Sometimes I feel like I’m lost in Fancy Foie Gras Land. With Jamie at the reigns (read: commandeering the stove), I can feel out of touch with what my friends and our readers are actually cooking at home.

I hear the voice in my head: “It’s 5pm on a Thursday–Do you know what Hannah (down the hallway) and Roger (on Waverly Place) are actually cooking for dinner?

They’re nibbling on 12-hour braised short ribs and parsnip puree, aren’t they? No, no, no!

Then, of course, I get real and think about what I would be cooking for me and the baby if Jamie and his chef’s knife weren’t stepping in to pull an Emeril.

  • We’d be enjoying roasted chicken with a side of my easy-as-pie orzo salad (feta, kalamata olives, basil, evoo).
  • There’s my honey mustard broiled salmon that’s the quickest protein fix in town.
  • A side of roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta pairs with just about anything during the cold months.
  • Frittatas with Virginia ham, cheddar, onion and bell pepper can be whipped up while sipping half a glass of Pinot Bianco.

But, the most effective wake up call of all is our series of couples cooking classes. Most of the time, both partners work and so meals are squeezed in between evening commutes, the gym and the Good Wife. They might enjoy the kitchen, but they don’t have a ton of time or experience. And so here is my “learning list,” my list that keeps it real and reminds me that while Jamie and I live to eat, others eat to live (…but that doesn’t mean those meals can’t be dang good!)

*We plan to post “5 Things We Learn From Cooking With Real Couples” after every weekend class. The good, the bad, the ugly, the practical–we’ll post it all!

1. Fine Chopping Is a Pain

So don’t spend a lot time trying to perfectly mince small things like garlic! For many recipes, Jamie and I like to grate the garlic or ginger root (or both) on a Microplane grater. If you don’t own a Microplane–though you should!–the fine side of the box grater works well.

2. Take Nothing For Granted

A clove of garlic and a head of garlic are two different things. If you don’t know a term, look it up lest you risk making the most garlicky, fire-breathing pesto of all time. (Yes, one of our students really did this and none of the couples were able to kiss for a week.)

3.  Everyone’s a Closet Deep-Fryer

People would fry all the time if they realized how easy it is (you just need a candy thermometer and good ventilation) and if they knew what to do with the leftover oil. Oil doesn’t go down the drain, it should be completely cooled stovetop and then poured back into the original container

4. We All Love Our “Cocktail” Moment

The guys, in particular, love learning how easy it is to mix up something a little more creative than a vodka tonic for dinner and house parties. All it takes is a few fresh seasonal mixers (think fresh-squeezed blood orange juice/lime juice/pomegranate juice), herbs/aromatics (fresh mint/ginger/rosemary) and a pretty good bottle of the hard stuff.

5. Cooking Together is Practical… And Sexy

Sharing the kitchen–and the shopping, chopping, searing–makes meal time a snap… and kinda sexy. The guys in particular (sorry guys) leave our class sort of amazed that they actually had fun working the stove and the ovens. Also, they were able to prepare 3 different dishes (with a house cocktail in hand) in a remarkably short amount of time. Next time I get mad with Jamie and want to retreat to a BYOB sushi restaurant, I’ll try to kiss and make up while making a stew.

Pictured: I was very nervous before teaching our first couples class. To calm me down, Jamie “massaged” my shoulders (with his elbow and forearm).