I’m often asked if I will accept articles on my blog and when I think they have merit, I do. This is one:
Fine dining shouldn’t be something that only happens at restaurants. Going out to eat can really take a toll on your bank account. A good way to save money is to cook more at home and spend fewer nights out at restaurants and eateries. But even cooking from home can be pricey if you aren’t careful. Some gourmet-style meals require lots of expensive ingredients you can only find at specialty stores.
It’s best to look for quality recipes that require basic ingredients available in most grocery stores. It’s not only easier to find deals on these ingredients, but you will also be able to use them across a variety of meals. If you do come across the perfect recipe but it requires a more expensive ingredient, don’t lose hope! Just check to see if there are grocery coupons for those products – or consider purchasing highly specialized items online. Below is a three-course meal that will impress your family or your guests, but won’t burn a big hole in your pocketbook.
- Asparagus with Gremolata Sauce: Use a recipe finder where you can search for hundreds of different, low-cost meals, like this one. With only five ingredients, it’s pretty simple, but the flavor is uniquely delicious, and costs under a dollar per serving. The lemon peel and juice really brighten up the dish. And be sure to serve with thin lemon slices for an added fancy visual.
- Chicken Piccata with Pasta and Mushrooms: EatingWell.com has a list of several healthy recipes that are all under three dollars per serving. Their Chicken Piccata recipe uses extra-virgin olive oil and just a bit of butter to make a flavorful lemon-caper sauce. Using whole-wheat pasta instead of regular pasta is a great way to increase the healthfulness of the meal without ruining the taste. And if you prefer seafood you can try a mild fish or shrimp instead of chicken.
- Pear Strudel: Don’t forget dessert! This recipe comes from the Food Network show, Sandra’s Money Saving Meals. It has a longer ingredient list, but don’t worry, they are all fairly low-cost items. Using a premade, frozen piecrust will save you time and the hassle. The pumpkin-pi.jpge spice Sandra suggests gives the strudel a bolder and more daring flavor than just using cinnamon. It’s sure to impress even the most seasoned of tongues.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to come up with an elegant meal you’d be happy to share with your guests. You simply have to take the time to search for the right recipes that use quality, cheaper ingredients to create gourmet-style dishes. The three recipes above are a good start in your efforts to create restaurant-worthy dishes from home. They all are made from basic items that pack a lot of flavor and will leave your guests wondering, “How did they do that?!”
Back to me….
Obviously, I'm a big advocate of fine-dining at home. We always use cloth napkins (yes, even for salads in summer), light candles and on weekends always have a first course.
And we always have wine.
In keeping with the theme of fine-dining at home for less, I thought my favorite White Wine Sangria would be lovely with both the Asparagus and the Chicken Piccata with Pasta.
You can read the original story of how I came up with my White Wine Sangria here, but the short version is that you can use really cheap white wine and it still tastes fantastic.
White Wine Sangria
- 2 bottles (.75 litre) cheap white wine (if you can find one with a little fizz, all the better)
- 1 bottle (.75 litre or equivalent – it's a 2 – 1 ratio) fizzy water – Perrier, club soda
- 1/2 cup Peach Liqueur – NOT Eau de Vie or brandy, but lower alcohol, intensely flavored and probably overly sweet, peach liqueur
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 orange
- 1 lemon
- 2 limes
- In a large pitcher mix the wine, water, peach liqueur, and sugar. Stir well to combine.
- Slice the fruit and remove pips.
- Squeeze each slice into the sangria, then drop it in. Stir well to combine the sugar and rest of ingredients.
- Add lots of ice and serve.
This generously serves 4 and reasonably serves 6.