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Friday, November 30, 2012

Kitchen Tip- How to Shell Nuts Easily

PhotobucketMy friend has a walnut tree in her backyard. Though walnut season is over by at least a month, probably more, yesterday I went over to her house and came home with a small haul of walnuts, even though, when looking at the tree, it looks like there is nothing left.

Here's a trick I figured out how to crack walnuts and other walnuts easily.

If you're saying why is a trick needed, well, if you know how to crack nuts well, good for you, but I and many didn't know how to do it properly. In the past, when I'd use a nut cracker, the nuts would often escape the nut holder and fly across the room. And if they stayed in the nut cracker, usually the whole nut would be smashed to smithereens, and you'd have to pick out bits of nuts from the shards of shell.
If you don't have a nut cracker, you might be tempted to use a hammer, but from experience, the same thing exactly happens- the nut either flies away or gets smashed to smithereens.

Here's a trick I figured out to get the nuts out easily, without it flying across the room, and without smashing the nut meat to smithereens. I'm sure I didn't make this up and lots of people already do this, but for those that don't, I figured its worth a share.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Homemade Necklace- Upcycled Cereal Box Beads

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I've recently decided to get into accessorizing more, but instead of spending a lot of money on accessories, I wanted to see what I could make at home either cheaply or completely free, ideally using what I had in the house already.

I had known for years about making beads out of magazine pages, but we don't read buy magazines, and I couldn't get from neighbors because magazines are a precious commodity where I live, trade around until they fall apart, so everyone can get a chance to read them. So I never made beads out of magazine pages. And I'll be honest, I didn't really like the look of the magazine page beads, as I found they tended to be wide and flat, just little paper cylinders, which didn't do it for me.

But then I was browsing Pinterest for ideas for upcycled accessories, and came across the idea to make beads out of cereal boxes- immediately I was hooked. Because magazines I don't have, but cereal boxes I certainly do. Unfortunately for health, gluten free cereal is the standard breakfast in our house, more often than not... At least I manage to find it cheaply now. But either way, we go through it quickly and I always hate just throwing the boxes in the trash and filling up landfills- if I could find something fun and creative to do with the cereal boxes, even better!
The other thing I liked about cereal box beads is they have some shape to them; the cardboard from the cereal box is thicker so the beads end up having some substance to them and aren't just hollow tubes like the paper beads are.
These types of beads are very easy to make, and cost virtually nothing. The more colorful your cereal boxes are, the better. Mine are a pretty purple and white, or blue and white or orange, all perfect colors for bead making.

This necklace of mine has received lots of compliments- no one believes it is made out of cereal boxes, and I've got orders from people who want me to make some for them too!

Homemade Cereal Box Bead Necklace

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Shopping Trip- November 27, 2012

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My grocery transportation method
I had a rough morning this morning; the kids went to sleep far too late last night and paid the price with their extreme crankiness. When Mike got home from work today, I let him know that I'd be going out- my friends told me earlier today that because of price wars, there was a sale going on at a supermarket in the city nearest to my town, but on the other side of the city entirely.
Skeptically, Mike wanted to know if I really thought that was a good idea, to exhaust myself even more by schlepping out to there for a sale, especially after such a hard day.
But no, I don't find shopping stressful, at least when it's just me and the babe, and after a day like today, I really enjoyed being able to go out all by my lonesome and do some shopping.
Was the trip worth it, my friends want to know.
Yes, for me it certainly was. Because I enjoyed myself, and didn't mind the trek. If I were like Mike, that the mere thought of such a trip would stress me out, then perhaps not, but in my case it was worth the time and the effort.
As for the money- since it was just me and the baby, I only had to pay bus far for one person- total travel costs were around 4 dollars- and I saved more than that on my trip.

I didn't do the hugest trip because of the distance, and because I'd be carrying everything back by my lonesome.
How do I do it?
A super huge backpack, filled up, and placed in my stroller, with a few other items tied onto the stroller handles.
And what about the baby, if the stroller is being used for groceries?
In my super wonderful baby carrier, either on my front or my back, depending on my/her mood and what I'm doing.

It was heavy, surely, but I managed to make it home all in one piece.
Ok, other than the bottle of olive oil that despite my best efforts, broke on the way home!!! Hey, at least it was cheap olive oil, and a small bottle, and not expensive stuff...

My sister also wanted to take advantage of this sale, so she too came into the city; we got to go shopping together. Unbeknownst to me, my dad and brother also came along, which ended up being very useful, both physically- my brother held Anneliese and pushed around the stroller, as well as allowing me to save even more money- as you'll soon see how.

Tuesday, November 27, 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.


My Favorite Post From Last Week
Sprouted Sunflower Pate- This looks like a great thing to do with my sunflowers that I bought in bulk, especially since sprouting makes things more digestible.


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

Recipes should include healthy ingredients and can be old or new recipes or posts. Articles on real food, slow food, foraging, herbal remedies, local food, sustainable food, organics, gardening or any healthy eating information written in a positive and loving light are also welcome.
As much as many of us are interested in frugality and green/natural living, this is a food blog hop; there are many other blog hops where you can share those posts of yours. Please keep your non food related blog posts off the hop.

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

Vegan Italian Quiche- Cinque e Cinque- with Non Vegan Option- Gluten Free, Soy Free

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Cinque e cinque, horta salad (cooked wild greens with lemon
and olive oil, potatoes with foraged caperberries, capers, and olives)
I like quiches and frittatas- not completely sure what the difference is though... but either way, they're good, yummy, healthy, frugal, and very easy to make. I find that they also tend to be great even for kids and picky eaters- they seem to have a universal appeal. I just take whatever vegetables I have in the house, throw 'em in a pan with a few other ingredients, stick it in the oven and forget about it, and an hour later have a great meal ready to serve my family.
The thing is- quiches, typically made with eggs, milk, and flour, are a problem for me, because I'm off of dairy and gluten. For a while, I was making quiches with homemade non dairy milks and gluten free flours, but lately I've discovered that I do better without eggs, so I try to keep those to a minimum, making quiche a non option.
Or is it?

I discovered that chickpea flour, when mixed in the right amounts with water, and either fried or baked, has a very egg like texture, as well as an egg like taste. Italians made a lovely chickpea flour pie called cinque e cinque- which I have to say, is exactly like quiche! Only vegan!
Cinque e cinque is a good alternative to quiche for people who:

  • Are off eggs because of allergy/food sensitivity reasons
  • Are vegan
  • Are trying to limit animal products
  • Are trying to eat only organic animal products and can't afford them too often.
And honestly, lately eggs have gone up in price so much here- they cost over a quarter per egg now- that depending on how much it costs to buy chickpea flour, it may very well be cheaper to make this chickpea flour based quiche than an egg based quiche. Indian stores tend to sell chickpea flour cheapest- they call it besan.

I've included instructions though how to make an Italian inspired non vegan crustless quiche as well though, if you're a quiche purist, and/or you don't have/want to make a chickpea flour quiche. I didn't include cheese in the recipe because it's cheaper without and in my opinion, totally unnecessary  but you can add cheese if you feel a quiche must have.

Vegan Italian Quiche- Cinque e Cinque- with Non Vegan Option

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tips For Busy Working Moms

I'm a stay a home/work from home mom, so I am able to do lots of stuff that take a lot of time. Time management honestly isn't one of my areas of expertise. Hopefully this guest post by Mary Murphy will be helpful to those of you who are working moms and need to be able to be efficient with your time, while still running a household.

Working mothers face a mountain of demands and challenges that they have to face every day. And being on call for the needs of a family 24/7, makes meeting other responsibilities that much harder as priorities, daily tasks and professional duties are juggled with critical intensity every day. Spontaneity is something of an indulgence, exclusive for people without kids and a full-time job. The thought of an hour of uninterrupted yoga, or the chance to lie in a dark room, and just listen to nothing else except the tap drip, suddenly seem like the most extravagant of luxuries.

The Harsh Reality

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Traditional Southern Dressing Recipe


One of the things I love about being a blogger is making friends with different women from around the bloggosphere that I'd never have a chance to know otherwise. April Lewis Patel, of AnAppleADayWisdom.com and author of the great ebook "Don't Compost It- Cook It!" is one of those really great ladies.
April and I have had many great talks about all sorts of things, among them, our two mutual loves- frugality, and cooking. One day I was looking for ideas of what to cook for supper, and April suggested Southern dressing, as it was gluten free and cheap.
I had never heard of Southern dressing before; the phrase immediately conjured up images of salads made of collard greens, pickled watermelon rind, and topped with bacon grease... but April corrected me-
Southern dressing isn't salad dressing or anything even remotely connected- its just a cornbread based stuffing type thing! Who wudda thunk it?

Southern dressing is really delicious- the perfect gluten free alternative to bread based stuffing; that's why it appeared on my Thanksgiving dinner table, but its also great any other time as well! While it is usually eaten with gravy made out of chicken or turkey broth, hard boiled eggs, chicken pieces, and thickener like cornstarch, potato starch, or flour, I thoroughly enjoy this dish even with no gravy over it.
And it is just so, so, so simple to make!

If you're egg free, feel free to leave the hard boiled eggs out of this recipe; it's just as good that way. But you'll need to add another protein in its place if you wanted a whole meal out of this dish. If you're vegan, just use vegetable broth instead of a meat based one, though I'll admit, its not as yummy.

Oh- and one other thing- Southern dressing is a terrific thing to do with cornbread that is old and got dry and stale- no need to throw it out! Though I'll admit, I usually just whip up a batch of cornbread specifically for this- if I wait until I have leftovers, it won't happen- there rarely is any cornbread left over when I make some.

P.S. If you don't have cornbread, and aren't gluten free, you can use stale bread for this in place of the cornbread.

Traditional Southern Dressing Recipe- Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Frugal Thanksgiving Feast, and a Really Appreciated Present

PhotobucketMy husband isn't American. He's a native English speaker, though, so I tend to forget that he isn't American, that he grew up in a different culture than I did, most of the time. I even don't notice his lovely accent most of the time anymore, after being married to him for 6 years, even though other people comment all the time on his "strong South African accent."
But there are certain times that I am reminded that no, my husband isn't American, and it boggles me how something that was such a large part of my childhood is completely foreign to him.

Thanksgiving is one of them.
Growing up, we would have big get togethers on Thanksgiving, with all our local family and the same exact friends every year. It's a great tradition, a little gratitude never hurt anyone, and a get together dedicated to that purpose is always a good idea.

But my husband didn't have that frame of reference, and living out of the US, getting a whole turkey and other Thanksgiving dinner standards aren't easy, so we haven't had a Thanksgiving dinner since we were married, other than the one time I was invited to a friend's house for one.

This year though, I did make a Thanksgiving dinner, but not just any Thanksgiving dinner.

I wanted to do something nice to honor my mother. She is a very wonderful woman with so many fine qualities, and we love her so very much.
But we blew it, and missed her birthday, an especially big one, and she was hurt that no one remembered it...

I decided that I wanted to make it up to her, by throwing her a meaningful party to say thank you... And what better time than on Thanksgiving, the day dedicated to giving thanks?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Foraging Pink Peppercorns- and the Difference Between Different Types of Pepper

Some people, like my husband, think everything tastes better with ketchup.
Other people, like myself, think everything tastes better with salt.
My uncle Jay, on the other hand, thinks that there isn't a single thing in the world that doesn't taste good with pepper on it. In fact, his motto is "Nothing can ever have too much pepper." Before tasting anything, he'll put some freshly ground black pepper onto it.
See, I'm not that extreme. I don't put pepper on everything in the world. Just most things. And I do taste my food before adding pepper.
Usually.
And pepper, like all spices, I've discovered, can end up being rather expensive. (I recently noticed just how much money I spend on spices... Not fun!)

I was very happy to discover that pink peppercorns grow near me- I now use them to replace nearly half my pepper in my cooking, cutting my cost of pepper in half.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Beating the Lines

Plan on taking advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals in just a few days? This guest post by Nancy Evans should help you out in an area, where I frankly, have absolutely no experience.

Every year new products enter the market, when those items are new mobile phones, computers or technical gadgets, lines to purchase the products can be very long. This is especially true right now and through the holiday season, when Christmas buyers are out in full force. If the thought of braving these lines raises your blood pressure, take heart. You can get many top technology products as well as every day items in easier ways.
Here are some tips for you to take note of.

Seek Discounts Online
If you already know exactly what you want to purchase, go online and browse for discounts and coupons pertaining to that specific product. Ultimately, make use of the many coupon sites. If you want to shop local stores, choose ones that offer printable coupons. If you would rather shop online, which is the most convenient way to shop this season, then use sites that offer discount codes for products.

Like most coupons, online coupons do expire, so be sure to make note of the date, if it is given, and keep hunting for deeper discounts. There is nothing that says you cannot have membership to numerous coupon sites. Join as many as you like. Some offer additional benefits besides coupons. For example, if you or someone you know have student loans, check out Upromise. Online coupons from Upromise offer great deals and you will find discounts on top of the line products and services. However, in addition to this, shopping through stores like Upromise also gives you cash back for college.

Take Advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday Online
Many do not know that stores offer special online-only bargains. This usually occurs on Black Friday, and not just on Cyber Monday. While others are waiting out in the cold, you can be sitting inside taking advantage of these sales. Do a search on the Thursday before Black Friday to learn about forthcoming sales and when they start. Do not wait too long to make your purchases after the sale starts. Products can, and do sell out online.

Do not forget to compare prices. In the excitement of finding a good deal, it is easy to buy on impulse. One great thing about the internet is the ease of comparing prices at a glance. The ability to compare is also great when it comes to product specifications – especially regarding electronics and appliances. You can compare between different brands or different models, and more easily narrow your choices.

See my disclaimer.

Tuesday, November 20, 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.

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.

Winner of the $50 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

Last week, I announced a giveaway on my blog for a $50 Amazon.com gift card, in celebration of reaching 3000 Facebook fans!

We had 1377 entries for the giveaway- a great turnout! Thank you so much for participating, and helping this blog grow even bigger.
I loved hearing what each of you would buy with the $50 Amazon.com gift card; each so varied and fun to read!
I also really enjoyed hearing what your favorite types of blog posts were. It seems that the overall consensus is that most people prefer the recipes the most- so I guess I better start posting even more recipes now!

And now, the winner, chosen via random.org---

Maureen L is the winner of the $50 Amazon.com gift card!

What will she do with that money?
Well, she says "I would love to buy some stuff for my daughter, like toys or clothes. My daughter just turned two, so she's becoming much more fun to shop for. "

Congratulations, Maureen L! I hope your daughter really enjoys her new things!

Thank you everyone else for participating!

Survivalism- Is It Frugal? Is It Useful?

As of late, there seems to have been many natural disasters, tropical storm Sandy, tsunamis, and earthquakes, among other things, all of which affect people's lives. War and dangerous political situations create man made disasters on a similar scale.
When people hear about potential of war or potential of natural disasters, some of the things they recommend doing is stocking up their household with things, just in case of disaster. Be prepared, they say. Survivalism and disaster preparedness have been on my mind a lot in recent times.

I find that as a frugal blogger, especially one who does non conventional things, I get a lot of hits to my blog from people interested in survivalism, people like Doomsday Preppers, and things of the sort. There seems to be an overlap between survivalism and frugality.

But is frugality and survivalism the same thing? Is survivalism frugal? Is frugality survivalism?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Investment Tips for Families

This is a guest post by Nancy Evans.

Saving for the future is very important at any stage of your life. The younger you are when you start the more time you have to explore options and earn income. Some may think that in this economy it is just better to hide your money away but that's not true. Put your money to work for you by making smart investments in your future. Start today by checking out options that will help you provide a safe and secure future for every member of your family.

Homemade Gluten Free Soba Buckwheat Noodles Recipe- Vegan, Pasta Maker Friendly

I had store credit at this hardware/household type store, and they didn't really have anything that I needed,so I decided to use that credit to get myself an extra- a pasta maker. I figured, since gluten free pasta is so expensive, if I could make my own it would be cheaper.
The thing is- you don't really need a pasta maker to make your own pasta- it's very doable with no special equipment. However, a pasta maker streamlines the process, and makes it much easier to make your own pasta in even less time and with less effort, so that making homemade fresh pasta is no big deal, and can be done on a regular basis and not just on special occasions.

So, smart me bought a pasta maker.
And then I discovered that my standard homemade gluten free noodles are too flimsy to go in the pasta maker. So it just sat there on the shelf unused for a few months.
Until I discovered this recipe.

Soba noodles are a type of noodle originating from Japan, made out of buckwheat flour. I was very excited when I heard about this type of noodle, because obviously it would be gluten free. Right? Wrong. Soba noodle recipes almost always always always have wheat in them, or at least that's what I've found with the online recipes.
And then the few gluten free soba noodle recipes I was able to find had egg in it, something I've been avoiding lately.
So I shelved the idea of making soba noodles.

But then I found this recipe for gluten free soba noodles that are pasta maker friendly, and because I was so excited by the pasta maker friendly recipe, I cheated and made those noodles, egg and all. They were perfectly textured, worked terrifically in the machine... But now I wanted to figure out how to make it cheaper and egg free, but without any packaged egg replacer.

Here's my version.
It works terrifically.
Its very versatile. Tastes yummy. Is easy to make. And did I mention that it works terrifically in the pasta maker, and also by hand, as its such an easy dough to work with?
In short- its so perfect you won't believe it's gluten free.

You can make these noodles and use them fresh, or you can leave them out and let them dry, so that you have noodles that you can just pop onto the stove whenever you want.
My favorite way to have these is with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic powder, salt, scallions, and sesame seeds.

I've included some pasta maker tips that I've discovered via trial and error, for those, who, like me, are pasta maker novices, so that your pasta making goes more smoothly.

Homemade Gluten Free Soba Buckwheat Noodles Recipe- Vegan, Pasta Maker Friendly


Friday, November 16, 2012

Homemade Onigiri Recipe- Japanese Rice Balls

I like packing a lunch every day for my husband; its my way of connecting with him while he's at work, by sending him something yummy and nutritious to eat while at work, something I'm happy to do.
My husband is willing to eat a container of leftovers as lunch, even though it's cold since he has no way of heating them up at work. Mike has mentioned though that since he has no official lunch break where he can sit down to a full meal, he prefers meals that don't need a fork, and that can be eaten on the go. But sandwiches are hard to make gluten free, and I don't bring gluten into my house.

Someone recommended onigiri to me as an on-the-go meal for me to make for for my husband. Onigiri are rice balls, usually stuffed with different ingredients, that are easy to transport. What is cool about onirigiri is that you can fill them with leftovers, making a cool repurposed meal. Onigiri, traditionally, is stuffed with sour or salty Asian dishes, but really you can fill them with anything that isn't liquidy or too oily, and whose flavor complements the flavor of the rice.
It doesn't hurt that the onigiri is pretty photogenic, in my opinion.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

DIY Homemade Portable Cell Phone Charger Tutorial

Sometimes I feel like I don't give enough credit on this blog to my husband, Mike, making it seem like all the  frugality in our household is done by me, and he's just a bystander, but that really is not the case. He is willing to go along with nearly all of my frugal ideas, is on the same page with me in regards to the importance of living frugally, and even helps me out in some of my more annoying frugal ventures; he's the one who rinses the poopy cloth diapers off before sticking them in the machine.
But yes, for the most part, its my husband spending the time and effort earning the money in this house, and myself spending the time and effort to make that money stretch further, and Mike going along with it. Occasionally, though, there are blog posts that are entirely his- all the inspiration comes from my discovering a cool money saving trick he's been up to lately and wanting to share it with you.
This post is one of those.

Mike has a smartphone. Yes, I know, total luxury, but its one that Mike finds worth it. His call.
But the thing about smartphones is that since they're so useful for so many things aside from just making phone calls, from browsing the internet to using apps to listening to the radio, their battery gets used up pretty quickly, and if you're out all day and have no place to charge your phone, you might be stuck without any phone.
To deal with this issue, many cell phone stores sell portable cell phone chargers, which you charge to capacity while at home, and then when out and about, you plug your phone into these chargers and juice up your phone once again. Only these chargers are pretty expensive.

Mike decided to make his own portable charger, and it works just as well as a store bought one.
Now I just want to say that neither he nor I are electricians, nor mavens in cellular phone technology, so I can't be sure that what I'm about to show you is safe for your phones and won't void your warranty, I'm just sharing what he did, and then you can decide if you feel comfortable implementing this idea.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cute Crocheted Flower Hat Tutorial

I had some extra yarn left over from crocheting my flower necklace, so thought I would crochet my daughter, Anneliese, a cute hat. At first I thought it would be suitable for the winter, but now that it's ready, I see that it's a light hat, suitable for a crisp day outside, because it's better than no hat, but isn't good for the dead of winter. Either way, I think it came out nicely, and wanted to share with you how I did it.

It was very quick and easy to make, and cost me less than 2 dollars- this used up nearly one ball of cotton yarn . Yea, I probably could find a hat at a thrift store for cheaper than this, but this was made with love, and suits my taste better than something that wasn't made by me.

So, how do you do it? (My attempt at writing a crochet pattern will be in italics.)

Tuesday, November 13, 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.

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.

Millet Anise Shortbread Cookies Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free


"Mommy, why don't you ever make us cookies?" Ike asks me this morning.
"Yea, you never make us yummy food," Lee chimes in.
"No? I never make you yummy food? Not even the chocolate pudding cake that I made for you this morning for breakfast? That wasn't yummy?"
"Oh yea... That was a little yummy, Mommy. But we want something really yummy, like cookies."
So, looking out at the pouring rain, and with a house that desperately needed to be cleaned, instead, I, Mommy Penny, decided to earn some Mommy points and make cookies.
Only I needed to go shopping, and didn't have the standard cookie recipe ingredients.

I was inspired to make these cookies by the fact that I had lots of home ground millet flour in the house. In searching for millet flour cookies, I came across this recipe, which is where I got the idea to do cookies in log form, but I made up the recipe completely on my own.

I also wanted to make a cookie that was slightly less unhealthy than the chocolate pudding cake I made this morning, with so much white sugar that it was so sickeningly sweet that even my kids didn't like it... So the cookies that I was going to make would be completely refined sugar free. But I am out of date syrup, and honey is too expensive for me to justify putting it in cookies... I decided to go with jaggery, but since jaggery is so annoying to use, since you have to grate it up, and even once you grate it, it all sticks together anyhow, I decided to use partially jaggery, and partially my homemade stevia extract.

I haven't done much experimenting with cooking with stevia, because I find that stevia has an anise like taste and a slightly bitter aftertaste, which is strange and not always the most pleasant, in my opinion. I thought to make these anise flavored cookies, with star anise and fennel seeds, so that the stevia flavor would be masked.

I really like how these cookies came out. So did my husband. Star anise and fennel seeds were the perfect flavor combination to use to hide the stevia flavor.

My kids, on the other hand, weren't so thrilled with these. Mostly because Lee was convinced that the ground fennel seeds in his cookies were bugs...

Oh well.

At least the adults liked them. I'll be making these again, that's for sure. For myself. If my kids don't want to have them... well then, more for me.

These cookies are also vegan, another score.
I haven't done it myself, but I'm sure these cookies can be made with wheat flour, either all purpose, or whole wheat, or spelt, or sprouted wheat flour in place of the millet flour. And that brown sugar can be used in place of the jaggery if you don't have that available where you live. Playing around with it, and using honey in place of the jaggery and some of the water would probably also work.

Millet Anise Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Celebration- A Giveaway- Free Money!


My sister is always full of ideas of what I should write about on this blog, you know, just in case I ever run out of ideas. Fortunately, I usually have an idea of certain things I want to say, even if I don't always have the energy to write about it...
But anyhow, my sister told me that lots of bloggers and other people on various social media platforms are taking the month of November, and in preparation for the holiday of Thanksgiving, are writing about something that they're thankful for every day. I didn't do that exactly, but today's post is in part inspired by that.

Because this is a thank you to you, my readers.
A few years ago, I was feeling very dejected. I wanted to make a difference in the world. I wanted to matter to people, and not just to my husband, kids, and small circle of friends. I wanted to be able to help people, and to be important to people, to leave a legacy behind me one day when I die. I wanted to feel I was doing something greater than just taking care of my family... not that that isn't very important, but it wasn't enough for me.
I knew I had some tricks up my sleeve to saving money, thought that maybe I'd be able to share those ideas with other people via my writing, and tried to get my writing published in various publications, like magazines, etc...  But it was to no avail, and I was ready to give up.
And then I had the idea to maybe start a blog, see if maybe I could do it on my own, maybe help people out without first needing to get editors to approve my writing and publish it...

Thanks to you wonderful readers, this blog really took off. It's nearly 2 years old, and in that time, I've had over 1 million, 65 thousand, 600 hits... Mind boggling. And very flattering that so many people are coming to hear what I have to say!

But as much as I love my blog itself, sometimes the thing I love about it most is the community that has cropped up around it, such as on my Facebook fan page. Because I keep this blog for the "big things", but the little things like what I made for supper, my frugal find that day, or any frugality/health related question that I need advice on, I post on the facebook page, and there are so many wonderful people there to share their thoughts and opinions, many of whom I've got to know more personally.

Since the Facebook page has grown so much, when I saw that the amount of fans was approaching 3,000, I decided that when it reached the 3,000 mark, I'd be making a giveaway to give back to you readers for everything you do.
Because you ARE the blog.
Because without you, there would be no blog.
The only reason I've been writing this blog is because of you readers... with no readers, my interest would have petered off very quickly.

So thank you!

Well, you readers are awesome, and when I announced that I was trying to reach 3000 fans, you recommended my page left and right, and I reached my goal in a few hours, not in a few days like I thought it would take...
So I waited until after the weekend to do this giveaway.

As to this giveaway, I thought about what I wanted to give away, what you readers would enjoy... but I came up short. You're such a diverse group of women and men, all different ages, marital status, and location. I wanted to give something that could go to any one of my readers and still be useful.

And that's why I chose an Amazon.com giftcard.

Because pretty much anything you want, you can get on Amazon.com

You can get electronics.
You can get books.
You can get clothes.
You can get groceries.
You can get kitchen tools.
You can get linens.
You can get toys.
You can get cloth diapers...

I can't really think of anything you can't get on Amazon.com.

And that's why, I'm giving the lucky winner of this giveaway a free, 50 dollar gift certificate to Amazon.com.

So you can get whatever it is your heart desires. So long as it costs less than 50 dollars. And if it costs more than 50 dollars, you can use that gift card towards the cost of the item, and make up in the rest.
This gift card also covers shipping.

This giveaway, unlike giveaways on most blog, is not just open to readers in the US and Canada. Its open to anyone, all over the world. (And if there are any astronauts in outer space reading this, they're eligible as well.)

The giveaway is via Rafflecopter using this widget below. There are multiple ways to earn entries. (This is my first time using Rafflecopter, so if it isn't working properly, please tell me.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
The giveaway is open from now, until 12:01 AM on Tuesday, November 20th, 2012.

There are some entries that can be done once, and other entries that can be done once a day, for even more entries.

So, what are you waiting for?

P.S. One very important rule- if you don't leave an email address for me to contact you at, even if you win, you will not get the prize- it will be passed on to someone else. Make SURE you leave an email address with your entry!

Five Tips for Saving Money on Health Care

This is a guest post by Sean O’Connor,  a health insurance expert at GoHealthInsurance.com.

Bad news first – in the United States, health care costs are rising at five times the rate of inflation. There is a silver lining, however. As consumers, we have the power to make informed decisions and avoid over-spending on health care. Consider the following tips:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why Choosing to Have a Cell Phone Isn’t a Waste of Money

Image courtesy of adamr 
/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Cell phones- necessary, or a waste of money? In the frugal world, especially, it seems that there is no general consensus. Many people, especially those that work from home, choose to go without a cell phone, yet others, like myself, find a cell phone absolutely necessary, especially because I have no car and am traveling on public transportation on dangerous roads with my three kids, and need to be able to have the ability to get a hold of my husband and other people should emergencies crop up. Some people I know chose to go without a house phone, and just have cell phones. Others find cell phones to be a complete waste of money.
Reader Kathryn, shared this guest post about why choosing to have a cell phone isn't a waste of money.

When it comes to technology, we’re all under the impression that to get our hands on the latest crazes, we all have to pay an arm and a leg for them. And, mobile phones are no exception to this perception.

From touch screen smart phones, to razor thin devices, there are thousands of options to choose from, many of which cost users an average of $47.16 a month. Pricey, huh?

If you’re a frugal saver, it’s pretty likely that you won’t be one of these users. After all, that’s a grand total of $565.92 a year that could be spent elsewhere. A mobile phone, in your opinion, is just an unnecessary cost, right?

But, believe it or not, owning a mobile phone need not be expensive, and contrary to belief, isn’t a waste of money. Here’s why:

Battered Fish Recipe- Egg Free, Gluten Free and Regular

Sorry, this isn't my picture- its from here, courtesy of
vichie81, but it looks exactly like what this recipe yields
I love breaded fish and vegetables, as well as battered fish and veggies. The thing is- most breaded fish recipes need an egg, and generally gluten as well, and nearly all batter fried recipes contain gluten and often egg as well. For a long time, I thought I simply had to do without if I was off of gluten and dairy, and then I discovered an easy way to make gluten free, dairy free, egg free batter for batter fried fish and veggies. I based it on a recipe I have for cauliflower leaf pakoras, and it's so easy and simple. If you have no need to make it gluten free, I've included a wheat flour variation.
If you're not a fish eater, don't worry, I've included fish free variations below.

The recipe is pretty versatile in ingredients, so you can adjust it to suit your tastes.

Ingredients:
2 cups chickpea flour plus 1/4 cup white rice or brown rice flour
OR 2 cups all purpose or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup potato, corn, or tapioca starch for dipping (or more wheat flour)
Water or other liquid
Salt
Spices
Flavorings
Fish fillets (see note for variations)
Oil (I prefer coconut oil, to keep this healthier, but any oil will do)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Our Bi-Annual Date, For Our Anniversary- Cheapskate Style

An unfocused picture of Mike on our date night.
I think it only fitting that this post be the next post after my post on the show, "Extreme Cheapskates", because I think it's a prime example of how my life is not that of an extreme cheapskate, yet at the same time, is very frugal. 
You see, the reason I am frugal, in addition to not rolling in cash, is because I want to be able to have money for things that matter to me, for the important things in life, and to not spend money that I will regret.
No sirree. I want all the money that I spend to be money well spent, money that I will not miss because it was used for things that mattered not, but rather, money I will have been happy to have spent, because that money was spent to make my life as great as it is.
I have a rich life, on a minimum wage budget. And I think that that is the ideal balance. Not to never spend money, but so that when you spend money, you make it count.
No regrets. That's my motto.

So, on to the topic of today's post.

Happy anniversary to Mike and me. My husband and I have been married 6 years. Well, six years, one month, 3 weeks, and 4 days. (Yes, I did just open up a calendar to check that now.)
I know, I know, why happy anniversary to us now, so belated?
Because we finally got around to celebrating our anniversary.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why I Don't Like Watching The Show "Extreme Cheapskates"

One of the most extreme cheapskates on the show,
demonstrating how she uses the  bathroom cheaply, on TV
As someone who claims to be extremely frugal, you might assume that the TV show "Extreme Cheapskates" would be right up my alley.
You wouldn't be the first.
In fact, I was contacted by them a while ago, because they wanted me to appear on their show, and after going through the whole interview process, they realized I wasn't in the US and so it wasn't doable.
Until tonight, I'd never seen the show Extreme Cheapskates. I watched two episodes on Youtube, thinking that I might get a few new tricks, or at least see some like minded people. I thought I'd enjoy it.
I didn't.
In fact, I got really mad at the people on the show, because so much of what they were doing is very wrong in my books, and it gives frugal people like myself  a bad name! 

So, what exactly did I not like about the show? 
The people on the show, for the most part, seemed not to be frugal or extremely frugal because they needed to be or because they were trying to save up for something specific; they saved money for the sake of being able to say they saved money, even when they were saving money in ways that were morally wrong, or they spent a lot of money to be able to "save money" instead of actually doing cost cutting measures. They're not frugal- they're cheapskates. Misers. Tightwads. And not in the positive sense of the word.

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop


Hearth & Soul Hop

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

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

Recipes should include healthy ingredients and can be old or new recipes or posts. Articles on real food, slow food, foraging, herbal remedies, local food, sustainable food, organics, gardening or any healthy eating information written in a positive and loving light are also welcome.
As much as many of us are interested in frugality and green/natural living, this is a food blog hop; there are many other blog hops where you can share those posts of yours. Please keep your non food related blog posts off the hop.

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

How to Unclog a Sink Drain, DIY Plumbing, and Why To Never Use Caustic Soda for Clogged Pipes

Imagine coming home ravenous after a long day, needing to cook supper because there is nothing ready to eat in the house, but the counter is full of dirty dishes and so is the sink, and there is nothing clean with which to cook your dinner, nor a clean surface area on which to work. You resign yourself to washing the dishes (which you know you should have washed earlier) before even starting to make supper, let alone eating it, only...
You start washing the dishes, and the water won't go down the drain. You clean out the gook from the bottom of the sink, trying to unclog it, but it makes no difference. The sink is hopelessly clogged.

That happened to us last week. Only it was my husband who came home to that mess I left, no supper, and a clogged sink, while I was busy sleeping over at my sister.

He tried to unclog the blocked drain himself, but it didn't work. He ended up washing the dishes in the bathtub.

The next day, when I arrived home, I called the plumber. He named a relatively high price for unclogging the drain, but said that since we're friends of his, he'd make it cheaper. We said we'd think about it, and decided that first we'd try to take more measures to unclog it ourselves, and if that didn't work, only then we'd call the plumber back.

Fortunately, with just a little bit of outlay on equipment, some time, and the willingness to get our hands dirty, we managed to unclog the drain, and the plumber didn't need to make a visit.

So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, how can you also unclog a stuck drain without needing to shell out the cash on a plumber? Here's what we've learned.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mung Beans and Greens Patties Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free

I've been having fun playing around with my grain grinder, making all sorts of flours that aren't necessarily so easy to buy in stores. I've been making lots of bean flours especially, because I've discovered that they're versatile and great for making flatbreads and batters that hold together, without the need for eggs or xanthan gum, and on top of that, they're chock full of protein, so if I use them to make a "bready" type thing together with vegetables, I don't have to include another protein or starch, so it works out cheaper, because I've hit two birds with one stone.
These are similar to the korean mung bean patties that I posted before, only these are made with mung bean flour instead of whole mung beansand therefore, they can be made quickly and don't require 12 hours of advance preparation, . I also try not to use cabbage too much, as it bothers my stomach, so these are made with greens instead. Any leafy greens are fine, I've used sow thistle and wild mustard, but they can be made with spinach, chard, beet greens, or any greens you have lying around, either store bought, or foraged wild greens.
These are best served dipped in terriyaki sauce.

Mung Bean and Greens Patties Recipe

Friday, November 2, 2012

Baked Watermelon Steak Recipe and Method- Raw Fish/Sashimi Replacement for Sushi

 I got a watermelon from the reduced rack the other day. They're nearly out of season, and hence they don't have the best texture or taste, so its not so fun to just eat them plain. In the past, when I had watermelon like this, I made watermelon gazpacho and watermelon fruit leather, but I wanted to try something new. 
Google clued me in that there was something called "grilled watermelon steak", and it sounded intriguing. Apparently there's this restaurant somewhere in New England that came up with this idea to bake watermelon, and there are many copies of that version on the internet, and they contain butter and cream sherry, two things I either don't have or can't use, but I still wanted to try out the idea. According to the websites, the texture of this grilled watermelon steak was similar to pan seared mahi mahi tuna, but never having eaten it, I had no clue what type of texture to expect.

I was very thrilled with the results.

Food Safety After A Blackout

In the aftermath of the devastating storm that Sandy was, its hard to have any words of consolation. A friend of mine, living on the New York coast, in mandatory evacuation area A, left her house for the duration of the storm and came back to find out that all her worldly possessions were destroyed. I wish I had tips and techniques for her and people in similar situations how to frugally rebuild your life from scratch, but unfortunately, I do not. All the tips I could possibly think of for furnishing a home frugally from scratch probably won't work when there are so, so, so many people who need to do the same and are competing for the same things.
The one thing that I can do is this-
Even if people didn't lose everything in the storm, even if their home remained unscathed, the one thing millions of Americans are/were suffering from is blackouts. Blackouts are more than just inconvenient- they can be life threatening (as in the case of NYU hospital who's backup generators failed, necessitating transfering lots of NICU and PICU babies to other hospitals during the storm). But even if you're not dependent on electricity for your health and well being, your food supply usually is, especially your perishables in the refrigerator.
Now, what happens if you have a fully stocked refrigerator and freezer, and your electricity goes out for some time? Do you lose everything? Do you have to throw it out? What is actually safe to eat, and what is not?
 I know that the FDA and other similar organizations put out guidelines about what food is safe to eat and what is not, but I'll be honest, I think they're pretty alarmist. The FDA isn't the one incurring the huge loss that would be entailed in you throwing out massive amounts of food, especially if you had a large stockpile in your freezer, so its easy for them to say to toss it all- no skin off their back, only yours!
So, this post is not backed by the FDA nor by any scientific evidence or studies. No "links with information to back it up."  This is just me, myself, and I telling you what I would do in your situation. You, of course, have to decide what you feel comfortable doing; don't just take my word for it.

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