Friday, October 09, 2009

Our Anniversary Dinner

Instead of going out to eat for our 5th anniversary, I opted to cook a special dinner at home.

Shrimp isn't often seen on the McFrugals grocery list, but an anniversary calls for celebration. The occasional splurge makes living the frugal life more worthwhile, I believe.

Because my pantry and freezer shelves are pretty well-stocked, I was able to devote a good share of our weekly grocery budget to buying some special items for the celebration.

 The Menu:
--Shrimp Scampi served over spaghetti **
--Whole-Grain French bread**
--Spinach salad with grape tomatoes, olives and feta cheese
--Sparkling white grape juice

**Recipes at the end of this post.

I found a 12 ounce bag of cooked shrimp for $3.49 and a bottle of sparkling white grape juice for $2.49 at Aldi. While there, I also picked up a bag of spinach for $1.99 and a pint of grape tomatoes for $1.49. I had everything else on hand.

This made a very nice dinner for around $10.00, give or take. Obviously, we did not eat the whole bag of spinach at one setting. :-) If I do say so myself, this was every bit as delicious as eating at a nice restaurant and was a fraction of the price!

Shrimp Scampi

This was a new recipe that I received from my sister. Since we have similar tastes and I know she is a fantastic cook, I trusted her when she said that this was really really good! And she was right. This was awesome!!

I used one 12 ounce package of already cooked shrimp instead of the 2 pounds raw shrimp the recipe calls for. We liked the extra sauce which we used for dipping  the homemade crusty French bread.

1 c. butter
2 T. prepared Dijon mustard
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. chopped garlic
1 T. chopped fresh parsley or 1 t. dried parsley
2 lbs medium raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, with tails attached

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine everything but the shrimp, and remove when the butter is melted.
Put shrimp in a shallow baking dish, and pour the butter mixture over the shrimp.
Bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and opaque.

Serve over pasta or as an appetizer with toasty bread. I used the above mentioned bag of already cooked shrimp so instead of baking it for 15 minutes, I baked it just until the shrimp were heated through, about 10 minutes.

Makes 4-6 servings

Whole-Grain French Bread
If you're new to baking bread, I suggest you start with French bread. It's easy to make and you don't need any bread pans, just a  cookie sheet.

Here I've updated my favorite French Bread recipe from the Not Just Beans cookbook to include freshly ground whole wheat flour. If you don't have access to a grain mill, you can use store-bought whole wheat flour.

This recipe makes 2 small loaves or 1 large loaf. You decide. 

1 pkg. or 1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1 cup warm water(110-115 degrees)
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour. I used Hard Red wheat for this batch and it turned out great. Hard White wheat would work well, too.
1 - 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
4 teaspoons Vital Wheat Gluten or other dough enhancer, optional

In a bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Add oil and salt and enough flour and the gluten to make a stiff(a little sticky though) dough. Knead 10 minutes on a floured board. (If you have a heavy duty mixer, dissolve yeast and water in mixer bowl. Add oil and salt and mix at low speed for a little bit. Then add flour and gluten to make a stiff dough(for best results, dough should be relatively easy to handle but still a little on the sticky side.) Mix on medium to high speed for 5-8 minutes or little longer until dough is mixed well.)
Place in a greased bowl, turning once. Let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 -2 hours. Punch down and let rest 15 minutes. Divide dough in half. Roll each half on a greased surface into a 15-inch long log. Place on greased cookie sheets and make 5 slashes with a sharp knife diagonally across tops. Let rise until double, about 1 hour.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.

Optional: Mix a beaten egg and 2 tablespoons milk together to make an egg wash. Brush this mixture over  the unbaked loaves before the second rising. This gives the bread a "shiny" finish when baked.

I often will skip the egg wash and just butter the tops of the loaves after baking or leave them plain. Either way is good!

**For more Frugal Friday reading, visit Life As Mom!

 **Thanks for visiting my blog today! Please enter my giveaway while you're here. It's open through midnight tonight, Friday, October 9.


gail said...

mmmm! sounds like you had a wonderful meal and celebration. we've done that in past years, but i always love to go out. i think its my love language. =)

Mary Ann said...

I enjoy going out too. That's what we usually do for our anniversary. This year, we have several other special events planned for the month that are sorta part of our anniversary celebration so we thought we'd skip the eating out this time!

Thanks for taking the time to comment!

The Pleasures of Homemaking said...

Mary Ann, that dinner looks delicious! I bet it was way better than having it at a restaurant. I didn't know french bread was easy to make? I'll have to give it a try.


Lyn said...

We have done the same thing many times for our anniversary. I often prefer being at home versus eating out at a busy, crowded and sub-par restaurant! Your meal looks delicious and I hope you had a lovely time.