Getting to know other couples and spending time with friends is important for any relationship; after all, no matter how deeply in love you are with each other, you can’t spend every second gazing into each other’s eyes! Expanding your social circle and trying new activities with people who are going through the same phase of life is not only fun, but research shows that having “couple friends” can actually contribute to a stronger marriage in the long term.
For a more hands-on take on the classic double date, try inviting friends to join you in an “Iron Chef” evening. Teaming couples against couples in a friendly competition gets everyone involved in the food preparation, avoiding the dreaded “kitchen isolation” issue that can occur when one or two people do all the cooking while others relax and socialize. It’s also sure to foster teamwork between you and your partner, as well as provide built-in dinner conversation starters as you all discuss the dishes you’ve prepared!
To set up your Iron Chef challenge:
1. Decide on a “theme” ingredient that you’ll provide for everyone.
Let guests know ahead of time what your ingredient will be, just in case of allergies or other issues. Try to choose an ingredient that can easily be made into a substantial dish—chicken or pasta would be a better choice than, say, scallions!
2. Set up your “pantry”.
Share the responsibility of creating a “pantry” by asking each couple to bring a box filled with staple ingredients: oils, seasonings, garlic, vinegars, and other pantry items. Everyone’s pantry items will be made available for general use, and sent home again at the end of the evening. If you’re short on kitchen supplies like knives and cutting boards, you may want to ask guests to bring their own as well.
3. Healthy ingredients:
Make sure you also set out plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, cheeses, and any other ingredients you think may help the teams create their best dishes. A good sampling of ingredients might include:
- Shredded cheese
- Cream cheese or goat cheese
- Milk or cream
- Fresh herbs
- Olives, sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, and flavorful condiments like salsa or sriracha are also great additions to the spread!
4. Let the cooking begin!
Have each team create one dish to share that contains the theme ingredient.
5. Distribute scorecards to each person.
Ask everyone to secretly rate each team’s dish on a scale of 1-5. Collect the cards and tally the points; the team with the greatest number of points wins!