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.
—–
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.

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.

Splurge vs. Save – Blowouts

With New Years Eve almost upon us, I have been thinking about what I’m going to wear. Due to my reckless spending during December, I need to shop in my closet for my outfit (which makes me feel totally lame). BUT, everyone wants to look good on New Years, so I decided to treat myself to a blow out before my night on the town.

My darling brother gave me a gift certificate to DryBar for Christmas – the new blow out salon in DC. I visited the DryBar in New York during my last visit, and it was quite the experience. For $40, you got bottomless champagne, a shampoo, and a blow out. I paid $10 extra dollars to my stylist to rub my head for 10 minutes. I HIGHLY recommend this. In fact, I would wash my own hair and show up there just to have them massage my scalp. It was awesome.

Unfortunately, all of their appointments are booked for new years (and at $40 a pop, my pre-gift certificate self was not in a hurry to make an appointment). So I’ve been looking for a low-cost alternative.

Enter Bubbles Salon.

It’s about a 4 block walk from my office, and according to their website, they will do a shampoo and blow dry for $25. They say that cost depends on how long and thick your hair is, but my shoulder length blond locks shouldn’t put me in a higher price bracket. Of course, there is no champagne and no head rub, but I’m hoping that I will still get a fuss-free blow out that will make my old outfit on New Years look like new.

I have an appointment tomorrow after work. Best case scenario, I get a great look for my New Year’s party. Worst case it goes up in a bun for the evening. I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

Off the Beaten Path Birthday Dinner

So my brother’s birthday was this weekend, and as far as birthday’s go, it was a semi-big one so I felt a get-together was in order. Keeping an eye on my coins was important, but I also wanted it to be fun for him and our friends. Enter the best idea ever…

I got a reservation for 17 of our nearest and dearest at Thai X-ing, a local Thai supper club in Ledroit Park. Kudos to my mom for sending me the link! It turned out to be the perfect place. A dinner for 17 can be difficult to figure out – and this one was not without some logistics – but we managed to make it work.

Thai X-ing is actually a regular D.C. row house that has been converted into a restaurant. It has fabulous nooks and crannies for little tables. We were actually in an upstairs room at a big feast table. There was one other party in the room with us when we sat down. Sadly, they were no match for us, and they quickly left us to ourselves. It was probably for the best because at one point we commandeered the iPod speakers to play Top 40 hits and sing at the top of our lungs. This party was not for sissies.

If you’re thinking of hosting a group birthday dinner, I’d highly recommend this place. Here’s why.

1. The food was amazing. They were also very accommodating to one person in our party who had a food allergy. Granted to really enjoy it, you have to be adventurous and willing to try everything, but it was all so delicious I can’t imagine not wanting to taste everything!

2. No menus, one price. The meal itself was $50 a person plus tip. Our friends were gracious enough to contribute a bit extra to pay for my brother’s meal, so the per person grand total was $65 for everything. Not bad for a full 5 course, homemade Thai meal! Everyone brought cash, so we were able to count and pay quickly without having to deal with splitting the check over multiple cards.

3. BYOB. This was actually perfect, especially for the Discountess. As his birthday present, I provided the alcohol for everyone. I checked out my trusty Rodman’s circular. For those who’ve never been to Rodman’s, you’re missing out. It’s a great place to get wine, beer, specialty groceries, etc for good prices. Anyway, they had Beck’s 16 oz. can cases on sale for $20 – I picked up 3 cases and a magnum of delicious french red wine for $13.99 (no seriously, it was really good!). Mom contributed 6 bottles of white wine from her stash, and we were good to go! The beers were especially key, by the way. Much easier to carry into the restaurant and far better to deal with when cleaning up! They let us roll right in with a cooler. It was awesome.

In short, this was a perfect place to have a fun dinner with friends. Everyone had a great time, especially my brother.  Sunday was a slower day for some, but it was a small sacrifice to make to the party Gods.

P.S. I know I owe you a November budget rundown. I’m working on it. It’s ugly, and I’m having a hard time facing it, especially in print…

Getting Crafty With Stamps

I’ve mentioned my love of stamps before. Stamps are a fabulous way to personalize invitations, gift cards, stationery – you name it! I actually started using stamps long before I was the Discountess. They can take a regular note and make them look 10 times better. Here are some ways I’ve used them:

Invitations

Each year, I throw a Christmas cocktail party. My apartment is small, so I don’t entertain as often as I would like to. This annual fete allows me to thank all of the people who’ve entertained me during the year. Clearly, since it’s a thank you, I want it to feel special, and nothing better says special to me than getting an invitation in the mail. BUT, they can be pretty expensive to produce. I use stamps make them look personal without adding to the cost.

I pick up regular stock cards and matching envelopes from Paper Source for $4.95 for a pack of 25 cards and $3.25 for pack of 10 envelopes. For 30 party invites, that comes to $19.65 total plus $13.50 in postage. I run them through my printer to add the party details, and finish with a stamp on top. And viola!

Apologies for the weird, white out line, but you get the idea. Cute, no?

Recipe Cards

I’m hosting a bridal shower over the Christmas holiday for my dear friend who’s getting married next spring. I ordered the invitations from TinyPrints (a very reasonable site for printed invitations, especially when you have a coupon like this one). As a part of the invitation, I included recipe cards, so the guests could share their favorite recipes as my friend builds her own collection.

You can always buy recipe cards, but they often look hokey to me. I opted to make the ones I sent out with – you guessed it – a stamp! I used the same paper source cards that I used for the Christmas party invitation, but opted for a different stamp and placement. The results are below.

Not bad for a days work. Next up, I’m trying my hand at gift tags. Stay tuned for that update.

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.

The Discountess Does Baubles and Brunch

This weekend, I agreed to host a Stella and Dot party for a good friend who is a S&D sales rep. This is my first party as the Discountess, so it’s quite the budgetary challenge. I thought hosting a brunch would allow me to put on a lovely party for my 20 attendees without blowing my budget entirely. Here’s my thinking:

1. Brunches are kid-friendly. Many of my friends have small children, so brunch fits more easily into the nap schedule. Most of the kiddies are portable too, so I invited them to come along. After all, in order to have a party you need to have guests!

2. Less Expensive Food. I want to have plenty of food for my friends, and luckily, brunch food is a bit cheaper than a regular cocktail party menu. I can have an egg dish, fruit salad, some hor d’oeuvres, and viola! Brunch is served.

3. Curbed Cocktail Consumption. Buying enough wine and champagne for a cocktail party is pretty pricey, but I’m guessing brunch shouldn’t be too bad. I’m definitely planning to serve fun, brunch-y cocktails – champagne and Mimosas (coffee and tea will be served as well for those who are off the sauce). I’m assuming that people will have errands to run, naps to get to etc on Sunday afternoon, so I won’t need to stock the bar as much for this party as I would for a cocktail party.  We’ll see if they drink me out of house and home.

In addition to proving that this Discountess can host a good party on a dime, the other MAJOR benefit of hosting an S&D party is that the hostess gets awarded a certain amount of S&D credit based on how much people buy. I’m hoping I can get enough credit to offset the cost of a few Christmas presents, and maybe a present or two for myself.

For anyone who wants to do some early Christmas shopping, here is a link to the online store for the party.

And in case you need recommendations, I’m currently coveting the following: