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Two Cooks in the Kitchen: Dishing up quick and easy dining ideas for newlyweds


(ARA) - "The first time my now husband ever cooked for me, he fried eggs in about three inches of bacon grease. I was absolutely mortified," says former newlywed Andrea Alexander, who is now a chef instructor at The Art Institute of Houston.


Combining two different cooking approaches into one kitchen isn’t always easy. Even professional chefs have to adjust their kitchen attitudes when they get married. But it can be done. With a little patience and coaxing, Chef Alexander was able to convince her husband there was a better way. "Now we eat poached eggs on polenta, lots of fresh vegetables and as much fresh seafood as possible," she explains.

Whether you're a two-cook, one-cook and one helper couple, or both culinary-challenged, the chef instructors at The Art Institutes have created a few simple ideas for dishing up harmony and delicious meals in the kitchen.
Start with what’s correctly called "the most important meal of the day." According to Chef Peter Weeren of The Art Institute of Washington, "newlyweds are notorious for skipping breakfast, and when asked, will often say they don't have time to cook anything 'worthwhile' during the week."

So, for a quick solution to the "no time for breakfast problem," Chef Weeren suggests preparing extras on the weekends. Make double portions of pancakes, waffles or French toast that can be cooled, placed between wax paper, popped into plastic storage bags and then frozen. To give you and your spouse an added nutritional boost, try using whole grains, and add fresh berries as toppings.
Says Chef Weeren "next Monday, instead of running out of the house on coffee alone, grab one or two of those pancakes or waffles, toss them into the toaster and in just minutes, you have a solid foundation upon which to build your weekday without the fuss."

How about the end of the day? After a long 9-to-5 grind, most couples don’t have the energy to turn out a big meal, even though they’re hungry. Instead of elaborate meals that require a lot of preparation, Chef Benita Wong of The Art Institute of Washington says "try something new and simple, like tapas."

Chef Wong likes the Spanish tradition of tapas, which are an array of small plates of food that are meant for nibbling. Loaded with flavor and texture, tapas are, according to Wong, "a freewheeling nibbling and noshing concept that can be a wonderfully exotic and entertaining meal to enjoy with your better half."

The appeal of tapas for newlyweds is they can be easy to prepare. For example, olives, hummus with pita bread, or cured meats can all work for tapas. You can pick up more ideas by browsing around the prepared food section of your local grocery store.

Small plates of many foods create the perfect array of diverse taste and flavors. Says Wong, "you can either make these dishes ahead of time or spread out portions of the week's leftovers with some healthy delicious snack foods." She also suggests accompanying tapas with a great glass of Spanish wine to turn Friday night wind-down into a romantic evening filled with an assortment of flavors.

Another great way to smooth the path to mealtime for newlyweds is a well-stocked pantry. All our chef experts agree that well-chosen foods in the pantry can save time, money (you’ll eat out less!) and will make cooking more enjoyable.

Here are their suggestions for a well-stocked pantry:
White or brown rice
A variety of pasta (semolina or whole grain)
Canned tuna or chicken
Variety of beans (pinto, navy, chick)
Canned tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes
Canned olives
Brown and granulated sugar
Dried herbs
Good olive oil
Vinegars (balsamic, red and white)
Soy sauce
Courtesy of ARA Content
EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information, contact Barbara Vilanova, The Art Institutes at (412) 242-0796 or Jeff Durosko at (412) 562-0900 ext. 7232.

The Art Institutes system of 29 education institutions is located throughout North America, providing an important source of design, media arts, fashion and culinary professionals. The Art Institutes system of schools has provided career-oriented education programs for 40 years with more than 140,000 graduates. For more information, visit The Art Institutes website at


Creamy Polenta from Chef Alexander

2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk (whole, skim or heavy cream or even fat-free heavy cream works)
1 cup polenta or yellow corn grits
1/2 pound sausage, any type ground or link, I generally use a low-fat turkey sausage
1/2 onion diced
1/2 cup corn
1/4 cup green onions
4 eggs
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 cup grated cheddar
Your favorite salsa as needed
1 can black beans
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 lime juiced
1/4 cup cilantro chopped

In a saucepot heat the chicken broth and the milk, until it just begins to simmer. Slowly whisk in the polenta, stir constantly until it is smooth and allow it to cook according to the directions on the box or bag.

Heat a sauté pan and add the sausage and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until done all the way through. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, then add the corn and green onions. Add the sausage mixture to the polenta and incorporate thoroughly.

Note: You can incorporate whatever else you have on hand into this dish. Chef Alexander often adds tomatoes and peppers. Just sauté them with the onions and proceed as directed.

Yogurt Dressing from Chef Wong

(Makes about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon currant jelly
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups yogurt, vanilla
Place jelly and lemon juice in a stainless steel pot. Place on low heat and stir until melted. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Stir in sour cream and yogurt a little at a time. Chill until used.

Hummus (Chickpea Dip) from Chef Wong

(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup chickpeas, cooked or canned
1/4 cup tahini or sesame paste (can also add some peanut butter)
1/2 tablespoon garlic, crushed (use more for a stronger taste)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or water for a milder taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
cayenne pepper to taste

Puree the chickpeas, tahini paste, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil in a food processor or blender. If too thick, add a little lemon juice or water to adjust the consistency. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Scottish Griddlecakes from Chef Weeren

Yield: 20 4-inch griddlecakes
3/4 cup oatmeal
1 1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup or light corn syrup
1 egg beaten
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup milk
In a food processor fitted with the cutting blade, pulse-grind oatmeal until it resembles coarse flour. In a large bowl, mix together the oatmeal, sour cream and maple syrup. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, mix in the egg, flour, salt and baking soda. Add in the milk, little by little, until a thick batter consistency has been reached. Lightly grease a griddle or frying pan and heat until hot, then drop batter by large spoonfuls onto the griddle. Cook until bubbles begin to show on the surface, turn and cook for a further 2 minutes. Cook remaining mixture in batches
Serve your griddlecakes hot and buttered, with jam if desired. They may also be served cold. You may store them at room temperature in an airtight container or you can place squares of wax paper between the cakes and freeze them in a plastic container.



Top 5 Planning Tips

1. Get a dedicated credit card for all of your wedding expenses so that you can dispute the charge if a deal falls though.

2 Earn miles toward your honeymoon with a frequent flyer miles credit card from

3. Get the best deal on airfare, hotel and rental cars for your honeymoon through any travel site of your choice.

4. Create your own web page at with information about your wedding date, location, gift registries, and hotels for out-of-town guests.

5. If you plan to take your spouse's name, get a Name Change Kit to ensure you cover everything.