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Monday, February 16, 2015

Dinner for Two - Celebrating Valentine's with my Favorite Guy.

My Favorite Guy and I decided to stay home for Valentine's Day this year.   It just doesn't seem as romantic having an intimate dinner for two..... with 75 other people in the restaurant!  Not to mention waiting in line, waiting to be seated, waiting to order, and waiting for your food.  

We banned the kids to one of the bedrooms upstairs with a movie, chicken nuggets, apple slices, pop, and sugar cookies.  They seemed happy enough.  Their steak and crab days will come.  Right now the 6 year old is as happy with chicken nuggets as we are with steak and the 12 & 14 year old girls understand that we want space to ourselves and they got to pick the movie.

I set a small table in the living room by the fireplace. Rounded up a yard of Valentine'y fabric someone gave me a few years ago and set the flowers Favorite Guy had given me earlier in the day there to enjoy.   A nice Pandora station of Harry Connick Jr. gave us some nice background music.

We started with a simple tossed green salad with ranch.   You too can open a bag of chopped romaine, slice a cucumber and dice a tomato.   No secret recipe here.  Really.

I buy these frozen Tuscan Mini-Loaves from Alison's Pantry.  They are already baked so usually you just warm them in the oven.   For this dinner, I rubbed the loaf with garlic butter and then sprinkled it liberally with Parmesan cheese before heating in the oven.

Salads were finished, and FG (Favorite Guy) started the grill and steamed the crab, while I put the stuffed mushrooms in the oven, cooked the asparagus, and warmed the shrimp scampi while the steaks cooked.

As soon as the food was plated and table set just so, screams of anger and pain were heard from upstairs.  (Intimate dinner with 75 other people started to sound appealing!)   FG went to mediate.  By the time I went up to check I heard:   14yo daughter sobbing:   "He punched me in the eye!"  6 year old defending: "I did NOT punch her in the eye... my fist was not closed! I just hit her!"     6 year old put to bed.  14 year old calmed down and eye checked.   Back to a dinner we didn't have to worry about burning our mouths on!

Bacon and Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms would have been a good appetizer if we'd done an appetizer course, but as it was, we just set them on with the rest of dinner.  YUMMY!  I couldn't find a stuffed mushroom recipe I liked so I made one up.   I think they are my new favorite stuffed mushrooms!    Here's the recipe:

Bacon and Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

10-12 medium sized mushrooms (I used Crimini)
1/2 an 8 oz. package of cream cheese
1 slice bacon or real bacon bits
3 T. panko bread crumbs - or regular bread crumbs will work
1 T. Parmesan cheese
Gently pull stems from mushroom caps and rinse mushrooms.  Finely mince stems.   In a small pan fry bacon slice, remove, cool and crumble.  In bacon fat saute mushroom stems until tender, add cream cheese and crumbled bacon and stir until blended.   Add panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Mix well.   Toss mushroom caps with oil, place on baking dish.  Fill each cap with a good spoonful of filling.   Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Playing around with presentation can be fun if you're not in a hurry.  Heart shaped molds for the butter only took a few minutes.

Grilled Sirloin Steak with sauteed mushrooms - easy peasy!  No recipe needed!   Steamed asparagus is easy too!   FG took care of the king crab.  He just googled directions.  Put in steamer basket, steam 10 minutes.  Easy.   The Shrimp Scampi (minus the pasta) was super easy too and the first time I'd tried it using precooked and then frozen shrimp.   Recipe follows:

Quick & Easy Appetizer Shrimp Scampi

1/2 lb frozen precooked shrimp,  medium - 60-80 per pound
1/4 C. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced or 2 tsp. heaping of that lovely minced garlic in a jar

Melt butter in saucepan and add garlic.  Cook stirring constantly for about a minute.   Turn off heat and place frozen shrimp in melted butter and stir until shrimp are coated.   Let sit until you're ready to serve and then heat on a low temperature until butter is melted again and shrimp are heated through.  DO NOT overcook or they'll be tough.  Serve immediately.

I planned to serve Creamy Chocolate Fondue for dessert.  Sadly, by the time we finished all of our delicious dinner, we were too full to have it that night!   SO.....   we shared it the next day for dessert with the family.

We used some beautiful strawberries cut in half, a pound cake cubed, and sliced bananas.  Personally, I could do with JUST the bananas.  There is just something wonderful about a healthy banana smothered in creamy chocolate that makes happiness all over in my mouth. Mmmm!     FG's favorite thing to dip in chocolate fondue is a spoon.  He figures the other stuff is just a carrier for the best part anyway.

We got a fondue pot a few years ago for Christmas but if you don't have one, it is easy to make this on the stove top if you have patience and a LOW heat setting.  Don't try to rush it or it'll scorch.

Creamy Chocolate Fondue:

1 package of milk chocolate chips (I love Ghiradelli brand but any will do)
3/4 C. heavy whipping cream

Put chips and cream in saucepan.  Turn on low heat and stir constantly until chocolate is melted and all is well blended.  Serve with sliced fruit, pound cake, marshmallows, pretzels or anything else you could dip and enjoy!

We certainly enjoyed some long-awaited "alone" time cooking and eating together.  Even with the few minutes refereeing, it was worth staying home!   

I am not sure what this would cost at a restaurant, but I think it cost us about $25-30 to do this entire meal for the two of us.  The king crab was a huge splurge, and my 6 oz. steaks were about $3 each.  Many of the ingredients we had on hand.  Definitely more than we usually spend on dinner at home, but considering our menu I'm pretty sure we saved ourselves at least half of what we would have spent dining out.

Happy Eating!

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