Easy Date-Night Recipes, and Outsmarting Salad Shockers!

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Hi HG,

My wife and I love your recipes! However, I'm not that great in the kitchen. Which recipes are really easy but impressive enough for a surprise dinner?

Novice Nick

Dear Nick,

Awww! I love that you want to surprise your wife with a guilt-free, homemade meal. HG recipes are generally pretty simple. If you're not confident in your kitchen skills, my best advice is to first read through all the directions, and then prep your ingredients before starting. This way, following the recipe will be extra easy. And make sure to double any single-serving recipes, so there's enough for two of you!

I happen to have some impressive date-night recipes for you. This email features a caramelized onion appetizer, a sweet 'n spicy chicken entrée, and a DELICIOUS bread pudding for dessert. This one has a tropical cocktail, a super-sized shrimp and rice dish, and yet another bread pudding for two. And this quintessential date-night menu of recipes includes Chicken Amore! (one of my favorite recipes ever), Very Berry Dreamboat Parfaits, and a huge roundup of date-ready recipes. I will say that the absolute easiest of that bunch are the caramelized onion app, the Chicken Amore!, and the caramel bread pudding.

If you still feel nervous about heading into the kitchen, maybe try one of these super-simple recipes: Sauced 'n Simmered Dijon Chicken (just double the ingredients and increase the cook time, if needed) and Sweet & Sour Meatloaf (nothing wrong with leftovers!). And here's a roundup of really easy sides to serve with any entrée. I'm also partial to foil packs, since they are SO easy to prepare and clean up. Try the Jump for Choy! Fish Pack and Cha-Cha-Cherry BBQ Chicken Pack -- both make two servings. Lastly, if you want to whip up something without even turning on the oven, try these no-cook recipes: Spicy Thai-Style No-Cook Stir-Fry and Shrimp Cocktail Tacos.

Good luck, and let me know how it turns out!  

Hungry Girl,

I recently went to a restaurant and got a salad, figuring it would be my best bet. When I checked the nutritional info later, it turned out to be worse than some of the burgers and pasta meals! Can you give me any advice for choosing sensible salads?

Jenny in Jenkintown

Hi Jenny,

Salads really can be food fakers! Here are some DOs and DON'Ts to help you avoid a disaster...

DO get your dressing on the side. Then dip your fork into the dressing; don't pour the stuff on. Ask for light options as well. No need to stick with the exact dressing that comes on that salad. Sometimes I skip the dressing altogether and go with salsa, balsamic vinegar, or a squeeze of lemon.

DON'T be afraid to special order. If a salad looks healthy, for the most part, but includes a few questionable ingredients, ask your server if they can be left off. Common culprits behind fatty salads: tortilla/wonton strips, candied nuts, crumbled bacon, and cheese.

DO look for salads loaded with raw vegetables, like tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, and carrots. I especially love chopped salads with these items. Be a little cautious of cooked veggies, though, which are often prepared with butter or oil.

DON'T be fooled into thinking that scoopable tuna or chicken salad is a good choice. It's typically loaded with mayo. Grilled fish or chicken is a much better pick.

DO try to do some research ahead of time. Check the restaurant's website for nutritional info before you head out. And if you unexpectedly find yourself out to eat and didn't get a chance to check the stats online, pull up the restaurant's website on your smartphone or see if your server can give you a nutritional brochure. That can help you make a more informed decision.

For more info, check out this amazing Salad Bar Survival Guide. Happy chewin'!

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