Anniversary on the Cheap

Posted by idawrites on September 5, 2008 in Food, Frugal, Recipes |

Wednesday was an anniversary of sorts for Mark and me. Not our wedding anniversary, but it was the day we pledged to be together forever (neither of us was certain we ever wanted to take the “Legal” Plunge again). Our normal anniversary celebration includes dinner at a nice restaurant to the tune of $100 or more. No expense is spared. This time, we just had to spend $1200 on transmission repairs to my trusty workhorse of a minivan. It was very disappointing to shell out that cash from our reserves and make the sacrifice of alone time with Mark.

Mark laid out chicken for dinner, which wasn’t particularly inspiring to me… because I was still pouting about the car and the lack of a “special” evening. Since his hand is broken (that’s TOMORROW’S post), I promised to make dinner. So, when I pulled into the driveway after work, I got my sulky self out of the car and made my way up the front walk… then I saw it… our OVERFLOWING herb garden filled to the gills with Basil! I plucked two or three leaves… then just pulled a whole stalk up. I had a PLAN.

We love Thai food. It’s where most of our date nights end up taking us. With that in mind, I went on a mad hunt for a recipe. This is what I found:

Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce


1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs (you can use breasts, but the thighs are more flavorful)

1 large red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
2 Tbsp olive oil or grape seed oil
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger

Hot cooked rice


1 In a small bowl, mix together the salt, ground coriander, cumin, ground cloves, cinnamon, ground cardamom, black pepper, chili powder, and turmeric. Set aside.

2 Rinse chicken, pat dry. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Put into a bowl and sprinkle the spice mix over all the pieces. Coat well and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

3 In a large skillet heat 1 Tbsp oil on medium high heat. Add the onions and jalapeños and cook for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the onions, peppers and garlic from the pan and put into a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Use the same pan for the next step.

4 Add 1 Tbsp oil to the skillet and heat on medium high heat. Add one half of the chicken pieces, spreading them out on the pan so they are not crowded. Brown for a few minutes on each side. When the chicken pieces are cooked through, and no pink remains, remove from pan, add to the bowl with the onions. Cook the second batch of chicken pieces the same way. Remove from pan, add to bowl with onions.

5 Add the coconut milk, minus a couple tablespoons, to the skillet. In a small bowl, mix the remaining coconut with the corn starch to dissolve the corn starch. Add the corn starch mixture back to the skillet with the coconut milk. Cook on medium heat and stir till thick and bubbly. Mix in the Worcestershire sauce. Add chicken mixture, basil, and ginger. Cook 2 minutes more to cook through.

Serve over rice. Serves 4.

This was quite possibly the BEST homemade Thai dish I’ve ever tasted. It’s simple to make, very flavorful (halve the salt though!) and everyone loved it. Even the children ate it!

Even better, it was SO cheap (I doubled the recipe):

  • Chicken Breast 2 lbs @ $1.99 per pound
  • Coconut Milk 2 cans @ $.79 a can
  • One onion @ $.50
  • Spices @ $.25
  • Garlic @ $.10
  • Peppers (free from garden)
  • Basil (free from garden)
  • Rice @ $.50 for 2 cups

So, I fed my family of 5 an amazing celebratory dinner for less than $7.00 total.

Even better than having the great food for really cheap… for me, the disappointment of not having dinner out evaporated the moment Mark took his first bite of dinner and proclaimed it some of the best Thai food he’s had.

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