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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Inexpensive Weekend Trip Idea

This is a guest post by Nancy Evans, who enjoys writing on the topics of family and frugality. I appreciated the ideas here, despite my never having been RV camping- it sounds great! One thing worthwhile noting is that it's actually cheapest to take vacations now, now that summer is over, as there are fewer people traveling, and therefore accomodations are typically cheaper to try to entice people to come.

As the fall winds begin to blow and the children start going back to school, it does not mean that the possibility of taking a vacation has to be over. In fact, the cooler weather really means that it is time to venture outdoors for a weekend trip with the family that will lead to an enjoyable memory.
While it may be hard to get away for a long vacation to a distant location, a weekend trip to a nearby lake or campsite can be the perfect opportunity to break free from the stressful work week. If you are interested in a fun weekend trip that is also inexpensive, then read on to find out more about how a trip to make a trip to the lake an exciting event for your family:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Apple Crumble Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free Options (And Regular)

One of the hardest things about baking with gluten free flours is that without gluten, these flours are more crumbly than wheat flour. To be able to bake gluten free goodies properly, therefore, usually requires a mix of specific different (and expensive) gluten free flours, or lots of eggs to hold it together. This doesn't always work for everyone, because not everyone always has the "right mix" of flours, and not everyone can or wants to eat eggs, either for health, moral, or frugality reasons.
Crumbles, therefore, are the perfect solution. They don't need to stick together, so they can be made with just about any flour that you want, and they don't need any eggs or egg replacements. They also are so versatile, so that you can mix and match ingredients as much as you want, and still end up with a very delicious dessert. I've included instructions for the basic guidelines, but feel free to play around with it.
I especially like crumbles because I always liked pies, but never the crust- I found them to be too dry and lacking taste. Crumbles have the taste of pie, but the texture is much more appealing to me!
One other thing that makes crumbles be one of my desserts of choice is that they are the perfect solution for fruit that is past its prime. Not only can you use bruised and overripe fruit for this- it actually tastes better and sweeter if your fruit is overripe! If your fruit is so overripe it's falling apart, you usually can leave out all the sweetener from this recipe and it'll still be good! No need to cut off any bruises- just cut off rotten parts and chop up the rest.

For flour, feel free to use any of the following: Wheat flour, whole wheat flour, spelt flour, oat flour, cornmeal, rice flour, millet flour, buckwheat flour, sorghum flour, teff flour, chickpea flour, garfava flour, almond meal, potato starch, corn starch, tapioca starch, arrowroot powder, etc... Ideally, if you're using anything other than wheat or spelt, you should mix at least 2 types of flour, especially if you're using a starch or a strongly flavored flour.
For oil, feel free to use any, whether regular oil, melted butter, coconut oil, etc... Don't use a strongly flavored oil like olive oil.
For sweetener, you can use white sugar, brown sugar, sucanat, rapadura, jaggery, xylitol, honey, or none at all, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. If you're using honey, reduce the water in the rest of the recipe to account for it.
For fruit, you can use any of the following: apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, or plums. You can also use blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb, cranberries, or other fruit, but you may need to adjust the filling ingredients.

Apple Crumble Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Sugar Free Options (And Regular)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Homemade Cupcake/Muffin Liners

Some friends and readers have asked if it would be possible for me to include some quick and easy money saving tips on my blog for people who are short on time. I mean, I am aware that not everyone has the time or inclination to be traipsing off into the fields to collect wild edibles, nor do they have the time to cook everything from scratch, but they are still interested in quick money saving ideas... I just always felt a little silly posting something this short and simple on my blog... but by popular request, here's a short but sweet money saving idea.

I love cupcakes and muffins, muffins especially. (And I just learned only 2 days ago what the official difference is between the two- in case you were wondering, muffins are the healthier version, usually.)  Making muffins for breakfast is a nice treat to have, and generally works out cheaper than eating a bowl of cereal, not to mention healthier, but it can still be grabbed quickly for a breakfast when you have little time, provided you make a large batch and freeze them.
The thing about muffins and cupcakes is that they always seem to be getting stuck in muffin tins, and you end up leaving half the muffin behind in the tin! No, I've tried silicon muffin tins and it STILL usually doesn't work.
So cupcake and muffin liners end up being used in my home, because otherwise I just can't get the darned thing out.

A little while back, a reader asked me if I had any idea how to make my own cupcake/muffin liners.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Foraging Cactus Paddles- Nopales/Nopalitos- and Prickly Pears- Tunas


Do you know how often people pick or eat one part of a vegetable or plant, having no clue that another part of that same plant is also edible, and in many cases, even more useful and tasty and versatile than the part they'd been eating until then? (If you want to know more about plants that you probably didn't know you can eat, see here and here and here.)
Well, cactus paddles are one of those foods. I'd been eating their fruit, also known as prickly pears or tunas, for years and years, but I had no idea whatsoever that the cactus itself was edible. Who knew? Something so covered in spines, so dangerous to even "look at", is actually nutritious and delicious! (I'll talk about that more in a future post.)
But yes, cactus paddles themselves are actually quite a delicious food, and are a kitchen staple in Mexico and Southern US. Cactus paddles are called nopales or nopalitos in Spanish.

Originally from Central America, you actually can find prickly pear cactuses (optunia in Latin) now in almost all of the world, including nearly all US states, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. There are many different varieties of prickly pear cactus, but one thing they all have in common- they're all edible, both paddles and fruit, and all have medicinal benefits. Even if you can't find cactus paddles growing wild, if you live in an area with lots of Mexicans, cactus paddles are even sold in the grocery store.

Nopales have an interesting taste and texture. When you first cut them open raw, they have a texture very similar to aloe vera- its very slimy and mucilaginous- but when cooked properly, they have a texture similar to cooked green peppers, and a taste like a cross between a lemony green bean and green peppers.

But the thing is, as much as cactus paddles are tasty and yummy and delicious, if you just take one and try to eat it as is, you'll really, really regret it, because cactus paddles and fruit are covered in two (actually three, but I'll get to that in a bit) types of thorns. One type of thorn is very big and obvious, but there are tiny, tiny, nearly invisible thorns called glochids that hurt and irritate a lot if you get them in your skin, but are very difficult to remove. In order to remove glochids, you have to hold your finger/hand in the light at exactly the right angle, and then you'll see something that looks like a really short, straight, blond hair sticking out of your skin, and you'll need to remove that, either with fingernails or a tweezer.
Prickly pear thorns are so stubborn and difficult to remove that I know many people with this type of cactus in their yard that refuse to go near them, as they're too scared of them. They invite and and anyone else to come pick them, and don't even want us coming near them after picking, as they're afraid that the thorns will fly over from me to them. But don't worry- they don't fly! Thorns only get embedded directly into your skin or clothes, so as long as you make sure not to let your skin or clothes touch the thorns, you'll be fine. And if not, I've heard duct tape works wonders (but haven't tried it yet myself).
On that note, I strongly suggest NOT using gardening gloves for this, at least not the standard ones, as cactus thorns are very tenacious and will work their way through fabric, both poking you through the fabric, as well as lodging themselves in the fabric, which will ensure that every time after that when you put on your gardening gloves, you will get thorns stuck inside, necessitating in throwing out those gardening gloves. I speak from experience here. If you need to touch the prickly pear cactus at all, do so with something thick like cardboard, thick plastic, or metal in between your hands and the cactus. I usually use an empty cereal box or the cut bottom of a plastic soda bottle.

So how do you identify prickly pear cactuses? Well, they're green cactuses comprised of a bunch of thorn covered circular or oval shaped paddles, growing out from each other, either in a low lying mass on the ground, or as an upright bush type thing. Some even have tree trunks when they get big enough, and then have the paddles growing out of that.



So, lets start first with the prickly pear/tuna itself.

Prickly Pears/Tuna Fruit
What does it look like, where does it grow, how do you pick it, and how do you eat it, and what does it taste like?

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 Post From Last Week:
Pumpkin Pie Jerky- A fruit leather version of this popular Thanksgiving dessert.

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, September 23, 2012

Chickpea Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies- Gluten Free, Dairy Free

I'm going away this weekend and was asked to bring along dessert. While most people who want me over are happy to accommodate me and my food needs, and cook for my restrictive diet, dessert usually is a bit beyond the ability of most of my hosts who aren't used to cooking with gluten free flours. My standard dessert that I like to bring is chocolate chip cookies- who doesn't like them?- but I was out of rice flour, one of the important ingredients needed to make my standard gluten free flour mix.
What I did have in my cupboard was chickpea flour. I'd made chickpea flour based cookies before- they kind of taste like peanut butter cookies, for some reason.
I found a recipe for chickpea flour chocolate chip cookies, tweaked it so it used only the ingredients in my house, and came up with a deliciously yummy chocolate chip cookie (with a slight peanut buttery taste) that was a hit with everyone. In all honesty, though, I still think I prefer my chewy chocolate chip cookies, but this is a good alternative if you have no standard gluten free flour mix ingredients at home, or if you need yours to be grain free for whatever reason.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Foraging Olives- Homemade Pickled Olives and Olive Leaf Medicine

One of my favorite things to do is to start chatting with older women, ideally non Americans, about their life as a child, and about various food preparation methods from when they were growing up. I find I learn so much this way, much more "real information" than I'd get if I'd just open a history book or a cookbook, even if it was with a focus on the same place and era. This is how I've discovered so much about various traditional food preparation methods from around the world, recipes that are usually frugal, healthy, and tasty.

My old neighbor was a 70 year old Tunisian lady, who spoke more French than the local language, and absolutely no English. I speak maybe a few words in French (despite having learned 2 years of French in high school), and my grasp of the local language isn't the best, but even so, this lady and I would sit on our shared porch and chat for hours about her childhood in Tunisia. One of the memories she shared with me was about picking and curing olives together with her family as a kid.
We have lots of olive trees in my community, most of them public property, and filled with plump green and purple olives. I got inspired by my neighbor to cure my own olives, especially since there were so many ones just ripe for the picking, and since store bought canned olives are not nearly cheap, and we enjoy eating our olives. Two years ago I picked enough olives to fill one mason jar, last year I was pregnant and too nauseous and wiped out to even think of doing something like picking and curing olives, and this year I decided to finally pick and cure olives. I've taken photos of the process to share with you a bit more than just what the standard olive pickling recipes online look like.

P.S. You know you have a reputation when your friend tells you she bought olives at the local farmer's market to pickle because she said she knew that I had a recipe for making olives on my site. Unfortunately that wasn't the case, and it isn't so easy to find decent information about pickling olives online, which is why I'm including this information.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Edible Container Gardens with No Space, No Green Thumb

I'm very ambitious. I come up with all sorts of projects and ideas that I want to do to save money and be self sufficient... but often my dreams end up falling apart when hit with a big dose of reality and my time constraints, not to mention physical constraints.
Gardening is just one of those many things. 
When we were in our old apartment, we grew tomatoes and swiss chard, and got all revved up to make a square foot garden... and then our rabbits escaped from their cage repeatedly and ate up nearly all of the plants.
Then we got rid of the rabbits, but then we moved from that apartment, and no longer had a backyard in which to garden, and didn't even have a porch entirely of our own that we'd be able to fill up with containers for a container garden.
So then I decided to plant stuff in window boxes, and I bought all these seeds and soil and ollas and it failed miserably! I didn't have even ONE successful plant in that round of gardening. My zucchinis seemed to be growing ok at first, but then as soon as they grew bigger and touched the metal railing near them, they pretty much dried out and died. I think they got burned because the railing is dark green and absorbs heat easily and that's what killed the plant.
My tomatoes and peppers and string beans never even germinated.
My okra plants grew so tall, taller than the top ledge of the window they were on... and gave a yield of 2 okras each. 2 woody, inedible okra plants.

That was an utter failure.

So it was back to simpler things.
And I no longer had any plans to grow things on my porch, as I'm afraid of them getting burned by the railings...

Now the mission for gardening is this- 
Something easy to grow.
Something that I don't have to grow from seed, since I don't seem to be very good at getting plants to germinate.
Something that won't die right away if I forget to water it occasionally.
Something that doesn't need a lot of room to spread out, or won't grow so tall either.

But all those are nothing in comparison to the most important lesson I've learned so far in gardening.

Tuesday, September 18, 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:
TBA

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.

Money Management Lessons for Children

This is a guest post by freelance writer, Nancy Evans, who enjoys writing on the topics of frugality and families.

Raising children takes up a lot of time, patience and financial resources. Parents need to tackle the budget with a lot of creativity especially during back-to-school season when spending spikes because of school requirements and related expenses. Back-to-school can be a stressful time for parents, but there are ways to manage the budget gracefully while making all the required purchases.

Preparation

Monday, September 17, 2012

Blackened Fish Recipe- 2 Ways


The first time I'd heard of blackened fish, I was sure it meant that a fish was overcooked so much that it was charred to a nearly inedible state. I didn't understand why someone would want to advertise their lack of cooking prowess by sharing that they made blacked fish.
And then I discovered that "blackened" doesn't actually mean charred, at least when it comes to fish. It means a certain type of cooking method and spice mixture used in Cajun cooking.
Blackening is a great way to make a bland piece of fish taste delicious. Typically blackened fish is made with butter, but I make mine with coconut oil, as we're dairy free.
I've included two different blackened fish seasoning recipes. The first is one I like better, but the second is good as well. I've included both so that if you're out of a certain ingredient in one, you'll still likely to be able to make the other. (The first time I made blackened fish, I was out of oregano, the second time I was out of mustard seeds.) The seasoning is more than you need for one batch of fish, mix it up and store it for future use. It is also great on chicken.
The standard blackened fish recipe is really spicy, but I don't like my food to be so burning hot, so use more or less hot pepper, whether a mix of white, black, and red pepper, or just one of the above, depending on your preference.

Blackened Fish Recipe

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Coffee Chicken Recipe

There is something I love about cooking chicken- its so versatile and easy to make; its almost hard to make chicken taste bad. Undercooked or overcooked, yes, but chicken is very forgiving when it comes to flavors- nearly everything tastes good with chicken, which makes it more friendly to experimentation. Because if the experiment doesn't work, at worst, you'll end up with chicken that is ok, nothing special- its very difficult to make chicken taste terrible. But these food experiments are so fun, because sometimes you end up with a result that is so unbelievably terrific, and this chicken fits that description. Perfection in the kitchen.

I'd first heard of using coffee in chicken a few years ago, and I thought it was a really weird combination, even though I'd never tasted it. I saw it in a cookbook, but my friend reassured me that the coffee actually made the chicken taste terrific, but I'd never believed her 100%, not until I tried it myself.
Today, I decided I wanted to do something different with my chicken. Why not try coffee chicken?
I googled a few different recipes, saw a common theme, and made up this recipe using some of those ingredients frequently paired with coffee and chicken. One of the best chickens I've ever made, I have to say. And pretty easy as well!
Naturally gluten free, dairy free, egg free and I made mine refined sugar free with jaggery, but you can make yours with brown sugar or white sugar or probably even honey and it'll come out just as good.
I have one caveat- this chicken may not be for you if you don't like the taste of mustard or coffee. While their flavors aren't overpowering in this recipe, you definitely can taste them, so skip this recipe if you aren't a fan of those ingredients.

Coffee Chicken Recipe

Gluten Free Cornbread Recipe II- Dairy Free, With Non GF Option

Photobucket
Gluten free vegan cornbread, made with coconut crystals
I've shared a cornbread recipe of mine in the past, a gluten free version, and while I was happy with that recipe and it did the trick, it wasn't the cheapest gluten free cornbread in the book, and sometimes I want things a bit different. I think I like this cornbread recipe even more. It's sweet, delicious, is dairy free, and yes, it contains refined sugar in it. Oh well. Not as healthy as possible, but I think quite possibly the best tasting cornbread I've ever had, and it's therefore been my go-to recipe lately.
I like sprinkling a few dashes of red pepper flakes into my cornbread- the spice rounds out the sweetness nicely, but you can leave it out if you prefer it that way. You can also add some canned or frozen corn to the batter if you prefer your cornbread with pieces in it.
(Sorry I don't have a picture; my camera ate up the picture.)
I haven't tried this yet with a flax or chia egg, but I'm pretty sure it would work fine.
Update- this recipe works great with replacement sugars, such as coconut crystals or rapadura, but note that they will turn your cornbread brown instead of the traditional yellow, and won't be the sweetest cornbread. It also works great with flax seeds instead of egg; I've included the option below.

Gluten Free Cornbread Recipe

Friday, September 14, 2012

Traits of a Tightwad- Prioritizing Time

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace."
Whether or not you have any religious affiliations, it's hard to disagree with the sentiments in this passage in Ecclesiastes.
A time and a place for everything.

One of the things I like about the frugal life I lead, away from the rat race of the corporate world, is that much of the time we just live our life in the moment, spending time doing things we enjoy, with no pressure to go any place by a certain time. Just living. Enjoying. Relaxing.

But then there are those insane, crazy, hectic days and weeks when there is so much to get done, lots of pressure and staying up till 2 am trying to finish everything (ok, I cheated, you know already that I stay up till 2 am nearly every night regardless), because it has to be done. Right now. No procrastinating.

Because nature doesn't wait.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Foraging A Feast- Gourmet Foraged Foods

I've been foraging since almost forever, but for the vast majority of my life, it was only a few random things every once in a while.
I started seriously foraging, using foraged foods as a regular food source for my family about 2.5 years ago, and ever since then, the way I forage and prepare my foraged foods has certainly evolved.

When I first started seriously foraging, my attitude was: "It's edible. It's healthy. Its free. Lets eat it." 
And I did
With not much concern about how it tasted.
Caring not at all how it looked.
We ate lots of rabbit food, wild edibles that certainly looked and tasted wild and untamed. And not always so tasty.

The more I got into foraging, the more foraged foods were becoming a staple in our home, the more I realized that I needed to change things up, that I couldn't just keep on making the same greens sauted in butter with garlic for every single meal.
So I started making variety, making soups, quiches, salads, dips, curries, etc...
And I have to say- I enjoyed the foraged food much better this way, because, now, not only was the food I was eating free, but it also tasted good.
I wasn't eating it just to say that I was eating something free, I was eating it because I wanted to, because it was yummy.

But I still had a way to go.
The foods I was making were just thrown together, often looking rather unpresentable. They were foods that I'd serve my family, maybe a few close friends, but certainly they weren't things that I've serve to guests, or when trying to impress.
Because we don't just eat with our stomach or our taste buds. We eat with our eyes. A true feast, a truly delightful meal pleases the eyes as much as it pleases the tastebuds and stomach.
And that's where I fell short.
I mean, I could make pretty food, sometimes, but not with those foraged foods. 

I needed inspiration. And recently I've found some. A whole lot.

People that serve ultra frugal meals, made from free, foraged ingredients, that are reminiscent of something you'd find in a high end restaurant.
Gourmet foods.
Gourmet foraged food.
Restaurant class foraged food. (Which, by the way, is not actually so uncommon. More and more high end restaurants these days are using foraged goodies in their food preparation.)

The two most inspirational foraged feast websites that I've been looking at lately are Hank Shaw's Honest-Food.net, and Mia Wasilevich and Pascal Baudar's TransitionalGastronomy.com, among others. What I especially like about these sites is that they make me look at my foraged foods from another angle entirely, make me rethink flavor combinations and push my horizons a little bit to discover pairings of flavors that I wouldn't have otherwise tried, but are very delightful.

The more I see the wonderful ideas there, the more I see the amazing restaurant quality creations these foragers cooked up, the more I get inspired to up my ante a little bit, and also try to make my foraged goodies look and taste gourmet. One day, maybe, I can start my own restaurant featuring foraged goodies. But that's still a long way away. 
In the meantime, I had my first goal- make a feast of gourmet style foraged foods, with a few courses.
To do that, I headed out on a foraging expedition.



Tuesday, September 11, 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:
Gluten Free Sweet Potato Crackers- What I like about this recipe is that its a) gluten free b) egg free c) dairy free d) versatile, and lots else. Lots of ideas of how to change up the recipe, like if you don't have access to cheap sweet potatoes. I think I'll be trying carrot crackers with this recipe.
Elusive Beach Plum Jelly- I'm so excited that this blogger managed to find her elusive beach plums and make her grandma's beach plum jelly recipe with it. She's got some tips there as to how to find those beach plums as well.
Miracle Whip Experiment- What happens when you leave an open jar of miracle whip on the kitchen counter for 8 months? Do you really want to know?

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, September 10, 2012

Train Birthday Cake- Food Coloring Free, Gluten Free, Vegan (and Gluten Free Vegan Sugar Cookies Recipe)

I can't believe that my son Lee is already 5 years old! Holy cow- that means I've been a mom already for 5 whole years! I mean, in a way it feels like I've been a mom forever since my "momhood" is such a huge part of my life (not to mention feeling it was forever ago that I was able to go to the bathroom in peace), but at the same time, so often, when people ask me how old I am, I am just about ready to slip out "18" because, in many ways, I still feel like I'm that young. (I became a mom at 19.)
In honor of Lee's birthday, we threw him a birthday party today for his friends. (Ike had a birthday party last week.) Lee requested that I make him a train themed birthday party, specifically Thomas the Tank Engine.

Now, the thing is, Thomas the Tank Engine is really cute and all, but he's bright blue. And as much as I'd love to comply with his request and make him a Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cake, our home is free of food coloring, and I don't know how to make blue frosting naturally.
"Is it ok if I make you a Percy or Henry birthday cake?" I asked him, since Percy and Henry (from the Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends series) are green, and I knew just how to make green frosting.
"Yea, that's fine, Mommy."

So, I attempted to make a cute Thomas the Tank Engine cake for the train themed party, and while my cake wasn't a beautiful work of art, it definitely scored me big Mommy points with Lee. He was so thrilled to have the cake, that it almost didn't matter that my creation looked far from perfect.


So, the reason my cake wasn't perfect was because I did an awful lot of experimenting to get it. My cake was:
Gluten Free
Oat Free
Egg Free
Dairy Free
Processed Food Free
Margarine Free
Food Coloring Free...

Tough job to do all that, but fortunately I managed.

Homemade Citronella Candle Tutorial

My husband found this large lump of wax today in our house. He was about to throw it out when I told him not to, that I wanted to try to surprise him and make something with it. (The lump of was used to be a bowl made of wax to hold a few different scented candles, which had melted in the heat.) What did I want to make?
A citronella candle.

I was reading about citronella candles. Everyone knows that they're supposed to keep away mosquitos, but most people with experience with them say they don't actually work. I discovered that citronella candles sold in the store are actually not really made from citronella, but from a chemical that has a similar smell, which isn't actually an effective deterrent to those critters, the way real citronella candles are.

To make citronella candles, all you have to do is add citronella essential oil to regular wax, and melt it down to make a candle.

I made my citronella candle entirely from recycled materials, so it cost me nothing other than the few drops of citronella essential oil. If you want yours prettier or you don't have a hunk of wax to get rid of, you may need to buy your own materials make this citronella candle.

Homemade Citronella Candle Instructions

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Homemade Meringues Recipe and Marshmallow Fluff

When I go to the city, I pass by bakery after bakery filled with foods I cannot eat, as I am off gluten. I often see meringues there, so tempting to buy, because meringues are completely flour free, but I am sensitive enough to gluten that even foods that touched gluten make me sick, so I can't buy those meringues, because they're touching the gluten filled cookies.

But oh have those meringues tempted me.
I'd wanted to make meringues already for so long, but most recipes I saw for meringues called for cream of tartar, and I had no clue where to get that, so I just didn't make it.
While at my sister in law's house, I tasted some homemade meringues, and was happily surprised that cream of tartar is not needed to make meringues, and happily took the recipe. You're able to make these into regular meringue shapes, or you can make them into various shapes and letters, for example, to use as decorations for cakes.
It's very easy- only requiring 2 ingredients! And while it does contain sugar, you can make them just as easily with xylitol for a healthier alternative.
What I think is especially cool is if you stop the recipe in the middle, you end up with marshmallow fluff, which you can use to make marshmallow fluff, either to use in fluffernutter sandwiches, or as a frosting for cakes or as a filling for deviled dogs.

Meringues Recipe


Friday, September 7, 2012

Applesauce or Pear Sauce Spice Cake Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free

First of all I wanted to apologize for the infrequency of posting this past week. We've had an action packed week filled with lots of celebrations with family and friends, and I was busy preparing for all of them, cooking up a storm, which kept me pretty busy and off the computer. With all my preparations, I managed to injure my back, again, making sitting in front of the computer a pretty painful endeavor. But now I'm back. I've got a host of delicious recipes for you this weekend, and then I'll be back with even more great posts next week.

I bought a whole bunch of fruit very cheaply from the farmers' market the other day, and I was really excited by my score. The thing is, though, there was a reason that the fruit were so cheap-they didn't have many days left to them before they'd start rotting. Realizing that I had to use up those fruit quick, especially the pears that were with one foot out the door, I made pear sauce by blending up the pears, and decided to use them to make a cake. This cake can also be made with applesauce, either homemade or store bought. I tried making this with peach sauce and it worked ok, but it was best with pear sauce and apple sauce. This cake is made without refined sugar, is really full of nutrition (via the molasses), and just plain old tastes delicious. The texture is terrific, even though it is vegan and oil free.
I think this cake is best with a glaze over it, but it's also ok without.
I've included both gluten free and regular versions.
If you prefer a less spicy spice cake, feel free to adjust the spices.

Applesauce Spice Cake- Gluten Free Vegan

Ingredients:
2 cups apple sauce or pear sauce
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup jaggery, sucanat, brown sugar, or white sugar
1 cup brown/white rice flour ,1 cup potato/corn/tapioca starch, and 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
OR 2.5 cups whole wheat or regular flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions:
1. Combine the wet ingredients.

2. Combine the dry ingredients.

3. Combine the wet and the dry ingredients.

4. Mix well, then pour into a greased or lined 9x13 pan.

5. Bake at 350 until a knife poked into the center comes out solid, approximately 30-45 minutes.

Enjoy!

What do you usually do with fruit that are going to spoil?
Do you like spice cake? 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Homemade Almond Extract Made From Kitchen Scraps, Vitamin B17, Amygdalin, and Cancer Treatment

You know those times that you have a good post that you want to write, but have no clue how to title it because it covers so many interconnected topics? Well, that's today. I'm not quite sure how to start it, as I have so many different things I want to write about. But you know what they say- the best way to get something over with is to just jump right in. So, onward with the intro.

A few months ago, my neighbor invited me to pick a huge amount of apricots from her tree, after which I made homemade fruit leather. When my father in law heard about all the apricots that I scored, he told me "Don't throw away the pits. You can eat them. They're really good for you."
This was the first I'd heard about eating apricot pits, or rather, apricot kernels, so asked him to tell me more.
My father in law waxed nostalgic about his grandmother, a wonderful Greek woman, after whom my daughter Anneliese is named (no, her name wasn't Anneliese, Anneliese is just a pseudonym), and how she used to make all sorts of amazing culinary creations. One of the foods my father in law remembers her making was made with apricot seeds. According to him, she'd collect apricot pits, dry them in the sun, then crack them open to remove the kernel, which she would then use to make a sweet treat. Eager to learn more, I pressed on, but my father in law was a young boy when she died, and doesn't remember specifics about what this treat was.

I turned to the internet to try to find out what this confection that my great grandmother in law made was, and discovered that apricot kernels are used in so many different recipes, but most notably, in marzipan and in amaretto.

Tuesday, September 4, 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:
TBA

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.

Collapsible Furniture for the Fam


This is a guest post.

It’s possible for furniture to be modern, to use sustainable building products, and to sell at a low price – but rarely does one item achieve all three of these objectives. Cheap furniture is rarely modern or sustainable. Sustainable furniture, meanwhile, is rarely cheap. This is a catch-22 that many families find themselves dealing with quite often.

A new California-based startup company seeks to change that. SmartDeco Furniture, founded last year by University of Southern California student Trent J. Mayol, offers a line of furniture that strives to produce a product with contemporary form, fully sustainable materials, and prices that frugal families can afford. Thanks to enviroboard, a corrugated fiberboard that looks like a washed cardboard, SmartDeco appears to have pulled off all three of its normally dissimilar objectives.

Why I Love Homeschooling

My homeschooling "chalkboard"
I "officially" started homeschooling last Monday, as that's when the school year started around here, the year that my oldest son, Lee, is legally required to be "schooled".
I've considered myself a homeschooler even before this week, as I've never sent my kids out regularly, even though the public school system starts here at age 3, and most opt to send their kids out already from a very young age- some by 3 months old, but nearly everyone I know sends out by a year and a half.
I've opted out of sending my kids to school at all for many reasons, at this point in time, and probably also in the future as well, but as I've been saying all along, we'll make our decisions about schooling one year at a time.

Anyhow.
Today, something happened that pretty much demonstrated to me what exactly I love so much about homeschooling, and I wanted to share it with you.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Musakhan Recipe- Middle Eastern Sumac Chicken

After picking my wild sumac and making it into a spice, I kind of was at a loss of what to do with it, other than making sumac lemonade. I mean, I knew my mom would make chicken with sumac when I was growing up, but that sumac was pretty boring. Just chicken, sumac, and onions, and I wanted something whose flavor was a little more full and robust and rounded out.
Enter google.
Via my searching, I came across a whole bunch of terrific recipes for musakhan, a middle eastern chicken and sumac dish, typically baked together with pitas and/or other flatbreads. See, that doesn't work for me because of gluten issues, so I just made up my own version that is completely gluten free. This recipe is pretty versatile. You can stick veggies into the chicken (like green beans, zucchini, and potatoes like I did in the picture above), or just leave it plain chicken with onions. Either way, it's so good you'll be wanting to mop up the extra sauce...
If you don't have any way to pick your own sumac, you can still make this chicken with bought sumac spice, which you can either pick up from a spice store, or even order from Amazon.

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