Monday, November 30, 2009

Pasta with Fall Squash and Leeks

This dish can be cooked with butternut squash.

or acorn squash.

Pasta with Fall Squash and Leeks

  • 3-4 lbs butternut or acorn squash - I had 2 small acorn and 1 medium acorn.
  • 1 lb penne
  • 1/2 Cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 large leeks, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 small onion
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 dry white wine. I used Pinot Grigio. Use a wine that you like.
  • 1/2 water. If you don't like wine or have any on hand. Use 1 cup water.
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

As a side note: How do you clean leeks? For some reason, leeks are very dirty. I slice mine and then soak in water. Drain and then I rinse again while the leeks are still in the colander.

You will need to roast the squash. A few weeks ago I wrote, How to Roast a Butternut Squash. You can follow the same steps to roast an acorn squash.

When the squash is cool enough to handle after roasting, scoop out and toss the seeds in your trash or compost. Take the pulp and puree in a food processor until silky smooth.

Cook the pasta for about 2 minutes less than the box instructions.

While pasta is cooking, heat the oil and butter in a large pot over low heat. Add the leeks, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and saute until the onions are translucent.

Add the squash, wine and water and stir as the sauce thickens.

Add the cooked pasta to the squash sauce and mix together. Pour the pasta into a 13 X 9 baking dish that has been prepared with cooking spray or butter.

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven until the cheese browns.


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Thursday, November 19, 2009

I cashed in my old gold jewelry and made a fast $150.

I ran this post last December 2008 and since the price of gold is still high, over $1100 an ounce as of yesterday, and the holidays right around the corner, I am re-posting it.

Back in November (2008), I posted about a local jewelry store that advertised "Holiday Cash-Fast!". They were holding a special gold buying event just in time for the holidays. I never made it to the store back in November, but when they ran the ad again in yesterday's paper I decided to head over and check it out.

I loaded the kids in the car, dialed the address in the GPS and set out for some fast cash. I really didn't have alot of jewelry: two broken 14kt herringbone necklaces, a matching 14kt necklace and bracelet set, a couple of pairs of 14kt earrings, a 14kt charm and a 10kt necklace. As I was driving over to the store I thought to myself that if I walked out of the store with $40 in my hand I would be happy. I didn't have anything to base that amount on it was just a number that I pulled out of the air.

My jewelry has been sitting unworn in my dresser since the early - mid 90's. I was excited to cash in on my clutter.When I arrived at the store it was empty so the owner was able to help me right away. As she was looking over my stuff a camera crew from a local station walked into the store. I noticed that the reporter was holding a copy of the ad in her hands and the first thing that came to my mind was, "Thank goodness I showered and put a little make-up on this morning", LOL!!

The reporter asked if she could ask me a few questions while the owner went to weigh my loot. Since I looked somewhat presentable, I was happy to oblige. She asked me how I heard about cashing in on gold. I told her about the ad that I saw and the pile of jewelry sitting in my bedroom for over 13 years and I figured "why not, it was worth a try".

The owner came back to me with a big smile on her face. She said that she would give me $150 for the jewelry. Honestly I about fell over. That was beyond what I expected. It turns out those broken chains came in handy. I was very excited, because this really was Fast Cash!!

A few things to consider if you decide to cash in your gold:

  • If you are thinking about cashing in on your gold, look for a reputable jeweler. The owner of the store I went to has been in the business for over 30 years and has a good reputation in the area.
  • I could have tried to sell the unbroken pieces online, on ebay or craigs list, but this was definitely instant gratification. You may decide it is worth it to try to sell online.

  • I also could have taken the pieces to several jewelers and gotten the best price, but I was happy with the $150 and quite honestly I didn't have the time to comparison shop.

  • The pieces I had were 10K and 14K, but mostly 14K. There is more gold in 14K and even more gold in 18K. The money you get back will be based on the actual gold in you pieces, but you will NOT get $1100 an ounce for your gold. I didn't get into the details of the weight of the jewelry I had and the price she was giving me. I could have, but quite honestly $150 is beyond what I expected and my kids were losing their patience. If those details of weight and price are important to you, ask the jewelers what price per ounce they are giving you.

  • Get to the store right when it opens, before a crowd comes in. I was there right when it opened and several people filed in after me to also cash in their gold. There is some time involved as the jeweler needs to look over the jewelry, make sure it is gold and weigh the pieces.

It was a fun morning for me and my girls and my oldest daughter got a kick out of seeing us on local evening news. I was grateful for the extra cash for the holidays and that I decided to put some make-up on that morning!

Do you have unworn and unused gold pieces laying around? Have you ever cashed in your gold?

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Use Your Frugal Skills and 'Adopt' a Family This Holiday Season

For the past 5 years, my husband and I have 'adopted' a family for the holidays through the Salvation Army. I first heard of their 'Adopt-A-Family' program 5 years ago, when the local newspaper wrote a story about the Salvation Army and this particular program. I had just given birth to my first child. I was holding this precious baby and I felt so blessed and I felt led to help another family in our community.

The Salvation Army accepts applications for families and seniors in need during the holidays. They then match up these families with sponsors. Once you sign up to be a sponsor for the program, the Salvation Army gives you information about the family. We receive their contact information, their address to deliver to and information about the children, such as sex, age, size, and a toy suggestion.

As a sponsor, we are asked to provide the family with a holiday meal. The suggested meal includes: turkey or ham, potatoes, noodles, vegetables, canned gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, pie filling, pie crust. Along with a meal we are also asked to provide a toy, an outfit, a hat, and gloves for each child in the family. We usually adopt a family with 1-3 children. We also provide the family with food items to make a holiday breakfast. This is not required by the Salvation Army, but Christmas morning breakfast has always been a tradition for our family and we wanted to include this in their box. I usually include eggs, bacon, breakfast rolls, and orange juice.

I look forward every year to receiving the information about the children, because I find it so much fun to shop for them. I do the majority of the food shopping in these two weeks before Thanksgiving, because the grocery stores have such incredible deals on the holiday meal items. Although the holiday food specials at the store usually run through Christmas. My grocery store has a FREE turkey program that runs for about 4 weeks in October and November where you can earn a FREE turkey by spending a certain amount of money during the time frame. I buy the perishables, like the potatoes, right before I deliver to the family. We are asked to deliver the gift box to the family by December 22.

I scout the best deals on the toys and clothes starting Black Friday. I don't get out on that morning, but my husband thrives on that activity and I just hand him my list.

After the first year, we were so moved by the program that we now also 'Adopt-A-Senior'. The only requirement with this program is supplying the above list of ingredients to make a holiday meal. I also include breakfast items for the senior as well.

I keep all of my correspondence from the Salvation Army and all of my receipts for tax deduction purposes. The Salvation Army is a non-profit organization. Check with your tax preparer to see if the deduction makes sense for you. Please note, that we don't participate with this program just for the tax deduction.

This is the first year that our oldest will probably understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. She has watched us buy and deliver the goods in the past, but I am hoping this year will have a greater impact on her. We want our children to understand just how blessed we are as a family. We take our meals, clothes and toys for granted. There are so many families in need. Unfortunately the need is year round.

I have kept the thank you cards that I have received over the years. The sponsored families do not receive any information about our family. All correspondence from them comes through the Salvation Army. I am touched by these families and I am so glad that we are able to provide them with a meal and hopefully some wonderful holiday memories.

Do you use your frugal skills to help others in need during the holidays?

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Butternut Squash and Cranberry Muffins

This squash family that was living in my kitchen was roasted last week and is now in my freezer for future use. Butternut squash is one of my favorite fall foods and makes its way to our table a couple times a week during the season. If you haven't tried butternut squash, it is extremely versatile and very healthy. Loaded with fiber, Vitamin A and beta carotene. Butternut squash can be used as a substitute in any recipe that calls for pumpkin.

That is what I did in this recipe. I found it in one of my Cooking Light magazines several years ago and have adapted the recipe a little.

Butternut Squash and Cranberry Muffins
adapted from this recipe in Cooking Light


  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (could also use raisins)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup roasted butternut squash
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs

Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, ginger and salt in a bowl. Mix well and stir in cranberries.

In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, butternut squash, buttermilk, veg. oil, molasses, vanilla and eggs. Stir well with a wisk.

Add the squash mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just moist.

Coat muffin pans with baking spray and spoon batter into pan. Makes about 12-18 muffins.

Bake in 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan immediately and cool on a rack.

If there are any left, these do freeze well. They make a great grab-n-go breakfast.

Some of my previous fall squash posts:

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How to Roast Butternut Squash

My daughter said to me, "Look Mommy, a squash family." Out of the mouth of a four year old.

Recently I found myself with a butternut squash family living in my kitchen. We received some with our regular weekly CSA share. And I picked up a few at the "extra" day our CSA held a few weeks ago. Once a month during the season, the organic farm that supplies our weekly CSA share holds an "extra" day for members to drive up to the farm and pick up FREE extra produce. It is wonderful and makes the CSA even more valuable.

Butternut squash is packed with Vitamin A, beta carotene and is a source of fiber. It can be used as a substitute in any recipe that calls for pumpkin.

Even though butternut squashes keep fairly well, I decided to roast them to put in the freezer for future use. It is very easy.

Slice the squash in half lengthwise and place downward on baking sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. You should be able to pierce the squash all the way through with a fork when it is done.

When cool enough to handle, flip the squash over and scoop out the seeds. I discard seeds into my compost.

Scope out the pulp and put into containers for freezing or use right away in your favorite recipes.

I was able to freeze five 2-cup containers of the roasted squash. I will post some of my favorite butternut squash recipes in the next few weeks.

Butternut squash makes great baby food. Last year, when my toddler was a baby, I pureed the roasted squash until I got the desired consistency for her and put into ice cube trays to freeze. I stored the frozen squash cubes in a freezer bag. It was wonderful to have homemade organic baby food and it was so much cheaper, healthier and tastier than store-bought.

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This post is linked to the Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as MOM and Frugal Days Sustainable Ways.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Turkey Sausage, Arugula and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

It was Monday. I had planned the week's menu. I made a grocery list and pulled some coupons together. I was ready to start my week and head to the store. My daughter woke up that morning with a fever and grocery shopping was going to have to wait.

I had to regroup. There was plenty of food in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry, but my grocery list was stuff that I needed to pull my planned meals together. So I turned to the web and I went to and searched a few ingredients that I had on hand to see what I could find.

This recipe is a good find. I had all of the ingredients and it is an easy, quick, delicious dish.

Turkey Sausage, Arugula, and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
adapted from Food & Wine

  • 1 lb turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 12 reconstituted sun-dried tomato halves - it is cheaper to buy the non-oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, simply re-hydrate by soaking the tomatoes in warm water for about a minute
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2/3 C olive oil
  • 1 large bunch of arugula - cut into thin strips. My arugula was from my CSA. It is one of the ingredients that I searched. I wasn't in the mood for a salad. You could easily substitute spinach.
  • 1 lb pasta - I had rigatoni on hand

Boil water in a large pot and cook pasta. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper in a food processor. Blend until well combined. Stream the olive oil into the processor while the machine is running.

At this point your kitchen will smell absolutely divine.

Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and add the turkey sausage. Break into tiny pieces and brown until it is cooked through.

When sausage is done cooking, add chopped arugula and mix together.

In a very large bowl, toss the turkey and arugula mixture, cooked pasta and the sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. Serve warm.

If desired, sprinkle with Parmesan and prepare to be knocked out!

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Ethics of Clearance Merchandise

I received this email from a reader after my post last week, After Holiday Clearance Sales Aren't Just About Gift Wrap.

"I am also a coupon clipper and home economist, and I would have loved to score a deal like that. I realize this was an unadvertised sale and you just happened to be in the right place at the right time, but I do think it's a bit selfish to buy all of the items off the shelf keeping others from scoring a great deal.

On a similar note, it is also discouraging to shop the sales with coupons only to find the shelf completely bare. True home economists should also be looking out for the welfare of others who want to save money for their families. Many times when I have been shopping if I see someone take an item off of the shelf and I know I have an extra coupon, I will offer it to them.

Pass it on, don't take it all, please."

Ouch, I touched a nerve and certainly didn't mean to. It isn't pleasant to see that someone might think that you are selfish and not a true home economist. If I offended or upset anyone I am truly sorry.

My intent that day was not to take a deal from others when my eye came across some unsigned clearance dish washer detergent. Quite honestly, my first thought was, 'WOW, I'm not going to have to buy detergent for awhile.' Scanning the shelves for unmarked holiday clearance merchandise at Target is a game I enjoy playing. I don't need or want gift wrap or candy, but dish washer detergent is a product that I use very often and that sale was too hard to pass by, so I purchased all of the boxes.

As I stated in the original post, the purchase was uncharacteristic of me. I don't have an extensive 'stock-pile', however I do keep a well-stocked pantry of our family basics and staples.

I do see the reader's point and I will think twice before buying all of a clearance item next time, especially when there is that much. My integrity is very important to me and if purchasing all of the Electrasol is perceived as being selfish than it just isn't worth it. It is dish washer detergent, for heaven's sake, I do see the ridiculousness of 18 boxes. I will be sure to leave some next time.

On a separate note, I, too, pass along coupons to other shoppers while I am shopping. And I have received coupons from other shoppers while shopping. A coupon fairy must have been in my grocery store today, because there were extra coupons laying all over the place.

So, without starting a fire, what are your thoughts? If you stumbled on a great clearance deal of a product that you use regularly, how much would you purchase? Civility please.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Apple Crumb Pots

It all started one day when I was hungry for apple pie. But I was being lazy and I didn't feel like making the pie crust and I didn't feel like making a trip to the store to buy crust.

What is a girl to do...Apple Crumb Pots were born.

The ingredients are simple. Slice 6-7 of your favorite baking apples. I love Ginger Gold for baking. The apple slicer is a well used gadget at our house.
Use non-stick spray or butter to cover the bottom of 6 ramekin cups. Place the ramekin cups on a baking sheet. Fill the cups up with your favorite baking apples. This is a great job for helpful little hands.

Combine 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of mixture per cup over the apples, depending on the type of apple that you like. Ginger Gold is on the tart side, so I sprinkle a teaspoon on each cup. Set aside the balance of this mixture to make the crumb topping.

The crumb favorite part. Take the balance of the sugar/cinnamon mixture and add more sugar until you measure 1/2 cup. Combine with 3/4 cup flour and 1/3 cup butter. I use my clean hands to mix together until crumbly.

Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the apples. You can also see why you need to use a baking sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes or until bubbly.

At this point, your next major decision in life will be what to top the Apple Crumb Pots with : Homemade Whipped Cream or your favorite ice cream.
On this day, we chose the homemade whipped cream.

For our anniversary I made the pots with blueberries, because my honey's favorite dessert is blueberry pie. I followed the same recipe, except we chose vanilla ice cream that night.

I've had apples on the brain lately:

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