Friday, May 27, 2011

Thrifty Recipe- Bacon-Wrapped Smokies

I was at a brunch recently and these were the hit of the party. The combination of salty and sweet is addicting. A thrifty and fun item for a get-together at any time of day.

Bacon Wrapped Smokies Recipe

Bacon-Wrapped Smokies

1 pound sliced bacon, cut into thirds
1 (14 ounce) package beef cocktail wieners
3/4 cup brown sugar, or to taste


1.Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

2.Refrigerate 2/3 of the bacon until needed. It is easier to wrap the wieners with cold bacon. Wrap each cocktail wiener with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle brown sugar generously over all.

3.Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven, until the sugar is bubbly. To serve, place the wieners in a slow cooker and keep on the low setting.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thrifty Recipe- Gnocchi

Romulo Yanes for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Karen Evans

It's almost the end of the month and will be out of town for part of the week. Another perfect chance to see if I could make it without grocery shopping. (disclosure: I did stop at Target for whole milk, bananas, and bread - with a toddler in the house there are certain things you just can't go without) The following recipe is great for this kind of week. I didn't realize it before I read this article, but in Argentina, gnocchi is served near the end of the month (on the 29th specifically) when people are almost out of money and groceries. My history with gnocchi has always been with Italian food, and it was the first dish I ate when we were in Rome a couple years ago. Little did I know it was also a thrifty Argentinian tradition.

Below is the recipe from the Wall Street Journal. The recommend a sage butter sauce but the two times I have made it I used this sauce recipe from Martha Stewart- Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce.

From the Wall Street Journal- New World Gnocchi January 29, 2011


3 large or 6 small Idaho potatoes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
1½ cups all-purpose flour


1. Fill a large pan with salted water and bring to a boil.

2. Set up a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and dusted with flour.

3. Scrub and dry the potatoes but do not peel them. Microwave on high until soft—the setting and time varies widely by microwave. Allow to cool only enough to be able to handle and peel with a sharp knife.

4. Pass potatoes through a ricer into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle salt and flour over the potatoes. Add egg.

5. Using hands, knead quickly trying not to overwork the dough. The dough should be slightly on the wet side—though not sticky.

6. Generously flour a work surface and pinch off a small handful of dough. Using both hands, roll it into the shape of a snake. Using a sharp knife, cut into bite size pieces and lay them, separately, on the cookie sheet. Continue until finished.

5.Once water boils, add the gnocchi, a few at a time, to boiling water. Using a skimmer, retrieve the gnocchi as they rise to the surface.

Tomato Sauce for Gnocchi
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 can (28 ounces) whole plum tomatoes with juice, crushed by hand
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) tomato sauce
2 sprigs basil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, flakes
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Thinly shaved parmesan cheese, for serving


1.Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add wine; cook until most liquid has evaporated. Add tomatoes and juice, tomato sauce, basil, and red pepper flakes.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until slightly thick, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.

3.Reheat gnocchi over low heat in sauce; gently toss. Serve with cheese shavings.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Financial Education for our kids?

Larger view
MPR photo/Tom Weber
How can we raise kids who appreciate the value of money? Kids who won't get a credit card from the first person who offers them a free t-shirt and rack up thousands of dollars of debt? Kids who will save their money in order to buy something they want? Kids who will give to others? This was the subject of a Minnesota Public Radio conversation on Friday. There was some great insight offered from two experts in the field- a writer and an educator. Here's a link to the conversation:

Financial advice and education for young people Minnesota Public Radio News

One idea that resonated was to provide your kids with three large transparent jars marked "spend" "save" and "give." Any time they receive money, they are expected to divide it evenly between the three. This teaches them in a simple way how we don't just spend all of the money we take in, there is a need to save some and we should give some to others who are less fortunate.

How did you learn about money? How do you plan to teach your kids?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Almost a year...

It's hard to believe I'm closing in on a year of blogging. My first post was June 6, 2010. For those first few months I had the (crazy) idea that I would post every single day. I'd even jump out of bed at 11:45pm and write a quick blog if I realized I hadn't posted yet that day. Thankfully, I have left that mindset behind. My current goal is two to three posts per week.

Which leads me to my question.... is there any thrifty-related topic you'd like to see? Something that has caught your interest that you'd like me to do some research about? I had one friend ask about extreme couponing, so I might dig into that and give you guys a full report. More slow cooker recipes are on the way as well.

Until then, enjoy the fact that Spring is finally here. We finally have leaves on the trees here in Minnesota!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thrifty Strategy- Subscription Price Savings

Graphic from
Wanted to share a method my husband used to save quite a bit of money.

We have had a subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio (used to be XM Radio) since 2001. My husband has always gotten the best monthly price possible by signing up for multi-year contracts. This year, when our subscription was up for renewal, the prices had gone up. It was time for a new strategy.

Tonight, my husband called XM and said he was going to cancel his subscription (disclosure: my husband had no intention of actually cancelling and was sweating a little bit, worried they might call his bluff). When asked why, he said it was too expensive. Miraculously, the customer service representative was able to offer him a "special" limited-time deal that was less than any of the advertised prices. So, we now have a year subscription for around $8 per month. Nice.

Thrifty lesson learned: if the price of a service or subscription goes up, see what they will offer you if you threaten to quit!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thrifty Strategy- Salad Bar Tips

We've all been there. Just trying to have a healthy lunch, we head to the salad bar. We create a masterpiece of lettuce, toppings, and dressing. Then we get to the checkout scale and reality hits. That plastic box of greens cost over $10? What did I do wrong?

In March, the New York Times did an article on smart salad bar strategies "How to Beat the Salad Bar." The graphic they provided is below. In a nutshell, you should go for the items that cost more per pound on their own than the salad bar charges. So for example, piling your salad with sun-dried tomatoes that would cost $9.99 per pound elsewhere is a good value if the salad bar charges $7.99 per pound.

Graphic from
Rachael Ray recently did a segment on her show about the same topic. Best Value at the Salad Bar One great tip shared there was to skip salad dressing from the salad bar and dress it yourself when you get back to your desk- just keep a bottle of your favorite dressing in the fridge or some packets of dressing in your desk drawer. That way you're not paying for the weight of the liquid dressing.

One tip I've learned from experience at olive bars that charge by weight- make sure to drain out any extra oil or marinade you might have picked up when scooping your olives. A drop here and there can add up.

Go get your (thrifty) salad bar on!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Free admission to gardens throughout the US on Friday May 6

I found out about a great deal being offered by Better Homes and Gardens. This Friday, May 6 (National Public Gardens Day), they are offering free admission to public gardens throughout the United States. For more details see the link below. You just enter some information about yourself (be sure to uncheck the boxes asking for email newsletters unless you want junk mail), which garden you want to go to, and print your free voucher.

The weather is looking great for Friday, so I think my daughter and I will be checking it out.

Some participating gardens in places my readers live:
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (Minnesota)
Boerner Botanical Gardens (Wisconsin)
Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Wisconsin)
Chicago Botanic Garden (Illinois)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Thrifty Recipe: Indian ground turkey with split peas and coconut

OK, right up front I'm going to say that this isn't the quickest/easiest recipe. However, the taste is so amazingly different from anything I've had before that I just had to share it here. Please don't let the long ingredient list scare you. Just give it a try! Ground turkey can be a thrifty choice. It goes on sale once a month or so, when it does I try to buy a couple packages to freeze for recipes like this one.

Ground Turkey with Split Peas and Coconut
From Healthy South Indian Cooking

1/2 cup dry split peas
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 dry bay leaf
2-4 slivers cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup chopped onion
2-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 green chili pepper
1 pound ground turkey
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shredded coconut or unsweetened coconut powder

1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add split peas and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, about 15 minutes until split peas are tender and water is absorbed. Drain any remaining water and set aside.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add bay leaf and cinnamon stick into oil. Add cumin and fennel seeds.
3. Immediately add onion, garlic, chili pepper, and the remaining turmeric powder. Cook, stirring, until onions are tender. Add ground turkey and pan-fry about 3 minutes until browned.
4. Stir in curry powder, cayenne powder, and cumin powder. Cover and cook 2 minutes. Stir in salt (I skipped this), cover, and cook another 5 minutes.
5. Stir in cooked split peas. Cover and cook another two minutes. Add coconut and stir well. Serve with rice and plain yogurt.