Red Carpet Chili Dinner

My Oscar party and critique session was a huge success! Thank God I strategized in advance – it turned out to be the perfect action plan.

For hors d’oeuvres, we had hummus and carrots and crackers with cream cheese and pepper jelly. And wine of course! I happened to own all of it, even the pepper jelly, which I actually made with a friend a few weeks ago.

The one-pot meal was ideal. It was delicious, inexpensive, and so easy. I’d highly recommend this for an easy meal for a big group. I was able to heat it up on its own, so I could concentrate on the travesty that was 2013 Oscar fashion (check out this excellent recap from my friends at Cardigans and Couture).

Here’s the recipe:

Firehouse Chili

1 Tbsp. Vegetable oil
11/2 lbs. ground turkey (you can use ground beef as well)
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 10 oz. cans Rotel tomatoes, undrained
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 16 oz. cans red kidney beans, undrained

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven. Add the meat, stirring to break up the lumps, and cook until brown. Add onion, garlic, and jalapeno and cook until the onion is limp. Drain off any excess fat from the pan.  Add salt, cayenne, oregano, cumin, and chili powder. Add tomatoes, sauce, and beans. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes uncovered. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours more.

Serves 8.

For the fixins bar, I had red onion, cheese, sour cream, avocado, chopped tomato, fritos scoops, and fresh chopped cilantro. Of course, I forgot to take any pictures, but it looked something like this:

A friend contributed the salad, which she threw that together right before we ate. Another 2 ladies contributed cookies for dessert (including my favorite homemade molasses cookies – thank you Christina!). And the rest of the ladies brought wine and champagne.

Everyone ate a ton and talked even more. When I turned on my TV this morning to watch the news, the volume was at 74. Clearly, the TV couldn’t compete with our strong conversation skills!

But, I have to say the best part of the party was the clean up. One lap with a trash bag, and it was all done. Genius!

Here is my total tally for the dinner party (note: I made a double recipe of the chili to have some extra for dinner this week):

Turkey – $7.99
Kidney Beans – $1.89 x 2
Tomato Sauce  – $.65 x 2
Rotel – $1.99 x 4
Jalapenos – $.11 x 2
Fritos Scoops – $3.89
Sour Cream – $2.50
Cilantro – $1.09
Avocados – $1.70 x 2
Hot House Tomatoes – $1.65 x 2
Paper bowls – $2.29

Grand total to serve dinner to 8 of my dear friends and me: $37.72

Dinner for 9 under $40 = one happy Discountess!

Gearing Up for Oscar Night

I LOVE the Oscars. They are my Superbowl. For the past few years, I’ve hosted an Oscar fete at my house, and this year is no exception. I have 8 of my nearest and dearest coming over tomorrow night for champagne, dinner, and red carpet action.

Today, is prep day. As we know, I love hosting parties, but doing it cheaply can be a challenge. Here’s my strategy for getting this done on a dime.

1. Use what you have. I remembered to look at my cupboard  before heading to the grocery store. As I suspected, I have a bunch of unopened crackers and chips from my last shindig that are still good. Those are going to be the centerpiece of my hors d’oeuvres. As luck would have it, I also happen to have some leftover champagne and wine that I’m planning to use up as well!

2. Rely on the kindness of strangers (or in my case, friends). Every one who accepted the invitation offered to bring something. In my pre-Discountess days I would do all the cooking all myself, but this year, I decided to take my friends up on their offers. Someone is bringing a salad, and another person is bringing dessert. I’m still doing hors d’oeuvres and the main course. I’m hoping this will save me time, and make things simpler too.

3. Make an easy, one-pot dinner. I learned this lesson the hard way. The first year I did my party, I made and elaborate steak dinner with sweet potato fries…for 10. Needless to say, I was in the kitchen the entire time. This year, I’ve opted to do chili. Chili isn’t the most glamorous meal, but it’s easy, everyone likes it, and I can make it ahead. Very important! I’m going to have a full fixins bar with cheese, sour cream, cilantro, onions, avocado etc, so that everyone can customize their own dish.

4. Invest in your dinner, wisely. Yes, the cheaper option would be to use all of my own plates and dishes, but that would mean that I would be up doing dishes for hours after everyone leaves. I’ve opted for disposable glasses, bowls, and plates to make my life easier. It is on a Sunday night after all.

Wish me luck! My first order of business is to straighten up my messy apartment. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.