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Puttin' on The Mitts: Sauteing for your sweetheart

Shrimp Scampi with Broccoli and Creamy Rice Chelsey Perkins/Brainerd Dispatch1 / 2
Mushroom Florentine DeLynn Howard/Brainerd Dispatch2 / 2

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, The Mitts thought this was a great opportunity to share a couple of recipes for those who want to stay in, have a nice meal at home and save some money.

I love pasta. It's a go-to meal in my house and something I almost always have on hand.

The great thing about pasta, in my opinion, is it can stand alone as a meal.

This mushroom florentine dish is filling and tasty by itself. You don't have to add meat. You don't even have to have a side although I did pair it with homemade garlic toast.

The recipe couldn't be any easier, which as you all know, is what I love. It's basically noodles, sauce, mushrooms and spinach. And for those who aren't fans of spinach, leave it out. But I think it adds gorgeous color to your plate, and of course, it's good for you, too.

With the exception of a few items I had on hand, I spent $11.14 on this meal and there were leftovers. Last time I checked, I don't think you could spend so little on such a fabulous meal going out somewhere. No reservations had to be made, no background noise from a busy restaurant and I didn't have to leave a tip. Oh, but I did have to do the dishes.

Mushroom Florentine

(From the website shewearsmanyhats.com)

8 ounces linguine pasta (same amount if you choose a different pasta)

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup whole milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces sliced mushrooms

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese (or gouda)

2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

Cook pasta according to packaging.

Whisk together flour, chicken broth, milk, salt and pepper. Set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When oil heats up, add the mushrooms and saute for 6 minutes.

Add minced garlic, saute for two more minutes until garlic just begins to brown.

Whisk flour, broth, milk, salt and pepper mixture into mushrooms and garlic, bringing it to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 3-4 minutes.

Mix in spinach and allow to wilt.

Add drained pasta to skillet and toss to coat.

-- DeLynn

Americans spend billions on Valentine's Day—on flowers, chocolates, jewelry and other gifts, as custom goes, and that's before the cash dropped on dinner, drinks and a tip.

As for me, I'm not wooed by the wallet. I'd much rather spend meaningful time and be given something thoughtful, if at all. Cooking a meal together and eating by candlelight with a glass of wine, followed by snuggling on the couch to watch a movie you've both been meaning to see? Yeah, that's my kind of Valentine's Day. No reason to break the bank to show someone you care.

That doesn't mean you can't bring the luxury of a fancy restaurant meal into your own kitchen. What I cooked up this week is decadent and exploding with flavor and it's something you'd expect to pay $18-$20 a plate for at your average sit-down affair. You might even want seconds, and unless your V-day plans include an all-you-can-eat buffet, that's not typically part of the deal.

Shrimp cook quickly and require your attention to ensure they don't become overdone. Thirty seconds too long and tender turns to tough. I shy away from ordering it at restaurants for just this reason, but it's also a little too spendy to justify eating regularly at home. A holiday is the perfect time to splurge a bit (without having to take out a loan).

Instead of reaching for the green shaker, I recommend purchasing a wedge of Parmesan and grating it yourself for this dish. I use a microplane, which also works for the zest.

I adapted the cream sauce from a recipe in "The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles" from Cook's Illustrated.

Shrimp scampi with broccoli and creamy rice

Rice

4 tablespoons butter

1 1/3 cup cream

3/4 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped parsley

3 cups cooked white or brown rice

Scampi

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

6 ounces small broccoli florets

12 ounces raw peeled deveined jumbo shrimp

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Juice from 1 lemon (up to 1/4 cup)

Salt to taste

Lemon wedges

Grated parmesan

In a small saucepan, combine the butter and cream over medium-low heat.

Warm until the cream begins to bubble for 1-2 minutes.

Stir in the grated Parmesan, salt, parsley and rice.

Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

In a large saute pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat.

Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, stirring for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add the broccoli, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes, until broccoli is bright green and crisp tender.

Add the shrimp and season with salt.

Cook just until shrimp is pink and finished through and remove from heat.

Stir in lemon zest and lemon juice and taste for salt.

To serve, scoop 1/2 to 3/4 cup rice and top with 1/4 of the scampi mixture. Top with grated Parmesan and serve with a lemon wedge.

-- Chelsey

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