Fancy Frugal Fun

I was thinking about Valentine’s day — well after the fact of course — and discovered that people spent an estimated $30 billion this past Valentine’s Day, around $200 per person. Wives or girlfriends get the lion’s share with an estimated $170 spent on each — which is twice the amount being spent on husbands and boyfriends ($71). And that doesn’t even include the dinners and getaways which total in the billions as well.  
What Valentine’s Day represents is a special event. In my mind, that could be a birthday, anniversary, any celebration of sort where you are pulling out your wallet and shelling out big bucks. 
So what’s a frugal sort to do? 
Well, start by bucking tradition for one. Waiting in line for hours to eat some pre-packaged, prix fix meal that I didn’t pick out is not my idea of romance to begin with. For special events, try something new: stay home. That’s right, stay home. We abhor crowds so eating at home is actually our first choice. Instead of spending hundreds on a meal that was not of our choice, I make something special but simple. Something we like, not what the restaurant deems we should eat. A perfectly cooked rare steak for my partner and some creamy, shrimp laden primavera for the both of us. We are not sweets people but a dense, fudgy brownie in the shape of a small heart is always welcome. Toss in a salad of our choice and we have a splendid meal for far less than we would have spent at a noisy, crowded restaurant. I even bake homemade French bread for these special occasions.
The point is, you can have a perfectly wonderful meal at home if you put a little effort into it. My recipe for shrimp pasta primavera is below. You can swap out the shrimp for lobster or crab if you prefer. Light some candles, put on some smooth jazz, open a nice bottle of red and you have the makings of a special occasion meal, all for a fraction of the price of going out.
Shrimp Pasta Primavera
1 pound pasta of your choice (penne is fine but I prefer a curly pasta such as rotini)
1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
3 cups mixed vegetables of your choice (I tend toward small broccoli flowerets, grated carrots, slivers of red onion, sliced mushrooms, a mix of soft and crunchy)
4 garlic cloves minced
4 ounces butter
2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
Prepare the pasta according to directions on the box. Meanwhile, sauté the vegetables in the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heated pan until crisp. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or two longer. Add in the shrimp and cook until done, about three to four minutes, turning the shrimp frequently. Remove the vegetables and shrimp from the pan with a slotted spoon. Pour in the heavy cream and add the cheeses, stirring until melted. Add the vegetables and shrimp back in and season to taste. Drain the pasta when done and add pasta to the pan, coating well. Top with the parsley, more grated parmesan and a pat of butter (or olive oil). Enjoy both the taste and the savings to your pocketbook. 
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