Tuesday, January 31, 2012

DC Food Blogger Happy Hour - February 1 - Eatonville

If you are craving some pecan-crusted, deep-fried catfish and some foodie talk, tomorrow's DC Food Blogger Happy Hour might be the happy hour for you. DC Food Bloggers will be meeting at Eatonville at 6pm for delicious bites and foodie gossip. You will no doubt enjoy the warm community of food bloggers that we have in DC.

RSVP Here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Organic Garbanzo Beans at Whole Foods

Dried beans seems to be my thing now and days. I know they have been around for awhile and people have been singing their praises for years but finally, I understand.

I picked up this bag of Garbanzo Beans at Whole Foods over the weekend. This one pound bag of beans sells for $2.39. The coupon booklet that can be found in the front of the store has a $1 off coupon which made this bag only $1.39. This is a great deal for organic beans.

You can also download Whole Foods coupons here. My sister-in-law has been matching coupons found in store with coupons from manufactures and has scored great deals on Clif bars and juices. This is great for people who love to shop at Whole Foods.

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Pot of Black Beans for the Ladies at N Street Village

For the past six years, I have been a regular volunteer at N Street Village, a women's center in DC that helps low-income and homeless women. When I first started volunteering, I showed up once a week to help serve food to the women during my lunch hour. Over time, I volunteered to do other things such as build furniture or help recruit volunteers and walkers for the annual walk-a-thon. Then I started to lead groups of new volunteers on the weekends through DC Cares to help prepare salads, heat up casseroles, and serve. It hit me one weekend that I wanted to start cooking my own food for the women. I talked to N Street Village and asked if it was ok for me to start my own group and serve once a month. For the last 3 years, my wonderful friends and family have helped me serve great food to these women and it has been an amazing experience.

There is this great joy when you see people eat and like the food that you make and it is especially special when you know these women really need it. The most elaborate meal we made was when a friend, who is a chef, came and made individual meatloafs served with mashed potatoes and a mushroom gravy. During the summer, we love bringing sliced up cold watermelon because it always produces smiles. It is clearly an appreciated treat. A family friend once brought in 15 rotisserie chickens which she quartered, dredged in BBQ sauce and roasted again until the sauce carmalized on the chicken. We left that day with an applause from the women. I turned to my family friend and said, "Ok, now we have top that."

Each month is a struggle to figure out what would be the most economical, healthy and delicious dish to make. My friend Joy has been a master at finding good recipes that will serve large groups (we aim to make enough to feed 50 people.) We also try to bring in fruit and vegetables when we can because people need nutrious food regardless of their financial status. This past week, we planned to make enchiladas and I decided to make a side of black beans.

I found this "Mexican Black Beans" recipe from Epicurious. It looked simple and had all the flavors I was looking for in a recipe. To feed 50 women and keep the cost low, I picked up the items at Food Rite in Arlington, VA. I mutiplied this recipe by ten in order to have enough.

Mexican Black Beans


1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large jalapeño chili, seeded, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 pound of dried black beans soaked in water overnight
1 14 1/2-ounce can low-salt chicken broth
Fresh lime juice
Chopped fresh cilantro
Chopped green onions
Salt and Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Place oil in a 3qt dutch oven and bring to medium heat. Saute garlic, onions, Jalapenos until onions are translucent. Add cumin and mix in. Cook for 30 seconds. Add black beans and chicken broth. Add water until it is right above the top of the beans. Bring to boil. Turn off stove.

Place dutch oven (with the lid on) into the heated oven. Since I used dried beans, the cooking process took longer than the recipe on Epicurious. I kept the beans in the oven for 2 hours. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

They were perfect when they came out of the oven. The beans were soft but not mushy. The cumin and garlic gave it this rich flavor and worked great as a side for the enchiladas. I added a bit of lime juice and we had bowls of chopped cilantro and green onions on the side to put on top of the beans. The entire pot of beans made for 50 women cost around $10. A 5lb bag of beans was $5.50. A container of cumin cost $1.29. Cilantro was $0.89. Onions and jalapenos cost less than $3. I had the rest of the ingredients from previous purchases. These beans would be delicious just served with white rice and maybe some hot sauce. The amazing thing is that we still had half a tray of beans left over after serving all the women and giving out seconds. It felt great to bring something that was delicious and healthy for them to enjoy.

If you would like to join me on Saturday, February 18th (10am to 1pm) to cook and serve a meal at N Street Village, please email me at thriftydccook at gmail dot com.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Union Halal Butcher and Grocery in Arlington Closing

If you have eaten at one of the best pizza places in the DC area, Pupatella, then you probably have seen a little halal shop that is right night door. I've been shopping at this store for the past 1 1/2 years mainly because I can get great large-sized pita bread that I use to make pita pizzas for under $2 (six in a pack). But in addition to that, I've purchased marinated olives, Kefir cheese, feta, and much more. I stopped by this weekend to pick up some lamb to test out recipes for the D.C. American Lamb Pro-Am Competition. As I was walking into the store, I knew something was wrong. The shelves were half empty.

I was greeted by the manager who told me that the store will turn into a restaurant. They were very excited about the Morrocan cuisine and they confirmed that there will be delivery options. (I also confirmed that they won't be competing with Fettosh next door. They have a friendly collaboration.) The restaurant will launch in a month so and for now they must sell their inventory.

The store has several items on sale for buy one get one free but they are also willing to negotiate on prices for items that are not listed on sale. I picked up a container of pinenuts which they sold to me at 25% off the price. They had a lot of specialty items that I am sure I would use if I knew more about middle eastern cuisine. If you have a chance to stop by, here is the address:

5102 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22205

I picked up my boneless leg of lamb (their price is $6.75 per pound) and will be working on recipes for the competition this week. Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Potato Chip Egg Casserole

There are many reasons why I love my friends but one of the top reasons is because they are the kind of people who don't judge me when I show up to a get-together with no makeup on, a stained shirt, and jeans. They makes me feel relaxed and comfortable all the time. Another big reason why I love my friends is because when we get together, it is a collaboration of good food and good drinks.

Jenny is our mastermind organizer. She makes sure each element of a good party is intact: drinks, food, eating utensils. Jason is our music expert. He can put together a playlist to ensure that no matter your music taste, you will hear a tune and say "OMG, I love this song." Marshall makes sure that we have some sort of cocktail or punch. Kelley supplies us with smoked meats or bacon deliciousness. Jenny, Joy, and others bring delicious food. Simply put, everyone contributes. We even have people who prefer to clean up because they don't like cooking. It is always awesome.

Last week, we had a pajama party brunch because who doesn't want to be in their 30s, eat bacon, drink booze, and watch cartoons in their pajamas with their friends? We had a bunch of champagne leftover from the New Years Eve party. Fourteen bottles total were brought to this brunch and by the time Marshall and I left, there were only four bottles left. We did good. In addition to that, our hostess Heather made us the delicious Bloody Mary that you can see in the picture above. Her husband Brian fried up 3 pounds of bacon and made sure we were all caffinated with Intelligentsia French Pressed coffee.

My job was to bring an egg casserole. Joy has a great recipe where she puts onion rolls in a pan, add an egg mixture, drops spoonfuls of cream cheese, and then tops it all off with diced up green onions. I love this casserole. It was really after brunch at the Tabard Inn where I had scrambled eggs with cream cheese and chives that I realized how delicious that combo was. While searching through Epicurious for egg casserole/fritatta ideas, I found one that included potato chips. It mentioned how Tortilla d' Espano has fried potoates in it and questioned how far off potato chips be. I agreed. Here is what I made:

Potato Chip Egg Casserole


8 whole eggs
2 egg whites (I took out two yolks because in my head, it made this healthier. Weak, I know. You can take out more yolks and add more egg whites if you want to lighten up the dish)
1 8oz bag of potato chips (I used Kettle Brand, Reduced Fat, Sea Salt)
2/3 cup of milk
1/4 cup of chopped green onions (green part only)
2/3 8oz container of cream cheese
salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Spread half of the bag of chips into a 9x13 baking pan evenly. Drop spoonfuls of the cream cheese on top of the chips. Top off with more chips. Whisk eggs, egg whites, dash of salt, dash of pepper, and milk together. Pour over chips. Sprinkle the green onions on top. Bake at 350F for 35 mins. Check if the casserole is done by inserting a toothpick in the middle. It should come out clean. If it does not, put it back in for another 5 mins. Repeat until the toothpick comes out clean.

The egg casserole came out delicious. The entire brunch was a hit. There was french toast casserole, sourdough pancakes with a berry compote, 3lbs of crispy bacon, biscuits, sausage, and gravy, fruit salad, French Press coffee, bloody marys, mimosas, bellinis, and a lot of laughing. (Have you ever seen the ShakeWeight instruction video? We did.)

If I were to change one thing about this recipe, I would add more eggs. The eggs came halfway up the pan and once it all baked, the exposed potato chips came out golden brown which made the casserole look awesome. It tasted great but for me but if this is going to be an egg casserole, it should taste more eggy. I would have liked more eggs. So next time, I would add 15 eggs (13 eggs and 2 egg whites? J/k.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos Stuffed with Cream Cheese

I've received a few marriage proposals lately (though I only accepted one) and a couple of them came after I served bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese at a party. The recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman and it is awesome (and inexpensive to make.) I used forty jalapenos and spent about $4 for all of them. I purchased them at Food Rite in Arlington, VA. It is a small market off of Glebe Road that is frequented by ethnic folks. Their produce prices are great. The cream cheese was $1.99 (I got two) and the bacon was $4 a pack and I used two.

Other than toothpicks and gloves for handling the jalapenos safely, there is nothing else you need. I differed from the recipe only in the length of time that the jalapenos stayed in the oven. I baked them for about 35-45 minutes or at least until I thought that the bacon looked browned (no one likes uncooked bacon.) We had over 80 pieces for a friend's New Years Eve party and it was a hit.

My friend Jenny has used the same recipe and added ranch dressing powder and cheddar cheese in the cream cheese. I liked them both ways.

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

GT Kombucha On Sale At Whole Foods

Image from www.synergydrinks.com.

My friend Anna (and yoga guru) told me about Kombucha a couple of years ago. She started drinking it and felt that it helped her digestive system. She also told me that she dropped five pounds after drinking it for a few days so yeah...my ears perked up while she was talking. I tried it and at first was taken aback by the vinegar-like taste (it is a fermented tea that creates enzymes that assist with digestion.) But after giving it a second shot, I actually started to find the drink refreshing. And lets just say that it is a great way to detox. It really does clean out your system. After drinking it, and letting it do it's work, I felt....cleansed.

You can make kombucha yourself at home but there is something about the process that scares me. I think I would rather leave this to the professionals.

My favorite flavors are the Guava Goddess and the Cosmic Cranberry. These bottles run about $3-$5 a bottle (depending on where you buy them.) I found them at Yes! Organics for $2.99 a bottle. Target started selling them recently (found near the refrigerated orange juice) and they are priced reasonably there.

Whole Foods will have this drink on sale on Friday the 13th - Buy One Get One Free. I will try to stop by and stock up on a few bottles. Its great to have the day after an indulgent meal or if you are just feeling sluggish. Sometimes, you just gotta give your body some attention and help it out a little.

Happy Shopping!

Whole Foods - Online Coupons

Image from WholeFoods.com.

For those who would like to eat healthier in 2012, check out these coupons from Whole Foods. They have some great deals on teas, energy bars, soy milk, beans, and much more. In the past, I have been able to score really great deals by matching up the coupons with sales. They had Arrowhead Mills Organic flour on sale for $2 a bag and with a $1 off coupon , the flour was only $1. Their price on Kashi cereal rivals any other supermarkets'price and they have a coupon for $1 off two boxes. An old personal trainer got me to buy a box of their Original Go Lean cereal and told me to carry around a snack bag of it to munch on when I was hungry. It has a lot of fiber and very little sugar so it was a filling and healthy snack. I dropped so much weight that summer munching on this cereal and running staircases.

Here is the link to their online coupons. You can also find coupons in booklets found in front of the store which is so convenient. The only problem is that Whole Foods shoppers are earth friendly so you often times find booklets with ripped out coupons because the patrons don't want to throw away the entire booklet. It might just be easier to print out the coupons ahead of time so that you don't run into this problem.

Happy Shopping!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Neutrogena Products

Image from Neutrogena website.

It has occurred to me that my "food blog" has shown more savings on beauty products than it has shown deals on food. But I think I have explained before that most of the food that you can purchase with coupons is stuff that is so processed that I won't eat them. I feel good about saving money on non-food items so that I can spend more money on good meats or vegetables. A quote I have seen on Twitter lately from Danielle Omar: "Those who think they have no time for healthy eating, will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” ~ Edward Stanley." Same goes with money. Spend some money now on good food so you won't be spending so much money later on healthcare.

So this post is all about Neutrogena products. Growing up with an uncle who was a dermatologist, I became aware of how the products are highly regarded by doctors. He used Neutrogena for his shampoo and his face cleansar. A few of my current co-workers swear by the Neutrogena hand cream. My personal favorite over-the-counter skin care product is Cetaphil but Neutrogena is a close second. This is a great week to stock up on these products if you are a fan. CVS has them on sale for Buy one Get one 50% off. The Sunday paper had several coupons that gave you $1 to $2 off certain products (you can also find coupons on their website under "Special Offers." You can use coupons to save even more money at CVS. In addition to that, Neutrogena.com is offering a $10 rebate if you spend $30 on their products from January 8 - February 8. I will be stocking up on my favorite product, Alcohol-Free Toner.

Happy Shopping!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Finding Julia

When I first moved to Washington, D.C., I had a list of things I wanted to do. It was like I was a tourist and only had a limited amount of time here ( I guess I didn't think I would live here for over six years). On this list, I wanted to see Julia Child's kitchen at the National Museum of American History. Within the first month, I accomplished it. If you haven't seen this kitchen, you are missing out on a charming sight (The exhibit will close January 8, 2012 ). Knowing that her husband Paul built a wall, and traced the shapes of the pans on the wall to keep her organized, just warms my heart.

There is so much about Julia to admire. I think part of the reason I love her is because as a young girl, she was tall and awkward and yet she grew into a woman who charmed people with her talent and her humor. Having been an awkward young girl myself, it was encouraging to know that life can get better as you age.

Amazon has her episodes of The French Chef from the 1960's available to view and if you are an Amazon Prime member, viewing them is free. There are seven seasons of the show and they are great. She shows us everything from scallops to pastry to Tarragon chicken. She is so charming and you can see the things she struggled with in camera (very different than cooking shows you see now.). She has great techniques and doesn't need a bunch of gadgets to cook.

The episodes are really entertaining and are inspiring me to do a little more complex French cooking. They are worth the time spent to watch the original cooking show star.

The photo shown below is a little slanted because it is a shot of my Kindle Fire while it is playing the show.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Shopping At Wegmans

It surprises me when people tell me that they have not shopped or heard about Wegmans. Wegmans is a food lovers theme park. They have everything and are known to have knowledgable employees. They send their butchers to seminars about meat so that they are up to date with what is new in butchering. I especially like shopping there because Wegmans is known to have high ratings in employee satisfaction. I support businesses that work to make employees happy in their workplace. They also have a huge prepared foods section where you can get anything from sushi to fried chicken to raw oysters. Before spending hours roaming their aisles, I suggest you fuel up.

DC is lucky to have several locations within an hours drive. Marshall and I visited the one in Fairfax, VA. Though most of the prices on products at Wegmans is about the same as you can find at local supermarkets, they have such a wide selection of products that you will find exceptionally good deals.

For instance, Gold Bond body wash is a new product and I have $2 off coupons for them but could not find them at Harris Teeter or Target. They had them at Wegmans on sale for $5.49. With the coupon, I paid $3.49 for each. Not an Extreme Couponing deal but it was worth it for me to get a quality product for my dry skin this winter.

A great body lotion deal was on Jergens 12.5 oz bottles. On sale for $2.49 each + a coupon for $3 off 2 bottles = $.99 for each bottle.

Another great deal is the Revital Lens contact cleaning solution. They had travel size boxes for $3.99 and I had three $3 off coupon (no limit on sizes). Got each box for $.99. I have not seen these boxes at other stores. Perfect for my trips to visit family.

Another product I have not found is Ivory body wash. A 12 oz bottle is $1.99 + $.20 off coupon doubled (Wegmans will double any coupon that is $.99 or less). A bottle was only $1.59.

For the ladies, I can recommend their makeup aisle. They had lots of brand name mascaras and lip glosses on sale and with $1 off coupons that can be found in Sunday papers, they would have been a steal. I held back from buying them because I cleaned up when CVS had their clearance and am set on makeup for awhile.

If you have not been to Wegmans, a trip is highly recommended. Their food prices are comparable to other supermarkets and you will find everything on your shopping list so a visit is worth it. Like other theme parks, I suggest going early in the day to beat the crowds.

Just a quick note that Harris Teeter has their Super Double coupon deal starting Wednesday, January 4th. Any coupon valued at $1.98 or less will be doubled (20 coupon limit). Have fun shopping!