Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day 20: Valentine's Dinner & Recipes

At long last, we got to celebrate. We baked. We cooked and thanks to Grooveshark, the whole experience was set to music. (I secretly wish my life had a soundtrack, to play sad music when I'm sad, etc.) We started in cooking clothes, with cooking music. For me, that meant easy songs like Cruisin' and Three Little Birds. Then we dressed for dinner and switched to crooners, my favorite being Norah Jones singing The Nearness of You. 

Of course there was candlelight, chocolate and food my Italian Grandmother taught me to make. The most time-intensive is spinach gnocchi (spinach and ricotta dumplings) so we only make them on special occasions. We served it with broccoli and a pasta with a light olive oil-based sauce called a la bianca. We make this pasta as a main dish quite often because it's easy, as long as you have twenty minutes to cook the bite out of the garlic. ;) For desert we ate Peek-a-boo cupcakes. They're a basic chocolate cupcake with a cream cheese and chocolate chip center that tastes like cheesecake. So. Good. (All these recipes are below.) 

I wasn't sure how staying home would feel. Even with the extras like putting on a dress, I didn't know if it would feel romantic or glamorous or just like we were broke and couldn't afford to go out. (I use "couldn't" loosely...we're fully aware this month is voluntary; a choice we've made to spend our extra on something different than we usually do.) It felt wonderful. The comfy-ness of being barefoot with my dress. The freedom to dance with Brian when the song called for it. Loving every song that played and how quiet it was. Sometimes restaurants get so noisy I don't make the effort to talk above it. The candlelight was flickery and as I took it all in, I thought, "This is going to be one of our most memorable Valentines." Not bad, No Spend month. Not bad. 

spinach gnocchi

1 box chopped frozen spinach
8 oz ricotta cheese
2 c flour
2 t salt
2 eggs, beaten
Parmesan or Mazithra cheese (a goat cheese that's very dry, like Parmesan)

Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot. While water's warming, put spinach and ricotta in your blender and blend until smooth. Add flour, salt and eggs. When water's boiling, drop spoonfuls into it (feels kind of like spooning cookie dough). Boil until they pop up to the surface. Use a slotted spoon to lift each one out and place on paper towels to drain. Preheat oven to 350. You may have to refill your boiling water if it gets low. Butter a 9x13 dish and place gnocchi in a single layer. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes.

a la biaca sauce

6 cloves garlic, chopped (my feeling is, you can't put too much in, but this is a starting point)
1/2 c water
1/2 c olive oil (I recommend extra virgin)
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t marjoram
1/2 t salt 

Put ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes. Serve over any pasta, but rotini are nice for catching the garlic pieces. For the best flavor, sprinkle with Mazithra cheese, but Parmesan can be used in a pinch.

peek-a-boo cupcakes

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/8 t salt
1/3 c sugar
6 oz chocolate chips

1 1/2 c flour
1 c sugar
1/4 c cocoa
1 t baking soda
1 c water
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 t vanilla extract
1 T lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. Beat cream cheese, egg, salt, and sugar. Stir in chocolate chips and set aside. Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda. Add water, oil, vanilla, and lemon juice. Fill muffin pan with liners and pour chocolate
 mixture until they are 2/3 full. Then spoon the 
cream cheese batter on top. Bake for 25 minutes.

Total spent: 0.00
Fun money: -13.91


  1. Thanks Kate! he was SUCH a good sport...with all the little extras. Like me telling him what to wear. ;) I think he got the idea he could wear his pj pants all evening??

  2. Now that is a fancy dinner! Way to do it up!