Friday, February 24, 2017

Raw Nettle or Spinach Pesto Recipe- Vegan, Paleo, and Cheap

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Nettle pesto on spiralized zucchini
I almost feel silly sharing a recipe for pesto here made with wild greens, because it seems like, other than scrambled or in a salad, pesto is just about the most common way that people prepare wild greens. But the thing is, pesto is yummy when made right, but if not made correctly, with the right proportions, can taste bad. For that reason, I wanted to share this recipe for homemade pesto, without any parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, that tastes great, and works for both paleo and vegan diets and anything else in between.

Feel free to use this pesto as you would a standard pesto recipe, on pizza, pasta, as a sandwich spread, on fish or chicken, on spiralized veggies, as a topping on potatoes or sweet potatoes, or anything else that comes to mind. (For more ideas, see this post on 50 things to do with pesto.) I just went simple and put it on gluten free spaghetti for my family, and on spiralized zucchini and baked sweet potato wedges for myself.

While I make this with nettles, it also works well with spinach leaves, lambsquarters, chickweed, or any other non bitter leaf with a relatively mild flavor.

If you're concerned about making this pesto with raw nettles, as they have stingers that can hurt you, note that while cooking gets rid of the stingers, blending up the nettle has the same affect and you don't have to worry about getting stung from the finished product. Handle the leaves carefully (gloves help) before putting in the food processor to avoid the sting.

Raw Nettle or Spinach Pesto Recipe- Vegan, Paleo, and Cheap

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Working Hard, Foraging and Cooking Up a Storm

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Musakhan chicken dish, made with foraged sumac

Dear wonderful readers,
I haven't gone anywhere.
Nope, just been super duper busy.
My final everything for my cookbook is due on March 6, and that includes all the photography which I am having professionally done...

Friday, February 17, 2017

Foraging Salsify or Goatsbeard- Delicious Wild Edible

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When people first hear about foraging from me, a response I typically get is "Oh, so you eat grass?" I've noticed that most people who aren't immersed in the world of wild plants sees large swaths of green and instead of noticing different plants, they just see a green blur, which they dub grass.
I explain to them that no, I don't eat grass, as I'm not a ruminant and therefore my body cannot digest the cellulose in the grass. However, there are some plants that look like grass that I do forage, but no, they aren't actually grass.
Salsify is one of those plants that looks so much like grass that for the first 5 years I was foraging regularly, I didn't know how to identify it, especially not at its early stages of growth, the time most ideal for picking it. Now that I do know how to identify it, I see it everywhere and it has transformed into my absolute favorite foraged plant. (Ok, perhaps a slight exaggeration- I also absolutely adore redbud and wild chard and purslane- salsify ties with them.)

Salsify, also known as goatsbeard, Jerusalem star, and oyster plant, is known in Latin as tragopogon. Originating in Europe and Asia, and with a long history of cultivation (it was even mentioned by Pliny the Elder, who died in the Pompeii eruption in ancient Rome!) it now grows wild in most of the world. Even non foragers have often heard of salsify as there is a cultivated variety sold in the grocery store. There are a few different varieties of salsify, each slightly different but with the same general properties, and all edible.
If picked at the right stage, salsify is a yummy root vegetable, but the greens and flower buds can also be eaten, but more on that in a bit.

10 Tips to Save Money Dining Out

Eating out is great, but I feel guilty about doing so unless it is done on a budget. Here's a post by Swapnil, a British reader, who loves to inspire people to develop a realistic savings plan and pursue their financial goals.

I love to dine out. Having said that it’s not just about satisfying my taste buds, but since I am a foodie, this lets me experiment and actually experience the vicarious pleasure that I feel while watching different food shows.

For some people, this kind of indulgence means breaking the bank. They turn down any plans of dining out to meet their personal budget. The common piece of advice to such people is to get their own ingredients and do the cooking at home. The plan does sound interesting in the first place, but there is only so much you can do. After a stressful and hectic day, you certainly deserve the occasional pampering instead of dreading the idea of cooking a new fancy dish at home.

While I love cooking and I am a DIY person, but I don’t sacrifice or say no to these indulgences just to fulfil my cost-cutting agendas, rather I pick the smarter way to dine out. You can easily keep the budget under control by making smart choices. I'll begin with tips on how doing it. The hungry patrons like me who enjoy gulping restaurant meals can adopt these:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Mini Makeshift Edible Garden

In our old apartment, the first one we had when we got married, we had a yard, and much of the time we didn't make too much use of it (to get to the yard you had to walk through one of the bedrooms). Eventually we got chickens and rabbits and that was fun, but no gardening- the yard was just filled with weeds that, at that time, and I didn't know those weeds were edible, predominantly. 

We had considered a vegetable garden and fruit trees for a while, but since we never knew how long we'd actually be staying at that place, we didn't want to invest the time and money on something if we would possibly just leave it behind. After a few years of a dirt and weed filled yard, we eventually made a vegetable garden where we grew tomatoes and swiss chard, and attempted a passionfruit vine and luffa vine (but those died) but wouldn't you know- that's when we ended up moving, after a few months of our veggie garden, and into an apartment with no yard, no dirt, etc... where we were for the next five years.

In our years in our teeny tiny apartment, I tried to see what gardening I could do, tried window boxes many times, but it's really not the same, because many things can't grow in window boxes because there isn't enough room, and because we barely had room for window boxes as is. We grew kale for a point, and mint, and purslane and aloe vera, tried tomatoes and zucchini and herbs and potatoes and sweet potatoes, but they all flopped for one reason or another. I wanted to garden, but knew that trying to get a green thumb working with window boxes only wasn't helping my cause.

One thing I looked forward to the most with our brand new home that we bought was the yard; I have such plans on my own veggie garden, square foot gardening in the front, a wild edibles yard in the back, and maybe a fruit tree or two. But since we moved here mid-November, we have had so much to do that a garden wasn't the first priority. Building a square foot garden takes time- from building the wood frames to getting the soil to buying the seeds, etc... We still haven't built a bookshelf for the kids' bedroom, so if we build anything right now, it's that. The square foot garden will have to wait.

However, despite that, I did manage to do something to appeal to my "growing my own food" desire. Bit by bit I've been growing food in our yard, so right now we have a mini makeshift edible garden.

Away From Home: A Working Parent's Guide to Keeping Children Safe

Once upon a time, I pictured myself always being home with the kids, never working outside the house, and just being there for them 24/7. Life happens, and even though I'm home with my kids most of the time, I'm a work at home mom most of the time, but also work out of the house on a semi regular basis. Keeping my kids safe while I'm out is definitely important to me, so these tips a reader sent me on how to keep your children safe when you're away is definitely well appreciated.

Parents would give everything to keep their children happy and out of harm’s way. However, not everyone has the luxury of just staying at home to take care of their kids. Most people have to work to provide for the needs of their children. Good thing there are ways to keep your little ones safe, despite not being able to oversee them 24/7. Here’s a brief guide for working parents out there:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Green Meatballs in Creamed Greens Recipe- Frugal, Paleo, Egg Free, Dairy Free and Delicious

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When people hear meatballs, typically what comes to mind is beef meatballs in tomato sauce, over pasta. If you're from other parts of the world, Swedish meatballs in a cream sauce may be their first association.
But as a forager and frugalista, not to mention someone who likes to change things up a lot in the kitchen, I don't generally make the typical meatballs. Sometimes I do, yes, but more often than not I make my meatballs with ground chicken or ground turkey, since I am able to buy it at a fraction of the cost of ground meat where I live.
I'm always looking for new and different ways to use greens in my kitchen, since foraging in my area (and most areas) is predominantly leafy greens of various shapes and sizes, and it gets boring to eat greens the same way ad nauseum.

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Green meatballs in homemade tomato sauce, over homemade gluten free soba noodles

A few years back, I thought that instead of the bread crumbs or ground vegetables or other fillers people add to meatballs to both stretch them out and make them more moist, since I had such an abundance of greens, why not add them into my meatballs? Ever since doing that, I realized how amazing that combination was. Added bonus- you get foods in funky new colors- bright green meatballs replacing the typical brown. Remember back in the day when Heinz put out ketchup in a variety of colors, including green ketchup? Green meatballs are exciting and different in a similar way to that green ketchup, and I even got my girls, who typically aren't so into greens (wild or not), to really love this dish, so much so that despite the huge amount that I made, there were no leftovers.

These green meatballs taste amazing as is, and can be eaten without any sauce at all, but I made them even better by combining them with a sauce made from creamed greens, and served over oven baked spiralized sweet potato "noodles" for myself and over rice for the kids. Simply amazing. The best part- this meal was not only frugal and delicious, it was paleo, egg free, dairy free, healthy, making my body feel great.

I've included the recipes for both the green meatballs, which can be served with whatever sauce you like, and the creamed greens, which can be served both with or without meatballs (either green ones or standard meatballs), and over whatever you like, whether grains, pasta, potatoes, etc...

I couldn't recommend these recipes more highly.

I used a combination of nettles and chickweed for my meatballs, and wild swiss chard/wild beet greens for my creamed sauce, but the greens you use are up to you. You can use any non bitter greens for the meatballs, foraged or store bought, such as kale, spinach, mallow, milk thistle, hollyhocks, etc... For the sauce, you can use any greens you'd like, even bitter ones- just make sure to de-bitter them first if using bitter ones (chop and either soak them in boiling water or bring to a boil for a few minutes, depending on their bitterness).

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My wild swiss chard. Like regular chard, only smaller. And free,

Just a note: depending on preference, you can either blend up your onion in the food processor or not. However, if you do blend them instead of mincing them well, they will make your meatballs more watery and therefore harder to shape into perfect circles, and they will need to be boiled, not baked. Though this recipe does call for boiling the meatballs, if you just use chopped onions instead of minced, and you see the meatball mixture is firm enough to shape into balls, feel free to bake them instead.

Green Meatballs in Creamed Greens Recipe- Frugal, Paleo, Egg Free, Dairy Free and Delicious

7 Proven Tips on How to Balance Work and Family Time for Busy Parents

When Danny Nguyen from Myparentingjournal.com, a parenting blog dedicated to good practices, advice, tips, and resources for parents around the world, sent me this article about trying to find the proper work life balance, it really hit home. 
As much as I am enjoying the business I'm bringing in, and the financially security it leads to, I've been really struggling with trying to juggle all my various responsibilities, between my work, my kids, my house, etc... while still maintaining my sanity. I hope you appreciate his piece as much as I did. 

Presently, most parents spend very little time with their families due to hectic work and business schedules that leave them with little or no spare time at all to spend with family. However, this does not necessarily need to be the case irrespective of how busy your life is as there are effective tips and strategies you can use to achieve a work-family balance.

Family time is very important as it enables parents to bond with their children and assist them in tasks such as homework. In addition to this, this time presents parents with an opportunity to assess the progress of their children as well as monitor their behaviors. Here are some proven parenting tips that you can rely on when working towards achieving a work-family balance:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Chews Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Paleo Option

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I love my chocolate. A lot. But I am trying to stay away from white sugar and eat healthier in general. So when I saw someone in a healthy eating group share this recipe for homemade chocolates using date syrup as its sweetener, I knew I had to try it out. But using jaggery syrup, since that is the cheapest non refined sweetener I can get my hands on locally.
Of course, the recipe as is didn't appeal to me, because once I was tweaking a part, I just went a-tweaking and changed pretty much everything in it. I replaced the coconut oil with palm oil (cheaper, and irritates my stomach less), date syrup with jaggery syrup, then decided that it needed peanut butter, because, hello, healthy chocolate and peanut butter? Even more winning combination!
Now that I made these changes, my chocolates don't qualify as Paleo, since peanuts are a legume and forbidden on the paleo diet, but they could just as easily be Paleo if you used nut butter or sunflower seed butter in place of the peanut butter.

These chocolates are not crunchy- they are more chewy (similar to this recipe, but not quite), so when molding these, keep size in mind- you don't want them to be too big to fit into your mouth. Because they're chewy, they last longer than if it were crunchy, since there is a limit to how fast you can eat these. I made about 40 slightly bigger than bite sized chews with this recipe.

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Chews Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Paleo Option

Thursday, February 9, 2017

My Completely Free Grocery "Shopping" Trip- Foraging and Salvaging

I just had a conversation with my publisher about my cover photography for my book, and what we want on it, as well as the photography for within the book, and then I realized that I don't have the ingredients needed to make all these foraged items, and to get them, I'd have to go into the city to go to a park there to forage. So I did.

I was there with a ticking clock- I arrived only 2 hours before sunset, and wanted to make sure I got enough of what I needed in time to make it back to civilization (and electric lights) before it got dark.

I had a long walk, and then got to the park and came home with a giant bag of goodies! Usually when I forage, it is mainly greens, and greens don't tend to be so heavy, but what I foraged certainly was heavy enough to feel it!

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