Saturday, June 16, 2018

Frugal Fast Party Food Hack

In an effort to get back to the theme of my blog, finding that intersection of time, money, and good food, I'm sharing a little hack I've developed over the last few years to help with larger quantities of food for parties and events. My friend E's daughter, also a show choir and vocal jazz girl's graduation party was last night. E is one of my three birth friends, an incredibly generous soul, giving of her time and talents to all she knows. She lost her husband almost four years ago after a long battle with brain cancer, widowed at 48, still with a 14 year old, the now graduate at home. Her older daughter, a classmate of DD1's, was there to help with the party but with two children under 18 months, a 15 year old foster child, and a four year old step daughter, her hands were overwhelmingly full. Assorted friends and family, as is the Minnesota tradition with graduation parties, step in to lend a hand. I was on dessert bar duty and had planned a pan of brownies and a pan of lemon bars. 

I thought I had ingredients for both on hand, but realized Wednesday night I did not. It was also incredibly warm this past week, so I didn't want to heat up the oven at night before trying to sleep since I already battle sleeping comfortably and am ready to move a cot next to the freezer. Enter my hack. On the way home Thursday, I stopped into the dollar store and bought a yellow and chocolate cake mix, a can of vanilla frosting, and a bottle of lemon juice. I also bought a two pack of disposable 9 by 13 baking pans. I had eggs at home and thought I had oil, but only had about 1/3 of a cup left. This is where having a basic knowledge of baking really helps. Here is what I did to end up with both a pan of lemon bars and brownies, made Friday morning in under an hour.

Lemon bars:
1 yellow cake mix with 1 tsp baking powder added
2 eggs
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup oil.
Mix all together to a thick batter/dough, spread in a sprayed 9 by 13 pan
mix 1 cup powdered sugar with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice and drizzle over the dough.
Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, watching at about 17 to make sure to not over bake
 When cool, frost.

The extra baking soda is needed to counter the acid in the lemon juice. If I had had lemon extract, none at the dollar store and I didn't want to stop again, I would have used that in the mix instead of juice. 

Brownies:
1 Chocolate cake mix
two eggs
1 stick butter melted or at least extremely soft (because I had no oil left, I used butter, but 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil or margarine works. The butter made these brownies very indulgent!)
Mix all, and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, again watching at 17 to be sure it doesn't over cook.

These made a thickish bar and I cut into 24 squares, which seemed about the right size for a desert buffet. Including the pans, I estimate I had a grand total cost of under $7.50. Not too shabby considering how easy both were to make. The mixes were even Pillsbury and not some odd brand no one ever heard of. I'll do the same next week when I'm helping another friend, this one with no nearby family to pitch in. I don't even need to buy more lemon juice so the cost will be even less. Life takes a village, and I am eternally grateful for these friends in my life. I'm happy to be able to contribute to their celebrations of sweet young women.

8 comments:

  1. Your brownies look like a great, tasty contribution to the party. Pillsbury's a good mix, and butter upgrades any baked item. Very nice tradition to help with graduation parties!

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    1. Butter does seem to make things more lush.

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  2. Great idea - I sure bet they appreciate the help too.

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    1. This was a simple contribution. She had pretty much the hard stuff covered.

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  3. Nice of you to offer help with your friend's party. It's a southern thing too. Smart move to use the cake mixes as a base for your desserts. You are right about having basic baking knowledge. I punted this week because I was out of both oil and butter but remembered I had coconut oil in the pantry. I never think of it as a substitute because it is a solid. And it turns out slightly coconut tasting brownies are pretty dang good

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    1. New hack. DD2 needs to learn some of these tricks.

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  4. I would love the ones with butter. But, for myself I would have used mashed bananas or applesauce as a substitute for oil. It is good to know what to do if ingredients are not on hand.

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    1. I didn't have those either. I know they'll work but the brownies would have been more cakey.

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