Rather than spending the big bucks on eating out like we normally would, my husband and I recently celebrated our anniversary with a quiet dinner-and-a-movie at home. (After the kids were in bed, naturally!) If recent sky-rocketing food and gas prices have tightened your budget, too, consider doing the same for your next anniversary or other special occasion.
Recreate a fine dining experience in your own home:
- Plan a simple but elegant menu.
- Splurge on one special, centerpiece ingredient, like really nice steaks or shrimp.
- Set the table with your fine china, nicest table cloth, cloth napkins, and a pretty centerpiece.
- Light candles and play soft romantic music in the background.
Our menu was simple, but featured shrimp, a luxury that doesn’t normally feature into our grocery budget. Just like a fine restaurant would, I started the meal by serving bread (one round loaf of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes, healthy master recipe) with olive oil and crushed black pepper for dipping. Since my husband can’t have most salad ingredients for dietary reasons, we swapped out the green salad for a fruit and cheese plate, featuring fruits and cheeses I already had on hand. I roasted carrots for a side dish to complement the main dish, Shrimp Pasta for Two.
Shrimp Pasta for Two
2 TBSP balsamic vinaigrette (I made my own, but bottled works just as well.)
½ lb shrimp, fresh or thawed
2 oz. cream cheese
2 TBSP chopped fresh basil, divided
¼ lb thin spaghetti or fettucine noodle, cooked according to package directions
2 TBSP shredded parmesan
Marinate the shrimp in the vinaigrette for 20 minutes or so. Drain the shrimp, retaining the marinade. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook shrimp until pink, about 3 minutes. Remove shrimp from skillet and keep warm. Place marinade, cream cheese and half of the basil in the skillet. Cook and stir until well blended; return shrimp to pan and continue cooking until heated thoroughly, stirring occasionally.
To serve, place a mount of noodles on plate; top with shrimp and sauce mixture. Sprinkle with remaining basil and the shredded parmesan cheese.
You can also add fresh chopped tomatoes for extra flavor, color and texture.
I only bought the shrimp and basil to make this meal; all other ingredients came from my pantry and fridge. Half a pound of shrimp cost $3.00, and the portion of basil I used was about $0.50. The pasta was free, using coupons at a Harris Teeter doubling event, and I paid less than $1.00 for the entire package of cream cheese, making the portion I used about $0.25. Making my own vinaigrette cost pennies, as did shredding the parmesan from a block. I would estimate the cost of this main dish to be around $4.00 or less. The additional side dishes and bread would bring the total to somewhere between $5.00 and $6.00. Not bad for an elegant anniversary dinner!
When she’s not busy cooking up something new in the kitchen, Anne Simpson can be found at Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy, where she proves that making healthy delicious food doesn’t have to waste your time, energy or money. You can also find her at When Food is Dangerous, a blog about living with life-threatening food allergies.