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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Homemade Gluten Free Vegan Falafel Recipe, Made From Chickpea or Lentil Flour, GAPS Legal

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I have to go shopping. I have no xanthan gum left in the house and very little flax seed for egg replacement. I have very few gluten free flours ready to be used in my house; I gotta get out my grain grinder, but I'm being a little lazy about that. So for lunch today, I said I'd use what I have already on hand... I had brown lentil flour already ready, and since I've made brown lentil falafel before from whole lentils, I was sure it would work also from lentil flour. To get a basic idea how to make this recipe, I searched for a recipe for falafel made from chickpea flour/garbanzo bean flour, and came up with this one from Bob's Red Mill, which I then tweaked to make it more to my liking. (What? No turmeric in their falafel? That's like the base of  authentic falafel balls!) I like my falafel balls extra flavorful, but feel free to use less of the spices if you prefer a blander variety.

I've included instructions in case you want to soak your flour overnight, as per WAPF (Nourishing Traditions/traditional foodies) guidelines to reduce phytic acid content and make it more digestible, but if you want to make it quicker, feel free to skip that step.

I served mine with a cucumber tomato salad dressed with lemon, oil, salt, and garlic, and with tahini dipping sauce (recipe here).
You deep fry these, fry in a little oil, or even bake these in the oven, however you chose.

These are GAPS diet legal if you make them with lentil flour.

Homemade Falafel Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Vegan

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Homemade Sword and Shield Toy

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My kids attempting to make a "mean" face to go with their toys.
 They're "pirates", can't you tell?
My kids recently were at their cousins' house. They came home full of reports- "Mommy, did you know that our cousins have toy swords and shields that they made out of wood?Can we please make some too- we also want swords and shields!"

I was actually debating whether or not to actually post this post or not, as there are a lot of opinionated people out there on the internet, quite a few of them who read my blog, and hey, I'm opinionated too, I get it... But I have a feeling that some people will take me to task for making my boys "weapons" to play with.

First off, I have to say that boys will be boys will be boys. Parents can forbid their kids from playing with guns and swords and bows and arrows and anything else resembling weapons, because they don't want to teach their kids that hurting people is ok, and that weapons are toys. I used to feel that way, I'll admit. But reality set in. Kids, if not allowed to have toy weapons, will make their own out of whatever they can find- I've even heard stories of kids "shooting" out of a barbie bent in half. Or in the absence of toys, they often make guns out of their fingers. My kids took apart our bed rail and turned the segments of it into toy swords, already long ago. Not supplying them with these toys doesn't mean they won't find some alternative to make an imitation weapon out of whatever they have.

I'll be honest, that not living in the US, there is a very different gun culture here than there is in the US. There is far stricter gun control laws, and (maybe because of that) much fewer gun related crimes. No school shootings, mall shootings, etc... In fact, kids and adults alike tend to see guns and other weapons, not as something to fight with, to hurt with, but to protect with. My kids have close family members with guns; these family members use guns in their profession to protect citizens. There is definitely not the same connotation here with guns as there is in the US.

Oven Baked Breaded Chicken Cutlets/Shnitzel, Egg Free, Gluten Free

 photo 100_6291_zps7103993f.jpgI like chicken shnitzel/breaded chicken cutlets.
The standard way of making it is dipping the raw chicken cutlets in egg, then dipping them in bread crumbs, and then frying them in oil.
Being off gluten for some time already, I've simply made my chicken shnitzels with gluten free bread crumbs made from gluten free bread that came out less than perfect, often mixed with ground sunflower seeds.
But now that I'm trying to avoid eggs as well, it makes things slightly more complicated.
And on top of everything else, sometimes you want to make shnitzel but don't have the energy to fry a few at a time on the stove top...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Foraging Chickweed- Wild Edibles

 photo 100_6302_zpsc254a970.jpgI've been a little out of it in the past week. Lots of things going on, getting into lots of drama with friends and aquaintances over stupidity, and then on top of that, Mike's accident on Saturday. It's all left me feeling rather blah and out of it. Not under the weather physically, but mentally and emotionally.

I was trying to figure out how to snap out of it, and I've decided a few ways to work on that, but as much as it'll take some internal work, I also believe eating good, nutritious food is a way to get your brain functioning to optimum capacity, something especially necessary if you're feeling otherwise blah.

I don't think I've been eating perfectly this past little bit. I mean, not badly either, but everything I've eaten, it seems, has either been cooked to death or dehydrated, or whatnot, and my body was craving fresh, live food, ideally organic. I suddenly understood the appeal raw foodists have for uncooked foods- there is something invigorating about eating raw food, especially in larger quantities. Not that I want to be a raw foodist or anything, but today, that certainly is what my body was craving.

So I went out to my friend's yard, and picked some chickweed, an ultra nutritious edible weed that had taken over the place, mixed it up with some other ingredients including sprouted black lentils, dressed it, and served it with a side of mashed potatoes. Really hit the spot!

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And then I thought to myself--- Penny, you use chickweed so often, it's one of your favorite wild edibles, it's terrific for beginners, and you've never even posted about it on your blog?

So that's what this post is.

What is chickweed, how to identify it, how to eat it, how to use it, etc...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mike in a Motorcycle Accident

Gas is dreadfully expensive where I live. So much so that many people like ourselves opt out of having a car, because the costs of running it are prohibitive. Some people decide that since it uses less gas, but still allows you a method of transporting yourself easily, that it's a worthwhile thing to get a motorcycle. Mike, my husband, once broached the topic with me of getting a motorbike as a vehicle, to allow him to more easily get to work, etc... I told him that I would never support that idea- motorcycles are too dangerous, and I love him too much to let him get a motorcycle and put his life at risk like that.
He understood my point and that was that.
I never assumed, therefore, that he would be involved in a motorcycle accident.
But he was today.
He was hit by a motorcycle, and is currently recuperating at home. Fortunately, the injuries aren't too bad.

Let me tell you what happened.

This weekend, we went to visit my husband's brother and his family. We were taking a leisurely walk down a dirt path at the outskirts of the community, a nice relaxing Saturday afternoon activity. I was walking ahead with my kids and father in law, my husband was walking behind me with his 7 month pregnant sister in law and 4 year old niece.
We passed by a group of teenagers, one standing with is motorbike, and one with a horse. They acknowledged our presence.

Less than a minute later, the motorbike came barreling down the rocky, dirt path/road, directly at my sister in law and niece. At the last second, he swerved and hit my husband in the thigh, throwing my husband into the thorn bushes at the side of the road, with the biker landing on top of him, and the motorcycle landing on top of him.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Homemade Pasta Drying Rack for Pasta Making- Really Easy and Cheap!

 photo 100_6284_zps15d67b55.jpgI've been making homemade pasta ever since I read you could do it on under1000permonth.blogspot.com with 3 cups whole wheat flour and one cup water. So cheap, pretty easy. And I was able to make whole wheat pasta for cheaper than the store bought white flour pasta.
When I would make that pasta, I would use a rolling pin to roll it out really well, and then a pizza cutter to cut the pasta to size.
It was very cheap. But it was also a lot of work.
I didn't switch over to making all my own pasta then, because it was a bit too much work. I mostly did it when I wanted lasagna, because then the exact thickness of the pasta mattered less, and it was less work because it didn't involve cutting out pieces of pasta and then boiling them... and also when I made ravioli, because it was a fraction of the price of store bought ravioli and my husband loves ravioli so much.
So homemade pasta happened. But much less frequently than using store bought pasta.

And then I went gluten free. And gluten free pasta in the store is pretty expensive, and doesn't taste so good even. I started making my own pasta at home a little more frequently than I did in the past, because the pay off financially was worth it. But just a little more frequently, because pasta was my back up meal, for when I was in a rush, and making pasta wasn't so easy, in terms of rolling it out, making sure it was the right thickness, cutting it, etc...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Homemade Japanese Curry Kare Recipe

 photo 100_6167_zps92c1e54c.jpgWhen most people think Japanese food, they tend to think sushi. Maybe, maybe they'll be more up to date on the broad spectrum of Japanese food and be aware that miso soup, okonomiyaki, and onigiri are also Japanese food.
But did you know that curry is also a Japanese food?
I didn't really know until a Japanese friend, N, clued me in on that. She said that because I'm such an adventurous eater and love exploring foods from other cultures, and because I've liked and made lots of other Japanese dishes, I should try out Japanese curry.
That confused me.
I thought curry was something Indian. Thai at best. But what on earth is the connection between Japan and curry???
A little googling and scouting round the internet taught me that the British introduced the Japanese to curry in the 1800s, a time period in which India was under British control. How exactly, I'm not 100% sure, but the Japanese people fell so in love with curry (also called kare) that they made it their own, changing it up a bit, and now it is one of Japan's most popular dishes. Definitely not what I'd expected to find as Japan's national dish!
Fusion cooking at its best. But hey- Americans like lots of Indian food and Chinese food- why should it be a surprise that Japanese like food from other cultures as well?

Japanese curry generally comes as a powder, like soup mix, filled with a whole bunch of nasty sounding ingredients, that aren't healthy, and they're reconstituted into a sauce, mixed with vegetables and maybe meat, and served, either over/with rice, or soup like, with noodles. Very different from the types of Indian or Thai curries I'm used to.
According to N, curry is very popular with kids and adults alike in Japan. I certainly enjoyed it, despite the rather seemingly strange flavor combinations in this recipe, and so did the rest of my family. To be honest, though, I'm not sure it was my kids favorite meal in the world, but they certainly didn't complain about it either.
You can make this meal either vegetarian/vegan, or with any meat, and make it sugar free or not, or gluten free or not. I chose to serve it with some homemade sushi rice.
I certainly will be trying this one again.

This recipe is a combination of quite a few different recipes that I got. Japanese curries are flexible!

Homemade Japanese Curry Recipe

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ultra Delicious Homemade Red Lentil Burgers Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan

When I recommend to people that they start cooking legumes as protein to lower their grocery bills, as legumes are much cheaper than animal proteins, people often say that they'd like to, only they don't really care for the taste of beans and legumes in general, and that they'd make them if they had good recipes. One of my most popular recipes, that nearly everyone who's tried it (and there were lots!) has told me what a hit it was with their family is my terriyaki baked lentils, which, granted, is a terrific recipe.
But after making this red lentil burger today, I have a new favorite lentil dish, which I suspect might become a new favorite among people looking for tasty ways to cook lentils. These lentil burgers don't really have much, if any, of a legume taste to them, and they're packed with a giant dose of flavor and umami- they're so good, it's hard to believe they're healthy and are free from artificial ingredients!

These are completely vegan and gluten free, but they can easily be made not gluten free and not vegan as well, depending on what you have in the house. They can be eaten as is, or in a bun with fixings. I soak my lentils overnight with a bit of apple cider vinegar to help neutralize the phytic acid, an antinutrient that impedes digestion, before cooking it up, but you can skin that step if you want.

This recipe is also pretty cheap.

Healthy. Frugal. Oh so delicious. That's what makes this recipe a winner!

Ultra Delicious Homemade Red Lentil Burgers Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Stuffed Chicken Skin Recipe

 photo 100_6171_zps451fe1fa.jpgI don't like wasting food, not even foods that other people might think to throw away. I've gained a reputation on the bloggosphere and also among my friends for being a person who uses food scraps to make yummy dishes. Which is why it was nice, but not a completely huge surprise, when my neighbor called me up yesterday and said "Hey Penny, you use chicken skin, right?" "Yea, why?" "Well, I have a whole bunch of chicken skin that I took off my chicken, and before I threw it out, I wanted to first see if you wanted it." "Absolutely", I said, knowing that chicken skins are a good source of nutrition, including protein, iron, and healthy fats. (P.S. I know many say animal fats are not healthy. I'm not in that school of thought and prefer animal fats and other naturally saturated fats to unsaturated fat.)

Her daughter showed up at my door with a huge mound of chicken skins. Immediately I knew that they were going to be supper.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ditch the Eggs- Frugal Egg Replacement

 photo eggs_zps8b0715fb.jpgSo, I pretty much don't eat eggs, because I don't feel so well after I eat them, and because I suspect my nursing daughter gets diaper rashes when I eat eggs. But even though I don't eat eggs, my husband and sons eat eggs, often as a quick supper when I don't have anything ready by the time supper time comes around. Eggs used to be known as a cheap protein, but lately the prices have gone up and up and up. I used to pay 21 cents an egg, and even then they weren't so cheap and I tried to use them sparingly. But lately, they've gone up to 29 cents an egg, and when you use a bunch at a time, like when you make egg based dishes, the cost adds up quickly. But I didn't realize just how much money could be saved by going egg free, or at least minimizing the amounts of eggs you use, until today.

In addition to this blog, and the wild edible plant walks I teach, I have a small side business of making and selling gluten free flours and other foods, such as gluten free fresh pasta. While I usually make my pasta vegan, today I was filling an order for a woman, and I used eggs for it. In the pasta recipe, I ended up using 8 eggs. At 29 cents an egg, I spent $2.32 on eggs alone for the pasta- which definitely cuts into the profit I make!
I was thinking to myself- how much cheaper would this pasta be to make if I used flax seeds, my typical egg replacement?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How To Salvage Produce- What Can Be Salvaged and What Not

PhotobucketI've wanted to write this post for a little while already, because I think it may be very useful information for those either looking to save money or reduce waste, or both. But I haven't written it yet, because it's not "politically correct" and I know some people might get upset at me for writing it, because it's not what conventional papers and studies will tell you to do. And I have no scientific backing for anything I'm writing.
So you have to make your own decision whether or not you're comfortable doing these things...

But basically, these are the guidelines I use when deciding whether or not vegetables and fruit are salvageable and can be eaten.
This is something that is especially useful for me, because I have access to lots of free produce in sub par conditions (the rejects from my local mom and pop's store), as well as reduced rack veggies and fruit from the grocery store. I also sometimes forget stuff in my refrigerator until they no longer look so hot...
And while there is plenty of great stuff there, you have to know how to utilize it properly, as well as knowing what to toss, so you don't make yourself sick, not to mention make your food taste gross.

Here are my basic rules, and then I'll go through each individual type of produce, sharing what I do with them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

5 Ways to Save on Your Home Loan

If you're in the market to purchase a house, hopefully this guest post will give you some good tips to help you save money on your mortgage.

Home loans are just one of those necessary evils for most people. Unless you can save up the cash to pay for a home outright, you will probably need to find a lender that offers a home loan you can afford. With that in mind, hopefully you can save time on the next go around. Here are five ways to save on your home loan.

What Makes You Special
The first thing you can think about when shopping around for a home loan is what is special about you that could help save you money. Some home loan companies will offer interest rate deductions for a variety of reasons. There are even special programs based on different careers.
For example, where do you work? There are special home loan programs for careers like teaching or even if you were/are in the military. Public service jobs have a bunch of lesser known benefits like this.
Feel free to ask each company representative what discounts may be available to you. You may be surprised.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Treasure Hunting- For Mushrooms and Other Wild Edibles

Today I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful woman, Lea (name changed), an author, urban homesteader, and forager like myself, who I knew from a foraging group I was part of, who just happens to be visiting a city right near where I live, and is leaving in a few days.

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I teach wild edible walks in a park in that city, and while I love foraging and love teaching those classes, I sometimes wish I could forage together with someone else instead of needing to teach to a crowd. Because I like teaching, but I also like learning, and while people who've come to my classes have taught me a thing or two, I'm largely a self taught forager... I learned most of the foraging things I know either from websites or from books, but I was really looking forward to having someone teach me a few tricks in person. I never had a foraging buddy before, just foraging students...

One thing I'd never foraged before was mushrooms. Mushrooms is something I would never forage just from knowledge from the internet or a book- I needed a local expert.

And that's where Lea came in.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Decadent Mocha Brownies Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free Alternatives

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I know that many of my readers started reading my blog back when my blog wasn't particularly "diet specific", before I went gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and refined sugar free.
They were here when my blog was just about saving a buck, any way possible, and they probably have been a little disappointed that my recipes often contain more expensive or specialty ingredients, making it unsuitable for those on a stricter budget, even if my recipes tend to be on the cheaper end for being special diet friendly...
But I cook what I can eat, for the most part, which is why often my recipes aren't so cheap, because I either can't or don't want to eat the cheapo stuff because of health concerns.

But I really do like sharing recipes that can be suitable for all my readers, which is why I love sharing recipes like this- recipes that are suitable for vegans and not, for gluten free readers and for wheat eaters, for refined sugar eaters and for those who avoid refined sugars. Because then everyone wins.

This recipe is versatile. Its the yummiest brownie recipe that I've made in a long time. And I discovered it because I wanted to make a coconut sugar based brownie, so I googled "brown sugar vegan brownie recipe" to try to find a recipe with which I could work, and make adjustments until it suited my needs. I came across this recipe, cheapified it, made it gluten free, replaced the refined sugar with a healthier alternative (and yes, I consider brown sugar a refined sugar, even if it does have molasses added back in to it), and came up with this perfectly decadent brownie. But one caveat- if you're looking for a fudgy brownie, this isn't it- its more cakey, but that doesn't detract from its perfection.

P.S. You'd never know these brownies are vegan or gluten free or refined sugar free, they're that perfect!

Decadent Mocha Brownies Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free Alternatives



Saturday, January 12, 2013

Homemade Pickled Bell Peppers and Banana Peppers Recipe

PhotobucketWhen I was a kid, I wasn't the biggest fan of spicy food. I thought I was daring when I'd put a little bit of mild salsa on my tortilla chips! But hot peppers made me run! I hated the burn!
But there was one spicy food that I did like- pickled banana pepper rings! I'd eat them by the spoonful, and enjoy every second of it. Yes, other people enjoyed them on hot dogs, etc... but I enjoyed my banana pepper rings plain, burn and all. The sweet, the sour, the spice, the mild crunch- heaven.

I recently acquired a huge amount of yellow peppers, peppers that needed to be dealt with quickly, otherwise they'd spoil. I wanted to pickle them, but wasn't able to find a recipe that appealed to me. And then I saw a recipe for pickled banana peppers. Oooo, that sounded so good! I really wanted to be able to make those, alas, my peppers were the sweet variety, not the spicy kind!

But I decided to try them out anyhow. I healthified the idea, using only healthy ingredients instead of the lab produced and overly processed ingredients that I saw in the original recipe. I don't remember where the original recipe was, I'm sorry, but I changed it so much that it doesn't even resemble it anymore...
I added a dash of hot pepper to mine- and with that extra touch, they taste exactly like the banana peppers I grew up with. If you prefer no spice, leave out the hot pepper, and you'll still have a very delicious snack.

Homemade Pickled Bell Peppers and Banana Peppers Recipe

Friday, January 11, 2013

Healthy Fudgy Brownies Recipe- GAPS Legal, Grain Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free, Egg Free

PhotobucketThe other day, when I was doing some cooking experimentation, I wanted to see if I could make a grain free, healthy brownie recipe that wouldn't be too expensive and would be egg free. I have seen plenty of healthy brownie recipes that are based on almond flour or coconut flour or other ingredients that are expensive round these parts, and use a lot of honey as a sweetener, which also is really expensive.
When I tried making this recipe, I tried to see what I could use to make it cheaper, yet have the same effect, and have the perfect texture and taste good. This is the recipe I came up with- and they have the perfect, fudgy texture, and they're totally GAPS diet legal, and grain free, gluten free, dairy free, and egg free.  I just want to warn you that I noticed a slight different taste to these brownies, but couldn't figure out what that different taste was- my friend B says the butternut squash gives it a slightly different aftertaste. Who knows. I think it might be the pumpkin seeds. But either way, this recipe is good and addicting.
The funny thing about this recipe is that when I brought this cake over to B's house, her 6 year old son looks me in the eye and says "You know chocolate cake isn't healthy, right?" Wanting to get him to taste it (he's a very picky eater, and generally prefers less healthy foods), I nodded my head in agreement, "Yes, chocolate cake isn't healthy", all the while thinking to myself "Man, this has got to be THE healthiest chocolate cake there is out there. Grain free, refined sugar free, high protein, full of healthy fats and vitamins and minerals..."

Either way, try it out. I hope you like it!

Healthy Fudgy Brownies Recipe- GAPS/SCD Legal, Grain Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free, Egg Free

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How To Make Any Pan Non Stick

PhotobucketEver since my non stick, Teflon coated baking pan let off noxious fumes that killed my budgie, Buddy, I've been very leery of using anything with a non stick coating. I switched over to cast iron pots and pans and have been very happy with them.
But some people can't accord a set of cast iron cookware, and/or don't want to have to worry about taking care of it and seasoning it so that it remains non stick. (It's not a big deal, seriously. Cast iron pans are SO worth every cent and every slight bit of extra work.)
But for whatever reason, some people don't have non stick pans at all, or some people would prefer not to use the unhealthy non stick pans that they have, and that's where this comes in.

My best friend B, taught me how to make any pan non stick, so that you can make your pancakes or your fritters or your eggs or your fried chicken, and not need to worry about it getting stuck to the pan.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Red Lentil Flour Noodles Recipe- GAPS/SCD Legal, Grain Free, Gluten Free Homemade Pasta

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GAPS/SCD legal noodles with butternut
squash vegan "cheese" sauce
While I'm unsure of whether or not my family will do the GAPS diet in the end to heal our guts, I've been having lots of fun playing around, trying to make GAPS legal, frugal recipes that would be filling and nutritious, and ideally high in GAPS legal carbohydrates. This recipe was my attempts at making a GAPS/SCD legal pasta that is egg free. I'll admit that it's not the perfect pasta recipe- while it holds together beautifully when rolling out, once cooked, the noodles become pretty fragile and break apart into short small chunks instead of linguini or spaghetti. But despite being short, they taste good and have the right texture- with sauce, they're passable as regular noodles, definitely more passable than vegetable "noodles" made in a spiralizer or with a peeler.
I made these with red lentil flour, butternut squash, and flax, because I figured that that combination would have enough starches to hold it together, and would probably taste good as well. It has only the faintest legume taste to it- not very lentily at all.

I think this recipe would work best in lasagna, because then you don't have to worry about the noodles breaking apart while boiling, but I haven't tried it yet myself.

This works in a pasta maker, but don't try to roll it any thinner than a 1 or 2. It can also be made by hand with no machinery or special equipment other than a rolling pin and a knife or pizza cutter.

I make my own homemade red lentil flour in my grain grinder, but you can buy it ready made from Indian shops or over the internet. Red lentils are soft enough that you can also probably make red lentil flour in a coffee grinder or food processor, but no promises.

Red Lentil Flour Noodles Recipe- GAPS/SCD Legal, Grain Free, Gluten Free Homemade Pasta

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.

My Health Story- Part 3- How Diet Healed My Health Issues

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Image credit
I didn't want it to be gluten. I didn't want it to be gluten. I didn't want it to be gluten. I didn't want it to be gluten. And I'll say it a hundred times. I REALLY didn't want it to be gluten.

The Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change
I mentioned in my previous posts in this series, for most of my life I was living in near constant stomach pain, as well as having a series of other health issues that I'd come to accept as normal, even though my gut (pun intended) told me that things weren't as they should be. As a defense mechanism of sorts, I got very out of tune with my body; had I tuned in to every ache, pain, and other message of pain my body was sending me, it would have been so overwhelming to the point of being debilitating.
But tuning out messages from my body, getting out of touch with my body, caused further problems, as I'll explain soon.
In short, though, I accepted these health issues as normal, something immutable, that would likely remain there my whole life, accepted that this was the healthiest I was going to get, this was my lot in life.
But you know the serenity prayer?

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference."

I had assumed that my health issues were something that I couldn't change, and had begun to accept it... But apparently, I was lacking the wisdom to know the difference between what could be changed and cannot be changed. And assumed that I was doing the right thing by coming to terms with my share in life, instead of actively seeking the cause for my issues, and trying to heal my body.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Fund: Sending Your Kids To College

This is a guest post by Nancy Evans, a freelance writer who enjoys writing about families and frugality.

Almost every parent wants to set up a fund that will help pay for their kids’ future college tuitions and bills. Unfortunately not all parents know how to do this in a way that will yield the best possible returns. If you want to make sure that fund is as healthy as possible by the time your kids are going off to college, here is how to do that.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Homemade Garam Masala Spice Mix Recipe

To say that I love Indian food would be a tremendous understatement, as Indian food is probably my absolute favorite type of cooking, for so many reasons, among them that it is ultra flavorful, generally gluten free, pretty frugal, very versatile, and dare I say it- relatively easy too? You don't find this combination every day...

When I go to the city to run errands, I try my best to bring along enough food to keep me satiated until I get home, for three reasons. Cost of buying food on the go. Lack of ease of getting filling gluten free foods. And difficulty getting both of those that are healthy as well.

All that changed when I discovered this local Indian vegan restaurant. The food there is absolutely scrumptious, all gluten free, filling, chemical/additive free, and pretty cheap as well! While I still try to bring along my own food, because even so, it's cheaper, I sometimes treat myself and eat lunch or dinner at this restaurant. The proprietress, L, is a really sweet, warm, India born woman, who loves talking about cooking.

When I professed to her my love of Indian cooking, she was happy to share with me her tricks of the trade, including showing a willingness to share her wonderful recipes with me. She said she had no problem with me sharing her recipes on my site, because she was happy to help out "penniless parents". Don't worry- despite my knowing some of her recipes, she won't be losing me as a customer- in fact, she's bought my loyalty. She's still the best place to eat out when I am in the city, and her prices are terrific. From time to time, I'll be sharing some of her wonderful recipes with you.

One of the first things she and I talked about was the garam masala spice mixture. She uses it in nearly everything, and it is a very commonly used spice in the Indian kitchen. Garam masala can be bought from most spice stores, and for sure from Indian grocery stores, but traditionally, garam masala was always made at home.

This recipe for homemade garam masala is based on L's recipe, only I added an ingredient or two that I saw in a few other recipes and wanted to add. I also ground up the spice mixture, even though L doesn't, because I don't enjoy biting into large pieces of spice...

This recipe will be very useful to anyone who enjoys Indian cooking, because just about every type of cooking often calls for garam masala, from dal to curry to flatbreads, etc...

Homemade Garam Masala Spice Mix

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Perfect Homemade Pasta Dough Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Pasta Maker Friendly

I made pierogi yesterday, and while I was thrilled with the results from using my standard gluten free buckwheat flour pasta dough recipe, buckwheat isn't one of the cheaper grains where I live, or where most people live, so I wanted to see if I could make the recipe a bit cheaper.
The thing is though, that while you're able to make gluten free pasta dough with all purpose gluten free flour mix, which is cheaper than buckwheat flour, it's lacking a little bit, and isn't the easiest dough to work with, especially not if you want to use a pasta maker.
There's something about buckwheat flour that adds the right consistency to a pasta dough, and I wanted to try to recreate that, but cheaper, by mixing buckwheat with my all purpose flour blend.
And while my goal was cheapness, I chanced upon the best pasta dough I've ever made, gluten or not, but especially for a gluten free dough. The texture was absolutely perfect! Not too sticky, not too dry. It needs no dusting with flour, goes through the pasta maker very smoothly, and tastes delicious. The pierogi were a hit, and then I used the leftover pasta dough (which I had refrigerated) the next day to make this awesome meaty gluten free dairy free lasagna pictured above.

This recipe that I figured out "by chance" will now be my go to homemade pasta recipe because of its ease, cheapness, and gluten free/egg free-ness, whether for wontons, pierogi, ravioli, spaghetti, lasagna, etc... I hope you'll give it a try as well.

Perfect Homemade Pasta Dough Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Pasta Maker Friendly

Ingredients:

4 tablespoon very finely ground flax seeds plus 10 tablespoon boiling water OR 3-4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups raw buckwheat flour
1 cup potato, tapioca, or corn starch

1 1/2 cup all purpose gluten free flour mix (use this recipe specifically)
4 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 tablespoons palm or coconut oil (butter or any other partially solid oils would also work, and liquid oils probably would work as well, but no guarantees)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water

Instructions:
1. Mix the flax seeds with boiling water very well, and set aside for 10 minutes. Mix to ensure no clumps. If using eggs, skip.

2. Mix the flours and salt and xanthan gum together.

3. Add the flax seed gel or eggs and oil and most of the water.

4. Mix well, then add the rest of the water, a drop at a time. Mix very well, trying to incorporate all the flour, but without adding any more water than necessary. It will seem very dry at first, but the more you work the dough, the more the flours will get mixed in, and you'll have the absolutely most perfect pasta dough- not too sticky, not too dry, perfectly flexible, and easy to use.

5. Roll out and cut and use like you would any pasta recipe.

If you make homemade pasta, especially gluten free stuff, what is your perfect pasta dough recipe? Do you have a pasta maker? Does this seem like a recipe you'd try?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Health Story- Part 2- My Other Health Issues and Attempts to Treat Them

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Yesterday I posted part one of my health story in response to people wondering why I keep on restricting my diet and my family's diet even more and more if my health and my family's health doesn't seem to be getting any better, and that maybe, the solution to everything, is just to eat a normal diet without any extra frugal salvaged foods.

So, now that you know my stomach issue history, that I've always had a low level of stomach pain for as far back as I can remember, and that it stretches back 5 generations, at the very least, I thought I'd cover some other health issues I had growing up, as well as what my parents tried to do to help solve those health issues, as well as my stomach issues.

My Health Story- My Previous Health Issues and Attempts to Heal

My Health Story, Part 1 (Or- Why Don't I Just Eat Normal Food?)

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I've gotten some comments lately about my diet and my health, some worded more politely than others but all wanting to know the answer to the same basic question- I keep restricting my diet further and further and don't seem to be getting any healthier so why do I bother? Why don't I instead eat a more normal, typical diet, minus any salvaged food, but without any food restrictions either?
I had mixed feelings about writing this post in the first place, because my diet and health decisions are my own to make and I don't need to justify them to anyone, especially not to people who name call or cast aspersions on my sanity... But since I'm sure there are other people who might be thinking the same, even if they're too polite to say anything, I decided to write this post, not because I owe it to anyone, because I don't, but because I want to. 

So firstly, I have to start off by saying that as much as I do share on this blog, I certainly don't share everything about my life, or even most things. I started this blog to be able to share money saving tips to parents, not to chronicle my life. To make my blog more 'real' and less textbook like, I throw in random snippets about my life, but they're just that- snippets- and nothing more. Piecing together those random tidbits and assuming that you know my whole life story and how I lead my life is just incorrect, as there's lot more that I don't share which changes the picture a lot.
Deciding from this incorrect and incomplete view of my life, either that I'm 'insane' or 'messing up my kids' is just as stupid and fallacious as, say, seeing a kid eating a potato chip and deciding that his parents neglect him nutritionally to the point of abuse. You just can't make judgmental assumptions about someone's life without knowing the whole picture, and quite frankly, you're never gonna get that from me, because though I'm a blogger, I and my family still deserve a measure of privacy and don't need every single detail of our lives broadcasted on the internet. 

So, since the question that inspired this post was based on the tidbits I've shared about my/our health, but still a very incomplete picture, here is some more information to help complete the picture a little bit more. My health story.

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