Friday, May 6, 2016

Eomuk, Kamaboko, Odeng- Homemade Korean Surimi Fish Cakes Recipe- Paleo, Egg Free, Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Grain Free

Growing up I ate surimi quite a decent amount but but never knew it was called that. We just called it mock crab or mock shrimp, and used it for various things like fried rice and sushi- mainly sushi in things like California rolls, which was great because it was another fish option other than lox for people who can't easily get their hands on sushi grade raw fish.
In my country surimi isn't easy to come by, and the stuff that is available is nearly all made with gluten, and/or fake sugars and/or egg (not to mention MSG), making it not an option for me to buy. I've missed surimi so much that when I went to the US 2 years ago, I brought back 2 packages with me that was at least gluten free, and I think fake sugar free.

But I've missed it, and just made a discovery when browsing a website full of Korean recipes and came across this recipe for Korean fish cakes, called eomuk or odeng, also known as kamaboko in Japan, and it intrigued me. I played around with the recipe to make it suit my needs (paleo, gluten free, egg free, refined sugar free, shellfish free), and once it was cooked, I had that realization that I made surimi! So psyched!

Eomuk is often sold prepackaged in Asian stores, but making it at home really wasn't such a big deal! You can eat it as is, plain or with a dipping sauce like this, It is quite delicious that way.

Alternatively you can slice it up and use it in a variety of recipes. Eomuk soup is another traditional way to eat it (and is something I want to try soon), as also in kimbap/gimbap, Korean sushi (and obviously it works well in Japanese sushi too). But when I heard about eomuk bokkeum, stir fried eomuk, and how it is popular among children in Korea, I decided to give it a try. The original recipe for eomuk bokkeum calls for gochujang, Korean hot pepper paste, something I don't have; instead I decided to add something for heat (hot pepper flakes), something for umami (coconut aminos) and something for acidity (apple cider vinegar) to give it a similar flavor profile, and along with that I used some date syrup as sweetener, but then kept the rest of the ingredients the same. I served it to my oldest son, Lee, and his friend, and they both loved it, his friend saying "Oh, it's so yummy, I wish I had more!" (And this friend is not an adventurous eater- he doesn't like "weird" food.)

In short, quite the hit.

We scarfed it down.

The texture reminds me of a hot dog, so I want to try this in a bun with hot dog type toppings, and it also makes me want to try this recipe, just replacing the fish with chicken or turkey, and see if I can make homemade hot dogs this way.

Because it is somewhat greasy being deep fried, people often blanch these in water for a few minutes before using to remove the grease. I didn't bother, but feel free to do so. They freeze well.

Feel free to use whatever fish you have on hand or can get cheapest in this recipe.

I used fish with skin in this recipe- the skin didn't blend up; I had to fish it out, but then I fried it as well, and it was delicious. So if you use skinless fish that's great, and if not, you can do what I did and get another treat.

Eomuk, Kamaboko, Odeng- Homemade Korean Surimi Fish Cakes Recipe- Paleo, Egg Free, Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, /Nightshade Free, Grain Free

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Penny, the Self Taught, Crowd Sourcing, Non Orthodoxly Educated Forager and Instructor

Some of the people attending a recent foraging class of mine-
but are foraging classes the only way to learn?
I'll admit I'm not the typical forager, nor was my education and background in foraging orthodox. In fact, many "real" foragers will probably say disparaging things about the way I learned to forage, but I'm proud of my unorthodox ways.

I foraged here and there growing up, but mainly easily recognizable things like mulberries, apples, blackberries and wood sorrel, then after going on a weed walk with my family as a middle school student, added jewelweed seeds to my repertoire. But that's it.
I moved abroad when I got married and got really inspired by some foraging that some bloggers I was reading were doing, yet didn't think it was relevant to me since those bloggers lived in Colorado, New Zealand, and England. My grasp of the local language at that time left much to be desired so I couldn't easily learn about foraging from the locals, and the few books that I found on the subject were so horrible, to the point that they were dangerous (teaching poisonous plants as edible for one) that I gave up on the idea of foraging and decided to just admire people's foraging from afar. One day though, I discovered that a plant my Colorado friend was writing about grew all over my city- mallow- and that was the start of my tumble down the rabbit hole of my unorthodox wild edibles education, when I discovered that I could learn much about foraging from my international foraging friends and bloggers.

Why do I say unorthodox? Well, one of the big 'rules' in almost all online foraging groups that I'm part of is that you can't just rely on what you learn online- you need to have a local person show it to you. Yea, that. That's how I broke the rules.
I was foraging and teaching about foraging locally for years before I attended my first foraging class locally. And that one was even by a non local person.

Cost-Effective Transportation: The Passenger Vehicle v. The Motorcycle

Photo credit- khunaspix
We have no car and have no plans on buying one, but I must admit, I have given some thought as to what type of vehicle would be best should we decide to get one down the line. Motorcycles scare me so much because of the increased likelihood of injury, but I can see what their appeal would be in other ways- if you live in an area with lots of traffic jams, motorcycles are able to cut through the traffic and can significantly shorten your commuting time, which plays a big factor in quality of life and even earning potential.
This post, by Spenser Josan, a literature geek and curator from Hoboken, New Jersey, raises some other factors that I hadn't even considered- how they can save money as well.

While the world is starting to wonder how young people will be able to afford the rising costs of buying a house while managing their crippling student loan debt and trying to find a job in an ever shrinking job market, Millennials are looking into alternative solutions to save money. One such alternative is trading in the passenger vehicle for a motorcycle.

General Payments and Costs

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Apartment Composting With No Yard, No Porch, and No Worms

Our fresh new compost! See how black it is?

It started a few months ago when our local government passed a measure that was supposed to be environmentally beneficial, but I felt would just hurt the finances of people already struggling financially, without actually benefiting the environment as it was supposed to. As a protest, I wrote an article about more effective ways the government could actually help the environment without hurting the poor.
On that list was the suggestion that there be community wide composting programs, so that people's organic waste didn't go into landfills.

Growing up, we never would dream of throwing decomposable material into the trash. We kept a little trash can under the sink which we filled with this kitchen trash, and when that filled up, we dumped it into our compost heap in the back corner of our garden. The compost there would then be used in our garden where we grew all sorts of delicious things (of which the snow peas, fresh tomatoes, and asparagus were my favorite... though can't forget about the wineberries.)

When I moved abroad and got married, it took convincing to get my husband to be willing to have a compost in our yard, but when he got on board, he saw how cool it was, how we were able to get such rich soil that way, which we then used in our small garden (tomatoes, swiss chard, and potatoes are what we successfully grew).

Then about 5 years ago we moved into our current small apartment, where we have no yard and even no real porch, so that curtailed our gardening abilities. (The few things I tried to grow didn't turn  out to be so successful.) One of the things that bugged me most was throwing out my decomposable waste since we no longer had a compost heap. I'd thought about making a guerrilla compost pile in a public place but then never had the guts to do so. (Eventually a neighbor did exactly that not far from my home.)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cheap Paleo Chocolate Cake Recipe- With Beets!- Nut Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Grain Free, Coconut Free

I wanted to apologize for not posting so much the last little while- it's spring break over here so I've been taking advantage of that and trying to teach as many foraging classes as possible while kids are out of school, which means less time in front of the computer to write posts. (6 classes in the last 4 days alone, in 4 different cities. I'm exhausted!)
But, I made this cake and shared it on my personal Facebook wall and so many people asked me to share it, so exhausted or not, here it is!

My niece turned 1 year old and her mom asked me to make a birthday cake for her, but there were a few specifications for it: no refined sweetener, no grains (gluten free or otherwise), and healthy.
On top of that, I didn't want to make it very expensive, which this type of cake generally would be, typically using lots of honey and nut meal. On top of that, I didn't have coconut flour (which also is quite pricey) which these types of cakes generally use.
I decided to experiment with a cake recipe and hope I came up with something good.
Because I wasn't using anything solid like white sugar or nut meal but wanted the cake to solidify, I decided to use a whole boiled beet in the cake, something which sounds weird, I know, but there are lots of recipes out there putting beets in chocolate cake so I decided to give it a try.
Because honey is expensive and I can get dates cheaper than honey, I decided to try making the majority of the sweetness be from dates and beets, and only add honey as needed for that extra bit of sweetness.

The results of the experiment?
My husband, kids, and I all enjoyed it. Of those who attended the birthday party, the majority liked it a lot and wanted the recipe, but maybe a third of the people who tried it weren't fans.
Here's why- I think.
First off- it tastes healthy.
If you're expecting a cake that tastes exactly like plain ol' chocolate cake- you'll be disappointed.
Secondly, it is sweet enough, but not very sweet. Kind of like if you take a bite of 75% dark chocolate expecting milk chocolate the first thought running through your head will be "OMG this isn't sweet!" But if you go in expecting 75% chocolate, you will appreciate the mild sweetness and enjoy it.

That said, here's the recipe.

Cheap Paleo Chocolate Cake Recipe- With Beets!- Nut Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Grain Free, Coconut Free

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Homemade Healthy Strawberry Jam Recipe- Paleo, GAPS, Refined Sugar Free, Vegan Option

I had an idea to make something like cinnamon buns for dessert, only with strawberry jam inside it instead of a cinnamon sugar mixture. The strawberry buns flopped (gotta improve the dough recipe) but the strawberry jam that I made to go inside it came out so wonderfully that I think this will be my go to recipe for strawberry jam. It's refined sugar free, pectin free, and is Paleo and GAPS legal and can easily be vegan too. You can make it with only whole fruit, and it is not too difficult to make. I highly recommend this recipe.

Homemade Strawberry Jam Recipe- Paleo, Refined Sugar Free, Vegan Option

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Giving Our Homemade Couch a Makeover To Suit My Tastes- For Free!

Ever have an idea that in theory was great but in practice didn't work out as planned?

That's what happened with our couch. Two years ago, sick of having no couch in our home, Mike turned a wooden shoe box he'd built into a couch, by first turning it into a bench, then I added cushioning and a cover to make it be a couch. 

The problem with it was that the shoe box was built as that, not planning to be a couch, and so, the seat wasn't wide enough. As a bench it was fine, but when we put the cushions on the bench and the back, it used up much of the available sitting space, leaving you without enough room to sit comfortably, making it feel like you were constantly falling off.

 photo IMG_0985_zpsacf20dc0.jpg

It worked, in a pinch, but when we found enough money and the space to put in a small couch a year ago, the shoe box couch fell out of use, and other than being a place to store our shoes, it became the place of choice to pile on clutter and mess... since no one sat on it anyhow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How to Make All Sorts of Different Homemade Soaps including Breast Milk Soap

Most people who've been in the "crunchy" aka "natural parenting world for some time have heard about the amazing properties of breast milk, not just in nourishing babies but also for healing all sorts of ailments, from pink eye to ear infections and diaper rashes, because of the antibodies and other disease fighting aspects within. A friend of mine thinks that the reason her daughter survived cancer is because she nursed throughout chemo.

I'd heard about making soap from breast milk; it's meant to be be more beneficial than regular soap, with many of the benefits of breast milk, so very healing. It intrigued me, but I hate pumping so didn't have any to work with. Then someone who I am close with (and trust that her breast milk is safe and disease free) told me that she had pumped and froze milk for her baby who refused to drink milk that had been frozen- the babe wanted only freshly pumped milk, so she didn't know what to do with all the milk she pumped. I said I'd take it for soap making... and then it sat in my freezer for a while until I finally got around to making it yesterday.
Do I know if the milk retains its properties once made into soap? Nope. But even if not, no harm done and its still good soap.

Monday, April 18, 2016

So What Does Poor Mean Anyhow?

Photo credit- David Castillo Dominici
Last week I wrote a post discussing whether or not eggs are really as cheap as they are made out to be, and in the comments section there was a little back and forth about being "poor" and if that is something worthy of criticism.

Completely unrelated to that, the other day I went with my kids to the city, and my oldest, Lee, who has been saving up his money, decided completely on his own to bring along some of his loose change to be able to give it as charity to the beggars he'd inevitably see on the street. While in the city, we started talking about charity, needy people, etc, and then he asked me "Mommy, are we poor?"
I mean, as someone who is famous for living frugally and goes by the name "Penniless" I guess such a question from my kids was inevitable at some point.

My answer to my son started with "Poor is relative; compared to some people we're poor, and compared to other people we're rich."

But the thing is- it got me thinking- what does poor mean anyhow, and are we poor?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Figuring Out The True Price of Eggs- Are They Really So Cheap?

Image credit- Simon Howden
I think the standard frugal kitchen maven knows, de-facto, that eggs are the cheapest protein you can serve your family, other than legumes (cooked from dried beans, not canned).

But I don't like taking such knowledge for granted- I mean, is it really true? Is it perhaps even wrong, like the common knowledge that chicken breast is the cheapest type of meat, because there's no bone in it, and that wings and necks are a waste of money because they're mostly bone, which I actually proved wrong, when I did my calculations to figure out which type of meat is actually cheapest, and discovered that, contrary to popular belief, necks and wings are cheaper than breast, even once you factor in the bones and skin.
And maybe eggs are the cheapest animal protein sometimes, like if you can shop at Aldi's- but where I live eggs are much more expensive than Aldi's- so maybe here they are not the cheapest option?

I'll admit, eggs have been my go-to protein to cook for my family when they don't want legumes, because I assumed they were cheapest- but are they really?

Add to that the fact that there are three different sizes of eggs sold locally regularly- medium, large, and extra large, all with different pricing, and I really had no idea which was the best buy.

So that made me realize- it was time do to another crazy calculation- to figure out how much I'm really paying for my eggs, figure out type of egg is most worthwhile to buy, and if eggs are actually the cheapest type of animal protein out there.

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