Valentine’s Day falls on a weeknight, and maybe you’re on a budget. So why not show off your cooking skills at home with your sweetie Monday?
It can actually be very romantic to spend less money and try something a little different.
To shop for the ingredients and save a little cash, I suggest a visit to inside the Old Town Center off Newark Boulevard if you haven’t tried this store before. Concord also has a Grocery Outlet.
You heard me right: Grocery Outlet for Valentine’s Day shopping.
In addition to the basics, it has wonderful items such as deli cheeses, frozen seafood, produce, desserts and wine.
In fact, the wines at Grocery Outlet deserve a special mention: numerous reds, whites and sparkling choices. Regions such as Australia, Argentina, Chile, South Africa and, of course, California are well represented.
With a little help from Grocery Outlet, you can spend $20 or less on the makings of an elegant dinner for two. And if you’re going for ambiance, it sells an assortment of candles, last time I checked.
Consider this easy menu suggestion (all items are available from Grocery Outlet): a colorful salad loaded with your favorite veggies, followed by pasta with homemade sauce. Wrap it all up with an easy-to-assemble dessert. Delicious and affordable.
To prep your salad, choose a bagged mix if you’re short on time. If you’ve got more time, hearts of Romaine have lovely texture and flavor. Think about your favorite salad toppings and toss two, three or even four into the bowl. Go for a little color, too.
To dress that salad, try making your own simple vinaigrette using three parts oil to one part vinegar. Then sprinkle on some dried herbs with a dash of salt and pepper.
Start boiling water for the pasta while you’re prepping your salad. And don’t forget to throw in a good pinch of kosher salt once the water reaches a boil to season your pasta from the inside out.
If you and your sweetheart enjoy tomato-based sauce with pasta, try the easy and delicious recipe for homemade marinara sauce, below.
Do you plan on drinking wine with dinner? Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel complement the robust flavor of the marinara sauce.
For dessert, you could serve vanilla ice cream garnished with chopped fresh fruit, or pop some ready-made cookie dough into the oven. Or maybe even pair a few squares of dark chocolate with a glass of port. Aim to please your sweetheart. (Darling husband, are you reading this?)
As for me and my hubby, we’ll be staying in this Valentine’s Day (after all, it’s a Monday—bleh). I’m not sure what’s on the menu, but I know I’ll be following my own advice and picking up the ingredients I need at Grocery Outlet this weekend.
Homemade Marinara Sauce
3 tablespoon olive oil
½ yellow onion, diced
14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon each—dried basil, oregano
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
Pulse tomatoes in a blender for a few seconds (if you prefer a chunkier sauce, skip this step). In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent.
Add the garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the tomatoes and all seasonings. Simmer uncovered for 25-30 minutes over medium-low heat until sauce reaches desired consistency.
Taste and adjust spices if necessary. Serve over hot cooked pasta of your choice.