Easy Valentine’s Day dinners your stomach ― and wallet ― will love

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Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and you might still be scrambling to figure out what to make for dinner that night. Luckily, there are some really cheap and easy dinners to try out.  

Pasta Aglio e Olio 

Pasta aglio e olio, as a pasta dish, sits a little more on the romantic side and is a great idea if you want to surprise someone with a fancy-looking dish. I’ve learned it’s not always super filling, so make sure you get seconds or serve it with your favorite protein on the side. A side of chicken breast would be fine, but with some experimenting I learned I like it with a side of sauteed kielbasa. Original recipe from bingingwithbabish.com

Ingredients: 

½ head of garlic (about 4 cloves) peeled 

½ cup of parsley, rinsed and finely chopped 

½ cup of olive oil 

1 teaspoon. of red pepper flakes 

½ pound (about ½ a box) of dry linguine 

½ lemon 

Salt and pepper 

  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook your pasta according to the directions on the box. Leave it a bit underdone, as it’ll finish cooking in the pan. 
  1. Slice the garlic cloves as thinly as you can, then set aside. Heat your olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once the oil is heated up and barely simmering, add your garlic slices and stir it around until the edges become slightly golden. Then, add pepper flakes to the pan and turn heat to medium-low, taking care not to burn the garlic.  
  1. Drain your pasta, but reserve about ¼ cup of that starchy pasta water. Add the pasta and the reserved water to the pan and squeeze your lemon juice over it. Add parsley and toss it all together until the pasta is evenly coated in the sauce. If it’s still a little too watery, continue to let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve. 

Homemade Pizza 

Making homemade pizza is super casual and fun for a chill night in. It’s a great thing to do with a partner because you can knead the dough together in the pan and load it up with all your favorite toppings. I opted for pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, jalapeños and spinach in mine, and it made for a delicious blend of flavors. Feel free to experiment with different ingredients and combinations to find out what you like best. 

Ingredients: 

1 ball of store-bought pizza dough 

½ cup of jarred tomato/marinara sauce 

8 ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese 

About 1 tablespoon of olive oil 

Your choice of toppings (pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, etc.) 

  1. Prepare your toppings by slicing or dicing them in whatever way you’d like. If your pizza dough has been sitting in the fridge, leave it out for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450° F. For an 18 by 12 inch sheet pan, pour about 1 tablespoon of olive oil into it and use a paper towel to properly grease all sides of it.  
  1. While your hands are still covered in oil, take your ball of pizza dough and press it down into a flat shape. You can stretch it by gently kneading it with your fingers from the center, working your way out. You can also just grab each side of your dough and let it hang, letting gravity do most of the work. Once the dough is stretched out, you can place it into your sheet pan and use your fingers to press it into each corner of the pan. 
  1. Pour your sauce onto the dough and use the back of a spoon to evenly spread it around, leaving about a half inch of space from the edges. Evenly sprinkle your cheese around the pizza, then equally spread your toppings around it. 
  1. Once your pizza is prepared, place it in the oven on the center rack and let it cook for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the crust is a golden brown. 
  1. Let the pizza cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving. 

Stuffed Peppers 

Stuffed peppers take a little more time to prepare the ingredients, but it’s not too bad. It might take a little longer to cook because you need to cook your rice mixture and later bake it in the oven, but trust me, it’s worth it. The sweet, juiciness of the bell peppers (red bell peppers seem to be the sweetest) combined with the well-seasoned, savory rice filling make for a mouth-watering experience that will have you getting up for seconds. Original recipe from themodernproper.com

Ingredients: 

1 to 1 ½ cup of cooked white rice 

2 tablespoons of homemade taco seasoning (see below) 

4 to 6 bell peppers (the larger, the better) 

1 onion, diced 

1 bunch of green onions 

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed 

1 can of corn, drained 

1 cup of shredded cheese (Mexican blend or mozzarella are good options) 

Cilantro for garnish 

  1. To make the homemade taco seasoning, whisk together 1 tablespoon each of cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, chili powder, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and a ½ tablespoon of black pepper. 
  1. Cut the tops off of your peppers and remove the core, including the seeds and membrane. Make sure your peppers are able to stand upright in your baking dish, otherwise slice off a bit from the bottom so it’s even and able to stand. Any bell pepper scraps (aside from the stem and core) can be cut up and used for the filling, so set those aside. 
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large skillet or pot, stir together your rice, onions, green onions, bell pepper scraps and taco seasoning over medium heat. You can add about ¼ cup to ½ cup of water to prevent the rice from burning on the bottom. Cover and let cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the onion and peppers are tender. 
  1. Once cooked, add in beans and corn and stir together. If you want your filling to be a bit cheesy, feel free to add some shredded cheese here and stir the mixture together. 
  1. Begin filling your peppers with your rice mixture and then top with your cheese. Arrange your stuffed peppers in a baking dish and cover with lid or aluminum foil, then bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the cover and bake for another 10 minutes. 
  1. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. 

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