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Dead Broke for Valentine's Day

Every year I usually like to make a nice dinner for my husband and I. Usually it's surf and turf of some sort, but it always involves a nice piece of beef. This year, well this week actually, I'm so broke it's not even funny. I would still like to prepare a nice meal, but I can probably only spend about $20. I keep a well stocked pantry and vegetable bin if that helps. Any cheapo ideas?

If all else fails, I guess I can order Chinese take-out!

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  1. You can make home made pizza for under $20. Or, make pasta and make a carbonara. My husband usually wants meat but he loves home made pizza or a carbonara.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chowser

      Great ideas, unfortunately we're having homemade pizza tonight. I like to keep the pizza down to once a week :) Carbonara is definitely an option.

    2. If you're "so broke" you should not be ordering take out...

      You can still do a surf and turf style dinner, just use cheaper ingredients. Forget the filet mignon and go with a pork tenderloin or even something like country style pork ribs. The surf could be shrimp. Call it low country BBQ surf & turf. Cook the ribs and shrimp with BBQ sauce on the grill.

      4 Replies
      1. re: HaagenDazs

        I would suggest making some sort of pasta or rice dish that includes shrimp. Shrimp almost always goes on sale for Valentines Day. You could buy about 1/3 to 1/2 lb shrimp and use it in some sort of pasta or risotto dish. Or also buy some chicken thighs and sausage, and make a paella.

          1. re: masha

            i was thinking risotto as well! i wanted to add - why not a bone marrow risotto? this, imo, adds some bang for your buck - gives it that "rich" feel without spending a ton. add a simple vegetable and a decadent dessert (maybe tiramisu?) and me thinks you're in business.

          2. re: HaagenDazs

            Good lookin' out on the surf and turf. Sounds yummy.

          3. We made individual beef Wellingtons for New Year's and they were surprisingly easy and came out great. You don't need a lot of meat, and we didn't use pate and it came out fine. We used the Joy of Cooking recipe.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Pia

              This has been on my nice supper "to-do" list for a long time now..I'm not sure the filet will fit in my meager budget though. I'll have to do some comparison shopping :)

            2. I like red dishes on Valentines day. How about a tomato soup? What about a beef stew with a heart decorated pastry crust? Think slow cooked dishes that use inexpensive cuts of meat. You could also have roasted vegetable like onions and carrots. Most men like creamed spinach. That could take frozen spinach and a small package of cream cheese. A flaming dessert, some version of bananas foster with ice cream. You could freeze the ice cream in a heart shape.

              You could make the meal about presentation and atmosphere. Dress up. Have at least one item heart shaped. A homemade card or hidden note or poem. Candles and romantic lighting. A beautiful table. Instead of flowers, go outside and pick some greenery or branches.

              1. Two ideas:
                Buy a cheap roast - eye of round, rump, something like that. I got one for about $10 yesterday. Sear it all over, put it in a low oven (250) until it reaches 110, then crank up the oven to 500 and let the roast roast until it reaches 130. Put a couple potatoes in to bake while the roast cooks, and saute some spinach while it rests. As an added bonus, you'll have leftovers for days, and you might be able to get some surf and still fit within your $20.

                Idea #2, which is super cheap, is to make gnocchi. Super cheap - just potatoes and eggs. Even with sauce (pesto or tomato) and a salad, you should be able to do a nice meal for $10. It's a good "it's the thought that counts" option.

                3 Replies
                1. re: cyberroo

                  Mmm..we love gnocchi. I've never made them though. Can you suggest a good recipe?

                  1. re: krisrishere

                    I use this recipe to make gnocchi (except I substitute potato starch for the flour) -- comes out amazingly light:


                    1. re: krisrishere

                      If you do gnocchi, you could do a sweet potato gnocchi and a small ham--it's so good together and leftovers are great. On the risotto idea, you could braise short ribs, very inexpensive and serve with the risotto. Easily under $20.

                  2. This will knock his socks off and keep money in the piggy bank. I usually add a drained can of artichoke hearts and sliced mushrooms for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

                    Vineyard Chicken
                    Serves 4

                    Vineyard Chicken
                    Serves 4

                    1 3-pound chicken, quartered
                    1 cup dry white wine
                    1 tablespoon lemon juice
                    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
                    1/2 teaspoon paprika
                    1/4 cup melted butter
                    1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
                    3 teaspoons salt
                    1/4 cup minced parsley

                    Place chicken, skin side down, in large casserole. Blend all other ingredients together and pour over the chicken. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour in 325 degree oven. Remove the foil. Turn chicken skin side up; increase temperature to 375 degrees and bake 30 minutes, basting two or three times. Increase temperature to 425 degrees for the last 30 minutes of baking time. Baste frequently (total cooking time is 2 hours).

                    1. I made a yummy roast [eye of round] for my b-day party to save some $--It's only $3.50 a lb. Made it according to a Cook's Illustrated recipe and sliced it very thin; it was very tasty. Another strategy is to make a killer sauce for a lesser cut of meat, or an elaborate preparation like a rouladen [beef roll]. Or how about a dish built around a rich piece of meat--like a cassoulet? Surf and turf--scallops and bacon. Small scallops are inexpensive; thread them on a skewer with a piece of bacon wound in between for easy handling and an attractive presentation. [You could use shrimp the same way of course.]
                      One time I made tostadas with peppered & pan-seared tuna steak, avocado, fresh salsa & chilpotle mayo. One good piece of fish will make four tostadas, and a margarita--mmmmm. Then snuggle up and watch "El Mariachi'!

                      1. Wow--$20 to feed just two people? You can do LOTS of damage with $20. A whole chicken will set you back all of $6 to $8; make a gorgeous roasted chicken with roasted veggies & a layered potato gratin with gruyere (or whatever cheese is already on hand). You'll almost certainly have leftover chicken for sandwiches or lunches later in the week.

                        Or spend 1/2 the cash on beef, if that's what makes his heart go pitter-patter: how about a piece of flank steak, marinated & grilled? Fan out the slices over herby mashed potatoes & steamed veggies. Bake homemade cookies & pick up a pint of his favorite ice cream & make ice-cream sandwiches.

                        The "gourmet burger" route is also nice & not too expensive; a gruyere or bleu cheeseburger with crisp bacon. To make it special, bake the buns from scratch--top with sesame or poppy seeds, or flakes of sea salt. King Arthur's recipe is easy: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/R... Pair the burgers with lightly dressed greens. Buy an apple or two and make apple crisp for dessert.

                        I'm with the previous poster who says if you can afford takeout, you haven't even begun to understand the meaning of broke.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: Hungry Celeste

                          Without getting into my financial situation, I do understand broke. I have $20 alotted to this dinner. It would cost me $13 to have our "usual" at the Chinese take-out place, in the end, saving me a whopping $7. But I feel like being extravagent, so a $20 homemade dinner it is! :) Just trying to be light-hearted about the whole (dismal) situation.

                          As of right now..the carinvore in me just moved your gourmet burger to the top of my list. I'm drooling. Thank you for the great suggestions!

                          1. re: krisrishere

                            I didn't mean to come off as snarky, just as practical. $20 at the grocery store will buy enough food for several meals, if you shop carefully. If money is tight, don't EVER spend it on food cooked by someone else. Spend it on quality, healthy foods you can cook at home; buy ingredients, not pre-made or manufactured foods.

                            Burgers can be surprisingly economical--you can make the patties thinner/smaller without anyone noticing if you are lavish with the garnishes & condiments. If you're feeling really pinched, do turkey burgers: ground turkey is usually at least a dollar a pound cheaper than gr beef. Turkey burgers are delicious, esp when garnished with sauteed mushrooms & swiss. A $4.50 package of ground turkey will make enough burgers for several meals for two; shape into patties, wrap well, and freeze in a zipper bag. Homemade buns freeze well--so if you bite the bullet and make 'em from scratch, you'll be ready for a future burger feast.

                            I'm on a personal crusade regarding home cooking: agribusiness has convinced us that cooking is drudgery, that we need to spend silly sums of money on partially cooked foods, that "gourmet" premade items are somehow better than honest home cooking. For example, why would anyone buy a $2.50 package of Pepperidge Farms butter cookies? Shortbread takes five ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, and salt. If you're really broke, you can skip the vanilla and buy salted butter. The homemade shortbread costs around 15 cents an ounce to make.

                            Repeat after me: cooking is cheaper. Cooking is cheaper. Cooking is cheaper. ;)

                            1. re: Hungry Celeste

                              Celeste?? Ground turkey cheaper than ground beef?? It's like twice as much up here.
                              And judging by this post, many other places too: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/594740


                              1. re: Davwud

                                Wow--I never would have guessed that regional prices on industrially produced ground meat or poultry would vary so much! Perhaps transportation costs have something to do with it? Incidentally, ground pork is usually cheaper than the ground turkey or beef.

                                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                  I'd say it's more taxes than anything. Land tax for the farms, for the store, etc. The other thing is, they can get it. If ground turkey didn't sell at almost $5/lb, they'd either stop selling it or lower the price.


                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    I double-checked checked last night at my local Winn Dixie. Previously frozen ground turkey, either all white or mixed, was $3 for a 1.3 pound tray pack. Turkey from the same producer already squished into patties cost 50 cents a pound more! Ground pork cost $3 for a 1.5 pound track pack.

                                    The cheapest 70/30 ground beef was $2.99/lb; ground chuck was50 cents a pound more, and ground round and ground sirloin each added another dollar to the price tag. Note: I didn't price compare the chubb rolls of ground beef & turkey. Call me crazy, but I just can't buy ground meats in a tube.

                                    1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                      Just think of it as a giant sausage!!


                                2. re: Davwud

                                  I can't believe the prices grocery stores are getting for ground turkey, it should be slightly over $1 with markup. Must be real popular that they can get so much money for it.
                                  I just got ground chuck at my local grocery for $1.99, cheapest price this winter so I stocked up. That was probably a loss leader though!

                                3. re: Hungry Celeste

                                  Celeste---I just want to say how strongly I agree with you. Where money is tight, don't be paying for somebody else's cooking. Also, I don't want to sound sexist but since the original post was about a woman cooking for her man, I would add that most men really like comfort food and would rather have the meatloaf and mashed potatoes and gravy dinner than the contrived fanciness that tries to compete with an expensive restaurant. Just make the dinner a sweet occasion: "Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith".

                                  1. re: Querencia

                                    I ditto that. To me a burger and fries can be a romantic dinner. It is the little touches, simple things, a picnic, mac and cheese maybe a favorite desert and a bottle of wine. Little simple touches mean a lot. I made a pizza one year for dinner. We had pizza on one of our first dates. Not the first but, it was great. So I set a blanket on the living room floor, rented the same movie, lit some candles, made the same drink, pizza was homemade, I added candles, a sweet card and a nice desert to share. It doesn't have to be a 5* dinner. Make your own magic. Well said Querencia.

                              2. re: Hungry Celeste

                                Italian Flank Steak

                                1lb Flank steak
                                3 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
                                2 cloves crushed garlic
                                2 tsp dried basil
                                2 tsp thyme
                                2 tsp oregano
                                3 tsp rosemary
                                Salt / pepper to taste
                                1/4 c red wine

                                Place steak in marinate for 1-4 hours, again the longer the better. Allow steak to set out for at least 30 minutes before placing on the hot grill. Grilled to desire doneness. You will know when meat is ready to be turned over, it will pull away from the grill easily. (5-7
                                minutes each side for med-rare to med) Allow steak to sit at least 10 minutes before slicing, this will allow the juices to redistribute to make for a juicer steak.

                                Slice think against the grain. Serve with some grilled veggie and enjoy

                              3. I would do shrimp as someone else mentioned. A cream sauce, frozen spinach, red pepper, shrimp, onions, pasta, some fresh herbs. Serve it over nice toasted slices of french or Italian bread. A little parm goes a long way, artichokes are also great with this and capers or olives if you have them. Very easy, quick cheap, very pretty. Top with some Frozen raspberries mixed into some chocolate icecream with some kalula or amaretto. Re freeze and serve with a pretty cookie and whipped cream and top with powdered cocoa. Very elegant, easy and simple. Add some amaretto or kalula to the whipped cream too. Drizzle with chocolate too. Buy 1 chocolate bar, heat in the micro and drizzle. Easier than buying a bunch of chocolate and works the same. Elegant and simple. My store ... you can buy any small amounts. I bought a small amount of melon from the produce section, just 2 slices... cheap ... then went to the deli and bought 3 slices of proscuitto, funny, but you can and cost nothing. Wrapped the proscuitto around the melon. Great quick appetizer and easy and in expensive. Perfect before the pasta.
                                Or stuff baby grape tomatoes with chive cream cheese and mushrooms too. Remember you can buy just a few from the store not have to buy the whole container. I stuff the mushrooms and bake 350 for 10 minutes. Easy and quick.

                                You can check out my site or recipes and contact me if needed.

                                1. Sorry, 2 cornish hens for 8 dollars, great, stuff with citrus, serve some orzo on the side some fresh veggies, green beans and dinner and wine under 20.00

                                  1. Another idea would be to make a super-duper brunch for dinner: mimosas, eggs benedict with smoked salmon, salad/fruit and chocolate mousse... We did that as a celebratory dinner last week (we didn't feel like cooking a large meal, and wanted something to eat with the sparkling wine I had bought to celebrate... it was great indeed)

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: pâté chinois

                                      ooooohhh I am doing this one!Thanks.

                                      1. re: LaLa

                                        I do a eggs benedict over croissants which I love spread with a herbed cheese and grilled and then topped with smoked salmon and I love fresh avacado with mine, then the hollandaise, a bit different, but very tasty. Love the champagne or sparkling wine, I would add some raspberries and mango to the champagne, a nice treat. And chocolate, you can't go wrong with chocolate.

                                    2. How about a shrimp fra diavolo ? Pasta is dirt cheap. .70cents a box for spaghetti maybe a bit more for linguine. You can get jarred pasta sauce for a dollar (use it as a base and doctor it up with seasonings). Or use cheap big cans of tomato sauce (less than a dollar on sale) and make your own. Get some uncooked shrimp or even cheat and get cooked shrimp. Just add some red pepper flakes to the cooking oil when you cook/heat the shrimp and then add the sauce and let it simmer. Fra diavolo is a spicy valentines meal, you can control the heat. Go ahead and get some broccoli (1.29/lb)or nice salad for a side.. Easy meal under 20 bucks. probbaly have some left over for an Ok bakery dessert if you don't want to cook.

                                      1. I'd say that whatever you do in the way of food, make the experience unique. The food we put in our mouths is only a small part of the dining experience.
                                        Here are some ideas:

                                        Spread a table cloth on the floor & have an indoor picnic;

                                        Make a hand-written menu, naming each dish for something significant in your relationship (example: Shrimp XXX, where XXX is the name of the place you had your first date, or is your pet name for him);

                                        Make paper placemats with love-related quotes written on them;

                                        Let him help you cook part of the meal -- by candlelight.

                                        Serve everything on beautiful dishes & get creative with how you present it. Put a food in large martini glasses (salad, rice....), for instance.

                                        To digress a bit:

                                        My SIL is just about the most romantic make I know. On the 1st anniverary of their first date, he came to our house at 3 in the morning with his brother & drew a huge heart in the street with sidewalk chalk. In big letters, he wrote "Happy 1st Anniversary. I love you, Kate". When she woke up in the morning & looked out her window, that's what she saw. All it cost him was his time and the price of the chalk. When he was in college, he had no money and he was unable to make the 6 hour trip to see her. He sent her a cardboard box, with instructions on the outside that told her to sit on her bed when she opened it, and just dump the contents out. He had taken lots & lots of pieces of paper, and written something special on each one: a poem, a quote, a rememberance, something personal. He had cut out red and pink paper hearts. He burned a CD with songs he knew she loved or meant something special to them as a couple. He drew funny pictures. All of this came out when she dumped the contents onto her bed, and was surrounded by his love. All it cost him was the postage and the time to put everything together.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: PattiCakes

                                          That is so freakin' cute. I love that. I would probably cry hysterically if my husband did that for me :) You and another person above are right though, it's not just in the food but you present it that makes it special.

                                          1. re: PattiCakes

                                            I was gonna suggest an indoor picnic too. One of the neat things about it is you can feed each other. Always romantic. Do shrimp cocktails. Do some flank steak or something like that sliced (surf and turf remember). Have a nice baguette. Some melon, grapes, some crispy veggies. A variety of different tastes and textures. All cut to serving sized pieces for feeding each other with the hands. Lights off, candles lit, soft music.

                                            Hopefully you have at least one bottle of wine.

                                            I sealed the deal with Mrs. Sippi with a nice simple picnic.


                                            1. re: PattiCakes

                                              I am with Krisrishere on the tears part for such a romantic and personalized gesture of love! In fact, am tearing up a bit now just thinking about it!

                                            2. What about surf without turf? You could do a cesar salad with homemade croutons, save 1/2 loaf for the entree. Serve mussels marinara with some imported pasta, garlic bread from the other half a loaf. Grilled asparagus (on sale this week for $1.99/lb here) with some EVOO, kosher salt and lemon. For dessert, make some custom decorated cupcakes with jumbo muffin pan, using one of Ina Garten's recipe (LOVE the coconut recipe) and decorate with red gel frosting and those cute red heart candies. That's going to set you back about $15, assuming you have staples.

                                              1. I just lost out to the mussels post ... sorry. Some white wine drink the rest mussels, pasta and a few veggies, a nice side dish like roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, bread and a simple desert. All right around 20. Close to or under.

                                                Or a great marinated skirt steak, I know but cheap. A great marinade over the right topping. I like to do sauteed spinach and garlic, A great slice of baguette and then topped with some melted gruyere or swiss with some fresh herbs and the steak. I even have some store bourght onion relish or a simple 5 minute onion relish in the microwave. Healthy, quick easy, inexpensive. How about a nice gremalata for desert or a simple sherbert or fresh fruit .

                                                Me ... I hate to say it .. I take brownies and freeze slightly and cut in three layers. Mix some regular ice cream, coffee (softened) with a crunched up heath bar or snickers and some amaretto, and then layer, brownie, ice cream, brownie, ice cream, brownie. Serve with some melted chocolate. An amazing easy desert. Chopped nuts or fresh fruit is good as a garnish. How easy and simple. Make a couple of days ahead and just freeze. Easy.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                                  Assuming you work a "regular" work week, you've got all day Saturday to cook. Much tougher to pull off if you are working all day.

                                                  Although...........you could always plan an inexpensive surprise adventure during the day & come home to a really good crock pot meal. Both of you prepare the salad together.....???

                                                  1. re: PattiCakes

                                                    I work all day 6 days a week and with family helping out on Sundays. Always have my computer but not home. I take advantage of easy marinades that I can do over night or crock pot or things I can cook in a hurry. Sometimes store bought or quick brownies for desert. Not always easy. My boyfriend or ex never would of helped, so I cook everything. I still cook every night regardless. Sometimes shortcuts but still cook, rarely eat out, I don't enjoy it. But you can entertain in 30 minutes (not to chime in on Rachel Ray ... but you can) We have fun doing it.

                                                    V day should be special and it doesn't matter if is fancy or not. Just something they enjoy! It could be mac and cheese or surf and turf. But something they like.

                                                  2. re: kchurchill5

                                                    How did you know that chocolate, heath bar and coffee ice cream were by far, my favorite things on this planet?? I think my heart just skipped a beat.

                                                    1. re: krisrishere

                                                      I know it isn't a great fancy recipe, but really really good. Heath bar is my all time fave and I could eat a gallon of coffee ice cream all by myself, :)

                                                      1. re: kchurchill5

                                                        That is why Ben and Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch is my all time favorite sweet treat. I could/have eating a whole pint in one sitting.

                                                        1. re: krisrishere


                                                          Seperate thought ... I actually make a coffee where I find ground some heath bars up add it to the coffee with some kaluha and then top with some chocolate whipped cream and a cinnimon stick. A easy quick entertaining coffee drink. Really yummy

                                                  3. Not food ... but Valentines dinner ...

                                                    Spray a rose with pam and then drizzle sugar all around it. Serve on a plate. Pretty, nothing fancy, just cute and V-day ish. Easy.

                                                    I've also bought 1 rose and scattered the petals and drizzled them with sugar on the plate. Just the V day touch. I don't do that much but it is sort of cool. Strawberries and raspberries too dipped in sugar are fun and curls of chocolate laced in chocolate too. Just a nice thought.

                                                    1. Most guys really like a good meat loaf and mashed potato dinner. How about folding strips of tin foil lengthwise into 1-1/2" wide strips, then shaping those into hearts. Put in a baking dish and fill with meatloaf mixture, then bake. Bake remaining mixture as a regular loaf. Make a gravy with the drippings, adding sliced mushrooms.

                                                      How about buying a few heart-shaped cookie cutters in various sizes? You could crack eggs into them for a fried-egg breakfast (spray inside with Pam first) or cut pancakes or toast with them, and various other foods for the day.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: greygarious

                                                        I've done the heart eggs, very cool.

                                                        Love the meatloaf idea, neat take on Vday!!

                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                          I am stealing your idea. My husband would kill for meatloaf. The heart idea is cute, but he'll want it in a shape that's easily slice-able the next day for sandwiches. Thank you, Thank you!!

                                                          1. re: PattiCakes

                                                            Make a meatloaf cake. My husband thought it was a riot.


                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                              Chowser, I think this cake is adorable and hilarious. Now I want to make it to fool my friends. As I rarely cook dessert I think they would think I was out of my d***ed mind too! The pics and text are great too, thanks so much for sharing!

                                                        2. Pick up a pack of short ribs or lamb shanks. You can easily make a special meal for under $20. Considering you have a well stocked pantry and have vegetable you could get by on around $10 at the market.

                                                          1. It is amazing how prices differ regionally for proteins. I personally am not a fan of surf and turf, even though I love them separately.

                                                            Have to second, third, or whatever number risotto is currently. From your profile, it looks like you are on the east coast? Is lobster tail at all on sale for V-day? In risotto or a pasta, you wouldn't need as much of it. If not, then perhaps shrimp or scallops in the risotto? Or a lobster mac n cheese?

                                                            From a quick look at local ads here, rib eye and NY steaks are both on sale. With a well-stocked pantry, steak of some sort and scalloped potatoes would be doable under $20.

                                                            A completely different alternative is pork tenderloin. For my SO, whenever I make Ellie Krieger's pork tenderloin with cherry balsamic sauce, he thinks of it as a special meal. This week a nice quality pork tenderloin is on sale for $4/lb.

                                                            Will be interested to read what you choose to do.

                                                            1. I would make a nice beef consomme with a finely diced mix of carrot, leek & celery as first course. Clarified properly this is spectacular. My first choice would be pheasant consomme but on a budget, beef would be just fine.

                                                              Risotto is a very good suggestion. I would make a squash risotto topped with a nice lamb ragout. If arborio rice is not in the budget, then I would use an egg noodle subsitution. Simple salad on the side with toasted nuts and red currants or some other fruit - fresh or canned. Two or three nice scallops would be nice on risotto, also, if you want a 'surf' take on it. The 'turf' could be the consomme.

                                                              Souffle dessert is cost effective. Grand Marnier is my favourite and you could just use a little tiny bottle of liqueur for flavouring rather than buying any size of bottle. Or make a lemon souffle and just use a couple of lemons.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: sarah galvin

                                                                I was thinking of a souffle too. A cheese souffle or a seafood souffle. Dramatic, romantic and not very expensive (could be just the cost of some eggs and cheese.)

                                                              2. Ok. Risotto looks like it might win out. I checked the local supermarket flyers and the only things that are really catching my eye are: Boneless(Is that ok?) Short Ribs $2.98lb, Lobster Tails $5.99 each (that might be out of my price range), Littleneck Clams $4.99lb.

                                                                Can I still do some sort of risotto with any of those? I'm thinking it maybe might be better as a side dish. I'm confused! :) I'm a little leary about the boneless short ribs, never cooked them without the bone. Thoughts?

                                                                Oh, on a side note..I also have a bag of frozen unpeeled shrimp at home too. That might be screaming risotto.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: krisrishere

                                                                  You could buy one lobster tail, cook it separately from the risotto, and cut up the meat and add it into the risotto at the end, combining with some cooked shrimp too. But the lobster might be superfluous; the shrimp alone would work fine. Use the $6 saved on the lobster tail to buy an inexpensive bottle of Prosecco.

                                                                  1. re: masha

                                                                    How about doing ribs on the grill? Serve them with big stuffed potatoes and strawberries dipped in chocolate for dessert. We haven't used the grill because of the weather....to me it would be a real treat to have something from the grill as a reminder that spring is coming.

                                                                  2. re: krisrishere

                                                                    How about a mushroom risotto with the short ribs braised separately, add an onion, a carrot, some tomatoes, garlic and a glass of red wine and you should be good to go. You'd only need two or three mushrooms for the two of you in the risotto, and you could chuck whatever herbs you have lying around in it and enjoy the rest of the wine with the meal.

                                                                    If you have any fresh bread, olives, cold cuts, tomatoes or salad going spare, you could always have a very simple starter too, just season and drizzle with oil and vinegar if you have it.

                                                                    In my broke days, I counted coffee and mints as two whole courses ;)

                                                                    Oh, and whatever you choose to make, spend an extra minute just thinking how to put it all on the plate. It is really only the little tthings that make an event special anyway.

                                                                    1. re: krisrishere

                                                                      I could take either the boneless ribs or lobster tail with risotto. Clams are better with pasta. I would also do the shrimp with a pasta.

                                                                    2. hey kris..
                                                                      If you belong to Costco they have a great deal on cooked shrimp with the cocktail sauce..think there is about 30+ large shrimp so you can have shrimp cocktails to start $10.00 and then the remainder shrimp use for a shrimp scampi $1.50 for the pasta..bottle of wine at Trader Joe's $5 and you can get some dessert for under $4..
                                                                      What a perfect evening on $20 bucks!

                                                                      1. Thanks to everyone who helped me out. I really appreciate it. I decided to make Roasted Shrimp Cocktail as an app, Braised Short Ribs, Mushroom Risotto, Spring Mix Salad, and Homemade Profiteroles for dessert. Here's the breakdown:
                                                                        Arborio Rice - $2.39
                                                                        Short Ribs - $7.60
                                                                        Bulk Crimini Mushrooms - $0.44
                                                                        Horseradish - $0.97
                                                                        Beef Broth - $2.34 with $1.25 off coupon =$1.09
                                                                        14oz Can Whole Plum Tomato - $0.88
                                                                        Spring Mix Greens - $3.00
                                                                        Total = $16.37!

                                                                        I have mostly everything already on hand. Thanks again for the advice! I hope it's going to be a great meal! Happy Valentine's Day!

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: krisrishere

                                                                          Sounds lovely! Let us know how it turns out.

                                                                          1. re: krisrishere

                                                                            Fantastic. Your menu sounds very tasty.

                                                                            Hope all turns out well, -sou

                                                                            1. re: krisrishere

                                                                              Rock on...way better than takeout! And you probably have leftovers for another meal, too.

                                                                              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                                                It was fantastic! I made just enough food for dinner, so no leftovers, except for the profiteroles...Mmm, that might be breakfast :)

                                                                                Thanks again! :)

                                                                              2. re: krisrishere

                                                                                Sounds like a great menu and a big savings over going out.