Wednesday, January 14, 2009

C'mon, get happy!

Our neighborhood is a social bunch -- always looking for an excuse to sit down and chat over a glass (or ten) of wine. Everyone seemed to be in the mood to celebrate the end of the first week back to school after the Holiday break, so I decided to invite my homegirls over for a little happy hour this afternoon.

The catch (and I'm sure you know what's coming) -- the wine and the appetizers had to be on sale. I'm happy to say that I mostly stuck to this rule! The wine was on sale, and so were the ingredients for the Roasted Eggplant Dip. Since I had kind of a Mediterranean theme workin' with the dip, I also served hummus and stuffed green olives (alas, not on sale....but they didn't exactly break the bank, and they are sooooooo delicious). For dippers I served the salty, crunchy, and addictive Stacey's Pita Chips, and pita bread from the deli that I toasted under the broiler.

Talk about happy hour; the grocery bill for the munchies (ingredients and all) were only 13.74!

Confession: I could have skimped a bit more on the cost of the wine....there were less expensive options available. If I was being true to my pennypinching self, I would have bought the Crane wine, on sale 3 for $9.00. But, I decided to splurge a little on my neighborhood friends, and I went for the Toasted Head Chardonnay (one of my fav's) and it was also on sale for 9.99 a bottle.

All in all, I hosted a two hour gathering for four people for roughly $33.75 -- not too bad. Just think: if I had gone for the Crane, it would have been under 20.00!

Here's the recipe for the low cost and low calorie dip!
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, p.41
Serves: 6-8

1 medium eggplant, peeled
1 red bell pepper, seeded
1 red onion, peeled
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 T. good quality olive oil
1 1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
1 T. tomato paste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, tossing once during cooking. Cool slightly.

Place the vegetables in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the tomato paste, and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Adjust seasonings and serve with pita bread.

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