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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chocolate Buckwheat Bread Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Xanthan Gum Free, Soaked Grain Option

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My kid has thrown me into a loop by deciding he doesn't want to eat cereal for breakfast anymore. While cereal and milk for the kids isn't so nutritious (even though I try to stick to the less processed stuff) I don't always have the energy to be cooking up complex breakfasts in the morning, don't always feel like standing over the waffle iron or skillet making pancakes... and I don't always have the fresh produce needed to be able to make smoothies.
So then the question is- what do I serve for breakfast that my kids will eat, that doesn't cost too much money, is relatively healthy, and doesn't take too much work?

Enter this yummy concoction. (I based it off this recipe.) I call it "Chocolate Buckwheat Bread" simply because I'm not creative enough to think of a cooler name, but it has been a staple in my home as of late. Everyone in my family loves it, there's minimal prep work involved, its pretty healthy considering its a sweet baked good, its refined sugar free, it's low cost and vegan and gluten free, it doesn't have any xanthan gum in it (which some people are sensitive to, and it also is expensive), and if you want to soak your grains first to make it more digestible, it works very nicely with that.

My biggest issue with this is the bananas required, because I don't always have bananas in stock. You don't really taste the bananas so much in it; I want to try this out replacing the bananas with another pureed fruit, like applesauce, or maybe mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash.

I use my green buckwheat flour for this recipe- if you don't have green buckwheat flour, see if you can grind it yourself in a coffee grinder (green buckwheat is soft enough to grind in a coffee grinder, unlike most grains). If the green buckwheat flour isn't an option for you, you can replace it with any gluten free flour mix (though it would probably have xanthan gum in it then), and if your family can eat gluten, feel free to replace the green buckwheat flour with any gluten flour, from whole wheat flour to regular wheat flour to spelt, etc...

Chocolate Buckwheat Bread Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Xanthan Gum Free, Soaked Grain Option

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Coins Tutorial

 photo IMG_2483_zps52d55fae.jpgMy kids love chocolate coins. They love chocolate in general, but if they had the choice of a square of chocolate or chocolate coins, chocolate coins would win, hands down.
The thing is- chocolate coins are expensive. Chocolate is expensive, yes, but chocolate coins are even more expensive per pound... We do buy chocolate coins occasionally as a real treat.... but I wanted to see if I could make chocolate coins at home. Both for cost reasons, and for the fun of it.

At first I wasn't sure if I'd need specialized molds or specialized equipment, and if my kids would be as satisfied from our homemade chocolate coins as they are from the store bought stuff... but I decided to give it a shot and see how it went. Google showed me that you could simply use mini muffin tins instead of official coin molds, so I went with that.

The cool thing about this is that once I figured out the basics of making chocolate coins, I am now able to play around with it and make specialty chocolate coins, like using my 85% cocoa chocolate bars, or turn my plain chocolate into cool chocolate, like mint chocolate, mocha, etc.

To be honest, I first did this project... and only after that did a price comparison. Locally, the cheapest you can get chocolate coins is $2 per 100 grams. I got decent quality chocolate bars on sale for $1.14 per 100 grams, and saw cheapo quality chocolate for $0.94 per 100 grams. If I'd bought the chocolate in bulk (like I've been considering, to be honest, at the rate my family eats chocolate), I could buy it for $0.76 per 100 grams. So, definitely cost effective to make your own.

And its a fun activity for the kids as well.

So why not make your own?

Here's how you do it. (Super simple, I promise.)

Homemade Chocolate Coins Recipe and Tutorial

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Crafting With Homemade White Clay- Recipe- Gluten Free Alternative to Salt Dough

 photo IMG_2492_zpsec748903.jpgI first heard of white clay from a friend on a local frugal forum, and now that the holiday season is here, I decided to try it out. If you've ever heard of salt dough, it's a homemade, solidly drying craft medium, completely non toxic, that can be used as an alternative to store bought air drying or oven drying clay, and while I've had good experiences in the past with it, as someone whose house is completely gluten free and doesn't want to have to worry about gluten contamination in her kitchen, salt dough isn't an option for us anymore.
Therefore, I was excited about this white clay recipe, which essentially is the same basic idea- a "clay" (more like play dough, actually) that air or oven dries into something hard, which can then be pained, which can then be used for all sorts of beneficial purposes.
Or it can just be done as a fun, creative craft, as an outlet. It doesn't actually need to be practical... but I like the permanence of this, and that it easily can be practical.

If you're still unsure of what to give your loved ones for the holidays, and are open to the idea of hand crafted gifts, you can use this white clay (or salt dough) to make some great gifts. Examples are picture frames, pendants, necklaces, magnets, decorative bowls and plates, sculptures, or hand prints. You can also make ornaments or candle holders, whether for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Diwali, Solstice celebrations, etc...
I am sure creative people can come up with even more amazing ideas to do with white clay and dough- the options are limitless.

Here's how to make your homemade white clay- with only three ingredients- water, baking soda, and corn starch or potato starch. I buy my baking soda in bulk super cheap so this really keeps down the cost of this tremendously. I did find my white clay to be a drop wetter than I wanted, so I ended up mixing it with a lot of baking soda to make it less sticky, so I suggest using less water instead of more, to hopefully make it less sticky. But again, if it is sticky, just mix it with as much baking soda as necessary to get it perfect.

Crafting With Homemade White Clay- Recipe- Gluten Free Alternative to Salt Dough

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why We Went Back to Homeschooling Our Kids- Again

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A homeschooling lesson- real life learning.
Baking, following instructions, reading, math, etc..
Those of you who've been following my blog for a long time already might remember some details about my kids' schooling journey, how originally we were homeschooling, unschooling inspired, and then last year we decided to send our kids to school, and now we're back at homeschooling, again unschooling inspired.

People were surprised at my choice- many at my choice to send them to school in the first place (how can an unschooler not only stop unschooling, but actually send to a regular school?), but probably even more people were surprised that we went back to homeschooling after this year- despite the fact that we said from the start that our goal was to send them to school just for a year anyhow. Many said that the second we put them in school, we'd see how much better school was than homeschooling, and I wouldn't want to go back to homeschooling (because I'd miss the free time I had), and it wouldn't be fair to my kids to make them go back to homeschooling, since they wouldn't want it after being in school.

So, hence, this post. Why we're back to homeschooling this year.
But in order to address that question, I'd first have to review the reasons we sent them to school last year in the first place.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

Its that time of the week where I share with my wonderful readers all the ways in which I saved money in the last week, hopefully some of which would be ideas that you could use as well.

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This week was really a great one in the Penniless household! Lots of frugal stuff going on, lots of things I'm excited about and happy to share with you. Top on the list? Foraging! Yay! Got lots of that done, and the weather was perfect for it!

Here's what we did to save money this past week:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Experiences as Gifts, Appreciating What You Have, and What We're Getting Our Kids

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Photo credit: Naito8- Freedigitalphotos.net
With the holiday season upon us, people around the world are stressing out about gifting- what they should give each loved one, and many are going into debt to pay for these extravagances. Forums I'm in are filled with discussions about how much to spend on each child ("Is $200 dollars reasonable per kid if we're short on cash- I don't know if I can swing $500 per child?"), feeling guilty about not spending enough on each child, or showing off how much they're showering their kids with all sorts of extravagances.

Tis the season to be materialistic and wasteful, it seems.

Not in our family.

Forget the fact that money is tight around here and cash doesn't flow like water into our bank accounts.

Even if I were rich, I still don't want to be teaching my kids to live their life in pursuit of material possessions, equating acquisition of paraphernalia with happiness. In fact, it is often the opposite- lottery winners are often miserable, and poor people can be very happy.

I mentioned it before Black Friday, and I'll say it again- the best way to be happy is to decide to be happy, to decide to appreciate what you have instead of focusing on what you don't have.
Even if there is a lot you're lacking in your life- just by virtue of reading this post, you automatically are lucky and have more than many people in the world do- you have the ability to read, eyesight, access to technology such as computers, cell phones, and internet. And that isn't mentioning the food in people's refrigerators, the roof over their heads, the clothes on their back, and the clean bill of health that I hope most blog readers have. (And if you don't have all 4 of the above, I really wish you success in getting those soon, and my heart goes out to you.)

We're trying to raise our kids to focus on what they have instead of what they don't have. To realize how much abundance they have in their lives.

Save Money With A Reliable Sewing Machine And Some Sewing Skills

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Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net- foto76
I love my sewing machine and use it regularly, and it certainly saves me money. I hope you enjoy this guest post on saving money with a sewing machine!

It won’t have escaped your attention the amount of money you can avoid spending if you skill up to make things for yourself instead of having to buy them. Sewing machines are practical home appliances that come with great gains. Even if you are a dab hand at sewing with needle and thread, there can be a terrific advantage in speed from using the said commodity, meaning that you can afford to take on bigger projects like new curtains or reupholstering your furniture!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pressure Cooking To Save Money

After my recent post about my drama with my pressure cooker, my friend Becky sent me a message, wanting to know if pressure cookers actually save enough money by shortening cooking time to be worth the expense. It's a good question, because while pressure cookers take less time to cook, and therefore use less money by way of utilities, pressure cookers aren't the cheapest piece of kitchen equipment, especially locally, where they cost upward of $140 dollars for a cheap one.
Becky, knowing my love of doing all sorts of crazy calculations regarding money savings wanted to know if I did the calculations, figuring out how much money was being saved and over how long, by minimizing cooking time using a pressure cooker, and if I compared that to the cost of a pressure cooker to decide if it was worth it.
To be honest, I've tried calculating how much I spend on each minute of cooking time with my gas stove, but I haven't managed to figure out how much money it costs per minute or even how to start figuring it out (we have large and small tanks of gas delivered here, but I have no idea how many whatevers it is gas is measured in, in each of those tanks), so no, I haven't compared the money saving with utilities by using a pressure cooker with the expense of the pressure cooker.
However, I do know for a fact that having a pressure cooker saves me money. Big time. Enough that I don't need the utilities calculation to find out if it was a justifiable expenditure. I even recently bought a second pressure cooker!

Here's how I use a pressure cooker to save money:

Delicious Tri-Color Root Vegetable Salad Recipe- Vegan, GAPS and Paleo Legal

With winter upon us, most of the primary salad vegetables are out of season, and therefore either hard to get or expensive. The cheaper, more available veggies are root vegetables, which most people tend to make into hot dishes, like roasted veggies and stews and soups. And while those are absolutely awesome and what many people crave in the winter, sometimes you just want a salad. A fresh salad, with raw veggies, crisp and delicious.
This is a salad that I invented recently when I had some turnips to use up. I'm not the biggest fan of turnips (I don't hate them but I don't love them), so I don't want them to be the star of the show when making a dish. This combination of turnips, beets, and carrots, with a mustardy vinaigrette worked terrifically so that you can barely taste the turnip- it certainly doesn't taste overwhelming- and it is diet friendly as well.
I loved this recipe so much that I've made it a few times since- sometimes with turnips, but also with kohlrabi in place of the turnip. Feel free to adjust the quantities- it's a forgiving salad- use what you have, then play around with it until it suits your taste.
My kids also really loved this salad. There's just something about raw beets in salads that is superb.
This salad tastes good fresh, but also tastes terrific up to a few days later, so it's a great salad to make in advance if you like to do meal prep.

Delicious Tri-Color Root Vegetable Salad Recipe- Vegan, GAPS and Paleo Legal


Monday, December 8, 2014

Having a Frugal Homeschooling Adventure

 photo 20141207_112643_zps67f315a6.jpgYesterday morning, right after waking up, I turned to my 5 year old, Ike, and asked him "If you could do anything at all, what would you want to do today?" His answer? "I want to go exploring in the jungle."
Unfortunately, we don't have a jungle near our house, but we do have a small forest, and I presented that option to him. "Want to go exploring in the forest together today?" "Yea!" Lee and Anneliese were also excited about the idea of the expedition, and I decided to use it to turn it into a fun learning experience.

Because we're back at homeschooling this year (yes, I will be writing a blog post, hopefully soon, about why we're back at homeschooling), I am leaning more towards unschooling. (I wouldn't call myself unschooling 100%, but definitely my "teaching method" is inspired by the unschooling perspective.) I want life to be full of learning opportunities, but with these learning opportunities more "hidden" so the kids feel more the fun and don't realize how much they're learning. By keeping the learning fun, it'll hopefully help my kids retain their love of learning and not turn it into a battle of wills, and their eventual starting to hate learning as happens with many kids throughout their schooling career.

I didn't tell my kids: Ok, today we're going to be learning about map skills, safety, history, nature, photography. But I did open the door to these opportunities so that they would learn these skills and have a great time while doing it.

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