Pickled Party Favors

My brother invited me and a few others to enjoy the Superbowl at his house this past weekend. Naturally, I wanted to bring something to contribute to the festivities (preferable something that didn’t require a trip to the grocery store).

I already had all of the ingredients for Mrs. Cleland’s Sausage Balls (a curious combination of cheese, sausage, and bisquick that yields something like a sausage biscuit), and I was planning to bring that. But I decided to look for other ideas just in case. My daily Food and Wine newsletter was touting delicious and healthy Superbowl snacks. Clearly, the idea of a healthy Superbowl anything was intriguing enough to check out their suggestions. That’s when I came across this recipe for Homemade Dill Pickles.

Yes, it’s kind of an odd contribution to a party that’s mainly focused on cheese products. But frankly, if you’re looking for a salty snack that’s not going to make your pants pop off the next day, then this is a solid bet.

This was probably the easiest thing I’ve ever made. EVER. Basically, all you do is slice the cucumbers, mix them together with the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, and then let it sit in the fridge overnight. And, presto, you’re done!

Another reason this recipe was great – I owned everything, including the cucumbers, which I had gotten earlier in the week thanks to my CSA.

For you pickle enthusiasts, I’m pasting the recipe below with my notes or you can go straight to the website to get it. Either way you look at it, it’s definitely pin-worthy.

Dill Pickles (courtesy of Bobby Flay)

1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar (I forgot to add the sugar, whoops. It was still good though).
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon dill seeds (I didn’t have any, so I used dried dill instead. It worked perfectly)
2 cups hot water
2 pounds cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dill
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, coriander seeds and dill seeds in a bowl (I used plastic) with the hot water and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let the brine cool.
In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers with the dill and garlic. Pour the brine over the cucumbers and turn to coat. Place a small plate over the cucumbers to keep them submerged, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the pickles overnight, stirring once or twice. Serve cold.
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The site said they stayed good for a week in an airtight container, but I bet they would stay good longer. I always ride the line when it comes to that stuff. The pickles were delicious on their own, but I couldn’t help thinking how great they’d be on a barbecue sandwich. Perhaps this will be next year’s contribution to the annual Porktober event hosted by my friend and fellow blogger of, The Poe Log.
Food for thought.

The Great Oatmeal Challenge

Today is the start of the great oatmeal challenge. The Safeway currently has a special on Quaker Quick Oats for Just 4 U members–a whopping 42 oz. for $2.50. That’s a lot of oatmeal for not a lot of money, no? My goal is to see exactly how many breakfasts I can get out of that $2.50 canister.

Note: This is the part where my mom, who I might add fed us oatmeal for breakfast for YEARS on end, turns up her nose and starts talking about how gross it is. She’s lucky we didn’t feel the same way.

So,  starting today, I will eat oatmeal every morning (work week morning, that is, since I keep the canister at work) until my supply runs out.  Straight oatmeal for days on end might be a tall order, so I am planning on supplementing it with something to spice it up. Typically, I do a teaspoon of flax-seed (which gives it a nutty flavor) or some cinnamon with a splash of agave to sweeten it up. Today, I’m trying flax, strawberries, and agave. There is a whole list of ideas on the Quaker website. The PB&J recipe is a bit much (see below), but I’m sure there are others that I can tap into. Got any recipe ideas for me?

PBJOats

Wish me luck! I wonder how long this is going to take. Anyone care to wager a bet?

 

 

Breakfast of Champions

I hibernated at my mom’s house all weekend to help out with some things (very good for the old bank account). We found ourselves in need of breakfast on Sunday morning and without anything to cook. And then, I rediscovered Swedish Pancake, a family staple recipe clipped from Parade Magazine early in my childhood.  Not only is this dish easy to make (and I mean EASY), it is super Discountess-friendly. It uses ingredients that are regularly in anyone’s fridge and pantry, and it comes out looking like you are the chef at the Four Seasons (which, for the non-Discountess types, has a totally decadent brunch).

breakfast

Swedish Pancake

1 stick of butter

1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. flour

2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Put the stick of butter in a cast iron skillet and place in the oven while it’s preheating. (Two notes: You can use a 9×13 pan too if you want it will just make a thinner pancake; Also, watch the butter to be sure it doesn’t burn). Whisk the eggs, flour, and milk together in a bowl until just blended. When the butter is melted and the oven is fully heated, add the mixture to the skillet. Cook for 12 minutes, until the pancake is puffed up and golden on top.

Serve hot with whatever you have. I used powdered sugar and berries. It’s also delicious with maple syrup or jam.

Perfect for a lazy Sunday or an impromptu brunch. Trust me, your guests will thank you.

The Best Inexpensive New Years Party. EVER.

BDC

I really don’t like New Years. Lots of hype, added cost, and the night never turns out how you wanted. I’m way over the crowded DC bar parties where you end up paying $150 for a 4 mile long line at the bar. No thank you.

However, last year I discovered (with the help of my dear friend and future Discountess contributor, Sara HP) the best New Years party in town at Bistrot du Coin (BDC). It’s unique, fun, and most-importantly, cost-effective.

Since I happen to have the closest abode to the restaurant, we gathered at my house for drinks before dinner. I had a bunch of leftover hors d’oeuvres and champagne from my Christmas party, so no shopping was required. Sara HP also brought over delicious prosciutto and fontina and pesto pinwheels to round out the food (The recipe is super easy and tasty! I definitely recommend it.).

BDC does 2 seatings on New Years – one early and one late – we opted for the later one at 9:30.  We left my house at 9:10 and took the D2 straight to DuPont. I love the bus. LOVE. It picked up right outside my house, and dropped us 2 blocks from the restaurant. It was much easier than finding a taxi, and while walking is totally possible, it was cold and half of us were in heels. So, clearly that wasn’t happening.

We ended up with a group of about 12, which was a great size. We ordered bottles of wine and appetizers for the table, and the main course was straight off the menu. No pre fixe nonsense! If you’ve ever been to BDC before, then you know the food is fantastic. Clearly, they did not disappoint last night. Escargot anyone?

escargot

After a delicious dinner, they passed out sunglasses, hats, and noisemakers to the crowd. BDC hired a deejay, who was spinning some choice tunes, so we danced around and waited for the clock to strike 12. After the New Year, they pushed all tables to the side and a huge dance party broke out in the middle of the restaurant.

BDC Group

Ride to the party: $1.60

Cost of dinner (tax and tip included):$65.00

Ride home: FREE (This was total luck. I caught a ride with a friend who drove to the restaurant.)

GRAND TOTAL: $66.60 for an awesome evening with great food and friends…and a strobe light. An excellent way to start the New Year!

strobelight

AND SCENE.

Baubles and Brunch – Post Mortem

Well, I did it. Baubles and Brunch was a big success without walloping my wallet. In fact, I had TOO much food — likely because my mom took me to Costco to prepare for the party, and I got excited. Something about buying in bulk is SO appealing. I feel like I’m getting away with murder (almost), when in fact, I’m only getting away with 4 lbs. of sausage. Thank God I don’t have a membership, or I’d really be in trouble.

Anyway, here’s the low down on the brunch. The menu was the following:

Sausage-Egg Muffins (via Pinterest)
Pear Cake (via ShockinglyDelicious.com)
Fruit Salad
Caprese Skewers
Mimosas
Coffee

Here’s the spread:

Lessons Learned:

  1. Girls don’t eat. I made enough food to give everyone seconds, which means I made too much food. I sent most people home with doggie bags for husbands, boyfriends, and roommates to enjoy.
  2. The ladies who brunch refrain from over-imbibing on Sundays. I bought 5 bottles of champagne and a gallon and a half of OJ. We only drank 2 bottles of the champagne, and half the OJ. People had coffee too, but not that many. I could definitely have dialed back the champagne purchase and saved cash.
  3. Sausage-egg muffins are my new go-to. These were so easy. Easy to make, easy to eat. I did learn that paper liners help make the experience seamless. The recipe says you can bake without them, but I think it would be hard to be successful.
  4. The pear cake looked like I bought it (which is a good thing). Everyone was so impressed that I made it! It looked beautiful. The recipe would also be good with apples. I think I’m going to try that this weekend.

Totals:

  • Cost of the food, booze, etc: Less than $100, even with the extra champagne
  • Total cost of the extra eggs I had to buy when I didn’t have enough: $8.39 (you’re on my list 7-11)
  • Guest count: 20
  • Total purchases made by guests: $1400+ (hello, S&D credit)!

Below is a picture of our youngest guest, Eleanor, in her adorable polka dot party dress. You can see she’s kind of nonplussed – this picture was taken just after she found out that the S&D pearl bib necklace I’m wearing is being retired. She was really annoyed.

Bonus, “Santa” (read: mom) came, and I’m happy to say that some of my favorites from my previous post will be waiting under the tree for me in December! Shameless plug: the online store for the party is still open – in case anyone wants to make a purchase.

Next stop, hosting my annual Christmas cocktail party without breaking the bank. Baubles and Brunch was my minor league debut – the Christmas party marks my entrance into the big leagues.

Apple of My Eye

Now that I’m back from Vegas (with $0 spent I might add!), I’m taking my weekend by storm. Today, I’m headed to a fabulous party hosted by my friend and fellow blogger of The Poe Log. The party – called Porktober™ – is the pork-themed event of the year (you can follow the party progress on Twitter @Real_Porktober). It includes a full roasted pig, bacon bar, and other pork products for all to consume.

Clearly, with such a bounty of food, I cannot show up empty-handed. In keeping with my money-saving theme, I wanted to find something that I could make that would be a) fabulous and b) free (well free-ish). So, I opted to make an apple cake. I recently got some apples after my other friend and fellow blogger of Cardigans and Couture who went apple picking and graciously shared some of her goods with me. I had all of the other ingredients on hand, so it seemed like a no-brainer. Plus, apples and pork go together like my MasterCard and Bloomingdale’s – a perfect match.

Here is the recipe courtesy of another friend and her fabulous mom. I hope it tastes as good as it looks!

Apple Cake

6-7 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

2 c. plus 6 tsp. sugar

3 tsp. cinnamon

1 c. oil (canola or vegetable)

4 eggs

½ c. orange juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 c. flour

3 ½ tsp. backing powder

Mixed sliced apples with 6 tsp. of sugar and 3 tsp. of cinnamon and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix remaining sugar, oil, juice, eggs, and vanilla. Sift flour and baking powder together and slowly add to the wet ingredients. Once combined, add in the apple slices reserving enough to layer on the top of the cake. Pour the cake into a greased and floured angel food cake pan and place it in a pre-heated 350° oven. Bake for 1 ½ hours or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Discount Dinner for Two

I had dinner with an old friend on Friday. Typically, when we meet up, we’ll go get sushi or have a few glasses of wine somewhere. However, I’m still in save mode, so I opted to cook a homemade meal­—pasta with onion and bacon and a green salad.  I have to say that this is actually one of my favorite dishes anyway, so it is even better that it’s so inexpensive to make.

Here’s the recipe:

½ c. pancetta or good bacon

1 onion, minced

1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes, drained and crushed

1 tsp. crushed red pepper or more (optional)

1 lb. pasta (I prefer penne, but linguine is also good)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese

 

Boil salted water for the pasta.

Cook the bacon or pancetta in a skillet over medium heat until done. Remove the meat, and turn off the heat for a minute or two to let the oil cool down a bit. Turn the oil back on, add the onion, and cook it until it browns. Crush and add the tomatoes and the red pepper to the onion mixture (I think it’s easiest to crush them with my hands, but you can also use a fork). Turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture becomes saucy (about 10-15 minutes). Crush the bacon into bits and stir back into the sauce before serving.

Top pasta with sauce and Parmesan and viola! It makes 4 servings at about $2.50 per serving. Fast, cheap, and delicious.