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Friday, December 30, 2011

Roasted Herbed Carrots Recipe

 My kids call these "Hot Dog Carrots" because they're reminiscent of roasted hot dogs.
In looks, that is.
In taste, they're completely different. They're absolutely sublime and out of this world. A true treat.
And a real cinch to make.
Even for someone who doesn't know how to cook.

Because I'm taking it easy post birth and not doing any cooking, and because my husband has no clue how to cook, this was the perfect veggie side dish for my husband to make for supper tonight.

But don't worry, even if you're not immediately postpartum like I am, this is a nice enough dish to serve at a fancy meal, when you're having guests, etc, because they're so delicious, and you get the amazing taste without all the effort.

One warning- these finish very quickly! Make a ton or you'll run out, while still craving for more.

P.S. These should be cheap to make now, as carrots are generally one of the cheapest veggies available in the Northern Hemisphere in the winter.

Roasted Herbed Carrots Recipe

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Homebirth Story

Baby Anneliese, 12 hours old.
On Monday, December 26, Mike and I welcomed our third child and first daughter, Anneliese, into the world, born at home in the comfort of my very own bathtub, with a professional, experienced midwife, who has been delivering babies since before I was born.

I remember after my first birth, my mother, who was with me, commented that I seemed "made for giving birth", because she was so impressed with how I handled labor completely naturally. My first birth was a pretty decent experience, I musthadmit, even if it was very long and didn't go 100% smoothly, so I was somewhat letdown when my second birth experience wasn't nearly as beautiful, uplifting, or self affirming as my first, and I'm still bothered by my birthing experience the second time around. I never took or even considered using an epidural for either birth, but towards the end of my second birth, I really understood why someone would find an epidural necessary, because I was having such a hard time managing... (I may end up writing my birth stories of my first two kids in short in a future post, but no promises.)

It was after my second birth that I decided that my next birth would be different, and would be at home, and I started saving up money each month, even before our little Anneliese was a thought in our mind, because I knew that it was the fact that I gave birth in the hospital that made my birth so difficult, and I wanted to make sure that no matter what the state of our finances would be in the future, we'd have money put away to make a homebirth a reality.

And so, this was my goal in my homebirth this time. To have an altogether different experience. To be able to take the good from my previous birth experiences (no drugs, no cuts, healthy mom and babe) and leave all the negatives behind, and instead, have a completely positive and uplifting birth experience.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Baby Girl Born At Home


Baby girl born at home, today, Monday, December 26. Healthy baby, healthy mom. Really quick birth in comparison to my other two. Easiest birth ever. No interventions, no complications. So glad it was a homebirth. Will update the blog with my homebirth story at some point... as well as why I chose to have a homebirth, and why I think it was worthwhile spending the money on the birth...


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holiday Get Togethers Cheaply

Photo Credit
In most families, Holiday time is family time, involving get togethers with families and loved ones. After presents are opens and food is eaten, what else can you do together as a family that can be lots of fun but won't put you into the poorhouse? Frugal party games, of course! Here's some games that are a blast to play that don't cost any money nor any special equipment but still can provide hours of entertainment!
Some of these are games that we play whenever we get together with my husband's family, and the best part about it is that most of these games are fun for the whole family, whether you're only 3 years old or 75 years old!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gluten Free Butternut Squash Waffles or Pancakes Recipe

I love waffles! They're a yummy, filling, nutritious food, great to eat at breakfast or any other time. No, I'm not talking about boxed frozen waffles, like Eggo waffles. Homemade waffles can be made to suit your needs, making them gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, low carb, or whatever other specification you want, and then you can freeze them to eat at a later date as a frugal convenience food.

You will need a waffle iron to make these; if you don't have a waffle maker, you can just fry them in a frying pan as pancakes.

Just a note- waffles and pancakes remind me of something we learned in geometry in school way back when- all squares are quadrilaterals, but not all quadrilaterals are squares. All waffle recipes will work terrifically as pancakes, but you can't just use any pancake recipe to make waffles. Because of how waffle irons work (they close and then pull apart), the batter needs extra "stuff" so it doesn't come apart when you open the waffle press. This recipe holds together even through the "rigors" of waffle making, unlike many other pancake recipes.

I made these with steamed and pureed fresh butternut squash. You can make them with pumpkin instead, or you can use canned pure pumpkin or butternut squash.

Gluten Free Butternut Squash Waffles Recipe

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rice and Peas Recipe

I've been feeling kind of icky the past few days. I'm not 100% sure what the cause. Perhaps the flu. Perhaps my body reacting to something I ate. Or perhaps simply its my body telling me that its sick of being pregnant already for 9 months, and itching to get the baby out. Who knows, but I certainly feel awful. Heart burn, nausea, puking, stomach aches, head aches...
But you know, even when you're feeling gross, you've still got to eat. And purchased fast food is neither healthy nor frugal.
And that's why I made this.
It's super easy and quick to make, especially if you make you cook the rice in the pressure cooker. Its mildly flavored, which is exactly what I want when my stomach is acting up, and its soothing on the stomach because of the rice. Not only that, its a lazy complete meal, because peas are both a protein and a veggie, and combined with the rice, you've got a complete protein and a starch... so I get away with making and serving just that, and not feel too guilty. If you're not feeling as gross as I am and want to up the veggie content of this meal some more, add a salad or some other vegetable dish on the side.

Even if you're not a pea lover, I suggest giving this dish a chance. As a kid, I hated peas, but when prepared this way, I didn't just not mind them, I actually loved the dish and would ask my mom to make it again. (Now I love peas, but that's beside the point.)

Rice and Peas Recipe

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Foraging Wood Sorrel and Some Traditional Foods vs Science Controversy

A bunch of wood sorrel plants
As kids, we used to call this plant either "lemon" or "clover" (neither of them correct), depending on our mood. It was the first wild edible I ever learned to identify- I remember picking it in our backyard as young as 4 or 5 years old and popping it into my mouth to munch on. Locally, the name for this plant is the same as the name of a chewy sour candy.
With all these variations in name, its no surprise that I only found out its official name, wood sorrel, once I was an adult.

Wood sorrel is actually a whole range of plants in the oxalis family, all edible, and with common traits that make it very easy to identify. In addition to the ease in identifying, wood sorrel is pretty widespread and grows on every continent (other than Antarctica, obviously), making it a terrific first foraged food for beginners.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop

Hearth & Soul Hop
Welcome to this week's edition of the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, where each week, cooks from around the globe share their most delicious, nourishing, and heart warming recipes. The cooking carnival where you come to share your best kept cooking secrets, those recipes with the magic ingredient in it called "Soul Spice"-  the made from scratch recipes that you make with love to feed your family, friends, and loved ones.

My co-hosts for the blog hop are:
Alea of Premeditated Leftovers,
April of The 21st Century Housewife,
Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen,
and
Melyinda of Mom's Sunday Cafe.

My favorite post from last week is:
Gluten Free Party Franks- Growing up, we called these pigs in a blanket, or franks in blanks... and they were horribly unhealthy, made with nitrate and msg filled hot dogs and wrapped in transfat filled puff pastry dough. I'd like to try these out with the healthy hot dogs I have in my freezer at the moment- they look really yummy!


Hearth and Soul Mission

It’s about food from your hearth, made for your soul. Food that follows your intuition. Preparing food from scratch to nourish your family…body, mind AND soul! Food made with your own hands…infused with energy and passion and intent. Real food made by real people to feed real families (big and small, in blood or spirit). Ingredients from scratch, be it something grown in your garden or raised on your land…food foraged in the field or woods…food from local farms, farmers, or farmers markets…or even ingredients chosen by you from your local market that will be turned into something that feeds your soul. Tapping the food memory that each of us has stored inside; letting it guide and influence our own time in the kitchen.

We hope to embrace not only the “expected” areas of real food, but also those who want to incorporate healthier choices without sacrificing their love of food…how it tastes, the memories it conjures up, the comfort it brings. Yes, we’re trying to steer clear of packaged, processed, and boxed foods in favor of real foods….without absolutely excluding the sometimes frowned upon white sugar or flour (because the body craves what it craves…and sometimes things just don’t taste the same when you replace these). Making conscious choices and being present in the now with what your body needs…and taking steps towards exploring and enjoying healthier choices. If you take the time to listen, your body will tell you what it needs.

The warm comfort of the home hearth…stories, anecdotes, lessons, adventures, journeys, recipes, meals, beverages…we want to share the “why” of how food feeds more than just our bodies…how it also feeds our souls. After all, aren’t these the essential ingredients in defining real food? Please share links from your Hearth ‘n Soul with us each week.

Rules for linking:

Recipes should include healthy ingredients and can be old or new recipes or posts. Articles on real food, slow food, foraging, herbal remedies, local food, sustainable food, organics, gardening or any healthy eating information written in a positive and loving light are also welcome.

If you are new to a blog carnival, or blog hop, it is very easy to learn how to join in the fun! Simply go to the blog post for that carnival and scroll down to the bottom where you will see a small box that will say, You’re Next or Your link here. When you click on that link, you will be asked to enter the URL of your recipe or article.

Please link to your article only and not directly to your blog front page.

Place a link back to one of the blog hosts, which means adding in the URL of the blog hop post which you can copy from your browser address bar and insert at the bottom of your post. You could also choose to place a blog badge into your post.

Please link a post that closely fits into the mission. You don’t have to link up every week…link up when you can. We welcome posts that are shared in other events. If you have an older, archived post that you want to add, we welcome that…as long as you go in and add a link back to Hearth and Soul.

Please feel free to use and share the Hearth and Soul Hop badge listed below to promote the Blog Hop.

Hearth & Soul Hop
Lets see your best recipes! Join up below! (If you've never participated in a blog hop before, click here to see why you should.)




Monday, December 19, 2011

Gift Giving Appropriately and Frugally

Its that time of year when gift giving is heavily on our mind. Who to give to, what to give, and how to acquire those gifts you'll be giving. When we give gifts, we may have many considerations on our mind in order to put together the perfect gift. You may be trying to get a gift tailored to the recipient's personality, or might be on the lookout for the best bargain, or may have other specifications, like giving only gifts that mesh with your values...

How do you gift give appropriately and frugally? 


Well, to do this, you first have to define what an appropriate gift is, and think about what frugal really means...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pressure Cooker Rice Recipe

Fast food? Filling? Chemical free? Cheap? Yup, this pressure cooker rice fits the bill. If you're hungry and need something starchy with which to fill your stomach as fast as possible, making rice in the pressure cooker is the perfect solution. (Fry an egg or open a can of tuna, and chop a cucumber or a tomato, and you got veggie, starch, and protein- a full meal.)

Cooking rice in the pressure cooker takes very little energy and cooking time, so whether you're trying to cut back on your gas use or lowering your electric bill if you're using an electric burner as I am now, cooking rice in the pressure cooker is a wise idea.

This is a very basic recipe, nothing ingenious, but it wasn't so easy to find this information when I was looking for it, so I wanted to make it easier for you readers to find, so that you, too, can make rice very quickly in the pressure cooker.

P.S. The amount of water in this recipe is not a typo- because you're making it in the pressure cooker, steam isn't escaping as quickly as in a regular pot, so you need less water than you would otherwise.

Pressure Cooker Rice Recipe

Friday, December 16, 2011

Black Eyed Pea Curry Recipe

I love black eyed peas. They've got this deliciousness to them, a mild sweetness that makes them one of the yummier beans out there. Here's a curry made with black eyed peas that I think you'll enjoy!
It's got a lot of different spices which make it have a rich flavor without needing to buy any exotic spice mixes.
Serve over rice or with flat breads or even eat plain.

Black Eyed Pea Curry Recipe

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Can Go Wrong in a Homebirth?

I am planning on having a homebirth in the near future. When I tell people this, some people get such a look of horror on their face! It's as if I'm telling them that I'm planning on killing my baby, God forbid, or doing something so dangerous like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute.
Homebirths scare the heck out of many people. There are so many stories passed around about how homebirths are deadly and dangerous, and that they heard of a person whose baby died during a homebirth. You'll also have people telling you how homebirths are a terrible idea, because their babies survived only because they were born in the hospital; had they been born at home, they would either have either died or been damaged long term.
They often don't realize the other side of the story, that things can and do go wrong in hospital births as well, and that hospital births actually are just as risky, if not more so, than homebirths for low risk births, according to numerous studies.

However, once again, I'll reiterate the same point I made in my last homebirth post- babies and mothers die in childbirth. Its an unfortunate reality. Proper medical care can eliminate this much of the time, but there are risks to both the mothers' and the babies' lives no matter where they are born, whether in the hospital or at home. There are things to do to minimize the risks, such as evaluating whether you're a proper candidate for homebirth or whether a hospital would be safer for you, and by hiring an experienced, qualified medical personel to assist in your birth. (I do not advocate unattended homebirths and have convinced my friend who was considering an unassisted homebirth to hire a midwife, despite the extra cost.) Other than that, you hope for the best and pray that everything will go smoothly, and that you have a healthy mother and baby, whether you're in the hospital or at home.
But again, you can't prevent all problems, no matter where you choose to birth. All you can do is minimize risks.

So here you have it- what can go wrong in a homebirth?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Homemade Cloth Postpartum Pads Tutorial

I've been busy getting ready for the upcoming birth of my third child, running here and there getting various errands run, connected to things I'll need during and after my home birth, as well as for my child after he/she is born.
On Saturday, I was having about a million and five contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions, because they weren't painful, just very noticeable. However, by the time Saturday night came around, even while lying in bed, the contractions continued, and increased in frequency, and some of them were painful to the point that I was contemplating starting to do my breathing techniques for labor. I was freaking out, because I was not ready to give birth! There were still things I needed to get done! Numero uno on that list- make cloth pads for myself to use after birth!
Fortunately, with some homemade wine and some sleep, the contractions stopped (my midwife said I was still a bit early to go into labor and to try to see what I could do to stop it, and recommended drinking wine and sleeping), and by the time Sunday came around, I was motivated to get the things I needed done for birth, completed as soon as possible, and made my own cloth postpartum pads on Sunday and Monday of this week.

Here's a little tutorial about how to make your own cloth postpartum pads, like I did, as well as why I made them.

Before I continue further, I want to say that this post includes some TMI, so if you're a guy, or even a girl who has never given birth before, and doesn't want to be educated yet about some of its "gory details", I'd advise you not to read on.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Lack of Christmas Related Posts on this Blog

A perceptive reader noticed something about my blog and made an apparent discovery, using super sleuthing skills.
Because the whole frugal blogosphere is abuzz at the moment with tips on how to keep the costs of Christmas down and not give in to the spending insanity, the fact that I haven't even had one post on the topic of Christmas (this year, at least) makes it apparent that I don't celebrate Christmas.

Is that so?

What is the reason that I haven't posted anything about frugal Christmases the way the entire rest of the frugal blogosphere has? Is the reason because, as the reader reasoned, my family and I don't celebrate Christmas?

I am sure this reader is not the only person who noticed this apparent lack of posts. You may have been wondering the same thing yourself. I figured you readers deserve an answer to this question, because it is a logical question. If I am all about saving money, why haven't I posted a single blessed thing about most families' biggest money suck of the year- Christmas?

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop

Hearth & Soul Hop
Welcome to this week's edition of the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, where each week, cooks from around the globe share their most delicious, nourishing, and heart warming recipes. The cooking carnival where you come to share your best kept cooking secrets, those recipes with the magic ingredient in it called "Soul Spice"-  the made from scratch recipes that you make with love to feed your family, friends, and loved ones.

My co-hosts for the blog hop are:
Alea of Premeditated Leftovers,
April of The 21st Century Housewife,
Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen,
and
Melyinda of Mom's Sunday Cafe.

My favorite posts from last week are:
Mushroom Lovers Rissoto- I only recently discovered the joy of rissoto, but now this recipe makes me really eager to try it once more! 
Persimmon Coconut Smoothie- Persimmons are in season now locally, and they're one of my favorite fruit ever! I never would have thought to put them in a smoothie, but now that I think about it, it sounds perfect! Can't wait to try this!
Storing Broth- This gives some suggestions how to store homemade bone (or other) broth, tips I already knew but needed a reminder on. This post inspired me to pick up some ice cube trays in my foray to town today.


Hearth and Soul Mission

It’s about food from your hearth, made for your soul. Food that follows your intuition. Preparing food from scratch to nourish your family…body, mind AND soul! Food made with your own hands…infused with energy and passion and intent. Real food made by real people to feed real families (big and small, in blood or spirit). Ingredients from scratch, be it something grown in your garden or raised on your land…food foraged in the field or woods…food from local farms, farmers, or farmers markets…or even ingredients chosen by you from your local market that will be turned into something that feeds your soul. Tapping the food memory that each of us has stored inside; letting it guide and influence our own time in the kitchen.

We hope to embrace not only the “expected” areas of real food, but also those who want to incorporate healthier choices without sacrificing their love of food…how it tastes, the memories it conjures up, the comfort it brings. Yes, we’re trying to steer clear of packaged, processed, and boxed foods in favor of real foods….without absolutely excluding the sometimes frowned upon white sugar or flour (because the body craves what it craves…and sometimes things just don’t taste the same when you replace these). Making conscious choices and being present in the now with what your body needs…and taking steps towards exploring and enjoying healthier choices. If you take the time to listen, your body will tell you what it needs.

The warm comfort of the home hearth…stories, anecdotes, lessons, adventures, journeys, recipes, meals, beverages…we want to share the “why” of how food feeds more than just our bodies…how it also feeds our souls. After all, aren’t these the essential ingredients in defining real food? Please share links from your Hearth ‘n Soul with us each week.

Rules for linking:

Recipes should include healthy ingredients and can be old or new recipes or posts. Articles on real food, slow food, foraging, herbal remedies, local food, sustainable food, organics, gardening or any healthy eating information written in a positive and loving light are also welcome.

If you are new to a blog carnival, or blog hop, it is very easy to learn how to join in the fun! Simply go to the blog post for that carnival and scroll down to the bottom where you will see a small box that will say, You’re Next or Your link here. When you click on that link, you will be asked to enter the URL of your recipe or article.

Please link to your article only and not directly to your blog front page.

Place a link back to one of the blog hosts, which means adding in the URL of the blog hop post which you can copy from your browser address bar and insert at the bottom of your post. You could also choose to place a blog badge into your post.

Please link a post that closely fits into the mission. You don’t have to link up every week…link up when you can. We welcome posts that are shared in other events. If you have an older, archived post that you want to add, we welcome that…as long as you go in and add a link back to Hearth and Soul.

Please feel free to use and share the Hearth and Soul Hop badge listed below to promote the Blog Hop.

Hearth & Soul Hop
Lets see your best recipes! Join up below! (If you've never participated in a blog hop before, click here to see why you should.)




Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kasha with Noodles Recipe

Rice, rice, rice. Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. I have to admit, the starch options on a gluten free diet can get pretty boring after a bit... 
This is a yummy food that my parents used to make growing up- I'm European by decent, and this is a food that has been in our family for generations. With just a teeny bit of tweaking (exchanging regular noodles with gluten free noodles), this buckwheat groats based dish can very easily be made completely gluten free, so you can have something starchy other than rice and potatoes. And if you're not gluten free, this is still a yummy, healthy dish, and you can just make it with regular noodles. This dish "officially" is supposed to be made with bow tie noodles, but it really doesn't make a difference what shape the noodles are- I just use whatever I have available (only not spaghetti). 

You can serve this as is, as it is pretty flavorful, or as a base for different foods like ratatouille.
Aside for flavor and versatility (not to mention ease in making), another reason to serve this dish is that it is very nutritious- its a good source of protein (it's actually one of those rare vegan foods that are a complete protein), iron, fiber, magnesium, manganese, and copper among other things.
Best of all- you can either make this on the stove top or bake it in the oven, making it a perfect starch to serve now that I am going on my gas free cooking challenge!

Kasha with Noodles Recipe

Keeping Your Kids From Overloading on Sweets This Holiday Season

This is a guest post by Nancy Evans. She is freelance writer that specializes in health and business.


Keeping Your Kids From Overloading on Sweets This Holiday Season

Generally, I try to keep the sweets away from my kiddos. I don't like thinking of my children being addicted to sugar like so many others, and I also don't like the way they act after eating so much of it. However, during the holidays, basically from Halloween on, it is a little more difficult to keep my kids away from sweet. In addition to the massive amounts of candy they receive during Halloween, Thanksgiving marks the start of a month of holiday parties and baking extravaganzas that leave them with potential access to cookies, cakes, and even more candies.

Even worse, is that the advertising for such decadent items skyrockets during this time as well.

While researching wedding bands for men online (my husband recently lost his and I feel like an upgrade may make an excellent gift this holiday season), I came across numerous ads for other gifts. I expected to see the hottest gaming consoles and actions figures, but I never expected to see so many adds for sweet stocking stuffers and even for decadent holiday recipes.

It seems that everyone forgets that we have an obesity crisis in America, and that many don't even care that they are putting so much junk in their bodies. So how do you keep your kids from gorging on sweets during the holiday season even though they have access to them at school, friends' homes, and even your home? Monitoring may not be easy, but it can be done.

Pretend like it is Halloween Everyday

Unfortunately, because the sweets are so readily available during the holidays, you have to keep a tentative eye on your kiddos. Treat each day like Halloween, and monitor their sweet consumption. Only allow them to have holiday treat on special occasion, and don't ever let them binge.

Limit Sweets in Your Own Home

If you know that your kids will be getting sweets elsewhere, then don't keep a lot of treats around your own home. This will keep them from getting a double dose while they were out and then again at your home.

Don't Load their Stockings with Sweets

Allowing your kids to have sweets on special occasions is a good idea, but rewarding them with sweets isn't always good. Because Christmas gifts are commonly associated with being rewards for being good all year, you may want to skip out on loading down your kiddos stockings with sweets. Instead, just put a piece or two of their favorite candy in their stocking and fill the rest with fun little toys.

The holidays are full of good eats, but you don't want you or your kids overeating on junk food simply because they can. Instead, continue to monitor their diets to make sure they are getting balanced diets – not ones made up of 90 percent sugar. Sure an occasional treat is good, but an entire month full of them can create lasting bad habits and pounds that no one wants to carry around.

See my disclaimer here

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gizzard "Meatballs" Recipe

Chicken gizzard "meatballs" in tomato sauce.
 The flash made it look more orange than it
really was. It was a dark red, really.
Gizzards are pretty much the cheapest meat I can get locally. They also happen to be very, very nutritious, chock full of iron and other vitamins and minerals, being as they're organ meats. They're also quite delicious. Because of the price and the nutritional content, they make an amazing bargain,and since I am dairy free in addition to gluten free, I'm starting to rely on gizzards more and more in our diet.
I have to admit, I get bored of foods easily. I don't like endless repetition of the same few foods, so I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to mix things up a bit.
And that's where this recipe comes in.
Its meatballs.
Sort of.
Gizzard balls, really.
Organ balls.
Offal balls.
Fowl balls.
I'm having too much fun with this punning. :-D You get the gist.

Whatever you want to call it, they taste pretty much like meatballs, but are much cheaper, and can be used any way that you'd use regular meatballs. They hold together beautifully, just as would meatballs made from raw ground meat and eggs or fillers. If you want to eat organ meats but don't particularly enjoy their taste, this is a good way to disguise it enough to be able to eat it and get the nutrition they offer.

Gizzard "Meatballs" Recipe

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bulk Buying with No Extra Money

I remember, once upon a time, when I first heard of the concept of bulk buying. It was touted as being the cure all to people's grocery shopping woes, the way to be able to cut your food bills significantly. "Very nice", I'd say to myself, "but totally unrealistic. I am not making it through the month now, I haven't a penny to spare. How on earth am I supposed to be able to actually put this "amazing tip" to use? Bulk buying is obviously a frugal tip only for privileged people who aren't actually as tight on cash as I am."
For a while, I lay the thought of bulk buying to rest, figuring it wasn't something that was applicable to my life, but jealous of those that were able to do so...
Eventually, I did figure out how to start bulk buying, and being able to actually afford it, so that now our grocery bills are much less than they used to be, even though we're on a strict, more expensive, gluten free diet.

Have you wanted to start bulk buying but don't have the spare cash to actually be able to afford to do this money saving tip?
Here's some tips to get you started on bulk buying if you don't have extra cash floating around.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Living without Gas- A Challenge

Image: graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I have a reputation that precedes me. I mean, how can I not, being the person behind a blog such as this, where I talk about things like using reusable toilet paper (aka family cloth), or cooking in the sun, and have recipes for ingredients that others would throw in the garbage, like banana peels, on top of the more “normal” frugal things that I write about. In fact, turns out that my doula's daughter reads my blog and thinks I'm totally kooky! Don't worry, I'm not offended; I know I'm radical, and do nothing that I'm ashamed about. In fact, I take pride in knowing that I'm not afraid to think outside the box and be totally non conventional if its something that I think will help our family's finances and won't detract (too much) from our quality of life.
This post will probably just reinforce whatever opinion people have of me, whether it is that I'm out of my mind because of our extreme frugality, or that I'm really money smart (lol, take your pick which one I am), because its about a challenge I will be undertaking. No, I'm not going without a refrigerator (like I had been contemplating); its something a bit more “standard” and run of the mill; people in certain parts of the world actually live this way, like in China, or so I've heard. (Then again, those people rely heavily on takeout, something I don't do both for health reasons and frugal reasons.)

What is this challenge I plan on undertaking and why?

Well, in our home, we don't have a gas line bringing in a steady supply of gas like we did in our old apartment. Instead, we have gas “balloons”, tanks that are in our yard with a pipe leading up into the home, to which you can attach your gas stove. (Our home heating and hot water heating aren't run on gas.) When the tanks get finished, you call the gas company, which then comes and replaces the tank so you can have more gas. (People generally have 2 tanks, so that they only need to replace one at a time and never fully run out of gas.)
Well, replacing gas tanks here can be quite expensive. A large gas tank costs ~$125 dollars, and a small one costs less, but not significantly less.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop

Hearth & Soul Hop
Welcome to this week's edition of the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, where each week, cooks from around the globe share their most delicious, nourishing, and heart warming recipes. The cooking carnival where you come to share your best kept cooking secrets, those recipes with the magic ingredient in it called "Soul Spice"-  the made from scratch recipes that you make with love to feed your family, friends, and loved ones.

My co-hosts for the blog hop are:
Alea of Premeditated Leftovers,
April of The 21st Century Housewife,
Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen,
and
Melyinda of Mom's Sunday Cafe.

My favorite posts from last week are:
Cast Iron Corn Bread- I have a cast iron pot that I don't often use, but would like to more, especially since it infuses food with a lot of iron, something that I (and most women of childbearing age) tend to be low in (though haven't checked my iron levels in a while and I suspect its higher than usual). I would like to try this one out, especially since its just corn meal and doesn't have any gluten in it!
Creamy Tomato Coconut Soup- Tomatoes? Check. Broth? Check. Coconut? Check. Carrots? Check. All the yummiest ingredients mixed together to make a soup that looks filling, delicious, and quick to make! Can't wait to try this one out!



Hearth and Soul Mission

It’s about food from your hearth, made for your soul. Food that follows your intuition. Preparing food from scratch to nourish your family…body, mind AND soul! Food made with your own hands…infused with energy and passion and intent. Real food made by real people to feed real families (big and small, in blood or spirit). Ingredients from scratch, be it something grown in your garden or raised on your land…food foraged in the field or woods…food from local farms, farmers, or farmers markets…or even ingredients chosen by you from your local market that will be turned into something that feeds your soul. Tapping the food memory that each of us has stored inside; letting it guide and influence our own time in the kitchen.

We hope to embrace not only the “expected” areas of real food, but also those who want to incorporate healthier choices without sacrificing their love of food…how it tastes, the memories it conjures up, the comfort it brings. Yes, we’re trying to steer clear of packaged, processed, and boxed foods in favor of real foods….without absolutely excluding the sometimes frowned upon white sugar or flour (because the body craves what it craves…and sometimes things just don’t taste the same when you replace these). Making conscious choices and being present in the now with what your body needs…and taking steps towards exploring and enjoying healthier choices. If you take the time to listen, your body will tell you what it needs.

The warm comfort of the home hearth…stories, anecdotes, lessons, adventures, journeys, recipes, meals, beverages…we want to share the “why” of how food feeds more than just our bodies…how it also feeds our souls. After all, aren’t these the essential ingredients in defining real food? Please share links from your Hearth ‘n Soul with us each week.

Rules for linking:

Recipes should include healthy ingredients and can be old or new recipes or posts. Articles on real food, slow food, foraging, herbal remedies, local food, sustainable food, organics, gardening or any healthy eating information written in a positive and loving light are also welcome.

If you are new to a blog carnival, or blog hop, it is very easy to learn how to join in the fun! Simply go to the blog post for that carnival and scroll down to the bottom where you will see a small box that will say, You’re Next or Your link here. When you click on that link, you will be asked to enter the URL of your recipe or article.

Please link to your article only and not directly to your blog front page.

Place a link back to one of the blog hosts, which means adding in the URL of the blog hop post which you can copy from your browser address bar and insert at the bottom of your post. You could also choose to place a blog badge into your post.

Please link a post that closely fits into the mission. You don’t have to link up every week…link up when you can. We welcome posts that are shared in other events. If you have an older, archived post that you want to add, we welcome that…as long as you go in and add a link back to Hearth and Soul.

Please feel free to use and share the Hearth and Soul Hop badge listed below to promote the Blog Hop.

Hearth & Soul Hop
Lets see your best recipes! Join up below! (If you've never participated in a blog hop before, click here to see why you should.)


Monday, December 5, 2011

Book Review- Great Books! Botany in a Day and Shanleya's Quest

I love foraging. I love going outside, seeing all the greenery growing, learning what foods are edible, and then picking and feeding them to my family.

I've officially found one foraging book that covers local plants. All other foraging books I've seen cover plants in England or in different regions in North America, which doesn't really help me identify most plants that are local to me.
The one foraging book I have describes approximately 15 different local wild edibles, but that wasn't enough for me, because I know there's more than that available to spot, pick, and eat here.

My Foraging Issue
I wanted to be able to identify the different plants here, just by taking a look at them. I didn't want to try to find those 15 plants among all the others that grow here- I wanted to find out the names of all the plants that grow here, and from there, break them down into different categories- edible, medicinal, inedible, and poisonous, and to break down the edible category into edible and tasty and edible and icky tasting.
But I was finding it incredibly hard.

I'd see a plant, and then didn't even know where to start looking for information on how to identify it!

What I'd be do was take walks with the kids, snap photographs of every plant I came across that I didn't recognize, post them on facebook, and hope that someone among my foraging and plant loving friends would be able to identify them.
It worked.
Sometimes.
But not for many other plants.
And it was dreadfully annoying!
I wanted to be able to figure out on my own what these plants were, and not just be told by someone who recognized it.
But unless I wanted to flip through my 500 page tome of local plants that I got from my mom, to try to spot a match in a book with only drawings but no photographs, making it harder to identify just based on that, I had no way of knowing even where to start identifying these plants.
Quite frustrating for a wannabe forager.

And then I got an email from a man named Thomas Elpel, who wanted me to review two of the books that he wrote.
What were his books called? "Botany in a Day" and "Shanleya's Quest".
"Botany in a Day" is a book that helps you learn to identify most plants out there, without having to study every single one individually. How's this? The book breaks the various plants out there into different families and helps you learn how to identify plants based on the patterns found in each family. "Shanleya's Quest" is a children's book designed to help kids learn the same basic ideas.

I gladly agreed to review these books and was excited to receive my free copies in the mail!

So, what did I think of the books?

"Botany in a Day" Review
Well, "Botany in a Day" was the solution to my foraging/plant identification issue.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Moroccan Rice or Millet Butternut Squash Pilaf Recipe

There's dried cherries in there as well. I don't know
why you can't see them in this picture, but they're there!
I made a really yummy dish for supper last night, one that my husband and kids and I all really loved. It got rave reviews, with every family member asking me to please make it again. I can't take all the credit for myself- this recipe uses things that I never would think to pair up myself, but the flavor combination is an absolute hit.
This is based on the Moroccan Millet Butternut Squash Pilaf from Diet Dessert and Dogs, but of course, in my usual style, I changed it around a bit to suit our needs and what we had available (and to make it a tad more cheap).
This recipe calls for millet. The first time I made it, I made it with millet, and it was great. Yesterday, when I tried to make it with millet, for some reason, my millet didn't cook evenly and I had some uncooked millet and some overcooked, waterlogged porridge like millet in the same pot. If you know how to cook millet properly, then make this recipe with millet. Otherwise, make it with white rice or brown rice, and I guarantee, it'll still taste as delicious!
According to Ricki (from Diet, Dessert, and Dogs), if you don't have butternut squash you can make this with any other winter squash or sweet potatoes. I haven't tried it that way, but I'm sure it would also be awesome with roasted carrots as well, as they've all got a similar taste to them.

Moroccan Rice (or Millet) Butternut Squash Pilaf Recipe

Friday, December 2, 2011

Homemade Rice-a-Roni Recipe or Rice with Vermicelli

Rice-a-Roni, apparently, is a boxed mix of rice and noodles that is sold in the grocery stores. We never bought Rice-a-Roni brand, but we did occasionally indulge in a "Rice and Vermicelli" box mix from another company, and it was always so yummy and delicious.
This is a recipe for your own homemade Rice-a-Roni, or Rice with Vermicelli, that is "just a tad" healthier than the boxed variety, as well as cheaper. You can easily make this gluten free as well, so its pretty allergy friendly, fortunately.
I don't make this very often, but it is a nice change from "boring" rice or noodles.
It's not ultra packed with flavor- I like it as is, but the flavor is more subtle. My husband likes smothering it in ketchup (but then again, he likes to do that with almost every food). If you want to up the spices in it, feel free.
I made a bunch of this and froze it for after birth.

Homemade Rice-a-Roni Recipe

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Homemade, No Fail, Beautiful Bread

I've been a foodie since... oh, uhm, just about always. Ever since I was a little girl, I enjoyed helping my mother out in the kitchen, taste testing her food, and adjusting the seasonings. In fact, I was the official "soup seasoner" practically every single time my mother would make soup because she knew I loved to do it, and knew that I'd season it well.
Part of my food love, not only is eating and making yummy food, but also serving delicious food to others and watching the edges of their lips curl up in satisfaction. And when a food was a hit and a recipe was requested, I always was so happy to comply and share the wealth, the knowledge of how to make that delicious food. I'm not like some chefs who like to have "secret recipes" that only they know how to make. In my opinion, the more people spread around a recipe of mine, the more people cooking "my foods", the more pleased I am. Imitation really is the best form of flattery.

Even before I had my blog, I was sharing recipes with friends, and there is one recipe of mine that is the most famous, that probably has been made the most times by the most people; even strangers message me about my recipe, asking for clarifications and then telling me what a hit it was with their family. I figured, its no fair that the whole wide world knows my recipe except the people who read my blog, so I decided to share it with you.
However, I do need to point out that I wouldn't exactly call this the healthiest recipe, as it is made with white sugar and white flour, but at least its free of all the chemicals and additives found in commercially purchased loaves of bread, and I do know that not everyone that reads my blog avoids specific ingredients, so this recipe is for you, if you're not into "ultra healthy sugar free, whole grain, gluten free eating".

This is the recipe for my no fail bread. I used to never be able to make bread, to the extent that I still have the bread knife that broke one time when my husband tried to cut a loaf that I made... This recipe truly is no fail, provided that you follow the recipe and instructions to a T. If you've been scared off from trying to make bread, either because it looks too intimidating, or because you've failed too many times in the past, here's one that you should give a try.

No Fail Beautiful Bread

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