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Pizza with heart, other gifts of love on college budget

Emily Macrander

Valentine's Day is Sunday , and though there is love in my heart, there is no cash in my wallet.

The idea of buying another "roses are red, violets are blue" card for my boyfriend makes me, well, a little green. I'm determined to find a way to celebrate in a way that's cheap (around $20) and original. Best of all, the time I would have spent calling restaurants that were already booked now can be spent with the person I love.

Remember, even if your girlfriend says she doesn't expect anything big, she still wants you to put in some effort. Here are some ideas almost any college student on a budget can tackle:

• I 'Heart' You Pizza. Making pizza from scratch is a good way to work in some time with your valentine. We used pepperoni on our pizza, but feel free to go crazy with toppings. I've used sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted bell pepper and basil. Enjoy this family dough recipe I've been eating for years.

I 'Heart' You Pizza

Dough:

3/4 cup warm water

1 packet of yeast

1 1/2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2-3 cups all-purpose or whole-wheat flour

Toppings:

1 14-oz. jar of pizza sauce

1 16-oz. bag of mozzarella cheese (adjust to taste)

10 large pepperoni slices

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir to dissolve. Add olive oil. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time while stirring until dough sticks together and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out dough onto a floured surface. Knead, adding 1 Tbsp. of flour as needed until dough is resilient to the touch and not sticky. Roll dough into 12- to 14-inch circle, then form into a heart shape. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes until slightly browned. Do not overbake, as there will be a second round in the oven with toppings. Remove from oven. Detach the crust from the pan, taking care not to tear it.

Allow the crust to cool. Use heart-shaped cookie cutters to shape pepperonis. Spread sauce on your heart. Sprinkle with cheese. Dot with pepperonis. Bake for about 8 minutes. Achieve a nice bubbly cheese effect by broiling your pizza for the last 2 minutes.

• L.O.V.E dinner. Real love can be wacky at times, so why is the way we celebrate it phony? Using only dishes that start with the same letters that spell out "love," you can create a meal. For dinner you might serve: lasagna, Oreos, Velveeta cheese dip (one pound of Velveeta and one can of Ro-Tel tomatoes with peppers) and edamame. The possibilities are a true reflection of the wonderful randomness of love. This idea is also dorm- or picnic-friendly. Have your signifcant other guess why they're eating such a strange combination. You also could do this as a potluck. Invite friends or couples over and have each bring a dish of an assigned letter. For bigger groups, you could do words like "cupid" or "romance."

• Blind taste test. Visit the grocery store's bulk section. Tantalize your valentine by blindfolding him or her and feeding them foods thought to have aphrodisiac powers. Try things like almonds, avocados, bananas, chocolate and honey. Don't forget to engage all the senses; break a bar of chocolate by his ear, hold a spoon of honey under his nose. (Just don't feed your blindfolded friend anything gross — you like them, after all.)

• Make casual dining romantic. Impress your darling by taking them to any casual dining location and surprising them by bringing out a plastic tablecloth, a couple of tapered candles and a boom box (with batteries). Anywhere can be special. Munch on coffee-shop pastries or pizza from the buffet while others look on full of jealousy. Don't worry, they'll just wonder why they didn't think of it. Also, at the end of the evening there are no dishes to do, no kitchen to clean, just a cloth to fold and put away for your next romantic dine-down.

• Dress up a box of wine. Don't be dumb enough to bring booze into the dorms. But if you live in an apartment and are of age, try this recipe. You don't have to spend tons of money for a bottle of wine. You might have a box of wine already in the fridge — in which case, you're good to go. It's all about the presentation. Turning your boring old box of wine into sangria is a great way to make it sing.

Cupid's Sangria

1 orange for juicing

2 oranges, sliced

3 apples, sliced and peeled

1 lemon, sliced

1 3-liter box of Franzia merlot

32 oz. orange soda

Rum (optional)

Other fruit: grapes, pears, kiwi (optional)

Juice one orange. Slice the remaining fruit. Combine Franzia, orange soda and juice from the orange. For an extra kick, soak the fruit in rum. Add fruit slices. Allow to soak for a few hours. Serve chilled or over ice.

— Emily Macrander