Three romantic meals recipes for $15 and under

By Acacia DiCiaccio

♥ The Daily Collegian’s Guide to Valentine’s Day 2011 ♥

Creamy Spinach Pasta

Since “Lady the Tramp” and its most famous scene (who would have thought two animated dogs eating spaghetti would become an icon for romance in our culture?), pasta has become a signature romantic dinner for fans of the film. Try this twist on an Alfredo dish and have your lover begging for more. Want a little something for the side? Most groceries stores sell loaves of Italian, French or garlic bread for about a dollar and will preslice the loaf upon request.

1/2 lb pasta -$1
1 stick butter -$4
1/2 lb frozen spinach -$2
1 small onion, chopped -$1
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese -$3
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream -$3
1 tsp minced garlic -$1

Total: $15

In a pan over medium heat, melt half the stick of butter. Add the chopped onion and garlic to the pan and cook until the onions are translucent. Then heat the spinach in the pan until it is no longer frozen, along with the other half of the butter. Stir in the heavy cream on low heat. Slowly add the cheese, stirring constantly so that it does not clump together. Meanwhile, boil the pasta. After draining the cooked pasta, place it in the pan with the sauce and stir together. Top with more Parmesan cheese and serve.

Chicken Wrapped in Bacon

Nothing says “I love you” like the juicy taste of bacon. Now you too can make a meal out of it without feeling too fat afterwards. Your honey is sure to love the rustic combination of flavors in this dish. Looking to be extra fancy and add a side dish? A winter squash cooked with butter and brown sugar would match well.

2 chicken breasts -$5
1/2 package of bacon -$3
1/2 cup of brown sugar -$2
2 tbsp chili powder -$1
maple syrup -$1

Total: $12

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut up the chicken breasts into inch wide strips. Then use one or two pieces of bacon to wrap the chicken strips. Use toothpicks to hold the bacon in place. Place these strips on a drip rack (if you have one) on top of a cookie sheet. In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar and chili powder, then sprinkle the mix over the chicken. Cook for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle. Serve with maple syrup to dip.

Pan-Seared Salmon

Impress your valentine with your talent for cooking seafood with this simple recipe. This salmon may seem boring just by looking at it, but your lover’s taste buds will have to disagree. Experiment by adding some of your own spices to the marinade.

1 lb salmon -$8
1 onion, chopped -$1
1 tbsp soy sauce -$1
1 tsp lemon juice -$1
1 tbsp barbecue sauce -$1
½ can of cheap beer -$1
1 tsp mustard -$1

Total: $15

Combine lemon juice, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, beer, mustard and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Place the raw fish in the bowl and allow to marinate for thirty minutes. In a pan over medium heat, saute chopped onion in some oil and a bit of soy sauce. In a separate pan, place the marinated salmon in the pan, skin side down and cook for four minutes. Flip the salmon and cook for another four minutes. The fish should be golden brown and ready to serve.

No good in the kitchen? If you want to take your sweetheart out to a nice restaurant but don’t have the cash, here’s a secret you cannot miss. The generally-perceived upscale restaurant Judie’s in downtown Amherst has a similar meal combo that you would see in Panera, but the atmosphere is much more romantic.

You can choose any half of a sandwich (their portions are large to begin with) and a soup or salad all for the low combo price of $8.95. Yes, you and your significant other can dine at Judie’s for under $20.

These prices are based on prices listed by Stop N’ Shop and also the dollar store.

Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at [email protected]