Affordable Valentine: Wayne's Sweets for Cheap

How to be sweet for cheap using suggestions from Wayne Johnson's Facebook friends

For this Valentine’s Day, I sent out a request to my friends on Facebook for ideas and suggestions on the type of segment they’d like to see. 

Four of the top responses came from Deborah Olivia Brown, Mark Cacciatore, Linda Decker and Daphne Lan.  Most of their ideas centered on doing things on a budget and/or helping guys, who know very little about being in the kitchen, prepare a simple Valentine’s Day meal. 

First and foremost it’s important to remember that the day should focus on spending time with someone special.  No matter what you do, big or small, fancy or simple, the fact that you are making an effort means a great deal.

Deborah’s suggestion for budget minded folks was to dust off a bottle of wine that you might have had around the house rather than heading out to buy an expensive bottle of champagne.  These are tight times for a lot of folks.  So, making use of things already in your home is a very smart thing to do.

Mark supported the idea of a “How To” for guys who can’t cook a can of beans.  For those guys, I offer up this incredibly simple three-course meal that requires almost no knowledge of the kitchen other than boiling water and using a microwave oven and measuring cups.  Also, Deborah will be pleased to know that this meal is rather inexpensive, too.

The Menu

Garden Salad with Fresh Peaches
Roasted chicken with Couscous and Lemon Butter Steamed Broccoli
(with optional sautéed mushrooms as a sauce for the chicken)
Fresh Strawberries Dusted with Powdered Sugar

The Ingredients

1 5oz pkg Salad Greens
1 lg Peach or Nectarine, not too soft
Salad Dressing of your choice
Salt and Pepper Shakers
1 Roasted Whole Chicken Breast (from the rotisserie section of your grocery store)
1 ZipLoc Steam Bag
1/2 lb Fresh Broccoli
1 Lemon
1/4 lb Fresh Sliced Mushrooms (optional, explained below)
1/2 cu Couscous (available in the rice and pasta section of your grocery store)
1 lb Fresh Strawberries
1 pkg Powdered Sugar (Confectioner’s Sugar)

The Method

For the salad, divide the salad greens between two large plates.  Using a sharp knife, slice wedges from the peach or nectarine and place them on top of the greens.  Pour a small amount of dressing on each salad and serve.  Include salt and pepper shaker on the table for additional seasoning.

For the main course, reheat the chicken breast according to the grocery store’s package directions.  Those directions will probably say to heat the chicken and then allow it to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.  Meanwhile, bring some water to a boil.

Place 1/2 cup coucous in a medium sized bowl or container.  Add 1/2 tablespoon of butter.  Pour 1/2 cup boiling water on top, stir to combine and put a plate or plastic over it to cover for about 4 minutes minutes.  Then, using a fork, fluff up the couscous and divide it between two dinner plates. 

Separately, cut broccoli into strips or bit sized pieces.  Place them in the steam bag along with a tablespoon of butter.  Squeeze the juice from half of the lemon into the bag and seal it.  Microwave the broccoli for 1 1/2 minutes.  Let it rest for 1 minute.  Remove the broccoli from the steam bag and divide it between the two plates as well.  Discard the liquid that is left in the bag.

Place the roasted chicken breast on a cutting surface (you can use a large dinner plate if you don’t have a cutting board).  Using a sharp knife, slice the chicken into 1/2” slices.  Layer the slices on the two separate plates and serve this course. 

If you want to add a bit more flavor, place the sliced mushrooms in a small skillet with 1 tablespoon of butter and cook over a medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, stirring often.  Spoon the sautéed mushrooms over the chicken breast slices (if you want to include this step, begin sautéing the mushrooms at the start of your preparations).

For a simple dessert, wash the strawberries, leaving the green stems in place.  Drain the strawberries on a paper towel.  Place them in two separate bowls, sprinkle just a spoon full of powdered sugar on each and eat them with your hands. 


To pull this off as effortlessly as possible, here’s timing if you want to start serving at 7PM:
- 6:00 PM Wash strawberries.  Wash Broccoli.  Let both dry on paper towels. Put broccoli, butter and lemon juice in bag.  Set aside (don’t microwave yet).  Put coucous in a container with butter (don’t add hot water yet).  Remove chicken from the refrigerator and place in a baking pan (don’t place in oven yet).

- 6:20 PM Preheat oven.  Make salads on plates and put them in the refrigerator (don’t cut peach until just ready to serve).  Put two additional plates on the counter for the next course.
- 6:30 PM Put chicken in the oven (according to directions)
- 6:50 PM Start boiling water.  Place mushrooms and butter in skillet over medium heat and sautee.  Turn off heat after 4 minutes.
- 7:00 PM Remove chicken from oven and let rest.  Slice peach for salads and serve.
- 7:10 put boiling water on couscous. Microwave broccoli.
- 7:15 Turn heat back on mushrooms.  Put broccoli on plates.  Put coucous on plates.  Slice chicken and put on plate.  Top chicken with mushrooms and serve.
-  Whenever you’re ready: serve strawberries.

As an alternative, Linda and Daphne both suggested adding a little pizzazz to dessert and chocolate seems to be the theme for Valentine’s Day.  Still being budget minded, though, I took a regular chocolate cake mix and chocolate canned frosting.  Then, taking a pound of fresh strawberries, I created a flavorful presentation by slicing the strawberries and trimming the cake at the base and on the top.  I created a pyramid of fresh sliced berries in the center.

The Show Stopper

Now, if you want to be a little extravagant with your Valentine’s Day celebration, an extra treat you can make is the chocolate martini.  This recipe comes from the folks at Marty’s, a little bar in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood.  You’ll spend a bit on the ingredients, but you’ll really enjoy the result.

The Chocolate Martini
courtesy of Marty’s Bar, Andersonville, Chicago


1 oz Vodka
2 oz Godiva Dark Chocolate or Creme de Cacao
3 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream
1 bottle Smucker’s Chocolate PlateScrapers Dessert Topping*
1 Martini Glass, 6oz size


Chill the martini glass by either placing it the freezer or filling it with ice and water for 3-5 minutes.  Drain and shake off excess liquid just before using (this chilling process helps the liquid chocolate adhere to the class).

Create a pattern on the inside of the glass by squeezing the Smucker’s PlateScrapers liquid into it with a sweeping, back and forth, motion.

Pour liquid ingredients into an iced filled shaker.  Shake vigorously and pour strained liquid into glass. 

For Valentine’s Day, I garnished this drink with a strawberry wedged onto the rim.

A Facebook Thanks

Thanks to all the folks who responded to my little request on Facebook.  If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at

*If you have trouble finding Smucker’s PlaterScrapers, try using their “Magic Shell” product instead.  You can pour it into a smaller squeeze bottle or a disposable bag with a small hole cut into a corner.

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