Poetry on a Plate!

by Tawra Kellam

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Even when you don't have much cash on hand, you can have a special dinner for Valentine's Day. You can create a special Valentine's Dinner for two people for only $5.69. The secret to a frugal romantic dinner is the setting, so let's start with that. If you're thinking ahead, purchase at 75% off on clearance after Christmas red and white taper candles. You can also purchase red napkins, lace tablecloths, and red ribbon after Christmas for 50 cents to $1.

Look at thrift stores and garage sales for one or two place settings of china for 50 cents each. If it's too late this year, remember for next year after Christmas to purchase your Valentine's items. You can also purchase things on sale 50% after Valentine's Day and keep for next year. Of course, if you're with the one you love, who needs food for Valentine's Day!

For the menu ($5.69 for 2 people):

French Onion Soup
Tomato Basil Salad
Maple Glazed Chicken
Glazed Carrots
Lemon Potatoes
Red Velvet Cake
Water with lemon slices
tea or coffee with desert

French Onion Soup ($1.15)

2 onions, thinly sliced (yellow works best) (.25)
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine (.10)
2 cups beef stock (made with bouillon cubes or beef bones) (.10)
1 bay leaf
2 slices day old French bread (.20)
1/2 cup mozzarella or Swiss cheese, grated (.50)

Melt butter in a skillet. Sauté onions until slightly brown. Add onions to beef broth in saucepan. Simmer slowly for 10 minutes. Pour into bowls. Place bread on top of each bowl of soup, and sprinkle the cheese on top. Then set under broiler and cook until cheese is melted and brown. This soup will simmer in the crock pot on low overnight.

Tomato Basil Salad ($1.44)

4 large peeled tomatoes (.79)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 Tbsp. wine vinegar (.10)
2 Tbsp. oil (.05)
a cup fresh basil leaves, chopped into small pieces (.50)

Dice tomatoes and combine with salt, pepper, vinegar, oil and basil. Serve. You could also add cubes of mozzarella cheese.

Maple Glazed Chicken ($1.43)

1/4 cup maple syrup (.05)
4 tsp. lemon juice (.05)
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine (.05)
salt and pepper (to taste)
4 pieces of chicken ($1.28 purchased on sale at $1.34 per lb.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix maple syrup, lemon juice and butter together in small saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes. Spray a baking dish and place chicken in it. Salt and pepper the chicken. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and pour on glaze. Bake for 15 minutes more or until juices run clear.

Glazed Carrots (.37)

1/2 lb. fresh carrots or baby carrots (.12)
1/2 stick margarine (.05)
6 Tbsp. brown sugar (.10)
1 tsp. cinnamon (.05)
1 tsp. ginger (optional) (.05)

Clean carrots and cut into bite-size pieces. Steam 10 minutes in a small amount of boiling water just until tender. Melt margarine in a large skillet over low heat. Add brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Cook 12 minutes. Add hot carrots, stirring well to coat. Remove when shiny and well glazed.

Lemon Potatoes (.75)

6 new potatoes or 2 medium potatoes, cut in halves or quarters (.50)
2 Tbsp. margarine (.05)
1/2 tsp. lemon peel, grated
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (.05)
1 tsp. chives, chopped (.10)
1/4 tsp. salt
dash pepper
dash of nutmeg (all spices)

Clean and steam potatoes 20 minutes (until tender). Heat remaining ingredients just to boiling. Pour lemon butter over potatoes and serve.

Red Velvet Cake (.50 for 2 servings)*

3/4 cup butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
2 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 oz. red food coloring
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup buttermilk

Cream together butter, eggs and sugar in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients except the flour and buttermilk. Mix well. Add flour and buttermilk alternately. Beat until all the lumps are out. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes clean. Frost with Red Velvet Frosting.

Red Velvet Frosting

2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Cook milk and flour until thick, stirring constantly. Cool thoroughly. Beat milk and flour for 1 minute until fluffy. Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add to milk and flour and add vanilla. Mix well. Frosts one Red Velvet Cake.

* Or purchase a box mix on sale for 79 cents, canned frosting on sale 69 cents, and 50 cents for eggs, etc. to make the cake $1.48

Tawra Kellam is the author of the frugal cookbook "Not Just Beans: 50 Years of Frugal Family Favorites." "Not Just Beans" is a frugal cookbook, which has over 540 recipes and 400 tips. For more tips visit her website at www.notjustbeans.com

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