'Tis the season for love. Valentine's day is an extra special day to celebrate the love you have for someone. And since many celebrate the day with a significant other (or friend), the topic of a celebratory dinner seems to creep up. 

Now, if you're like me, the thought of blowing $25-50 on just one meal sounds terrifying, and the places that would be in my budget are going to be packed-filled with children crying and families fighting over who gets the last breadstick--removing any hope for a romantic evening. So, I set myself a challenge, to make a gourmet meal for two under $25. 

The meal I decided to challenge myself with is risotto. An initial fear struck me because of the scary things I have heard about it being super labor-intensive and temperamental. However, I thought if you want to impress your loved one might as well try to make something different. I used a dope recipe from food network as my 'frame work' and altered it to fit my taste.

In my version, I added sautéed chicken and mushrooms. I also substituted the dry white wine with white wine vinegar because not only is it more friendly on your wallet, but I couldn't force myself to waste a glass of wine that I could have been drinking while eating this glorious meal. 

Parmesan Risotto

  • Prep Time:10 mins
  • Cook Time:40 mins
  • Total Time:50 mins
  • Servings:4
  • Easy


  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 5 cups simmering chicken stock
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can mushrooms
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • shaved Parmesan optional
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • garlic powder
  • red pepper flakes
gorgonzola, sauce, cheese, pasta, parmesan, mushroom
  • Step 1

    After preheating the oven to 350° Fahrenheit and heating up the chicken broth, put the rice and 4 cups of the chicken broth into a baking dish. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 40-45 minutes.

    Madison Pessel
  • Step 2

    In my version of the recipe, while the rice was baking, I sautéed chicken breasts and mushrooms with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

    vegetable, chicken, mushroom
    Madison Pessel
  • Step 3

    After baking for 40-45 minutes or until most of the chicken broth is absorbed by the rice. Stir in the remaining warmed chicken broth, Parmesan cheese, peas, butter, and white wine vinegar into the dish.

    parsley, vegetable, rice, risotto
    Madison Pessel
  • Step 4

    Add the chicken, mushrooms, salt, and pepper to taste. Garnish with shaved Parmesan, if you desire. Enjoy!

    cheese, chicken, gnocchi, pasta, parmesan
    Madison Pessel

The price of this meal came out to be $21, leaving me only with 4 dollars. So, I decided to try and make a dessert. 

My dessert of choice was a take on my Grandma Lorraine's cannoli recipe. I made the filling of her recipe and put it between chocolate wafer cookies

Cannoli Sandwich Cookies

  • Prep Time:2 mins
  • Cook Time:4 mins
  • Total Time:6 mins
  • Servings:8
  • Easy


  • 1 small container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • splash vanilla
  • chocolate wafer cookies
dairy product, tea, beer, milk
  • Step 1

    In a bowl, combine ricotta, powdered sugar and vanilla until it is smooth

  • Step 2

    Spread filling in between 2 chocolate wafer cookies and serve. You can also add fruit or chocolate chips into the sandwich, if desired.

    sandwich, chocolate, butter, peanut, peanut butter

This sweet treat finished my budget off and resulted in me going over by 50 cents. But what can you do? 

Valentine's Day is supposed to be about expressing your love of someone. So, whether you can afford a $99 steak or a 99 cents burger, it's the thought behind it that counts.