Valentine’s Dinner

Yesterday I was thinking about a special dinner for Valentine’s Day.  If we took everyone out, dinner would be at least $50 even just for Panda Express, which kind of made me choke.  But if John and I went alone, the kids would be left out. I decided to think about something yummy I could make at home.

When I saw this recipe for Shrimp Creole over at Casual Kitchen (billed as restaurant-quality food by Dan’s restaurant-loving friends), I remembered the 2 pounds of shrimp I had in the freezer.  I decided to give it a try. The recipe is already dinner-party-sized, just right for my family of ten.

I pretty much followed the recipe except for a few things.  I skipped the Tabasco and the celery– I didn’t have either.  I doubled the garlic, used more peppers, and used the fat from 1/2 a package of bacon to sautee the onions and peppers.  Then I added the cooked bacon into the pot at the end. (By the way, don’t rush when you sautee those onions– it’s a key to the wonderful flavor of this recipe!  You want them soft, with plenty of browned bits.)  The recipe took a good hour to make, but with the kids helping to peel shrimp and set the table, it was an enjoyable time.

The recipe makes a generous 8-10 servings.  Some of my girls don’t like shrimp.  After eating their mandatory one bite, they opted to eat leftover fried rice from a different day.  (Which means some of use get to have leftover Shrimp Creole for lunch tomorrow– score!  )  But most of the family was very enthusiastic about it. Great recipe!

The Shrimp Creole is served over rice.  Since we’d had plain rice just the night before, this time I decided to make an easy version of rice-a-roni. In my rice cooker, I combined 5 cups of short-grain Asian rice with 10 cups of water and a tablespoon of chicken bouillon. During the last 5 minutes of the cooking time I dumped in a bag of broken-up vermicelli noodles (the kind you get in tiny 7-0z bags for $0.30 in the Mexican food section).  It turned out good, and was just about as easy as plain rice.  You could also add a dab of butter, to make the rice less sticky, but I didn’t.

So how did it compare to a restaurant dinner cost-wise?  As you might expect, the shrimp kept it from being ultra-frugal.  But the total cost per plate was still extremely reasonable. Here’s the breakdown of the main ingredients:

  • $7- Shrimp (2 lbs unpeeled raw, on sale)
  • $2- Peppers (1/2 of a 2-lb bag of mixed sweet peppers)
  • $2- Onions (5 large)
  • $2- Tomatoes  (I used home-canned so my cost was actually less)
  • $0.30- Butter 1/2 stick
  • $1- 6 oz bacon
  • $1-   2 lbs of short-grain rice from a big Costco bag
  • $0.30 – 7 oz vermicelli noodles
  • $0.20- chicken bouillon
  • Adding in a few cents for seasonings, you’ll be spending about $16 for a meal that serves at least 8 people.  $2 a plate isn’t bad at all for a meal that pampers your family by being every bit as good as something you’d buy in a restaurant.


    1. Sounds tasty!

    2. I am amazed that you got TWO pounds of shrimp for $7. That’s the cost of ONE pound here, even when on sale. Your bacon is cheaper than ours, too, except perhaps when it is BOGO. The recipe sounds delicious, though, and my son does love shrimp. Hmmm.

    3. Have to agree with Sandi, our bacon is closer to $5 a pound, and shrimp is usually on sale for $5 a pound, 5 large onions is going to cost me about $3.50 and yellow and orange peppers are $3.50 a pound with green peppers around $89 each on sale. Your food is a lot less costly than where I live.
      But for a treat this sounds like a great meal probably without the assorted peppers though for us–just too costly.

      • The shrimp was snatched up on a good sale a few weeks ago– usually it is $5 a pound. And our pepper prices are usually very much like you quoted, Laura. I don’t buy either of those things routinely– I can literally go months without buying sweet peppers or shrimp. I think that’s the trick– to eat affordable stuff most of the time, and to grab more expensive items only when on a good sale.

    4. Mary,
      You are a woman of my kind. I love that idea. You want to pamper your family, but keep the cost down. There is so much more we are able to do with $50 and you know it would have been more costly to take 10 out to dinner. We have a hard time spending money out to dinner even with a family of 4, but every once in a while, for a special time, we do splurge. You are an inspiration to many with your thought process.

      By the way, I am a friend of Apryl’s We traveled to Ethiopia in Nov. together. Got your blog from her’s. Love it. Happy Valentines Day! My husband grilled brats and hot dogs for dinner. 🙂

    5. Stephanie Blanchard says:

      Sounds tasty.. I’m bookmarking it. Who knows? We might just splurge for our anniversary in April. 🙂

    6. Lol what’s wrong with leaving the kids out? Valentines day is an ADULT holiday, not a children’s holiday. It’s ok for children to know that some things are just not for them yet.

      • I hear your point. We go out on our own pretty regularly– a couple weeks earlier we went to a nice restaurant. But this time we opted to include the kids. I think each family can choose how to celebrate holidays. One fun tidbit about Valentine’s Day at our house: my hubby gets all the kids their own tiny box of candy. It is a special gift of love from my husband to the kids. They understand that mom and dad share something that is extra special, but they do appreciate being included in the Valentine’s celebrating in this small way.

      • I was just a kid in Fourth Grade when a very special Valentine came my way.
        Everybody needs to feel the love, no matter the year of birth 🙂

        and I sure would have loved if my parents had been able to serve a shrimp dinner, holiday or not.