I’m here today to help the economically and experientially disadvantaged among you to prepare a Valentine’s feast. Hopefully you can impress that special someone with whom you are in love, lust, or want to woo just because.
I selected this menu for its ease, affordability, colorful presentation and of course, taste. No fancy equipment is required — we’re talking bowls and pans and that old mixer I pulled out of a curbside free box — but access to a food processor or blender will ease your way considerably.
The budget for this year’s Romantic Meal comes to less than $50, way less than what you’d pay at any overbooked, can’t get a table, restaurant in town. As you dive in, however, you’ll realize that you already have many of the ingredients on hand, so you’ll come in under budget, perhaps allowing for the purchase of a not-too-terrible bottle of wine to accompany dinner.
I’m working with a word limit here, so I will provide a combination of some entire recipes and links to some of the others. So, without further ado, we’re going to turn an inexpensive group of ingredients into a delicious meal.
Valentine’s Night Menu
- Kale Caesar Salad with homemade Caesar Dressing
- Elephant’s Deli’s Famous Tomato Orange Soup
- Pao de Queijo
- Chocolate Mousse
Ok, let’s get started.
For the Kale Caesar salad:
Pour a bag of kale (or romaine, if you prefer) into a big bowl. (If you use kale, massage it first by crushing small handfuls until they turn a darker green. Yes, massage the kale. It’s good practice for later in the evening. And it helps tenderize the greens to let them soak up more dressing.)
Rip up & oven-toast a mini baguette. Add to kale.
Make this homemade Caesar dressing.
This is an awesome Caesar recipe because it uses yogurt instead of raw eggs and you just throw these very inexpensive ingredients into the food processor or blender all at once and whirligig it up. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you’ll need to whisk the heck out of it.
It’s beyond delicious and it makes a lot. I’ve been putting it on all my wraps now, too. Note: I didn’t have any Dijon mustard, so I just used about ¼ teaspoon of mustard powder, which cost about .03 cents.
Next, let’s rock out the Elephant Deli Tomato Orange soup, so it can sit and get even more flavorful and magnificent while you tackle the Pao de Queijo & dessert.
I make soup all the time, but because of the sheer wonderfulness of this famous soup, I only make it on special occasions. The magic ingredient here is most def the butter. And the thyme. Note: I don’t bother straining it, as the recipe suggests. This can be made the day before and simply reheated, if that’s your jam.
Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)
This is the same stuff you’ve seen in the freezer at Whole Foods for $6 for about 12 bits. Now you can make twice as much in about 10 minutes using one bowl and a hand mixer. This is my favorite version:
1/3 cup Olive Oil
2/3 cup milk
1 ½ cups tapioca flour (same thing as tapioca starch)
½ cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese
1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco (or mild feta cheese)
1 teaspoon sea salt
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix the wet stuff first, then add the tapioca. Don’t over mix. Use a small spoon to scoop into greased mini muffin pans. Save some of the parm to put on top of the batter before baking. Bake for around 15 to 18 minutes. I usually turn the pans once.
Lastly, but never leastly, the chocolate dessert:
This is the dang easiest, cheapest, idiot-proof chocolate dessert you could ever make. I didn’t have any pistachios, which look very cool due to their contrasting green color, so I garnished it with a few chopped walnuts. No big whoop.
Ba da boom, there you have it. A rich, tasty meal featuring several colors and textures, sweet and decadent savory flavors, and that won’t break your bank account or your sanity. Happy romancing!