On-the-fly dinner party on a budget

photo 4Gypsy Gourmet (aka Camille Pask):::

There are few moments in life that are stunning. They live in your memory and are triggered by a scent, the kiss of summer sun on your skin, or the music of laughter ringing in your ears. These are the moments we all live for.

Fontana, California is one of those stunning memories for me. Most think of a concrete city, industrial parks, and truck traffic when thinking of this part of California. I think of hot summer sun, amazing food on a dime, great friends, and an abundance of love.

I’ll never forget being stranded at the truck terminal with my best friend. We’re talkers, and had run into a few people we knew right before payday. Being able to enjoy your company, and bring a meal together can really depend on your resourcefulness.

I’m going to show you how to do just that; use the resources available to you to make an extraordinary meal on a $42 dollar budget.

The challenge facing me on that beautiful day was five hungry people, and very little money between all of us. We had the company, the incredible weather, a picnic table to eat at, and the basic necessities to cook with.

Having an idea of what to make helps, but being flexible is the key. Produce is an inexpensive way to start. I was thinking salad. Simple items like bell pepper, romaine hearts, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, and hot house cucumber can be paired with light vinaigrette for around six dollars for five people. Watch your seasons and stick to items that are readily available.

Rounding out the food groups is important. I know we are a little more carb conscious these days and I’m no exception. I like the convenience of the 90 second rice varieties for around a dollar a piece. There are at least two servings a package, and with the brown and whole grain options, it’s a healthier alternative. Three packages were ample for the five of us. We’re halfway there and right around the $10 mark.

Meat for five people can be a challenge. I find that three pounds is a sufficient amount using a basic formula of about six ounces a person. Watch your sale papers, ask the helpful staff in the meat department, and look closely at your options.

I found a three pound beef tenderloin for $16.50. That’s a smoking deal! This is the same cut that filet mignon comes from. With a little trimming of silver skin, cutting the steaks myself, and a four dollar pound of bacon, I made filet mignon. Season with your favorite spices, sear on both sides in a hot pan, and finish for about 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven (depending on preference and thickness) and you’re set with perfectly medium steak.

Thirty-four dollars spent and eight left to spare. I have to say, I used a lemon, a partial stick of butter, garlic, and spices from my pantry. When we embark on these culinary adventures, we generally don’t start from scratch. With eight bucks to spend I bought a gallon of pre-mix sweet tea (not bad, but homemade is best) and a loaf of fresh baked French bread.

You are only limited by your own imagination. We pooled our resources, worked together, and in just under an hour we ate like kings. It gave us the rest of the day to eat well, laugh often, be free, & be us.

When you think you’re options are limited, just remember those famous words, “It’s us against the world.” If you’d like more ideas like these, visit my website, http://www.renegadegypsygourmet.com.

Gypsy Gourmet

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