Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

How to impress a girl for $8.07: A man-made meal on a college budget

Between books, food, beer and, for some of us, tuition and housing, the costs of living as a college student can add up quickly. Add a girlfriend into the mix and you may find yourself really behind on cash flow. As if it wasn’t difficult enough to get by financially before, your expenses are now being distributed into a new category. It’s simple to take your significant other out to dinner and have someone else cook for you, but a passable meal at a chain restaurant could cost you upwards of $50 or more.

The truth is, if you really want to impress a girl with class and good food, you only need to spend $8.07. So put down your Xbox controller and surprise her with something sinfully delicious this week.

Stay in and surprise her with some oven-fried crispy chicken, stuffing and rice pilaf. If you’re the kind of guy who considers Ramen noodles or mac-n-cheese to be your forté, she’ll love all the more that you put in the effort to make her something nice.

And trust me, the effort is minimal. Back in the 1920s, a cookbook such as “Mrs. Peterson’s Simplified Cooking” would have you removing feathers and melting fat to prepare a similar meal. However, the following recipe will guise your lack of cooking intuition and make you look like a domesticated top chef.

Here’s what you’ll need to pick up at the grocery store before you start (prices from Stop & Shop in Hadley): a box of Stove Top chicken stuffing ($2.29), a box of Near East Original Rice Pilaf ($1.79), one pound of Stop & Shop brand chicken thighs ($0.99/lb), and a box Kraft Oven Fry Extra Crispy Chicken breadcrumbs ($3, available locally only at Big Y). With these main ingredients alone, your total is $8.07.

Raw chicken is exceptionally inexpensive. Typically the dark meat – such as the thighs – will be even cheaper, tastier and juicier. It is not crazy to see the thighs priced as low as $0.99/lb., but are typically around $1.99/lb. If you’re really hurting to save that extra buck, check the grocery store in the early to middle parts of the week.

In addition to all of the aforementioned ingredients, you will need to have butter or margarine, cooking spray, an egg and some water. If you’re lucky, you can find these things in your roommate’s food cabinet and shelf in the fridge.

First, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray the cookie sheet with cooking spray or spread two tablespoons of oil evenly. Crack the egg into a bowl, and beat to a thick yellow with a fork. Pour the breadcrumbs onto a plate. With the chicken already defrosted, take each thigh and roll it in the egg. Once it is dripping with egg yolk, put it in the breadcrumbs and cover it completely. Then place each thigh onto the tray with some breathing room between the other pieces.

Once they are all breaded, put them in the oven for 10-12 minutes, then turn them over and cook for another 10-12 minutes. Be sure to cut one or two pieces in their thickest places and check for redness before you deem them ready to be eaten. The breading may look a dark brown, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your meat is cooked all the way through. Nothing kills a romantic evening quicker than food poisoning.

Once you’ve put the thighs in the oven, start cooking your sides. The rice pilaf and stuffing can be cooked on the stovetop or in the microwave. If you’re pressed for time, use both. You can find the cooking instructions for the stuffing and rice right on the box they came in.

If you’re not one that typically cooks, there’s no question your gal will be overcome by your new talents. But, it doesn’t have to stop there. Spend a few extra dollars, and buy a cheap bottle of white Zinfandel or Pinot Grigio. Most college students aren’t wine connoisseurs, and buying a nice bottle of Pinot Noir would be like buying a Gameboy for Grandma. The Zinfandel is a cheap, but tasty, fruity pink wine without that overwhelming, sharp alcohol bite. A decent bottle will cost you between $8 and $12.

If you’re really desperate, or want to try going above and beyond, what better way to end the meal than with some hand-made chocolate covered strawberries. All you need is a pound of chocolate chips, two tablespoons of shortening, and a pound of strawberries. Simply mix the chocolate and shortening in a pot on the stove until it’s melted. Dip your strawberries, and put them in the fridge to cool.

Between breaded chicken, rice, stuffing, wine that tastes like juice and some sexy chocolate covered strawberries, all cards in play are safe.

Justin Gagnon can be reached at [email protected].

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  • L

    Lizzy T.Mar 28, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Sounds like your parents pay for everything yet you are still too cheap to take your “girlfriend” (stress on the quotation marks) out for a nice dinner. Plus, a sauvignon blanc or chardonnay goes better with chicken, not white zinfandel or pinot grigio…novice

  • M

    ManwhichMar 9, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    As long as you don’t joke about the woman cooking it you’ll be fine!

  • M

    melissaMar 9, 2010 at 1:47 am

    Practical ideas for romance