Entertaining at NO COST-seriously!

A few weeks ago my former boss and now dear, dear friend, text me to say that she would be driving through Raleigh and wanted to stop for dinner. Of course I said,  “fantastic! Let me know, when and where, and we are totally game!” Earlier this week I heard from her and she said that they were hoping to be in town around 5:00p on Friday. I was over the moon. Then it occurred to me, spending freeze. We did not allocate any funds for this dinner, we are making zero “quick-trips” to the grocery store and as tempting as it is to meet up for a nice dinner with old friends, I have to stick to the agreement. So as any good Frugal Fowler hostess would do, I invited them over to our place, enticing them with a home cooked meal. Of course they were on board, she and her husband are no muss-no fuss, amazing individuals who truly would’ve stopped by for a smile and a hug. Although I quickly realized that bypassing dinner out was only half the problem because now, I had to come up with something to make and not to mention they were planning on being in town at 5:00p and I work until 4:30p. :::head in hands:::

For those who don’t know, we plan our dinners out by the month accounting for leftovers, brinner, and make-your own (MYO) nights. Fridays at our place, are usually laid back and often the girls get to pick our MYO dinner evenings, so I was really uncertain what to do; and I realize the argument here but I’m that girl that when we have guests I like to make something a little special. I was going through my freezer and pulling out one thing after the other, contemplating my options for making something even borderline fantastic, when it dawned on me that Jennifer has a gluten-allergy. CRAP!! I have never made anything gluten-free and usually I associate these allergies with expensive specialty products. Double crap!! So, just to recap here are my issues:

  • Dinner for 4 adults and 2 children in less than 24 hours
  • No budget
  • No planned meal
  • potential 30 min window of time to actually “cook”
  • No special trips to the store can be made
  • No Gluten can be included

What.the.heck. hmm I have no idea, then it dawns on me, I have no other options, the challenge awaits… my very first pantry raid. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, a pantry raid is when you cook primarily utilizing pantry products. This could work, I just had to be cautious not to select items from other meals already planned out for the remainder of the month. I found chick peas, black beans, red kidney beans, tomato paste, tomato sauce  (all gluten-free) and tons of spices. Any guesses where I went with this???

Crockpot Chili. (BAM! as Emeril would say) I ended up adding half a lb of hamburger (being sure to leave enough for the meatballs for later next week) but it was perfect. I let it cook all day and my house smelled amazing when we got home. Thank goodness I did it this way too, because Jennifer and Alex were waiting for us in the parking lot when we arrived home from work.

Crockpot Chili

  • 2 cans tomato paste
  • 1 can Kidney beans/chick peas/black beans
  • 1 24 oz can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 16 oz can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp Cumin
  • 2 tbsp Paprika
  • Chili powder to taste
  • 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 lb ground beef, chicken or turkey (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp garlic and onion powder

Mix ingredients well into slow cooker. Brown hamburger if using and then add to sauce, cook low and slow for 8-10 hours.

For dessert, because there has to be a dessert, I did a super easy flourless chocolate cake/torte that was a one-bowl, one hit wonder that took thirty minutes from start to finish. I used leftover chocolate chips, baking cocoa, eggs, oil, and sugar. Sooo unbelievably easy and perfect for the chocolate lover.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

  • 1/4 package chocolate chips  (you know, when there are too many to eat but too few to use) 
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Melt chips in the microwave then mix ingredients well and pour into a cake pan dusted with cocoa instead of flour, bake at 325 degrees for 15- 20 mins.

I admit, before this challenge I would’ve run out to the store the minute I knew we had guests coming and spent a ton of money trying to put together the same caliber meal and justifying every penny…”because it’s for everyone else.” I wouldn’t have paid hardly, if any, mind at all to what I already had at the house. It’s not far-fetched to say that I probably would’ve wound up with way more than I needed both before and after our guests arrive ending up with way less in our bank account. As a Sicilian, we overfeed just about everyone and that means we shop with the intention of “having plenty.” Tonight, I am proud to say that I still have plenty of yummy leftovers of both chili and chocolate. I had a wonderful visit with our friends and entertaining did not cost us a single cent. It’s a pretty cool feeling.

Tip: Challenge yourself sometime, do your own pantry raid…you might surprise yourself!

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5 thoughts on “Entertaining at NO COST-seriously!

  1. I love doing the pantry raid.
    My husband has asked me before how I made a meal when he could have sworn there was no “real” food in the house. ^_^

  2. This is great! I am totally trying your recipes (I have multiple family members with a gluten allergy!)
    I’m so proud of you – this is very motivating for me – also with 2 babies and in need of a serious look at our budget. Keep up the good work mama!! ❤

    • Thanks so much. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. I’m also excited to see that people are reading my blog. It gives me the motivation to keep going. Thanks everyone for the love!

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