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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Honey Kettle Corn Recipe- Refined Sugar Free

I love popcorn. Its a great frugal healthy snack. One thing I love about popcorn is it is so quick and easy to make, is very filling, and just a few unpopped kernels makes a large amount of popcorn, so storing it doesn't take up a lot of room. If you're currently using microwave popcorn, make your own- its very easy, much cheaper, and much healthier.
While plain salted popcorn is nice, sometimes you want something sweet to nosh on. I learned how to make kettle corn, a non dairy alternative to caramel popcorn, a few years ago already, but now we're striving to make our home refined sugar free, making kettle corn a no go. Fortunately, I've figured out how to make kettle corn with honey, so that you get the same treat, only healthier! This has been a big hit with my family and friends.

Honey Kettle Corn Recipe- Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free, Easy

Friday, June 29, 2012

Chilled Carrot and Orange Soup Recipe

Its been really hot where I live lately, and when its hot, there usually is one pervading theme in how I live my life- how can I cool down most? This attempt to cool down affects what I do, where I go, and what I drink, and especially what I eat. There are some people who are happy eating hearty stews and hot soups on those torrid summer nights, but I? No way. I want soup, yes, but I want chilled soups. So refreshing when it's hot outside!
The other day I was looking for some chilled soup ideas, had a bunch of carrots in the fridge that I got in an amazing sale- for only 3 cents a pound! and found this recipe. I played around with the recipe until I got something easier to make, and used the ingredients I had in my house. The end result was so amazing that I've made it 4 times since then. I not only serve this as an appetizer for meals, I also sometimes just drink it straight from a glass. It certainly hits the spot!
For those of you who aren't cumin fans, I recommend you try this one out anyhow as the cumin is barely noticeable in the recipe.

Chilled Carrot and Orange Soup Recipe

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How To Season and Care For Cast Iron Cookware

Yesterday I wrote a post about cast iron pots, discussing the health repercussions of using Teflon cookware, and why cast iron cookware is a good investment. I included in it some of the benefits of cast iron, such as its versatility, durability, health benefits, and also the fact that you can make cast iron pots non stick, so they work just as well as Teflon, only without the health issues.

Making your cast iron become non stick is called "seasoning". Cast iron pans are porous; seasoning fills in the little holes with oil, so that the metal becomes non stick and food doesn't stick to it. Some cast iron cookware come pre-seasoned, but most don't, and even if it comes pre-seasoned, you have to care for cast iron cookware properly so the seasoning "sticks". Improper care of cast iron pots and pans will cause them to lose their seasoning, become non non-stick, and potentially rust and fall apart. Properly cared for, though, they get better and better and more non stick with each use, and will last well enough that you can pass them on to your grandchildren.

How to Season and Care For Cast Iron Cookware

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Some Healthy Brown Rice Recipes

Thai Vegetable Curry with Brown Rice
This is a guest post by Nancy Evans, a freelance writer who enjoys writing about frugality, food, and health. These recipes are simple and pretty healthy, and all gluten free (if you use gluten free soy sauce) and vegetarian. If I would make them, I'd probably sprout the brown rice first to make it more digestible. I'd also probably use homemade lentil soup instead of canned, and green beans instead of edamame.

Brown rice is a traditional whole-grain food that is naturally high in protein and nutrients. Brown rice has a mild flavor and is slightly chewy when cooked. It can be easily seasoned and spiced. It works well as a main dish with vegetables. There is so much that can be done with brown rice. It would be almost impossible to get bored of this wonder food that is packed with so much nutritional benefit.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cast Iron Cookware- Why Use It?

Growing up, all the pots and pans in our house were either stainless steel, aluminum, or teflon. I don't think I was even aware that cast iron existed. I was perfectly content using teflon for most of my cooking and baking needs... That is, until my bird died.

Teflon Dangers
A few years ago, I purchased a loaf pan for making bread. It was teflon coated. I remembered that as a kid, my mother would roast eggplant for her eggplant salad by putting it in a loaf pan directly on the stove top, charring the eggplant that way. I learned the hard way that putting a loaf pan with teflon directly onto a fire was a terrible idea by the noxious fumes that emerged from my kitchen. A few hours later, we noticed that our little blue budgy, Buddy, was dead.

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop


Hearth & Soul Hop

Welcome back to yet another edition of the Hearth and Soul blog hop.
This is where you get the chance each week to share your favorite food related posts with the other visitors to the hop, and you get to check out theirs as well. The Hearth and Soul Hop is about food that not only nourishes our body, but also nourishes our souls.

Here's a recap of some of the rules for participating:


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.
As much as many of us are interested in frugality and green/natural living, this is a food blog hop; there are many other blog hops where you can share those posts of yours. Please keep your non food related blog posts off the hop.

All the hosts at Hearth and Soul care very deeply about this blog hop, and make an group effort to be sure that every post is commented on. We also Pin and Tweet many of the entries. You don’t find this with every blog hop, and in exchange for our efforts, we respectfully request that you include a link in the actual blog post you are sharing back to one of the hosts, either by worded link or using our badge. It is not enough to link using a communal blog party page. People rarely click on these links and it is unlikely they will find the Hearth and Soul hop using these sort of pages.

Overnight Trip Alone with Three Kids

A view this morning on our trip
A good friend of mine who live hours away from me reached an important milestone in her life and was throwing a party in honor of it. I wanted to be there to celebrate with her, wanted to make the long bus trip to join her in this momentous occasion.
My husband, Mike, hates traveling, especially far- he's the stay at home type of guy- so I knew making the trip would be too stressful for him. I knew that if I wanted to go, it would be me, 4.5 year old Lee, 2.5 year old Ike, and 6 month old Anneilese traveling alone, by bus, for almost 5 hours each way.
I'm adventurous and all, but there's no way on earth I would plan on traveling 10 hours in one day with kids; if I'd go, it would mean an overnight trip. Using my networking skills (Facebook to the rescue!) I found a place to stay overnight with my kids at the neighbor of a friend of mine. When people saw that I was asking on Facebook, some thought that there'd be no chance of my finding a place to stay without paying for a guest house or a hotel room, as I was going to a prime touristy area. Fortunately there are some really wonderful and generous hearted people out there who opened their home to me and my kids and gave us a place to stay, which was great, because if going away would have entailed paying for lodging on top of paying the bus fare, the trip never would have happened. (In case you were wondering if I "paid" anything for my lodging, I heard that our hostess had a bunch of kids, so I picked up a cheaper fun multi-age toy from a toy store before I went.)

When people heard about my trip, when they saw me embarking on our journey without an adult's company and with three young children, they thought I was CRAZY that I was even considering it, let alone actually doing it. I didn't think I was crazy. In fact, we had a really wonderful, stress free time, and still kept it pretty frugal.
Of course, part of what made my trip doable is my kids' temperament, but I decided to share the things I did, the measures I took, to make the trip run as smoothly and as stress free as possible.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Russian Carrot Salad

Next door to my house there's an apartment available for short term rental. Our family has hit it off very well with our temporary next door neighbors. The mom is a wonderful Russian woman named Bianca; she and I have much in common, many of the same interests, such as frugality, thrifting, DIYing. Often you'll find me outside Bianca's door schmoozing with her as late as midnight! (Yes, we're both night owls.)
One thing Bianca and I share a love for is cooking, melt in your mouth delicious cooking. Nearly every day, it seems, we send over some food that we made for the other to enjoy, sharing our dishes, but more importantly, our recipes. Bianca cooks a lot with dill, an herb that I don't usually use so frequently; her food tastes so delicious with all that dill that she's inspired me to start cooking more with that dill. I think I've fallen in love.

This recipe is for a carrot salad that Bianca taught me how to make. It's so rich in flavor, so scrumptious, despite having only a few simple ingredients. The biggest problem with this recipe is I find it doesn't make enough- I don't want to have to share, it's that good! I strongly suggest doubling, or even tripling this recipe.

Russian Carrot Salad

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Clothes Shopping- A True Story

My mom is a great woman, with a lot of terrific values that she passed on to us kids. One thing my mom feels strongly about is that materialism is really bad, both for individuals, and for society, and, because of that value of hers, tried to discourage us from chasing after materialistic pursuits. Stylish clothing, my mom feels, is materialistic; clothes should be functional and decent looking, but keeping up with the latest trends is silly, a waste of money, and misplaced values. (I do agree with her that a focus on materialism is bad- kind of obvious from my blog- but don't agree with her that keeping up to date with clothing choices is a bad idea.)

As a result of her values, when I was a kid, and my mom went clothes shopping for myself and my sister, she'd often pick out clothes that were (to put it lightly) not exactly in fashion. When Violet and I got old enough to start realizing this, we asked our mother to take us shopping so we could pick out “normal” clothes, so she started taking us with her to the thrift store, where we'd sort through the racks, trying to come up with something name brand to buy.

Occasionally, we'd be able to convince mom to take us to a “real store”, something other than a thrift store, so we could buy new clothes, which would mean the inevitable trip to Walmart's clothing department; meanwhile, what my sister and I really wanted was to go to the mall like our classmates, window shop, and pick up “cool” and “in fashion” clothes from stores like Banana Republic, Aeropostale, and The Gap. My baby Anneliese is named after my grandmother; some of my fond memories with that grandmother include those jaunts we took together to the mall where we'd load up the cart with nice, stylish, “cool” clothes.

When I started babysitting and doing other odd jobs to make some cash, I started making trips to the mall, where I would typically check out Old Navy, because I knew I could find exclusive deals and discounts there, especially on the clearance racks; sometimes, I'd be able to find clothes there that was even cheaper than Walmart, but much trendier.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ethics of Sale Buying- Ask the Reader

My freezer after my shop today. Entire top shelf all bought today.
Last week, my friend alerted me via Facebook about an ultra amazing sale going on in a large chain supermarket (supermarket A) somewhat near my house, thinking that I'd like to take advantage of it.
On Thursday, I went with my friends to the store (we split the cost of gas to make it more affordable) and I picked up over 50 pounds of meat and over 50 pounds of produce at rock bottom prices! Whole chickens were 20 cents a pound, chicken breasts were $1.10 a pound, chicken wings were approximately 30 cents a pound, and the veggies ranged in price from 3 to 11 cents a pound for onions, lemons, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon. Yes, I know, those prices are simply unbelievable- they were FREE, practically.

After hearing about the sale, one facebook friend of mine shared a news article that supermarket A has stated that its goal is to knock supermarket B, the supermarket I usually shop at, out of the market, and is therefore engaging in some really, really heavy price wars.
Of course, a huge facebook debate ensued.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How to survive a recession: A guide for parents

This is a guest post.

It looks as though the economic hard times are going to be with us for a while yet. Jobs are becoming harder to come by, and even families with a regular income have found themselves squeezed by rising prices and stagnant wages. However, if you take the necessary steps, then you can help to shield your family finances from the worst effects of the recession. One positive step that you can take is to get a free credit report from creditexpert.co.uk. This enables you to identify and repair any problems with your credit record, so that if you need to take out a loan at any point, you will be more likely to get approved.

Image:FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As well as ensuring that your credit rating is as good as possible, it can also pay to build up some savings to cover expenses during periods of unemployment. As a rule of thumb, you should have at least enough to cover your basic living expenses such as rent, bills, and food for three months saved up, and preferably more.
In order to build up savings, you may need to cut some costs. Go through all your monthly outgoings, and try to assess where you can save money on each one. For example, you may be able to save money on your insurance by switching suppliers, or save on your mobile phone bill by changing to a different tariff. Cutting back on luxuries such as foreign holidays and takeaways can also make a dramatic difference to your budget.

It’s very important to ensure that you avoid any late payment charges, as this can affect your credit rating as well as costing you money. Staying out of debt will help greatly in this regard, but this is not always possible. However, if you are in debt, your highest priority should be to clear it as soon as possible, as interest payments can be a significant drag on your family finances. Setting a budget is crucial in this regard. You can do this with a number of helpful online tools, such as this budget planner from the Guardian.

See my disclaimer

Hearth and Soul Blop Hop


Hearth & Soul Hop

Welcome back to yet another edition of the Hearth and Soul blog hop. Today is the 2 year anniversary of the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop! Head over to Premeditated Leftovers for a great giveaway in honor of this occasion!

This is where you get the chance each week to share your favorite food related posts with the other visitors to the hop, and you get to check out theirs as well. The Hearth and Soul Hop is about food that not only nourishes our body, but also nourishes our souls.

Here's a recap of some of the rules for participating:


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.
As much as many of us are interested in frugality and green/natural living, this is a food blog hop; there are many other blog hops where you can share those posts of yours. Please keep your non food related blog posts off the hop.

All the hosts at Hearth and Soul care very deeply about this blog hop, and make an group effort to be sure that every post is commented on. We also Pin and Tweet many of the entries. You don’t find this with every blog hop, and in exchange for our efforts, we respectfully request that you include a link in the actual blog post you are sharing back to one of the hosts, either by worded link or using our badge. It is not enough to link using a communal blog party page. People rarely click on these links and it is unlikely they will find the Hearth and Soul hop using these sort of pages.

What Do I Mean By Sugar Free?

In many posts, I've written that a certain recipe is sugar free, and then people telling me "No, it isn't- it has honey, and honey is sugar." Or "Diabetics can't have fruit juice, fruit juice is sugar, why are you saying that it's sugar free?"
After repeatedly answering this question, I figured I'd write a post on this topic, and then pin it, so that hopefully, next time I mention cutting sugar out of our diet, people know what I'm really referring to.

What do I mean by sugar free?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Armenian Stuffed Grape Leaves Recipe- Frugal, Vegan- Foraged Food

When I was a little kid, my parents hired a group of Amish carpenters to redo our kitchen, and another project they did while on the job was build us a wooden grape arbor.
From this grape arbor, we had swings hanging, a tire swing, and a hammock. The grape arbor was fun to climb on, and the really daring used it as monkey bars. We built a club house attached to the grape arbor. The grape arbor was useful for a great many things, but the one thing it never was successful at was growing grapes...
Our grape vines grew widely over the grape arbor, but we never got grapes from the vine, despite me or a sibling of mine unrolling bird netting over the arbor every year to attempt to protect the fledgling grapes from the birds...
The one thing our grape vine actually did provide us with was grape leaves. Every year, my siblings and I would pick a whole bunch of grape leaves, which my mom would then stuff with us. My mom's recipe for grape leaves is from an Armenian cookbook (whose name I don't know, or I would credit it), and unlike the more famous stuffed grape leaves, don't contain either meat or pine nuts, which makes them much cheaper than the standard ones.

Now I no longer have a grape vine in my backyard, but I go foraging and pick grape leaves from some communal grape vines in my community, which I then stuff using my mom's recipe. Grapes vines are one of those foods that even the novice foragers should be able to forage, as the woody stem, 5 pointed veined leaves, tendrils, and grapes make them hard to mistaken for something else. Not only can you forage typical grapes, but there also are wild grapes that you can forage in certain parts of the world. Here are a few different pages about different types of wild grapes that you can forage, though I have to admit that I've never used truly wild varieties for stuffing, only cultivated grape leaves. However the leaves of the wild variety are also edible, and I suspect they would work the same as the cultivated variety.

Why forage grape leaves?

Well, firstly, because they're free. As are all foraged food.

Secondly, because they're just yummy. Grape leaves have a lemony taste to them that is pleasant when mixed with other flavors, like as one of many types of greens in a salad.

Thirdly, because they're pretty darn nutritious. Vitamins C, E, A, K and B6, niacin, iron, fiber, riboflavin, folate, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese are just some of the many nutrients they contain.

Fourthly, because then you can make this fancy looking dish and pay nearly nothing, having cheapo fancy food.

And guess what? Many, many people I know have access to fresh grapes from a grape vine, either their own vine or a neighbors' vine (picked with permission, of course), but for those of you who don't, you can buy jarred grape leaves in the grocery store to use to make these stuffed grape leaves. So this recipe isn't just for the foragers among us, though we foragers can make it more cheaply.

Here's how you can make really delicious stuffed grape leaves pretty cheaply. Fancy and cheapskate- you know that's something I love!

Homemade Vegan Stuffed Grape Leaves

Friday, June 15, 2012

Homemade Jello Recipe- Chemical Free, with Sugar Free Option

In school growing up, we used to get jello often. Little stryrofoam cups filled with bright red wobbly yumminess. We'd have such fun playing with our jello, using straws to make little jello snakes, etc... I think most kids like jello. There's just something about it that makes you want to eat it.
In retrospect though, that jello is kind of gross to think about, so many chemicals in it to make it be the way it was, artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, and who knows which other preservatives and stabilizers and other chemicals I don't even want to know about...

Lately, its been really, really hot where I live. Like "I feel I'm about to start melting" hot. As in well over 100 every day for at least a week. Oh, and we have no air conditioning. (Though my husband purchased an extra powerful fan that works well enough that I don't miss air conditioning. Too much anyhow.)
So I've been craving those chilled treats, little jello cups, those oh so refreshing wobbly bits in a bowl.

Here's how you can make your own jello. You can either make it completely refined sugar free, or, if you don't mind the sugar, here's how you can make it cheaper, but still without the chemicals:

Homemade Jello Recipe- Chemical Free, with Sugar Free Option 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Poached Peaches Recipe

This is a guest post from a reader named Sophie. A world traveller, Sophie has made it her mission to live the frugal life. Her challenge has been living the frugal whilst travelling. And so, she's been freelancing about her frugal living food adventures all throughout the world.



Peaches are a great snack to keep in your fruit basket but they get bruised and have a pretty limited amount of countertop time. In general food practices like eating fresh fruit are delicious and healthy but require constant time and cash consuming upkeep in the form on constant grocery store upkeep. I prefer to strike when the iron is hot price wise and hoard non-perishables for a little self-sufficiency and of course, self-efficiency!
So what’s a good compromise with peaches?
Preserves, my friends. Poached peaches make a delicious dessert on their own or with a pastry, and you can always add a little something extra during the poaching process for a little extra flavor. Here’s a great recipe for making your own poached peaches.

Homemade Free Checkers Set- Tutorial

My son, Lee, plays a mean game of checkers. The two games I played with him this week, the first two games of checkers I ever played with him, he beat me fair and square. (Ok, I pointed out a few times that he could jump me...) The practice he had playing at Grandma's house apparently paid off. Until earlier this week, I'd never played with him, because we had no checkers set at home.
 Last week, as I went for a walk with my kids to the park, I kept an eye out on the ground for bottle caps to use for a certain project I was planning on doing. Fortunately, or rather, unfortunately, because there were so many bottle caps littered on the ground, on just that one trip we were able to collect way more caps than we needed for the project, so I tried to think of something else to do with them.



All those caps lying there inspired me to make a checkers set.
Total cost? Negligible- only for the ink used from the marker, and a bit of tape.
In my mind, the set looks quite nice, is user friendly, and also is environmentally and budget friendly, because not only did I not pay for any of materials, I dumpster dove and removed some of the litter from my neighborhood in order to make this.

How to Make Your Own Free Homemade Checkers Set-

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop


Hearth & Soul Hop

Welcome back to yet another edition of the Hearth and Soul blog hop. Today is the 2 year anniversary of the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop! Head over to Premeditated Leftovers for a great giveaway in honor of this occasion!

This is where you get the chance each week to share your favorite food related posts with the other visitors to the hop, and you get to check out theirs as well. The Hearth and Soul Hop is about food that not only nourishes our body, but also nourishes our souls.

Here's a recap of some of the rules for participating:


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.
As much as many of us are interested in frugality and green/natural living, this is a food blog hop; there are many other blog hops where you can share those posts of yours. Please keep your non food related blog posts off the hop.

All the hosts at Hearth and Soul care very deeply about this blog hop, and make an group effort to be sure that every post is commented on. We also Pin and Tweet many of the entries. You don’t find this with every blog hop, and in exchange for our efforts, we respectfully request that you include a link in the actual blog post you are sharing back to one of the hosts, either by worded link or using our badge. It is not enough to link using a communal blog party page. People rarely click on these links and it is unlikely they will find the Hearth and Soul hop using these sort of pages.

Monday, June 11, 2012

How to Make a BBQ- No Coals, No Lighter Fluid, No Cost

I like playing with fire. Always have, probably always will. And fortunately, I'm good at it. A few months ago, our family had a BBQ with some friends. I left my husband with the grill and the charcoal to start the fire, then went to socialize. About half an hour later, I came back to see what was doing with the fire, and lo and behold, there was no fire... My husband wasn't having much success lighting it.
We ended up borrowing a few "self lighting" coals from someone else, and he still wasn't having much luck.
Eventually, I asked him if I could take over, and after a bit of futzing around, I got the fire lit. But it wasn't so easy, because coals don't catch on fire easily, even the "self lighting" coals that we borrowed weren't catching on fire easily. 

Yesterday, spur of the moment, we decided to have a barbecue with some friends. After my last experience using coals, I didn't particularly want to use coals- they make the barbecue more expensive, they are harder to use, in my opinion, and they're missing all the fun of a true barbecue... On top of that, coals soaked with lighter fluid have chemicals in them that I'd rather not go into my food.
I'd rather make my BBQ with wood I gather myself than with store bought charcoal.

I made my barbecue yesterday using only found wood, and while set up took a bit longer than setting up a charcoal grill, once I struck the flame, the whole thing was in flames within a few seconds, much, much, much faster and easier than trying to get a stubborn charcoal barbecue lit...

My husband, having gone camping plenty of times before, and having made lots of bonfires in his life... looked quite skeptically at me when I told him what I was planning on doing, but after seeing how quickly it lit up, admitted that my method was cool and worked very well...
So I figured, maybe not everyone knows this method of lighting fires without lighter fluid or charcoal, why not share it? You can use it just to make a bonfire, or you can use it to make a cooking fire, as we did yesterday.

Credit goes partially to my mother, for teaching me how to make fires when we used to go on our yearly camping trips.

How to Build a Perfect Fire Without Lighter Fluid

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Homemade Ground Vanilla Recipe

In my house, we don't use artificial colorings and flavorings if we can help it. That makes standard vanilla extract out of the picture around here, as the local vanilla extract is really artificially flavored vanillin with artificial caramel coloring, among others.

But we do like our vanilla in this house. So I tried making vanilla extract- stuck a whole bunch of vanilla beans in some vodka for a few months (and by now, they've been sitting there for over a year), and all I ended up with was some strong vanilla flavored vodka. In order to actually get enough vanilla flavor into our food with that, I need to use so much that the food ends up being mildly alcoholic, which is especially a problem if you're not cooking the food with the vanilla in it. (Maybe this method of making vanilla extract will work for you the way it works for so many others- for some reason though, it does not work for me.)

I've made vanilla sugar in the past and it works phenomenally well; it has been my standard "go-to" vanilla when I want vanilla flavoring, but we've all but cut out sugar in our diet, so I don't want to keep on relying on vanilla sugar to impart vanilla flavor into my food. 
(I recently ordered coconut sugar with my vitacost reward points- I only needed to pay for shipping- and I want to try making vanilla coconut sugar with that.)

Last time I was in the health food store, I saw a little container of ground vanilla being sold for an insanely expensive amount of money for a teeny tiny little container. That same health food store also sells vanilla beans for a fraction of the cost of the ground vanilla; I told the proprieter of the store that I plan on making my own ground vanilla, that it was incredibly easy, and wasn't worth paying so much money to get something that I could easily make myself for a fraction of the cost. (He and I joke around- he knows about my site and reads it sometimes.) 

Friday, June 8, 2012

German Apricot Cake Recipe- Gluten Free and Regular Aprikosenkuchen

When my neighbor invited me to pick apricots from her trees, and I ended up with 43 pounds of apricots, I had fully intended to can them in syrup, but canning takes a while, and I've had a lot on my plate lately, so canning hasn't been top on my list of priorities. At the same time, I don't want those apricots to go to waste, so I'm coming up with as many apricot based recipes as I can to use those fruit. Here's a recipe I made, based on a recipe for Aprikosenkuchen, German apricot cake. You can make this either gluten free or regular. If you don't have fresh apricots, you can use canned apricots, or peaches or nectarines or plums or tart apples for this recipe. This makes 2 9 x13 pans of cake; halve the recipe if you only want one.

Gluten Free and Regular German Apricot Cake Recipe


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Upcycled Crocheted Backpack Made From Old Socks- Tutorial

I love seeing upcycled projects. Taking things that would otherwise enter landfills and instead, turning them into something nice and new is a hobby of mine.
But I have an issue with a vast majority of the upcycled crafts I see- the end result generally is not things you need. While the projects generally result in a much nicer finished product than the garbage or junk you started out with, often they're things with no practical use, like decorations, or are nice things that you would just make do without if you hadn't done the upcycling, like upcycled jewelry or tchotchkes. Yes, they're nice, but can you actually say honestly that you saved money by making them? Not really- typically it's just that you didn't spend any money on them and you got something nice. That you could have managed without.
Other times, upcycling projects take something usable, and spending only a small amount on materials, make something much nicer than the original. While nicer is good, I often wonder how much people are spending money on their upcycled projects that they wouldn't have spent had they not found something to upcycle...

So, I always was on the lookout for ideas to upcycle something useful, that I needed, and that didn't require any monetary outlay, so that the project would be a true money saver.
I needed a backpack because my old one ripped, but didn't feel like spending the money on a new one. I had the idea to crochet one out of plarn, but started and stopped the project a few times in the middle.
 for various reasons... But I still wanted that backpack!

Ever since we've been married, a point of contention between Mike and myself has been the issue of footware in the house, or lack thereof. I prefer to walk around barefoot or in socks; Mike claims it dirties your feet and ruins your socks; I claim that its bad for your feet to be covered all the time. We still haven't decided one and for all what the proper thing to do is, but one thing Mike is certainly correct about is the ruined socks...
I go through my socks very, very quickly, constantly getting holes in them. I tried fixing them, but they just become unomfortable when I do so; I've accumulated a large amount of unwearable socks.


One day I was staring at these socks, trying to think of something more useful to do with them than just making them into rags (there's only so many rags a person needs in a lifetime!) when it hit me- why not turn these socks into yarn, the same way you can turn bags into plarn and t-shirts into tarn?
I decided that I would crochet myself a backpack from this sock yarn.
What I made isn't a masterpiece. (I'm not the best crocheter out there.) The socks vary in color and thickness and texture, making the backpack a little less uniform, and I'm sure the design can be tweaked somewhat to perfect it more, but at the same time, I'm proud of my creation. It's better than the ripped backpack I had until now, and I feel great about having turned my trash into treasure.

Here's how I made my crocheted backpack, using nothing but a crochet hook, some scissors, a whole bunch of old socks, a crocheted flower button (made from trash), and a bit of imagination. (Ok, ok, moment of truth here- I ran out of black socks, so I ended up using an old black t-shirt made into tarn for the straps, and a blue t-shirt for the drawstring. But you definitely can make the whole thing out of socks- 95% of this bag is made out of socks.)
Note- this takes a LOT of socks. Most likely you won't have enough. Ask around; ask your friends for their old holey socks for a project you're doing. Or if not, make yours out of t-shirt yarn.
Total cost of the project: 50 cents for the t-shirt I got from the thrift store for this. If I was patient enough, I probably could have dumpster dove a t-shirt and made this all free.
Functionality/usefulness of the project? Very!
P.S. This only works with thicker socks, not with nylon stockings or tights.

How to Crochet a Backpack From Old Socks

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How To Crochet A Flower Button Out Of Garbage- Tutorial

I've been working on this really cool project for a while, made entirely out of scrap material, but still very useful. I'll be sharing the tutorial for that project tomorrow, but in the meantime, I wanted to share with you a flower shaped button that I made for that project, entirely out of garbage. I had wanted to crochet a button that looked like a flower, but my searches on the internet weren't being too helpful- all the hits I got were either how to crochet to cover an existing button, or to make a flower and tack a button on as the centerpiece. Neither of those were what I wanted- I wanted an actual button made in the shape of a flower, and I wanted to make it entirely out of scraps.
And I did. I think it's mighty cute. This flower at the right was made out of a plastic bottle cap and yarn made out of old t-shirt material. Total cost- free!
I think it's pretty cutesy, and best of all, it's free! I will show you tomorrow the project I made with this, but other uses I can think of for this would be decoration for a headband, a barrette, or as the buttons for a funky shirt.
Best of all- it took me less than half an hour start to finish, and probably would have been quicker if I was able to do the crocheting part without holding a kid (or two) on my lap.

Upcycled Crocheted Flower Button Tutorial

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop


Hearth & Soul Hop

Welcome back to yet another edition of the Hearth and Soul blog hop. Today is the 2 year anniversary of the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop! Head over to Premeditated Leftovers for a giveaway in honor of this occasion! Next week is the 2 year anniversary of the blog hop. Silly me.

This is where you get the chance each week to share your favorite food related posts with the other visitors to the hop, and you get to check out theirs as well. The Hearth and Soul Hop is about food that not only nourishes our body, but also nourishes our souls.

Here's a recap of some of the rules for participating:


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.
As much as many of us are interested in frugality and green/natural living, this is a food blog hop; there are many other blog hops where you can share those posts of yours. Please keep your non food related blog posts off the hop.

All the hosts at Hearth and Soul care very deeply about this blog hop, and make an group effort to be sure that every post is commented on. We also Pin and Tweet many of the entries. You don’t find this with every blog hop, and in exchange for our efforts, we respectfully request that you include a link in the actual blog post you are sharing back to one of the hosts, either by worded link or using our badge. It is not enough to link using a communal blog party page. People rarely click on these links and it is unlikely they will find the Hearth and Soul hop using these sort of pages.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Homemade Fruit Leather Recipe

A little bit ago, I was walking back from a friend's house with my kids when a neighbor called out to me, "Hey, Penny, you want to bring over your kids and pick some apricots from my tree? I have a ton over here, much more than we can use; they'll all spoil if people don't pick them now. And let your friends know as well that they're invited to come pick apricots too!"
You know me. Of course I agreed! 
I went over and picked a huge shopping bag filled with apricots with my kids. The next day, I came back and picked 4 more shopping bag. For a total of 43 pounds of apricots!


What am I going to do with all those apricots, you may be wondering...
Well, much of it, we're just eating plain, snacking on. Some I will be canning in syrup. Some making into apricot chutney...
But some of the apricots look a little icky.


Like these ones that were pecked at by birds.
You know what I do with those?
No, not throw them out. Because other than those pecked areas, they're totally fine.

I just cut out the icky parts, and make apricot leather with the rest! Such a delicious snack, and free from the artificial food colorings, added sugar, and preservatives found in store bought fruit leather. (Our local apricot fruit leather is made with sunset yellow! Can you believe it???)

Here's how you can make your own fruit leather out of less than perfect fruit, whether apples, pears, peaches, strawberries, bananas, plums, cherries, raspberries, melon or really any fruit. Of course you can also make it with the perfect fruit as well, but I prefer to save those to eat them straight.
And no, you don't need a dehydrator to make this. Though I have my own homemade dehydrator, I make these in the oven because I find it works better because I don't have any silicon dehydrator sheets like come with the standard dehydrator. Feel free to use your dehydrator if you have one.

Homemade Fruit Leather Recipe

Friday, June 1, 2012

Homemade Gnocchi- Gluten Free and Regular

Homemade gnocchi with dairy free cream sauce
I like noodles, but store bought gluten free noodles are expensive, and homemade noodles, while delicious and cheaper, can be a decent amount of work to roll out with a rolling pin and then come to shape. I use rice in place of noodles in many of my recipes, but sometimes I want to spice things up a drop.
Enter gnocchi.

Gnocchi are pretty much a cross between dumplings and noodles, that are typically eaten with pasta type sauces. There are all different types of gnocchi, from cheese gnocchi to wheat gnocchi to spinach gnocchi, but the basic gnocchi recipe is from potatoes and flour, which I converted to a gluten free recipe. I've also included a regular version of gnocchi for those of you who don't have an issue with gluten.

Yes, it is a bit more complicated to make gnocchi than to just pop a bag of noodles into a pot of boiling water, but these are still easier to make than homemade noodles, and the result is well worth it. These gnocchi are like little fluffy pillows of deliciousness, especially served with your favorite sauce.

Homemade Gnocchi Recipe- Gluten Free and Regular

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