Wednesday Blog:  I recently had my family over for my son’s birthday dinner and I had been under the weather a few days before and one thing I kept hearing over and over is “you outdid yourself”, “why did you make so much food”, “you shouldn’t have done all this if you aren’t feeling well”.  To me cooking is pure enjoyment, not work and honestly, a stress reliever.  I love cooking for family and friends and I love it even more when I have someone to do it with.  I recently came across this article by Jamie Young titled “How Cooking Together Is a Healthy Date” which reiterated to me the benefits of cooking but also cooking with someone alongside you.  With Valentine’s Day next week, it was perfect timing.

“Cooking will not only help your waistline, but it can also help your relationship. Doing an activity with your partner can help you both feel more connected and much happier. And cooking has added bonuses for its health, convenience, and joyful qualities. Here are the five benefits of showing power in numbers when in the kitchen.

Spend time, not money: A lot of arguments in relationships can stem from personal finances. Not only is cooking at home a cheaper alternative to dining out, but it's also a way to spend quality time with one another. Sure, it might be quicker to have one person cook and the other clean, but when you cook together you have more time to connect and interact.

Stay present: When you do active things together such as cooking, you feel connected to your other half, which can help strengthen your bond. Activities like watching TV don't always feel like quality time since it's more difficult to be present or have a discussion. Try to set aside one or two days a week where you can alternate teaching each other recipes and going through the process together.

Healthy life, happy wife: Have you noticed that when you exercise and eat healthy you are happier and less stressed? The same can go with cooking healthy meals side by side. Couples are more affectionate when they feel confident in themselves, and getting healthier will do just that. You'll be even happier with your partner for helping you cook a healthy dish and sharing this healthy lifestyle together.

Learn and love: Learning each other's favorite foods and likes in the kitchen is exciting. You can teach your partner different methods and techniques based on your particular skills and expertise. Learning what your partner's taste preferences are also shows special attention to their needs and will counterbalance feelings of neglect. Just remember to relax in the kitchen and don't fret over perfecting the dish; this activity is meant to be fun.

Pay it forward: Doing something nice like setting time aside to prepare a meal with your partner makes them want to reciprocate the action and do caring things for you. The more energy you put into meeting their needs, the more you will see it circle back. This creates a cycle of good deeds in your relationship and in turn a new you.”

Here is a yummy recipe to make with your loved one this Valentine’s Day.  We will post the main entrée on Thursday.  Enjoy!!

Twice Baked Sweet Potato with Pecans

Yields 2 servings

Ingredients

2 medium sweet potatoes (about 10 ounces each)

2 tablespoons Bellisari’s Blistered Jalapeno & Fig Spread

2 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons chopped pecans

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 375°. Scrub potatoes; pierce several times with a fork. Bake on a foil-lined baking sheet until tender, 45-60 minutes. Cool slightly.

Cut off a thin slice from top of each potato. Scoop out pulp, leaving 1/4-in.-thick shells. Mash pulp with cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon and two tablespoons of Bellisari’s Blistered Jalapeno & Fig Spread. Spoon into shells; return to pan. Top with pecans*. Bake until heated through, 15-20 minutes.