Valentine's Day Elegant Dinner: Sandra Lee Style

Valentine's Day is on a Tuesday this year. If that has you wondering how to get proper dinner reservations and a romantic meal squeezed into those few precious hours after work, consider staying in and taking a cue from Sandra Lee. A romantic dinner is just around the corner and it won't break the budget!

Below is a selection of recipes from one of her newest cookbooks that are perfect for a romantic dinner at home. Two different entrees are offered so you can choose whatever appeals most to you. All of them are easy to put together and are either super quick to put together or take advantage of tools like a slow cooker to make cooking a snap. Consider making the truffles the night before so they'll be ready to enjoy with your after-dinner wine or cocktail. Who said staying in for Valentine's Day isn't romantic?

The recipes presented below are from the cookbook, Money Saving Meals & Round 2 Recipes, by Sandra Lee. Enjoy!

Caprese Salad Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 5 beefsteak tomatoes $2.98
  • 1 (16-ounce) package orzo, cooked according to package instructions $1.33
  • 1 (1-pound) block mozzarella $3.99
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil $0.04
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil $0.24
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar $0.03
  • Kosher salt, to taste $0.00
  • Black pepper, to taste $0.00
  1. Cut the tops off 4 tomatoes and hollow out the insides. Dice the pulp and the remaining tomato. Dice ½ cup of mozzarella. (Reserve the rest for the Round 2 Recipe: Grilled Margherita Pizza, page 62.)
  2. In a bowl, combine 2 cups of the orzo, diced mozzarella, ¼ cup of the chopped tomato, basil, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Divide the mixture among the 4 tomato shells and serve.
  • Yields: 4 servings
  • $8.61/$2.15 per person
    Excerpted from the book, Money Saving Meals & Round 2 Recipes, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

Pork Ragu Over Penne

  • 1 tbsp. canola oil $0.03
  • 1 (4-pound) bone-in pork butt shoulder roast $6.76
  • 1 medium chopped yellow onion $0.28
  • 2 chopped carrots $0.32
  • 2 chopped stalks celery $0.30
  • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic $0.05
  • 1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes $0.99
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish $0.02
  • 1 (16-ounce) package penne $1.29
  • 2 tbsp. Parmesan, for garnish $0.15
  • ½ can tomato paste $0.25
  • Kosher salt, to taste $0.00
  • Black pepper, to taste $0.00
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Season the pork butt with salt and pepper, and brown it on all sides, about 10–15 minutes. While the pork is browning, to the bowl of a slow cooker add the onion, carrots, and celery, and season them with salt and pepper. Put the pork on top of the vegetables and add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook the pork on low for 6–8 hours. When it is done, remove the pork. Add the basil and the tomato paste to the vegetables, and stir to incorporate. Shred the pork and add it to the vegetables. Let this simmer, uncovered, while you cook the pasta.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne, stir, and cover the pot. When it returns to the boil, remove the cover and stir it again. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. Put the pasta back into the pot, stir in the ragu, and put the pot over medium heat. Add some of the cooking water if the sauce is too thick. Cook for a minute or two, so the pasta absorbs the flavors of the sauce. Serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan and basil leaves.
  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 8 hours
  • $10.19/$2.55 per person
    Excerpted from the book, Money Saving Meals & Round 2 Recipes, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

Shrimp Scampi Over Pesto Couscous

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves $0.32
  • 2 tbsp. chopped garlic $0.10
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts $0.84
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese $0.58
  • ⅓ cup, plus 1 tbsp. canola oil $0.19
  • 1 (10-ounce) package couscous $1.69
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes $0.04
  • ½ cup chicken broth $0.20
  • Juice of 1 lemon $0.50
  • 1 (1-pound) bag frozen raw shrimp, thawed, shelled, deveined, tails left on $6.49
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley $0.02
  • Kosher salt, to taste $0.00
  • Black pepper, to taste $0.00
  1. Make the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the basil, 1 tablespoon garlic, walnuts, and Parmesan cheese. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in ⅓ cup oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Make the couscous: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 2 cups of water and ½ teaspoon of salt to a boil. Remove from the heat, stir in the couscous, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes, or while you cook the shrimp. (Reserve 1 cup couscous for Round 2 Recipe: Couscous Stuffed Tomatoes, page 228.) When you are ready to serve, stir half the pesto into the couscous.
  3. Cook the shrimp: In a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon garlic, and red pepper flakes, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the broth and lemon juice, and cook until it bubbles. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, give it a good stir, and cook until the shrimp is pink and cooked through, about 3–4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley. Serve immediately, spooning the shrimp and sauce over the Pesto Couscous.
  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes
  • $10.97/$2.74 per person
    Excerpted from the book, Money Saving Meals & Round 2 Recipes, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

White Chocolate-Chip Shortcake With Basil Strawberries

  • 1½ cups baking mix $0.45
  • ¼ cup plus 3 tbsp. sugar $0.09
  • ⅓ cup milk $0.05
  • 2 tbsp. melted unsalted butter $0.12
  • ¼ cup white chocolate chips $0.40
  • 1 quart sliced strawberries $3.00
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil $0.02
  • ½ cup heavy cream $0.56
  • ½ tsp. vanilla $0.22
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the baking mix and ¼ cup sugar. Stir in the milk and butter, and fold in the chocolate chips. Pat out the dough on a floured surface, cut into 8 triangles, and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 8–10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Add the chopped basil to the strawberries and toss to combine.
  3. With an electric hand mixer, whip the cream with three tablespoons of sugar and vanilla. Split open each shortcake and divide strawberries among them. Dollop on the whipped cream and put on a shortcake top.
  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes
  • $4.91/$1.23 per person
    Excerpted from the book, Money Saving Meals & Round 2 Recipes, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

Crunchy Coated Chocolate Truffles

  • 1 (12-ounce) bag chocolate chips $2.39
  • ⅔ cup light cream $0.58
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon $0.05
  • 2 graham cracker boards $0.04
  • ½ cup coconut shreds, toasted $0.19
  1. In a small saucepan, heat light cream until gently boiling. Put the chocolate chips into a bowl and pour the hot cream over them. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Separate chocolate (“ganache”) into two small bowls and stir the cinnamon into one bowl.
  2. Put the ganache into the refrigerator until it firms up, about 1½–2 hours. In the meantime, place graham cracker boards in a food-storage bag and crush with your hands to make crumbs. Put the crumbs and the toasted coconut on separate flat plates.
  3. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the chocolate and roll it in the palms of your hands to form small balls. Work quickly to prevent the chocolate from melting. Roll the truffles in the toppings—the cinnamon-flavored in graham cracker crumbs and the plain in coconut.
  • Yields: 20 servings
  • Preparation Time: 3 hours
  • $2.96/$0.15 per person
    Excerpted from the book, Money Saving Meals & Round 2 Recipes, by Sandra Lee
    Copyright © 2011 SLSH Enterprises, Inc. www.sandralee.com

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