongrass, and serve hot. Serves 6.

Fullerton News Tribune/Orange County Register, Mar 6, 2008