I can’t remember the last time my husband and I went out for Valentine’s Day. My favorite thing to do for Valentine’s Day is to plan an elegant feast for us at home and wow my husband with my cooking. Valentine’s Day dinner dates at home are something that I look forward to every year and I can’t wait to showcase some ideas for you.
We stopped dining out for fancy meals after my husband lost his job and we found ourselves lacking the income to indulge in such a luxury. After the birth of our children, we knew that paying for a sitter and a dinner out were both far out of our budget reach.
As I became more acquainted with the kitchen though, we soon realized that dinners out just lacked that pizzazz that we could easily get from home. The food was a bit better, (if the house was relatively tidy) the atmosphere was better, and we could spend a whole heck of a lot less and get a whole heck of a lot more.
It is funny, now even when we have help to watch our kids, we still gravitate towards eating at home. I remember having a gift card for a fancy restaurant in town and we ended up spending $75 on dinner.
I looked across the table at my husband and he said,
“It was good, but…I like your tilapia better.”
Yeah, the tilapia that I buy for $4.99 a bag and prepare at home tasted better than the $25 of one fillet of tilapia plated in front of my hubby… sickening, isn’t it?
Dining at home doesn’t have to feel like a chore. First begin with the scenery. Can you relocate to a different location in your home? An elegant picnic on the floor? A folding table elegantly set with your finest table linens? What about that dining table that only gets used for special occasion? How about dusting off that wedding china that seldom gets used? When you use and eat in spots in your home that are seldom visited, it can feel a lot like dining out.
Don’t make it the same old dinner that you usually do, but make it a delicious experience that you can treasure. I think having great ingredients and new recipes to indulge in makes cooking feel like fun instead of the same old dinner routine that I have to perform.
Walmart challenged me this month to spend $35 and showcase some ideas that you could incorporate in your own feast. I wanted to show a mix of homemade and store-bought ideas that any couple could try. This is a feast prepared with your budget and time constraints in mind.
My store-bought choices included fresh strawberries, an angel food cake, a bag of frozen edamame sprinkled with kosher salt, chicken & vegetable dumplings from the P.F. Chang’s frozen food line, and bottles of fine wine priced at $10.
Even these homemade Peanut-Ginger Chicken Noodles were an easy creation thanks to those rotisserie chickens in the Deli department. The best part is that you can find those for under $5 in the coolers in the deli. I love that these are already chilled so that I can make fast work shredding my chicken for my favorite dishes.
I am sharing our delicious menu that was absolute perfection for us that I hope will inspire a deliciously wonderful date night with your significant other. I was able to purchase all of this food plus two bottles of wine priced at $10 each for a mere $35. If you skip the wine, this meal can be created with about $15 in food supplies. If you dine out, that is about the cost of two glasses of wine or one dinner (with no appetizers or drinks). Did I mention my meal offers leftovers for an entire week? You don’t even have to to tip the waitress (unless you want to give her a smooch).
I think the savings speaks for itself!
Source: Picky Palate Cookbook
Peanut-Ginger Chicken Noodles
Author: Adapted from the Picky Palate Cookbook by Jenny Flake
Recipe type: Main
- 1 pound thin spaghetti
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1½ tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger (I bought the kind prepared in the tubes in the herbal section)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 cup hot pasta water
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (I used a rotisserie chicken)
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, drain, and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Be sure to reserve one cup of pasta water for your sauce before draining.
- Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and vinegar to a blender and blend until smooth.
- Slowly add the hot water and blend until smooth.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes.
- Add the chicken, cilantro, salt, pepper, cooked spaghetti and peanut sauce and stir to combine.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
- Serve warm or chilled, topped with toasted sesame seeds, if desired.