Date Night In – Frugal Novice

Date Night In

Since having two boys, my date nights out with Brian have dwindled down a little. We’ve always been content to spend an evening playing board games or watching a movie on TV –  with an occasional round of Rock Band thrown in – I’m sure Brian would say this doesn’t happen often enough.

One thing I do miss, just a little? Going out to eat. When we were first married, we went out to eat much more often, not thinking at all about how much money we were spending. A favorite place of ours to go was (and still is – we just don’t go there nearly as much!) Chili’s. We both have several meals we really like, so we didn’t get stuck in a rut ordering the same thing over and over again. Two of our favorite things at Chili’s are their skillet queso and their blue cheese bacon burger – yum!

I’m working on a book review for Stephanie ( of her great new cookbook (I’ll be posting the review later this week, so keep an eye out for it), and came across one for Chili’s Skillet Queso – score! I immediately knew that was one of the recipes I wanted to try, and that inspired me to make my own version of the blue cheese bacon burger, too.

First I made the skillet queso, because after all, it’s an appetizer (and I needed sustenance for all my labor in the kitchen, right?). All I’ll say right now is that it was super easy – I’ll wait to tell you more about this one when I post my book review.

On to the burgers. I’ll fully admit that I have never been the best at cooking hamburgers. Normally Brian handles these out on our grill, but it was in the 30’s yesterday – weird Texas weather strikes again! – so I planned to cook these in our Le Creuset grill pan, which Brian got for a birthday gift (I felt like it was MY birthday too getting that).

First I sautéed some onions in a small skillet with a dash of olive oil, a sprinkling of kosher salt, and a pinch of sugar.

They started out like this:

And ended up like this:

At the same time, I cooked four strips of bacon until they were nice and crispy. We love bacon in our house, but we usually get turkey bacon to try and be a little healthier. I also mixed the ground beef with some Worcestershire sauce, kosher salt, and black pepper. I formed it into four patties, refrigerating two for later, and put the two for dinner on our grill pan.

After everything finished cooking, it was assembly time. We found some great onion bread that we decided to use for buns. Very different from what we’d get at Chili’s, but it was a nice difference from normal hamburger buns. And isn’t it pretty?

I made a spread out of light mayonnaise, blue cheese dressing, and blue cheese crumbles. I just eyeballed it and tasted to get the right ratio of ingredients for this, and once I was satisfied, I spread it on each of the bun halves.

Then came the meat. I think it turned out pretty good, although I’ll still let Brian handle burgers whenever possible!

I topped the meat with the sautéed onions next. These added a lot of great moisture and flavor to the burgers.

Next came the bacon:

And then blue cheese crumbles. Did I mention that we LOVE blue cheese? Before getting pregnant with J (our first son) I couldn’t stand the stuff, but now I even crave it sometimes!

And, voila – our finished burgers:

I baked some Ore Ida seasoned crinkle fries – again, pretty different from the fries at Chili’s, but we really love these fries. They have a flavor similar to Arby’s curly fries, and they bake up crispy on the outside and tender inside. I set out the queso and chips, poured our drinks, and we were all set to go. I even used our pretty IKEA napkins. I know, I’m so fancy. Our friends and family know that whenever we go to an IKEA I always get a set of napkins. I love the prints they choose, and I like to use them occasionally to make the table a little prettier.

Our date night setting:

Nothing too dressed up, but there are no Cheerios strewn across the table, or baby food splatters, so it was a nice departure into eating like grown-ups.

Let’s break down the cost. This meal cost more than we normally spend on dinners, but was still a much better deal than eating out.

Cost of two blue cheese bacon burgers, fries, skillet queso, and two drinks at Chili’s (including tax) is $28.31 Oh, and can’t forget tip – we’ll assume 15%, which would be $4.25. That brings the total to $32.56.

Cost of our meal (including tax):

• Two burgers – $7.69

• Skillet queso  & chips – $1.84 ($7.34 total, but made enough for at least 8 servings/4 meals)

• French fries – 81 cents ($2.42 total, but we only used 1/3 of the bag)

• Two drinks – $1.02

Total for our meal? $11.36 – a savings of $21.20.

I still think it’s really nice to go out to eat every once in a while, and there’s something to be said for not having to cook or clean up afterward. This provides a great alternative if you’re trying to save money, or if you can’t really get out – or both, in our case. Follow it up by renting a movie and have a nice, cozy, date night in.

Editing to add – we used the leftover meat to make burgers again the following Monday. This time Brian cooked the burgers. See what I mean when I say he’s a lot better at grilling than me? These turned out great!

  • Charla March 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Great meal for only $11.36, awesome savings of $21.20! :)
    .-= Charla´s last blog ..Binder Method for Organizing Coupons =-.

  • Diana March 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Glad you found Texas Blogging Gals. Will get you on the next updated list.

    Enjoyed a first visit. Following……

    Come see me at my personal blog, too, real soon.

  • Kacie March 21, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    That’s great! Yeah, it’s a little more work, but since you made it yourself, you know what’s in it! I don’t trust restaurants sometimes. The food can be really junky. And, you didn’t have to pay a babysitter!

    I recently downloaded three ebooks of restaurant copies. I found links to them on moneysavingmom, but if you’re having a hard time locating them, e-mail me and I’ll help ya out.
    .-= Kacie´s last blog ..Homemade peanut butter =-.

  • Genny March 22, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Found you through MBC! So glad I did. I love hearing about new recipes!

    Following your blog,
    .-= Genny ´s last blog ..Tug of war… =-.

  • Easter Delights Cookbook: A Collection of Easter Recipes | The Easter Egg Hunt March 22, 2010 at 6:00 am

    […] The Frugal Novice » Blog Archive » Date Night In […]

  • paula schuck March 22, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Date night…what’s that? Haven’t seen one in months…Paula
    .-= paula schuck´s last blog ..Still Alice =-.

  • Mamatink March 22, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Looks delish! I am following you from MBC! Please follow back!

  • Eve April 2, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Looks so yummy! Whenever I think of a date night I always think we have to go out. But I see how I can still go all out and stay home

  • Rebecca Peters December 15, 2013 at 2:22 am

    lmao at the difference in burgers, Im sure it tasted wonderful regardless! So we are on the same page, I totally miss going out to eat and my fav place was Chilis! lmao! We always got the texas cheese fries as an appetizer and I always got my loaded baked potato soup (you gotta try it, I made a recipe off that too if you are interested! Its amazingly delcious!) We always got different things but the fries were always there and my soup haha. And I so miss eating like an adult, relaxed, being able to sit and casually talk in between taking bites of food!

  • Rebecca Peters December 15, 2013 at 2:24 am

    P.S. Where is that queso dip recipe at?

  • Book Review:’s Dining Out at Home February 27, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    […] tried my first recipe Saturday night, when my husband and I decided to have a date night in – inspired by this cookbook, really. I made Stephanie’s recipe for Chili’s […]

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