Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thrifty Recipe: Sundried Tomato Pesto

I was inspired by my friend Badger Girl's blog yesterday. She posted a recipe for Garlic Scape Pesto. It sounded really good. However, I am not a member of a CSA and don't have any fresh-grown garlic scapes. But I did have a half jar of sundried tomatoes and some very healthy basil and oregano plants on my deck.
One trip to Google later, I had my dinner recipe for tonight. Good old Giada to the rescue. I made a half recipe of the below. Served with leftover Papa John's breadsticks and a salad, it was an Italian feast!

Penne with Sundried Tomato Pesto

  • 12 ounces penne pasta (I used fettucini)
  • 1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, blend the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste, and basil in a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan.
Add the pasta to the pesto and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper and serve.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Finding great deals on furniture

We love modern/Scandinavian design and thank goodness someone told us about the Room and Board Outlet when we moved into our house a few years ago. Many a weekend has included a trip. The outlet is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. People arrive up to an hour before it opens and line up around the building. We did that once, but have found that it's better to go about an hour or two after it opens, that way the crowds have thinned out and you don't have the herd/scarcity mentality that can cause you to buy just because so many other people are there and buying.
Golden Valley, MN
Photo from

Looking at our living room/kitchen area, it's amazing how much has come from the outlet. Our kitchen table top and base, kitchen chairs, dining room hutch, and sofa were all purchased from there. Of course, it probably took a total of over 15 visits to find and buy everything. You never know what will be there, as new items are unpacked throughout the weekend. Most of the time you walk out with empty hands, and that's OK. We bought the tabletop a couple months before the table base we wanted showed up. The kitchen chairs were bought one or two at a time, and we saved over 50% on each. Our best find so far was a Linear Cabinet (similar to the one linked), it would have retailed for over $3,000 and we got it for under $1,000.

Craigslist is another thrifty source for furniture. If there is a certain brand or piece of furniture you are looking for, you can set up an RSS feed search to email you every time one is posted. That's how we found a Room and Board armchair a few years ago which was a perfect match with our other decor.

The Wall Street Journal published an article about finding good deals on designer furniture today, which inspired me to write this post: Never Pay Retail Decorating: A Bargain Huntress Reveals her Secrets. The article covers other ways to find thrifty, but well-designed furniture.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thrifty Recipe: Slow-Cooker Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

grilled portobello mushroom recipe
From the Reluctant Gourmet
I have been trying to plan at least one meatless meal per week, to be thrifty, but more importantly to try new things and hopefully eat more healthily. This recipe was a big winner. My 16-month old ate almost an entire stuffed mushroom by herself. My husband and I wished we could each have another one. I served it over couscous and with sweet potatoes.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
From Make it Fast, Cook it Slow

4 large portobello mushrooms (or two per adult, one per kid)
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped (Roma or another type would be more thrifty, but the cherry tomatoes were very crisp and tasty)
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I used packaged Progresso breadcrumbs but you could make your own)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

With a knife, cut the stems off of the mushrooms, chop, and put in bowl. Scrape the gills out of the mushroom caps and add to bowl. Add tomatoes, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Stir until combined.

Coat the bottom of the slow cooker with the remaining tablespoon olive oil. Divide filling between the mushroom caps, spooning it in. Lay mushrooms in the slow cooker, it's OK if they overlap.

Cover and cook on low for 4-7 hours (That's what the recipe says but mine were done after 2 hours, be sure to check on them. Don't be alarmed when the mushrooms shrink down in size as they cook.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Time for a Trade-In?

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal this week about used cars. There is high demand for certain kinds of low-mileage used cars, specifically those with good gas milage. Some used cars are even going for more than the sticker price of a new car. Somehow I don't think our 1997 Accord with 180,000 miles is on the list...
A Good Time to Trade in That Gently Used Car

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Extreme Couponing?


Over the past year, I have read and seen several stories about so-called "extreme couponing." This involves using coupons and store sales to get items for a very low price or for free. Often these extreme couponers will get many many packages of a certain product and stockpile it, just because it is very cheap. Some of them are so good, the store will owe them money at the end of a purchase transaction because of the combination of coupons and sales!
Have you seen the TV show about these deal-finders? It's on The Learning Channel (TLC) and is called Extreme Couponing.

Here's a website that has tips and strategies, as well as weekly breakdowns for stores such as Target and CVS.

What do you think of the strategy? Have you ever done it? The jury is still out for me, but maybe I should try it for a couple weeks and see what happens...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Over 3000 disposable diapers avoided

Well, we have hit another cloth diaper milestone. Last week we went over the 3000 disposable diapers avoided mark. Here's a link to the post I did when we hit 2000 diapers. Every time I wash a load of cloth diapers (which is about every three to four days now) I make tick marks on a piece of paper taped to the wall to keep track of the number washed. I've been doing this since we started using cloth diapers when my daughter was three and a half weeks old.

By my count, we have saved $450 if we had used Target Up & Up brand diapers (about 15 cents each) and $750 if we had been using Pampers (about 25 cents each). Not to mention the money saved by using a cloth swim diaper rather than disposable swim diapers at 75 cents each.

Cotton Babies, a cloth diapering website, has been sponsoring a program called Change Three Things to have parents pledge to use at least three cloth diapers a day instead of disposables for one year. So far through this program they have avoided over a million disposable diapers going in the trash. Check it out!