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Friday, August 31, 2012

Vegan Mayonnaise Recipe- Soy Free

I haven't bought a jar of mayonnaise, other than a few exceptions, in a few years. I make my own, always. Eggs, oil, a little lemon, a little mustard, some salt, and some trial and error until you get the technique down pat. Homemade mayo tastes so much better than store bought, and I know I feel much better afterward because it doesn't have any of the crazy chemicals you typically find in the store bought stuff.
But homemade mayo is a hard sell to some people, because they're worried about the raw eggs possibly getting them sick. Then there are people who are either allergic or sensitive to eggs, or vegans, who can't use an egg based mayonnaise, whether it's store bought or not. That's when vegan mayonnaise is good, because they're egg free, so free from the risk of salmonella, not to mention any of the health or ethical issues people have with eggs.
There are many egg free recipes out there for mayonnaise, but it seems like the vast majority of them are soy (tofu or soy milk) based, are dairy based, or just don't look right, don't have the mayonnaise texture, etc...
I played around with a recipe from the e-book, "The Everything Food Allergy Cookbook" by Linda Larsen, (which I downloaded free to my smartphone) and came up with this terrific vegan mayonnaise.
Its perfect! Same exact texture as mayonnaise, the only difference is that it's got a slightly more mustardy taste than regular mayonnaise. Works well in place of regular mayo in all recipes, whether its pasta or potato salad, in salad dressings, in egg salad, in tuna salad, you name it. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Redneck Blackout "Curtains"

Sleep is not my family's strong point. I have three kids, 5, 3, and 8 months old, and on any given night, I can expect that I will have to deal with night wakings not once, twice, or three times, but at least 5 times or more, and usually by all 3 kids. (It's usually a combination of nightmares, wanting reassurance that mom and dad are still there, bathroom trips, and nursing wakeups.)

Yes.

Sleep is very precious in our house.

My kids seemed to have inherited my dislike of going to sleep (last night I slept from 3 am until 7 am, and that's not such a rarity to me) and my husband's extremely light sleeping (I've never met a lighter sleeper than him). (My husband likes to sleep, and according to my husband, I sleep so deeply its hard to wake me.)

Yup, our kids got the "best of both worlds", which means we very frequently have late nights, and then after that, multiple wakings during the night. Which is very frustrating, because that means that I can only get my work done really late at night, when my brain is half fried... which is probably why my blog posts often have typos- because I'm too exhausted by that time of the night to bother proofreading anything.

The silver lining in my kids' sleeping issues is that my kids are able to sleep in in the morning, sometimes as late as 8 or 9 am (depending on how crazy of a night they had the night before), but generally they wake up at 7 or 7:30 am. 
And I cherish every moment of sleep that I get. (Going to sleep is my problem. Once I'm asleep, I'll give anything to be able to stay asleep!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Homemade Chocolate Sprinkles Recipe- Vegan

Banana peanut butter healthy
 homemade ice cream, topped
with homemade chocolate sprinkles
There are certain foods we eat for nourishment, and then there are foods that are certainly not eaten for health benefits, or even because they're necesary at all, but rather, because they make life more fun. Frosting and sprinkles are two of those things. They're just cool, and liven up many a dish, whether ice cream, cakes, cookies, or elsewise.
Sprinkles are also something that I haven't once bought in the nearly 6 years I'm living here, as they're very expensive here, not to mention, usually filled with all sorts of kooky ingredients. My kids, I have to admit, haven't been too thrilled about that, as they're kids after all, and kids seem to love eating everything they shouldn't be eating, especially if its a fun food.

Well, little Ike has a birthday coming up very soon, and, in honor of this celebration, I decided to experiment with a recipe/idea reader Debbie M emailed me a few months back- homemade sprinkles, so that hopefully I'll be able to use them for his cake. The recipe I was sent wasn't for chocolate sprinkles, and it contained food coloring. I wanted to experiment to come up with a recipe that had no need for food coloring (whether artificial or real), so completely made up this recipe from scratch, keeping the technique the same.
The recipe was a complete success! My kids loved them! They weren't hard to make. This is definitely going in my file to make again and again and again.

Typical homemade sprinkles are made with royal icing, containing egg whites or egg white powder, but since I'm temporarily off eggs (on top of everything else I'm already off of), I decided to make these egg free. Instead of using egg whites to harden these, I used a little bit of vodka, as I saw in a different sprinkle recipe on Chocolatecoveredkatie.com.
You can also use this recipe to make a chocolate/brown royal icing.
The recipe calls for powdered sugar- you can make your own by whizzing regular white sugar in a coffee grinder for a few minutes, and you can also make healthier powdered sugar by whizzing coconut sugar, sucanat, or xylitol in a coffee grinder, but I haven't tried those in this recipe, only regular white sugar made into powdered sugar. If you want to try it out with those alternative powdered sugars, let me know please how they come out.

Homemade Chocolate Sprinkles Recipe

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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.

My Favorite Post From Last Week
Homemade Date Nectar- Raw, Easy, Vegan, Healthy Sweetener


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.

"Time is Money"- Fallacy or Fact

I think one of the most aggravating phrases an extremely frugal person like myself hears on a regular basis is the quote "time is money". I think I hear this at least once a week, either as an excuse why people are spending money on certain things they can ill afford, or, even more frustrating, when trying to convince someone else not to do a money saving method in which they'd expressed interest.
This phrase is spouted out, left and right, so frequently, as if it were the veritable truth.
But is it really undeniable fact?
This post will attempt to tackle that.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sumac Lemonade Recipe- A Sweet and Sour Foraged Drink- and Sumac Juice

About a week ago, we had a get together for the ladies in my community, with the purpose of getting to know all the new and old faces. As part of the whole "get to know you" theme, we were each tasked to bring along a food or drink to share that represented some aspect of your life or your personality. When I heard that, I felt it was a no brainer- obviously, I'd bring along something foraged.
I made this delicious mint lemonade type drink, only not with lemon juice, but sumac juice. It was a big hit at the party; I got lots of compliments for it. The funniest thing though was seeing people's looks of confusion when they first tasted the drink. For convenience sake I'd put it in an old cranberry juice bottle, so people poured themselves a cup, expecting to down sweet and sour, delicious and astringent cranberry juice, and instead, getting sweet and sour, delicious and astringent juice that wasn't cranberry juice, or was it? Immediately I pointed out to them "No, that's not cranberry juice", and their confusion cleared.
This drink, if you're not thinking too hard about it, can definitely pass for cranberry juice, but it is, in fact, more similarly tasting to lemonade, only the color can throw off your senses. (Expectations of how a food is supposed to taste like actually affects how your senses react to the food you eat.)

Yesterday, I wrote about how to forage edible sumac berries, and included information about how to process them to use as a spice. This post is how to make sumac juice, which you can then use in place of lemon juice, both in cooking, and in making drinks. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Foraging Sumac- Edible Wild Plant

Having grown up in a climate completely different than the one I live in now, and having only really taken up foraging seriously lately (as in the past year or two), there aren't many things that I forage now that I foraged growing up.
Sumac, though, is one of the exceptions.
We used to go to Six Flags amusement park on a semi regular basis with my family as a kid. While waiting on line for the roller coasters, I remember my mother pointing out sumac trees growing on the other side of the fence. She'd reach over and pick some sumac clusters, and we'd suck them, puckering our lips at their sourness, while waiting for our turn on the ride.
We didn't just eat sumac at the amusement park though; my mother actually purchased sumac as a spice from the grocery store, and she'd use it to make a delicious chicken with onions.

"Hold on a second," I can hear you asking, "Isn't sumac poisonous? Why are you telling us to eat it?"

Yes, and no.

It's a case of mistaken identity. Or rather cousins.

Poison sumac, poison ivy, and poison oak are all related to edible sumac, but edible sumac is another plant entirely, looks very different, and is very much edible; it has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes by natives of the regions in which they grow for thousands of years. Speaking of which, edible sumac doesn't grow all over the world, but it grows in North America, Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, and the Middle East, and possibly other areas, but I don't know for certain.  Sumac, rhus in Latin, is a close relative of the pistachio and the cashew.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How Keeping Up With Your Laundry Saves Money

Laundry is one of those dreaded chores in my house that never seem to get finished. I finally, finally make my way down to the bottom of Mt Washmore, and the next second, more things get dirty and get dumped into the laundry basket. And even once the laundry is washed, sorting it all and putting it all away... yea, that's one of my big challenges when it comes to housework. So yes, I'm always falling behind in laundry. In my house, at all moments of the day, there is always either something in the dirty laundry basket that needs to be washed, or something in the clean laundry basket that needs to be put away, but usually both, and usually mounds and mounds of it.
This post is meant to also inspire you, but more importantly, to try to motivate me to be on top of laundry more.

Hence:

How Keeping Up With Your Laundry Saves Money-
Or, conversely-
How Falling Behind On Laundry (aka being lazy with laundry) Makes You Lose Money
Or a little more to the point-
Stop Being Lazy With The Laundry, Penny!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Art of Continuous Leftovers

There are all sorts of attitudes towards leftovers in people's homes. In some homes, anything left over after a meal gets tossed in the trash. In other homes, there are no leftovers after the meal, either because there is a shortage of food, because people get encouraged to finish all the food on the table, or because calculations were made so that the exact right amount of food was made so there would be no leftovers.
But for those of us who actually do have leftovers after our meals, and don't want to just toss it in the trash, there are many options of what to do. Some people just serve the same meal again and again until it gets finished, and others try to revamp the leftovers, creating a new dish from the old one. I take the second option and try to step it up a notch, using something that I call "The Art of Continuous Leftovers". I especially like using this method because it makes it very unlikely that you'll discover something fuzzy, stinky, or dried out in the back of your fridge since you forgot it existed.

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.

My Favorite Posts From Last Week
How to Turn Any Juice into Lacto-Fermented Soda- We're kombucha drinkers in our house, which suits any cravings we have for soda, but I've always wanted to know how to make other lacto fermented sodas that don't include dairy in the form of whey. These are made with a "ginger bug", something I've wanted to learn how to make for a while. I'll certainly be trying this one.
Aloe Vera Curry- Most people know aloe vera is good for burns, but did you know you could cook with aloe vera as well? I'd heard that aloe vera is very good for you to eat as well,  so I'd love to try out this recipe.
Raw Chipotle Chocolate Brownies- This reminds me a bit of my larabars recipe. They're grain free, processed sugar free, vegan, etc... Just good old chocolate yumminess.


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, August 20, 2012

Get the Latest and Greatest for Cheap with Best Buy’s Trade-In Program

This is a guest post. I certainly know some people who have that technology lust who would benefit from the info in this post. 

We all know that got-to-have-it feeling that comes when our favorite tech company releases the latest and greatest generation of a gadget. Our old phones, laptops, and video game consoles instantly become mind-numbingly dull and hopelessly out of date. But, by using the trade-in feature on BestBuy.com, saving up those pennies for the most current technology just became a lot easier!

Breathlessly anticipating the new iPhone 5, but not sure if you will be able to afford it when Apple roles it out this fall? Best Buy coupons will help, but you also want to get a bit more creative as well. Trade-in your old smart phone to your closest Best Buy store or online in return for a gift card. If its condition is good, your iPhone 4S can get you a $230 gift card that can be put toward the iPhone 5 when the time comes.

5 Steps To Help Parents Commit To A Healthy Lifestyle

Lee drinking a green smoothie (dressed up as a tiger)
This is a guest post from Nancy Evans, a freelancer who writes on the topic of health, family, and frugality.

Parents that try to switch to a healthy diet often get frustrated because their kids hate the food. Healthy cooking for children that are not adapted to healthy meals can be challenging, but it is worth the efforts in the end. Children adjust quickly, and you can get your family on a healthy pathway. Here are some simple steps to help your family commit.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Homemade Teriyaki Sauce Recipe- Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

Teriyaki chickpeas over rice. Made with this teriyaki sauce.
I think it took me until I was well out of elementary school, and possibly already in high school, for me to know that teriyaki sauce is a condiment that is sold in the store. I thought everyone made teriyaki sauce at home, just like my dad did, whenever he'd want it for a stir fry.
People have asked me- "If you had money, would you still do xyz from scratch?" Well, when it comes to making teriyaki sauce...
Assuming that none of the food sensitivities I had were an issue...
Assuming health weren't an issue...
Assuming availability weren't an issue...
I still would make teriyaki sauce from scratch as I see no reason not to. Its so easy and simple to make, tastes better at home, and of course, on top of that, its both much cheaper and much healthier for me to make it at home, not to mention that I don't have to worry about it getting contaminated with gluten or similar as I would with the store bought version.

This is a terrific tasting sauce, which can be used as a marinade for meats, on rice, with stir fries, on fish, with vegetables, or really for anything.

Homemade Teriyaki Sauce Recipe

Friday, August 17, 2012

Korean Mung Bean Pancake Recipe- Nokdu Bindaetteok- Gluten Free Vegan

I think its interesting that when we think about foods of a certain, we have such stereotypes in our mind about what people eat, to the extent that when a food doesn't fit into what we knew certain cultures eat, there's some cognitive dissonance. I mean, I'll be honest- until I was an adult, I thought all Asian people (other than Indians) ate sushi, fried rice, lo mein, stir fried vegetables with meat, wonton soup, and egg rolls. And that's about it. I had no clue about the many varieties of Asian food, that Vietnamese cuisine is different than Japanese cuisine, that the different areas in China had different cuisines, and that Korean food was an entirely different ballgame.
Well, in the past year or two, I've learned more and more about various Korean foods, and I have to say, I've never tasted a Korean dish that I didn't like. Its probably my favorite of Asian cuisines, now that I've discovered that Korean food is not sushi and egg rolls.
These Korean pancakes are chock full of protein, are gluten free, vegan, and pretty tasty. They're filling, nutritious, and in my opinion, a whole meal in one. They went over well with my kids and with my neighbor's relatively picky kid.
I based this recipe off of the recipe for Nokdu Bindaetteok from Gluten Free Gobsmacked.
These remind me of okonomiyaki, Japanese cabbage pancakes, only these are based on mung bean instead of eggs, which is perfect for anyone vegan or off eggs for health reasons. They don't contain any weird, exotic ingredients, and they can easily be made with regular wheat flour if gluten isn't an issue.

The original recipe calls for split mung beans. I don't use them; I use regular mung beans, the type used to make bean sprouts, for this recipe.

Korean Mung Bean Pancake Recipe- Nokdu Bindaetteok

How Far Will You Go For Free Stuff?

For a few weeks already, I'd been hearing about this "mega event" in a nearby convention center. "Free activities, free entertainment for the whole family, free food and product samples," flyers boasted. Lots of my friends made plans to go, and I, not having anything else in the works, told my friends that I'd be going there as well.
Well, it turns out that I'd inadvertently scheduled one of my wild edibles walks on both days of this mega event and my friends were shocked. 'You mean you're not going to go to the mega event?'
After my wild edibles walk I got a phone call from my sister, Violet, who had been at the mega event, and she really recommended I stop by, since I was in the city anyhow, if only to take some samples home, because why not- I was already right there.

Immediately as I entered the conference center, I was hit with such a big sensory overload- oversized multicolor advertisement posters and booths covered nearly every spare inch, the music playing and people talking kept the noise level at a dull roar, and the sheer amount people in that place was astounding.
Each booth was covered in large advertisements at you shouting at you "Buy me! Buy me!" Most booths gave out samples of their company's products, mostly food. With my love of free stuff, surely you must think that I was in heaven.
Absolutely not.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Foraging Yucca Blossoms- Wild Edibles

Yucca is probably one of those foraged plants that people most commonly get confused with something else that they buy in the grocery store. (Plantain is probably the only plant that gets confused more often.)
Yucca, the wild edible, spelled with 2 c's, is in the asparagaceae family, and is related to asparagus.  It is completely unrelated to the plant yuca, spelled with one c, manihot esculenta, also known as cassava or manioc, used to make tapioca.
I just had to clarify that bit before continuing, because it is a very common mistake people make, so common, in fact, that I've seen foraging articles mistakenly write that you can eat yucca roots. You can't. You eat yuca roots, not yucca roots. Roots of the yucca plant were used to make a soapy lather for cleaning things, as they are full of saponins. You eat any of those and your stomach will not appreciate that.

Yucca is a family of plants that is native to America and grows all over North and South America. In addition to the yucca that grows wild in the Americas, there are also cultivated varieties of yucca, which are planted in gardens, etc... around the world. Yucca isn't native to my region, but I see it planted all over, both in public parks and private yards.

Yucca plants have spiky, sharp leaves, that grow out from a central point. That's probably where one variety of yucca is known as "spanish bayonet", because the leaves really do look like swords. During early to mid summer, the yucca plant sends up an asparagus like stalk, which them opens up into beautiful flowers. These flowers are what you eat. Apparently you can also eat the asparagus like stalk before it flowers, but I've never tried that, and you can also eat their fruit, but I've never seen the fruit growing locally.

Most of the yucca growing in the US is low, evergreen shrubs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cool Lunch Ideas for a Hot Summer Day

This is a guest post by Nancy Evans, a freelance writer with an interest in frugal, healthy cooking.

While a hot home cooked meal may be delicious to come home to after a busy day at work, hot summer days require something cooler for lunch. During the heat of the day, no one wants to spend time in a hot kitchen. Therefore, lunch recipes should be quick and simple with very little cooking over the stove or the oven required.

The following recipes each offer a delicious way to cool off while enjoying the fresh taste of summer’s best vegetables:

Hearth and Soul Blop 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.

My Favorite Posts From Last Week
Sweet Chili Thistles- I've been a bit boring in my treatment of thistles as a food, just using them in salads. But I like this recipe- I think I'll be trying it out.
Easy Homemade Ketchup- Ketchup is my husband and kid's favorite food- I try to make it at home as often as possible. I'll be whipping up a batch of this.
Homemade Natural Food Colorings- This isn't just one, but many different ideas of how to make food coloring.

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.

Grocery Shopping Trip- August 13, 2012

I haven't posted rundowns of my shopping lists lately for many reasons, like being embarrassed about spending too much, not having the energy to set up the stuff to photograph and to type it out, not doing a "big" shopping trip and instead doing lots of little trips (bad idea), etc...
But lately, the prices in my "cheap" grocery store have been through the roof, especially for vegetables. I assume this has something to do with a terrible really long heatwave that has ruined lots of crops, but who knows. (I hope its that, because then it means that hopefully prices will go down again.)
Because of the high pricing, I decided that I needed to do something different in terms of produce- I can't just keep on buying produce at the same place for 5 or 6 times the price, especially now that that store is not having loss leader sales on produce.
I decided that I'll be foraging whatever produce I can now, revving it up a notch, and fortunately, I've discovered a whole bunch of new types of wild edibles growing here, which I've been using frequently.
On top of that, my shopping is being spread out a little more, buying in a few different places and not just the two or three stores I was purchasing things in before.
Today, I went to the city to go to the farmer's market, a place known locally for cheap produce. I've never shopped there regularly because with sales, my local grocery store was cheaper for produce, but now that the sales are on hiatus, I've decided to see what shopping I can do at the farmer's market.

I've also been going on an elimination diet to try to clear up my daughter's rash (at the recommendation of my doctor), so aside from being off gluten and dairy and soy, I'm also (hopefully temporarily) being off eggs and corn, which makes me have to diversify a bit in the food department, experimenting and trying new foods, recipes, and cooking methods. I paid a trip to the health food store near the farmer's market that has a bulk foods section, as they have the best prices around for some of these specialty items.

Here's what I got.


Total cost- 45 dollars.

Not everything was frugal, but most stuff, at least, there was something frugal I was planning on doing with it.

What I got all fell within a few categories:

  • Relatively frugal special diet foods
  • Really cheap produce
  • Produce for a frugal experiment I'm doing
  • Produce that will be used in frugal ways
  • A treat
So, what did I get and why?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Chicken Lentil Patties Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free


Often its those things that we know we can't have that we end up craving most.
I never was big into processed, packaged foods, always preferring that home cooked meal to prepackaged, chemical laden junk.
And yet, when I recently was in the grocery store, my eyes fell upon this ready cooked meal that I just "had to have"- chicken and lentil patties, made with ground chicken, flecked with brown lentils. It looked so tempting, I nearly grabbed it up and purchased it, hefty price tag and all, but of course, my brain knocked some sense into me, and I looked at the package, where it stated quite clearly "contains gluten".
Duh.
Nearly everything does these days.
But that wouldn't stop me. If I couldn't purchase those chicken lentil patties, why, I'd just have to make them myself! But how could I recreate them when I've never tasted them before?
I knew I'd figure it out.
A look at the ingredients on the label informed me that the patties contained "chicken, lentils, onion, bread crumbs, potato flakes, and spices" among a whole long list of chemicals.
Well, that was a starting point. We had 4 ingredients to work with, as I obviously was going to be leaving out the bread crumbs.
As for spices, I tried to picture what spices would work best with this recipe, and came up with garlic powder, cilantro, cumin, and paprika, in addition to the aforementioned onions.
I then got to work assembling the dish.
Because I'm (hopefully temporarily) off eggs in an attempt to see if that's what is causing my daughter's rash, I couldn't use eggs as a binder as I usually would, so ground flax seed was the next ingredient to go in. (You can make this without flax seeds; add an egg in its place and leave out the tablespoon of oil.)
As I was leaving out the bread crumbs, I used potato flakes (unseasoned, instant mashed potatoes) in its place.
In my mind, the dish was going to be terrific; like Mozart I could picture and taste the food already in my head; my hands' job was to make this masterpiece a reality.
As the patties sizzled in my skillet, I waited patiently. Would they meet my expectations? Would they be all I was hoping for?
Fortunately, I was not let down. I think these probably were the tastiest lentil dish I had in a long, long time, if not forever. Its quite possibly the best chicken I've ever eaten as well, but that I'm less sure of, as I've had a lot of amazing chicken in my life.
I highly recommend you try this recipe- you won't be disappointed.
And as for that prepackaged garbage- I have not the slightest doubt in my mind that my chicken lentil patties tasted infinitely better.

This is a terrific dish if you want to serve meat at a meal but want to stretch it, while not compromising on the amount of protein. You can make this also with ground turkey. Feel free to substitute all or part of the potato flakes with bread crumbs if gluten isn't an issue for you.

Chicken Lentil Patties Recipe

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Forager's Toolkit- Everything You'll Need on a Foraging Expedition

I've gotten much more into foraging lately, attempting, if possible, to have at least one dish or more a day with a foraged ingredient or more. This means that I typically am foraging at least a few times a week now, and with the upsurge of my foraging, I've discovered, often a bit too late, that there are some things that are good to have with you when foraging, because otherwise you just might regret it.

And thus, I've put together my Forager's Toolkit- a list of all the things I think are important to have whenever you go out to forage... which, in the case of an avid forager like myself, is pretty much any time I leave the house. Not that I always carry all these, but I definitely think people should bring all these things along when they know that there is a goo bd chance that they will be foraging.

The Forager's Toolkit

Maintaining Health Insurance in Tough Economic Times

Having a frugality blog, you may find it curious that I never talk about health insurance and health care whatsoever (other than alternative or home remedies, of course), specifically because health care is one of the biggest expenses the average American has, let alone someone not in the peak of health. To be honest, I've never had to pay for health insurance, because I lived in the US only until I was 18, when I was still covered by my parents' health insurance; as soon as I got married, I moved abroad where the health care system is entirely different, and I don't need to allocate large sums to pay for health insurance.
So, the reason I don't write much about health insurance is because I have very little experience or knowledge on the subject.
However, Sean O’Connor, a blogger at GoHealthInsurance.com shared this nice piece with me to put on the blog, with some ideas on how you could, perhaps, save money on health insurance. Hope it helps you out!

Whether money has always been tight or you’ve just recently hit a rough patch financially, it is always a smart idea to cut back on unnecessary spending. It’s not fun to do, but it’s the responsible thing to do.
All too often, people make the mistake of clumping health insurance coverage into the “unnecessary spending” bin. Don’t ditch your health insurance coverage and keep your premium cable package, folks. Not having health insurance is more costly than having it, to be sure. There are less expensive options out there that you may not be aware of. Let’s talk about it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gluten Free Zucchini Bread Recipe- Refined Sugar Free


I am a pretty good cook, but one of my biggest culinary challenges is coming up with recipes for dessert that don't contain refined sugar but still taste good. I've made many flops in the process, unfortunately, but this recipe is one of my successes, fortunately. This zucchini bread is gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free. It was a hit with everyone who tried it. I hope you like it as much as my family and guests did.

Its also the perfect thing to do with your zucchini if you have a garden with a zucchini surplus, as I know often happens in August to gardeners.

I've included both a gluten free and a regular version of the recipe.

Gluten Free Zucchini Bread Recipe

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Homemade Pocketbook From Jean Skirt- Upcycled Craft Tutorial

My pocketbook desperately needs to be replaced. It was on its last legs a good while ago, and is far beyond that now. I've wanted to purchase a new bag already for a while, but the fact that nice pocketbooks are so overpriced made me push off the purchase more and more. But now, I simply had no choice- my pocketbook is garbage. (Click here for a pic.)
But I still didn't want to have to spend 25 dollars on a half decent looking bag that serves my needs. I decided to make my own.

At first I thought I'd crochet my own pocketbook out of sock yarn (like I did with my backpack), but I kept on procrastinating and not making that, and it was a project that involved a bit of commitment, so I just didn't make it.
But why not sew my own pocketbook? Making a pocket is just about the easiest type of sewing job there is- making a pocketbook shouldn't be hard at all!
Inspired by Bianca, I went to the thrift store to see what they had-using old clothes to sew new things is much cheaper than buying the materials new, and it's much more fun to work with it.
I looked through the clothes rack, trying to find some good, sturdy material to work with, and ended up at the skirt section.
I had read that you could make a pocketbook out of an old pair of jeans, so when I found this cute kid's jean skirt, I decided I'd use it to make a pocketbook. You can make the same thing with an old pair of torn jeans, so long as the tears are all below the inseam area.
Skirt front.
Skirt back.
It was pretty simple to make my pocketbook, was done entirely by hand in under 2 hours, and cost me a grand total of 50 cents to make. A fraction of the cost of a store bought pocketbook, and in my opinion, much cuter. I had a zipper already in my home that came with my sewing machine, but if you don't have one, you can either leave it out, buy one new, or remove a zipper from an item from the thrift store using seam rippers.

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.

My Favorite Posts From Last Week
Warm Millet and Broccoli Salad- I want to try this one out, as I'm taking corn out of our diet temporarily because of a suspected sensitivity, and I'm looking for more variety in grains now...
How To Make Sourdough That's Not a Brick- Terrific information for anyone who is interested in making healthy sourdough bread.


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.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Budget Baby Wearing- Homemade Carriers, Extremely Frugal Baby Carriers

Anneliese in my purchased, not so frugal,
but oh so good investment baby carrier.
It's a cross between a mei tai and a wrap,
(like a mei tai, but instead of shoulder straps, there are
shoulder panels,  made of fabric that stretches in just
 one direction), is very comfortable, and versatile,
not to mention pretty.
My friend, Daniella, a mother of 3, approached me, asking if she would be able to write a guest post on the topic of baby wearing. Baby wearing is something that I think all mothers should know how to do, as it often means that you can do without an expensive stroller if you have a good carrier, or at the very least, baby wearing allows you to be more productive at home and in general. 
Baby wearing is something that I have invested money in, as a good carrier was important to me, but as you know, I'm into saving money, while at the same time, not compromising (too much) on quality of life, which is why I was very excited to get this post on frugal, and extra frugal, ways to baby carry. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I have, and find it educational and useful.

Disclaimer: I am not a babywearing consultant, nor am I any type of expert; just a rather obsessive curious mom who has done a lot of research and experimentation. I do not have experience with all the different kinds of carriers either, but I have explored the options and I know a thing or two about the types of carriers I don't have experience with as well. I hope you find it helpful!

Babywhat?
So no one told you that your newborn would not be content to lie in her crib and watch her mobile while you spent your maternity leave writing the next great American novel, huh? Babies are funny that way; they want to be held. All. The. Time. Preferably with nursing involved. 
 Well, who can blame them? Not long ago they were being held 24/7 in the warmth and comfort of their mothers'; wombs.
 Problem is, you need to Do Stuff. Like eat. And go to the bathroom. And maybe even (gasp) throw a load in the washer. 
 Well, this problem has been around for as long as babies have, and fortunately, our ancestors came up with a solution centuries, perhaps millenia ago. Yes. The solution to your problem has been around for eons. 
 It is called babywearing. You may have seen some parents walking around with babies strapped to them using all kinds of fancy contraptions. Well guess what? Our ancestors did not have Baby Bjorns or Ergos. They just had scraps of cloth or leather lying around. In traditional cultures you’ll see mothers wearing their babies all the time, using the same scarves, shawls and wraps they wear on a regular basis. They use what they have. 
 You can too! You do not have to spend a small fortune on a fancy carrier to wear your baby! In fact, you can probably wear your baby right now with materials you already have at home! Want to know how?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mujaddara Recipe Version 2- Middle Eastern Rice and Lentils


There are some foods that I've been making a certain way for years, completely unaware that there is some similar type of recipe, with the same name and with similar basic ingredients, whose taste is radically different, sometimes its hard to understand why it's called the same dish.
Mujaddara is one of those dishes.
My next door neighbor and best friend and I were talking about what we planned on making for supper, and she brought up the fact that she needed to go to the grocery store, because she wanted to make mujaddara but had no potatoes or raisins.
"Potatoes? Since when are there potatoes or raisins in mujaddara?" I asked, since I'd never heard of that in mujaddara before.
She looked at me quizzically, not understanding what the reason was for my question. "I always made it that way."
This was new to me. Curious to learn more, I asked her what exactly was in her mujaddara, because my mujaddara obviously was quite different.
"Rice, lentils, potatoes, carrots, raisins, onions, cinnamon, and cumin."
Weird, but intriguing. I'd never mixed raisins, cinnamon, and lentils before, and was curious to try it out, as I love all the ingredients, and I was sure they'd taste great together.
Based on my friend's ingredient list (but with no actual amounts given), I made up my own mujaddara recipe, still leaving out the potatoes, because I still can't wrap my head around why someone would put potatoes into their mujaddara.
The credit for inspiration for this recipe goes to my friend Jodi, who I miss, as she has moved overseas. Jodi, I have to thank you- this is one way that my kids will gladly eat lentils, and its certainly my new favorite way to eat mujaddara! (Here's my old favorite recipe, still very good.)

Oh, and did I mention its cheap, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, a complete protein, and completely delicious? Well worth a try!

Mujaddara Recipe

Friday, August 3, 2012

Growing Celery For Free, Easily

As much as I would like to say that I'm a terrific gardener, I'm really not. Whenever I try to start plants from seeds, at least half the time, the seeds never sprout, or I kill the plant before it reaches the fruiting stage...
And this makes me sad.
Because I'd like to be able to grow as many things as possible of my own, to eventually have my own homestead one day, but if I can't succeed at the growing stuff...
There are some things, though, that I have more success with than others. Sprouts, for one. And keeping a plant alive that already is alive. Like the basil plant my husband got me. Or giving kitchen scraps a new lease at life. Like those scallion roots which I planted, and now use as my source of green onions on a regular basis by just trimming them as needed.

This idea has been floating around the blogosphere, I don't know the source, but I first read about it on the blog 17 Apart. You grow a celery plant from the base of a celery that you bought in the store, like this.


Now, if you were thinking the same thing that I was thinking when I first heard this, you might say "I can't do that- my celery doesn't have roots attached at the bottom- it's just bluntly chopped off". But let me reassure you, absolutely no roots necessary for this, just your plain ol celery from the grocery store.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Figuring Out The True Cost Of Fruit

I recently bought a watermelon. It weighed a good 25 pounds. That's one heavy fruit! And because the watermelon wasn't so cheap per pound, it ended up being quite an expensive fruit! On top of that, just how much of that watermelon didn't get eaten because it was the peel? (Yes, I know the rind is edible, but I don't always have the energy to deal with it, and I assume most people don't use watermelon rind on a regular basis.)

I like having fruit in my house for myself and my kids to snack on. But sometimes, I am not really sure which fruit is the most worthwhile to get, once you factor in that you're throwing away the peels and cores of different fruit.
Just as I did with vegetables, I made a chart to help figure out what percentage of each fruit goes to waste, and what percentage gets eaten. Yes, I know each fruit varies in size and proportion a bit, but not too drastically that this calculation is far off.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Spices and Seasonings- For Free, Or Nearly

Terrific, expensive, high quality food doesn't need much primping to get it to taste good, but frugal, el cheapo food sometimes does need a little spiffing up to make the meal a delicious one. I think one of the most important thing a frugal home needs to have is a well stocked spice cabinet. Spices, in my opinion, are what allow you to take simple, frugal ingredients, and create a delicious masterpeice, so that your tastebuds and your senses enjoy every second of the eating experience, so you're not left wanting, even if the food was very frugal food.
Because of this, I probably have a more extensive and varied spice cabinet than anyone I know. (More than 50 different spices at last count.) Because spice is the variety of life. Haha.


My spice drawer, as of 15 minutes ago.
And its not even all of my spices. I have
another bag filled with another 10 spices.

But seriously, I would feel lost in the kitchen without my spices. (In fact, that's part of why I have a hard time cooking at other people's houses, because if they don't have the spices I'd usually use- which most people I know don't- I get stuck.)

One thing I've noticed, though, is that I am spending a lot of money on spices. Not that I mind terribly, or think that I'm being too unfrugal, because even with the money spent on spices, I'm probably spending less money than if I'd be buying more high quality (aka expensive) ingredients and fewer spices. 
Even so, when I heard that my friend Butter, over and Hungerandthirstforlife.blogspot.com, was trying to fill her spice cabinet with foraged spices, I got inspired and decided that I'd like to do the same. Not that I'd stop buying my regular spices, but if I could use free, foraged spices part of the time, hopefully I'd go through the purchased ones less quickly, and therefore lower my costs in that area.

I've had this thought to collect, store, and use my own spices, but I never really did anything about that.
Until today.

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