‘Dinner For Two’ Date Night Gift Basket

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Before we had kids, Sinisa and I would go on dates quite often. We’d go out to eat, go to the movies, and walk around local downtown areas. It was nice to be able to connect during those times. Unfortunately, once we had our first child, our date nights out became almost non-existent. Nowadays we tend to do a lot of date nights in which basically consist of watching a movie on the couch.

With Valentine’s Day coming soon, I wanted to change things up a bit and create a special date night basket. Since Sinisa loves to cook I thought he’d enjoy a gift basket full of goodies that would let us have a date night in where we could cook a special meal together. I’m calling this a “Dinner for two” date night gift basket.

I started by figuring out what type of meal we’d make and decided upon pasta. Maybe it’s the whole Lady & the Tramp spaghetti scene stuck in my head, but I equate pasta with romantic meals. Along with the box of pasta, I put some other items we’d need for our date night in the basket including Valentine’s themed kitchen hand towels, some red cooking utensils, a couple chocolate roses, salt and pepper shakers, candles and a bottle of wine to enjoy with our meal.

We have a few go-to pasta dishes that we make but Sinisa made a really delicious one a couple years ago that I wanted to recreate together. It’s a dish similar to Pasta Carbonara though we don’t add eggs to it like the typical recipe calls for.

For our recipe, I got all the ingredients at Kroger, including Barilla® Pronto® Penne pasta, a product innovation that allows for one-pan meals to be created with no need to wait for water to boil, and no draining required. I like this pasta because it cooks within ten minutes and is perfect for one pot meals.

Ingredients to make dinner for 2:

  • 1/2 box of Barilla Pronto Penne
  • 1/4 cup of bacon pieces
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 2 cups of (cold) water or broth (we used vegetable broth)
  • 4 ounces of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
  • Seasoning to taste (we used black pepper and garlic powder)
  • A teaspoon of vegetable oil

Directions:

Add the oil to the pan along with the bacon and peas and heat for a minute or so, stirring to mix.

Add the dry pasta.

Pour the cold water (or broth) over the pasta. (Feels strange doesn’t it? Usually you have to put a pot of water on the stovetop and then wait forever for it to boil before you can put your pasta in but this new pasta is “no boil”.) Cover and let cook on medium heat for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the 4 ounces of cream cheese. Then cover and cook for three more minutes to finish cooking the pasta.

At this point the pasta is fully cooked. Can you believe that you have perfectly cooked pasta in just 10 minutes?! Whoever invented this no boil pasta is a genius. I also love that you don’t have to drain it because the majority of the liquid has cooked out. To finish making this pasta dish, add the shredded cheese, season to taste and stir everything together.

I love the combo of cheese and bacon in this dish and the addition of the peas helps me meet my veggie goal for the week lol. This pasta dish is so easy to make and requires little prep which is perfect for date night. You’ll have dinner on the table within 15 minutes and making the whole meal in one pan is great because nobody wants to spend date night stuck in the kitchen washing a sink full of dishes.

What pasta dish would you make on your “dinner for two” date night? Find more “Wonderful Your Way” recipe inspiration here.

 

One Pot Italian Dinner

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Barilla® and Johnsonville®. The opinions and text are all mine.

During the fall I love finding easy, hearty dishes for my family. Sinisa recently made this delicious, one pot Italian meal and I just had to share it with you all. Not only is it fantastic because you only use one pot to cook everything, but it’s affordable, too!

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz.  of Barilla Blue Box Penne Pasta, uncooked
  • 3 Johnsonville Mild Italian Sausage Links
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 1/2 an onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cups of broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 12 oz. of mushrooms (optional)
  • Seasoning to taste (we used parsley, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning)
  • Cooking oil

Directions:

Get a medium to large sized pot and add enough cooking oil to coat the bottom of the pot.

Cut the Johnsonville Mild Italian Sausage Links into bite size pieces.

Add your onions and sausage to the pot and cook them until meat is thoroughly cooked.

Add crushed tomatoes and broth to the pan.

Then add mushrooms, Barilla Pasta and seasonings.

 Pour cream over the top and then stir well.

Simmer on the stove top for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Your whole family will love this meal and you will love how easy it is on your wallet, costing less than 10 dollars. And cleanup is a snap.

You can find all of the ingredients you need for this meal at your local Kroger store, including the Johnsonville Mild Italian Sausage Links and Barilla Blue Box Pasta.

Pasta dishes are some of my favorite dinners to make, and I always have Barilla Blue Box Pasta, Italy’s #1 brand of pasta, stocked in my pantry. Pasta is perfect for busy nights and those last-minute dinner guests that come over before you can get to the grocery store! There are so many varieties of pasta dishes that you can make and you can personalize the dishes to your family’s likes and dislikes.

When we add meat to our pasta we often choose Johnsonville Mild Italian Sausage Links. They don’t require any additional seasonings which makes them convenient and flavorful additions to any pasta dish. We usually add them to our spaghetti, but Sinisa also likes to put the sausage in some soups he makes as well.

 What are your favorite pasta dishes to make in the fall?


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Perfect Peanut Pasta with Chicken and Veggies {Recipe}

Serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti, reserve ¼ cup of pasta cooking water
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (optional)
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1½ tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces cooked, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin 1/2-inch-wide strips
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded and julienned
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved and julienned
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon chopped peanuts, unsalted (optional)
  • 2 scallions, chopped (optional)

Directions:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt if using.
  • Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Drain pasta and reserve ¼ cup cooking water. Briefly rinse pasta under warm running water. Set aside.
  • In medium bowl whisk peanut butter, reserved pasta cooking water, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes until smooth and creamy. Pour over warm pasta.
  • Toss the pasta with chicken, cucumber, red bell pepper.
  • Sprinkle each serving with scallions and 1 tsp. chopped peanuts.
  • Serve warm or cold.

Per serving: 523 calories, 15 g fat (3 g saturated, 0 g trans), 41 g protein, 3 g fiber, 12 g sugars, 500 mg sodium, 62 g carbohydrates, 72 mg cholesterol

(Recipe and image courtesy of the National Pasta Association.)

Champagne Shrimp and Angel Hair {Recipe}

Here’s a great dinner recipe shared with me by the Shrimp Council!

Ingredients

• 1 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined

• 8 oz of angel hair pasta

• 2 cups of your choice of Champagne

• 1 cup of fresh mushrooms, sliced

• 1 cup of heavy cream

• 3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped

• 2 tablespoons of minced shallots

• 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

• ¼ teaspoon of salt

 

Instructions

Cook the pasta as directed; drain afterwards and coat with a tablespoon of olive oil. White the pasta is cooking, heat the other tablespoon of extra virgin oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Cook the mushrooms in the olive oil until tender; then remove and set aside. Combine the shrimp, Champagne and salt in the pan, and cook over high heat. When the liquid starts to boil, remove the shrimp and add the shallots. Boil for 8 minutes; until reduced to about half a cup. Stir in 3/4 of the cream and boil for an additional 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and the mushrooms to sauce, heating through. Toss the hot, cooked pasta with the remaining 1/4 cup of cream and the freshly chopped parsley. Spoon the shrimp with sauce over the pasta and serve.

Number of Servings: 2

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for posting this recipe.)