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Valentine’s Day Tasting Menu: Pecan-Cran Couscous & Chicken Roulades & Healthy Hot Fudge Yum Cakes

12 Feb

After four-plus years of marriage, Stephen and I are very comfortable with each other. For better or for worse, I see us less and less as individuals, and more and more as some sort of amorphous, evolving, symbiotic unit.

On your average Sunday in Our Kitchen, Stephen and I will hang about, reading periodicals or splayed out on the couch watching Stephen Hawking unravel the mysteries of the universe, smacking our lips in anticipation of the Sunday Night Culinary Odyssey ahead. We’re usually dressed like 18-wheel truck drivers on their last leg of a 36-hour drive in a rig with a busted furnace. Creating a harmonious and pleasing visual expression of our inner selves with our garb doesn’t come into it. It’s just us — why dress up? Our hair resembles giant tumble weeds. I often wander about our apartment with face masks of various hues and consistencies.

This is just how we roll, ya’ll — how you doin’?

Most of the time, I embrace our homely homeyness.

On occasion though, as I gaze at Stephen through my rather dingy pair of green spectacles that are invariably slipping halfway down my unpowdered nose, I think: I used to be cute! I would primp for this man when he was coming over to my apartment to sit on the couch and order greasy Chinese take-out as assiduously as I would for an audience with the Queen Mum. That level of care, along with any observance of romantic anniversaries and holidays, has fallen away, somewhere between walking down the aisle, law school, paying the bills, working for the man, filing our TPS reports and walking the dog.

I’ve wondered lately: have we gotten into a rut? That, coupled with my lovely husband’s holiday ‘tude, my sights for Valentine’s Day were set at subdural levels. (Stephen is a notorious Grinch when it comes to anything that traditionally involves small boxes with bows and girlish frivolity.)

He has never been observant of any holiday, much less the ones that the rest of the country greets with bedazzled pageantry and buckets of incense. Valentine’s Day, much to my dismay, tops his list of holidays which should, nay must, be actively and violently spurned and derided.

Corporate marketing conspiracy, yada yada.

I accepted his nonobservance this year with such an uncharacteristically plodding, tail between the legs, head down, Eeyore-like resignation, he became alarmed and immediately sprang into action.

I came home on Friday night to a giant, hot pink Heather bush — and the wild and zany suggestion that we re-create our first date on Sunday night, Valentine’s Day Eve.

Like it or not, Stephen was going to eject us, like aesthetically challenged cannonballs, out of the rut — or pit — in which we’ve been comfortably and unattractively reclining for some time now.

I love the Heather bush, though I’m less than confident about my ability to not turn it into a dessicated bundle of bare branches. I adored the notion of helping him recreate the dinner he made for us on our first date.

It’s hard to believe it was almost seven years ago! Stephen greeted me in his most polished outfit, with a freshly mixed martini, couscous, chicken roulades and asparagus. It was the first (and last) time he ever cooked an entire meal for me and managed to do the dishes, without a pinkie’s worth of liftin’ from me. It was the first (and last) time I ever grinned, sat back, sipped a martini and watched him cook me a meal without neurotically issuing advice (commands) or trying to help (meddle).

On Sunday, we did our best to completely recreate the meal, seasonally inappropriate asparagus included — though I couldn’t resist gussying up the couscous a bit and adding a sexy dessert. Dating again for the first time was just what we needed. We’ve still got it! (Though our hair still does and forever will, resemble tumble weeds).

Below, check out our recipes for Brined Pecan and Cranberry Couscous, Chicken Roulades and Healthy Hot Fudge Yum Cakes. Pictures too!

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