You could be getting your aphrodisiac on tonight at The Viceroy's $100-a-pop dinner or at The Four Seasons' $285 pheromone spa treatment, but why splurge when you can cook your own "luscious" Valentine's Day meal for just $5? That's if you follow the 99 Cents Only Store-inspired recipe from L.A-based food blogger and self-proclaimed lifelong struggling artist Billy Vasquez, who's been "taking the haute out of cuisine," with his 99 Cent Chef blog, since 2007.
In a YouTube video posted to his website on Tuesday, Vasquez prowls the aisles of the 99 Cent Only store in Santa Monica, picking out a package of spaghetti, a carton of eggs and a package of bacon bits to make pasta carbonara with bacon bits. Because who says bacon bits can't be an aphrodisiac elixir?
For a cheap vegetable-based appetizer, Vasquez suggests either a steamed artichoke served with a side of garlic mayo dip or a pear and spinach salad with creamy herb dressing. Cans of artichokes are an easy find at the 99 Cent Only store, but "it is always a special treat to find the fresh scaly heads on sale," he writes. The main course doesn't require much more than a box of spaghetti, an egg and a package of bacon bits, which serve as a thrifty substitute for pancetta. Sometimes the best things in life do come in small, resealable Ziploc packages.
Vasquez tosses in a handful of canned Parmesan cheese and black pepper, heats up the pre-cooked bacon to make it nice and crispy, and cracks an egg over the pasta dish, for a dramatic, yolk-soaked pasta sauce. The 99 Cent Chef blog really brings the food to life with an often-unsettling series of stop-motion animations of vanilla wafers spinning in circles or yolk dissolving on its own.
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To wash down that egg yolk, pick up a box of light-bodied Alice White chardonnay from Australia by way of the 99 Cents Only store, which pairs nicely with the pasta carbonara. For dessert? Vanilla pudding (a six-pack of sugar-free Jell-O pudding) wedged between an off-brand vanilla wafer and a banana slice topped with a Hershey's Kiss that really ups the romance factor. You can even sprinkle those leftover bacon bits on top of this dish, if you're feeling "trendy-restaurant-hip," Vasquez says.
Oh, and don't forget the chocolate roses, which are just 99 cents, of course, meaning you can buy about 50 of them for the price of even the smallest Edible Arrangement. If that doesn't take the "haute" out of cuisine this Valentine's Day, then we don't know what will.