I loved sitting at a table for two ... and holding hands.
I loved not having to ask Brett to stay in his seat ... not even once.
I loved ordering from the menu ... and not once thinking, "Will Lydia be willing to eat some of this?"
I loved chatting and watching the fish in the aquarium as we waited for dinner ... and not making multiple trips to the potty because, "we're bored".
I loved sitting and savory every bite ... slowly.
I loved being done when I was finished ... not when another little person threw her "I'm done" tantrum. (See yesterday's post.)
I. Loved. It.
I can think back to other meals and dates that I loved ... and one that stands out is a trip to P. F. Chang's. We don't have one here (sniff, sniff...) but there is a restaurant near Brett's folks. Several years ago (i.e. several KIDS ago) we left our little ones with Gramps & Grammy and went out together. We put our name in at the hostess desk and sat down to wait. For a while. Turns out, it was Prom Night and we were definitely under-dressed. After sitting and waiting happily (for reasons why we didn't mind waiting, see above), our little vibrating pager finally lit up. We made our way past tuxes, gowns and nervous teenagers to the hostess.
"Follow me, please," she said.
And then she took two steps and seated us at the table next to the hostess desk. We almost made it into the restaurant! Regardless ... we enjoyed our meal profusely. Mainly because ... uh, well ... again, see above.
Here are two of my favorite dishes to order when we visit P. F. Chang's ... and yet, they are easy enough to make at home. Almost like a real restaurant experience ... except we have to do the dishes!
Refreshing Lettuce Wraps
(This recipe is modified from a recipe found in Taste of Home, June/July 2010, page 58.)
1 lb chicken tenderloins, cut into small pieces
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 8 oz. can water chestnuts, finely chopped
6 oz. mushrooms, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1 t. soy sauce
1/4 cup salted peanuts
Bibb lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry
In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil and cook chicken until no longer pink. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Heat pan again with additional oil and saute mushrooms until soft. Add onions and peppers and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add water chestnuts and garlic and cook for 3 minutes longer. When the vegetables are crisp-tender, add the hoisin sauce and soy sauce. Stir in chicken pieces and heat through.
To serve, spoon about 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture into a lettuce leaf; sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro. Eat it like a delicious, veggie taco. Yum!
Sesame Chicken with Snow Peas
(This recipe is take from Food Network Magazine, October 2010, page 42, with my usual tweaks.)
5 T soy sauce
2 t. honey
1 1/2 pounds chicken cut into chunks
2 green onions, chopped
1 T fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
3 T sugar
3-4 t. cornstarch
1 T vingar
4 cups snow peas
2 T sesame seeds
Brown rice, prepared
First, prepare the marinade for the chicken: mix 3 T. soy sauce, honey and 4 t. olive oil in medium bowl. Toss with the chicken and let sit for 20 minutes.
Heat 2 t. olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
In the same pan, heat 2 t. olive oil. Add green onions, ginger and garlic; cook for one minute. In a bowl, whisk together the broth, sugar, cornstarch, vinegar and 2 T. soy sauce. Add this mixture to the green onions and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 4 minutes). Return the chicken to the sauce and heat through.
Meanwhile, prepare the snow peas. I rinsed the peas in a colander and snapped off the ends of each pea. Then I popped them in a Pyrex dish with about an inch of water and put them in the microwave for one minute. I kept checking them every minute until they were crisp tender.
Serve the chicken and snow peas over the brown rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Next time, I would also add some peanuts for some added crunch. Delish!