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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Homemade Cajun Spice Mix Recipe

I had a bunch of livers and chicken gizzards I'd wanted to cook up for me, and my friend recommended I make Cajun "Dirty Rice" with those. Its an unbelievably awesome recipe, the perfect thing for those livers and gizzards, but I'll have to share the recipe another time. For now, here's the recipe for the Cajun seasoning mix that I used in the "dirty rice".
Really yummy!
Cajun spice mix is usually much spicier than this, but I like adding my seasonings separately from heat- you can always add more pepper to a dish but you can't take it away when the seasoning mix you're using to flavor the food is already burning hot. Feel free to add more pepper, either black pepper, cayenne pepper, or red pepper flakes if you like to burn off the roof of your mouth.
This spice mix is good for fish, chicken, and of course, rice. I'm sure there are other recipes you can make with this though, I just can't name them all off the top of my head.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Perfect Gluten Free Pie Crust Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free Option

I have a whole bunch of recipes that people have been begging me to get up already, and fortunately I have so many things I wanted to share with you that the recipes get pushed off more and more. I will try my darnedest to post my recipes, from oldest to the newest, so I don't forget about posting the older posts.

Here's a really, really wonderful recipe for pie crust. Its the first time I actually made a gluten free pie crust that tasted good, was flakey and yummy, and looked like a real pie crust.

I based this recipe on one I found at SimplyGluten-Free.com but I changed it up some, and don't follow her instructions.

Thoughts on Gleaning Veggie Scraps, the Importance of Community, and Why It Is Moral To Do So

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3 huge bunches of cardoons, a bunch of radishes, a lot of scallions,
TONS of bananas, are among the many, many, many things I
gleaned/rescued at the market
I've already written more than one post on this topic, but, quite frankly, it's not enough, in my opinion, because its not that most people don't know how to be frugal, it's that they're worried what other people will think if they actually do those frugal things, especially if they're of the more extreme frugal variety.

I get that concern, I really do. No one wants to be seen as an outcast in their social circles, or be seen as someone worthy of pity. This is why I think its so important that people live with others in a similar financial standing.
If you live in a wealthy, high class community, you'll generally feel pressure to have the same expensive items and live the same high class lifestyle, and if you stand up to the pressure and do your own thing, you'll likely stick out like a sore thumb, and may not be fully accepted or respected by the community. On the other hand, if you live in a community of frugally minded people, not only will you not have the pressure to live beyond your means, you'll often have more frugal resources available as well as people willing to pitch in to help save you money.
Note that poor communities and frugal minded communities are not necessarily the same. In some poor communities, even without money, people live "the high life" paid completely for by credit cards; conversely, in some places, even wealthy people live simply and frugally, because they live according to their non-materialistic values.

When choosing a community to live in, I cannot stress enough how important it is to pick a community with similar values. And if you value things other than materialism, if you value living simply and within your means, make sure that the community you intend to be part of shares those values. Especially, especially if you have kids or intend on having kids in the future.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Homemade Water Kefir and Tibicos- A Healthy Probiotic Drink

 photo 100_6753_zpsce26a94c.jpgI'm very into my probiotics. I don't eat yogurt because I can't eat dairy, and I don't buy store bought probiotics, but I do have probiotics, usually every day, and sometimes many times a day- and much more probiotics than is available in the store bought stuff.

How's that?
I eat fermented foods that I make at home, like kombucha, sauerkraut, lacto-fermented pickles, ginger beer, and now I've started making water kefir, also known as tibicos.

It's all my mom's fault.

Well, partially mine, I guess.

When I got into kombucha, I gave some SCOBY's (symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast) to my mom as a back up. Then she started reading up on kombucha, and then read about milk kefir, and about water kefir, until she was absolutely hooked on probiotic cultures. She's had more success at it than I have also- I forget about my stuff and kill it via neglect far too many times... and when that happens, my mom rescues me by giving me some of her SCOBY's.

She has been fermenting kombucha, milk kefir, and homemade apple cider vinegar for a while, and when someone she knew was in Mexico and was drinking tibicos/water kefir daily, and told my mom about it, my mom really, really wanted to get her hands on some as well. But this person forgot the tibicos in Mexico, and my mom wasn't sure how she'd find it again.

Finally, finally, finally, my mom found a way to get some tibicos, giving me a play by play of the progress of the tibicos from mexico to the US and then on to her... and when she finally got it, passed it on to me. Frankly, I thought my mom was taking this "obsession" of hers a bit far- what's the big deal already- its water kefir- so what? But now that I have my own water kefir and have been using it daily, I'm in love.
In fact, I love it better than kombucha, and that is saying a lot!

So- what exactly is water kefir, and why is it so special?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sprouted Lentil Salsa Recipe/ Chili Salad with Raw Sprouted Lentils- Vegan, Gluten Free

 photo 100_6727_zps09722f51.jpgGrowing up, my husband's family had a pretty standard menu every week, nothing too adventurous  One day, though, they ate over at a friend's house and became introduced to this wonderful dish called "chili salad". It quickly became incorporated into their family's menu rotation, since every family member fell in love with it.
When I married my husband, I got introduced to this dish as well. Its nothing I ever would have eaten growing up, because my mother will never prepare foods with raw onions, let alone hot peppers, but I, too, was hooked, and figured out how to make my own version of it, which I'll hopefully post at some point in the future.
But anyhow, the other day I had a whole bunch of sprouted black lentils that I wanted to use up. You can cook sprouted lentils, but I find I prefer them raw- instead of being "mealy" like most legumes are, they're crunchy and vegetably when sprouted and raw. The thing is- they have a strong taste, so taste best with a really strong dressing.
So I thought of chili salad, that sprouted lentils would be the perfect addition to chili salad, so it would be a "sprouted lentil chili salad" or "raw vegan lentil tomato salsa" or whatever you want to call it. This salad is good for people on most diets- with just one change, it can be GAPS legal, its gluten free, raw vegan, sprouted so good for people on a traditional/phytic acid reducing diet, and did I mention cheap?
And while it was just a gamble I took when I made it, it paid off. The recipe was so delicious that my husband polished off half of it before I could serve it at our meal... Haha, I wasn't upset- just flattered that he liked it that much. We ate it in tacos, and it was perfect that way, but I also really enjoy it plain as well.
My kids like it as well. If you're not sure you're a legume fan, I recommend trying this one out- it might just make a convert out of you.
This is also high in frugal protein, so also good for anyone on a budget.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Vegan Mung Bean Crepes/Tortillas Recipe- Gluten Free

Mung bean crepes filled with potato, eggplant, and zucchini curry.

When most people think mung beans (if they think about them at all), they think mung bean sprouts, the standard "bean sprouts" used in Chinese cooking. However, there are so many other uses for mung beans, including mung bean pancakes, and in this recipe, mung bean crepes. I love this recipe for mung bean crepes- it's pretty forgiving- I rarely make it with a recipe- I usually just throw it all together until it looks the right consistency, and it works well. It needs no xanthan gum or eggs or egg replacements, and can be used in place of tortillas in recipes, like Mexican food, to make into wraps, to hold Indian curries, and can even be made into tortilla chips.

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Vegan cheese pinwheels made with mung bean crepes and
filled with sunflower cheese spread.
I make my mung bean crepes soaked with an acidic or fermenting medium, like apple cider vinegar, kombucha, water kefir, etc... to make it more digestible, but that part can be skipped if you're short on time or don't care about the digestibility.
If you don't have mung bean flour, you can also make this by soaking whole mung beans in water overnight, and then blending it up in the food processor/blender with a bit of water, then adding as much water as needed to make a crepe batter. If you're not gluten free, you can replace the brown rice flour with wheat flour.

You can find mung beans in any Asian grocery store, in health food stores, and even many supermarkets. Mung bean flour is a little harder to find, but you can make your own if you have a grinder, or buy it online and in some Asian stores.

Sunflower Seed Vegan Cheeze Spread Recipe- Gluten Free, Nooch Free

 photo 100_6719_zps1df18c17.jpgI know I rarely post two posts in one day (and I should just schedule my posts so that instead of two in one day, I have a post every day).... but... I just invented this really yummy vegan cheese spread/sauce, and it's so good that I didn't want to wait to post it until after everything else in my lineup was posted. So I'll just post it today.
I had a vegan cheese sauce recipe that I had been using for a while. It's mainly nutritional yeast with some other stuff, and it tastes good...
But I've been in a dilemma about whether or not I should be using nutritional yeast, because its something I can't make at home myself, and that's pretty much where I draw the line at healthy vs not healthy... And there is the slight possibility that it's been causing me headaches.
But almost all vegan cheeses seem to call for that.
Or if they don't, they call for cashews or almonds or both, and I never use those in recipes. Ok rarely. I tend to avoid cashew or almond recipes because they are a fortune!!!
Sunflowers, though, are a decent replacement for them in some recipes, and sunflowers are much cheaper... and on top of that, I buy them in bulk, so they're even cheaper for me.

So I made this vegan cheese sauce/spread using sunflower seeds as the base. And with no nutritional yeast. And the sunflower seeds are soaked to make them more digestible. And the "cheeze" tastes really, really, yummy. I can't tell you what exactly it tastes like, because it's been a while since I've had any real cheese. And honestly, no vegan cheese is a perfect replica- it just gives the suggestion of cheese. But either way, this cheeze has a taste which is a cross between cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and feta cheese. And something entirely different too.

I ate it on buckwheat already tonight, and ate it on mashed potatoes. It would be awesome as a topping for baked potatoes and stuffed potato skins, and in tuna "melts" and in casseroles. And I can already tell it will be unbelievable as vegan macaroni and cheeze, and on pizza.

In short, amazing.

But you don't have to take my word for it! Try it out yourself!

P.S. I very very very very very loosely based this recipe on a recipe for almond "cream cheese" from this book "The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook" by Jo Stepaniak, but really, its something I invented all on my own. Because even though I started out with her recipe, none of the ingredients stayed the same, other than water and lemon juice and salt, and nothing was substituted one for one in this recipe. I just started out with that basic concept and went from there, adding stuff according to my taste...

Sunflower Seed Vegan Cheeze Spread Recipe- Gluten Free, Nutritional Yeast Free, Nut Free

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Homemade Healthy Pixy Stix/ Fizzy Straws Recipe, Sugar Free Traditional Foods Alternative Included

 photo 100_6700_zps0c1bbf34.jpgA few years back, I bought some "fizzy powder" candy, (it actually came in little packets, not straws) and when I looked at the ingredients, it was so simple- just sugar, citric acid, baking soda, and artificial flavorings. Said I to myself "I bet I can make that for a fraction of the cost- who needs the artificial flavorings anyhow?"
And then promptly forgot about it.
For a good few years.

My kids have an event coming up where they need "loot/treat bags" to hand out to their friends. I could have gone with healthy natural treats, like dates and nuts, but, to be honest, these kids eat so much junk on a day to day basis anyhow- why spend more money making them healthy treats when the next second they'll turn around and eat a boat load of crap...
Additionally, my kids stand out somewhat for being the only homeschooled kids in the immediate area, they stand out because we live an extra frugal life, I don't need to make them "weird" by making them give out treats to their friends that embarrasses them. I know what its like to be embarrassed of things your parents do (who doesn't?) and I don't make it my mission to do it any more than necessary.
But even though I want my kids to fit in, I have my limits. I can't knowingly give my kids or anyone else's kids artificial colorings, aka printer ink, I can't knowingly give my kids or anyone else's artificial flavorings, and I can't knowingly give my kids or anyone else's kids artificial sugar like splenda or aspartame.
And store bought candy nearly always has at least one or two of the above.

But if I make homemade versions of the candies, I can make them just as yummy, just as "cool", just as "normal", just without the extra bad stuff.

So I made fizzy straws, using that idea I had all those years ago. Sugar. Citric acid. And baking soda.
Tastes just like the real thing, but no scary chemicals in it.
Yes, it has sugar, and I have heard mixed things about citric acid, so I figured out a healthier alternative to that as well, with coconut sugar or xylitol instead of the sugar, and sumac spice (a wonderful pucker inducing spice that grows wild in much of the world, that you can forage yourself or buy in the store) instead of citric acid.
I won't be giving out those alternatives to my kids friends. But I will be giving the healthier versions to my kids. They're cool with that- as long as the food tastes good, they (Lee especially) would rather food without white sugar, as he understands that white sugar is very often GMO and he doesn't want that stuff if there is a decent alternative.

Book Swaps- The Perfect Way to Save Money on Books

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Me and books- we're bosom buddies. I've been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories involve trips to the library to check out books to read. The librarians and I became good friends, as they got to know me and my taste in books, and would recommend books for me that they thought I would love. When I finished devouring all the books they had by my latest favorite author, I waited patiently while they made inter-library loans so that I could get my hands on the rest of the coveted books.
I volunteered at the library when I was a teenager, because I felt so comfortable working with books.
I always found nothing more pleasurable than curling up with a good book. Riveting novels would keep me up until the wee hours of the morning, as I'd turn the pages, eagerly anticipating the next twist in the story, and unable to shut my eyes until I was able to see how the story resolved.
I could easily finish a 1000 page book over one weekend, and sometimes even in one day!

Imagine my dismay, then, when I moved to this country and discovered that public libraries don't exist, that you have to pay to become a member of the library, and when you did, there was no orderly filing system whereby you could find your favorite author, and there absolutely was no such thing as inter-library loans. What you see is what you get.
And unfortunately, the English language sections of the library tend to be minuscule.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gluten Free, Vegan, Naturally Colored "Buttercream" Frosted Birthday Cake Recipe- and How To Make Natural Food Coloring


For my husband's birthday, I made him a birthday cake... and at first, I wasn't sure if I should submit the photo to CakeWrecks.com, because I'll admit, cake decorating is not my strong point- I have a lot to learn on the subject... But even so, I decided to share the recipe and pics, less to show off my non existent cake decorating skills, but more to share the recipe and the method of making this gluten free vegan cake, frosted with a vegan buttercream style frosting, and how I made 4 different colors of naturally colored frosting.

A Dinner Party For My Birthday

 photo 100_6498_zps8b7d891d.jpgToday I turned 25 years old. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll probably know already that when it comes to birthdays and other celebrations, I don't believe in "skimping". I believe in celebrating, in style, and frugally too, because without the fun in life, life isn't worth living. A little bit of money spent in the short run makes it much more manageable and enjoyable to live a frugal life in the long run. At least that's my theory in life.

Celebrating birthdays, therefore, and having good times, are important to me. And I wanted to celebrate my birthday "in style".
I was trying to figure out what I could do for my birthday, and decided that whatever it would be, it would involve a few close friends, because that is what truly brings joy to my life. While I love my kids and my husband, sometimes I just want to enjoy myself with some gal pals, no kids (other than Anneliese, who I can't leave for too long, because she nurses).

I tried to figure out what to do with my friends for my special day, but was torn between a few different ideas. I couldn't do a party at my house in the evening, because my kids don't go to sleep until later, and I would not enjoy such a party if my kids were running around.
I was debating going out with a few friends to a gluten free friendly restaurant, but wasn't sure if I wanted to do that because a) I didn't want to have to pay for everyone's meal at an expensive restaurant, and b) I didn't want people to not come because they couldn't afford to go out, if I wasn't the one paying.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Facebook and Social Networking as a Money Saver

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Anneliese in her "Facebook borrowed" wedding outfit!
All of a sudden, my little baby has grown up!
My father just got remarried tonight. At first, I thought it was going to be a small affair, as many second marriages are, so I didn't put much thought into our outfits, but then, this morning, I was speaking to some other wedding guests and found out that it was going to be much fancier than I thought...
Oops! I guess I really need to get my act together and find nice clothes for us to wear to the wedding! And absolutely no time to shop, that's for sure...

I mean, I had clothing for them to wear, but while they were nice and somewhat formal, they weren't fancy enough to wear to a wedding, especially not the wedding of an immediate relative.

So what does someone like myself do?

Well, I posted on Facebook "Does anyone local have a fancy outfit in sizes 5 or 6T boys, 3-4 T boys, or 12-18 mos or 2T girls? Does anyone have a nice black skirt I can borrow?"
And you know what?

It worked!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Raw Vegan Banana Cake Bites Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Refined Sugar Free, GAPS Legal

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Banana cake bites- top right and bottom left,
carrot cake bites top left and bottom right.
Yesterday, when I was making my raw vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free carrot cake bites, I decided to go all out and make 3 different types of healthy desserts, all the same basic idea- dates and sunflower seeds, but different varieties and flavors. I had a mushy banana lying around, so figured- hey, why not make "banana cake bites" in addition to the carrot cake bites? They came out really yummy, and are just as healthy!
(Ok, you can put chocolate chips in them, and if the chips are less healthy, these are less healthy. But if you use healthy chocolate chips or leave them out, then it's just as healthy.)
As with the carrot cake bites, you can use any nuts or seeds you want for this, from sunflower seeds to almonds to walnuts to cashews to brazil nuts to pumpkin seeds.

Raw Vegan Banana Cake Bites Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Refined Sugar Free, GAPS Legal

Friday, February 15, 2013

Raw Carrot Cake Bites Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, GAPS legal, Refined Sugar Free

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Carrot cake bites- top left and bottom right.
The other ones are banana cake bites which I'll share tomorrow..
I first heard about raw carrot cake bites on some blog a few months back, but I can't remember which, or I'd give them credit. But the idea stuck in my mind, and I've made them a few times since, and they've been a hit with my family every time.
What are raw carrot cake bites, you ask me? Well, they're little balls of yummy goodness, with a carrot cake taste, only raw, and healthy, and gluten free, etc...
They're also pretty cheap for a healthy food, and they're relatively easy to make. I make mine with sunflower seeds because I buy them in bulk and they're the cheapest "nut" I can find, but if you have dietary restrictions and can't eat sunflower seeds, you can make them with any ground nuts you have, whether almond or cashews or brazil nuts or walnuts, or even pumpkin seeds. It doesn't really matter, they'll still taste good.

If you've ever had/made Larabars, these are the same basic, basic idea- dates, nuts, and other ingredients, mushed together and raw, but the texture of these are not like Larabars- they're much softer and wetter and less chewy.

Green Banana Empanadas Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan Options

 photo 100_6552_zps9d1da3be.jpgI was visiting my friend Debbie today with my kids, and while I was there, my kids helped themselves to bananas from her shelf. "Make sure you take bananas from the bottom, those are ripe- the ones on the top aren't," she warned them. Debbie told me that her kids, roughly the same age as mine, often take bananas from the shelf, without paying attention to see if they are ripe, open them up, take a bite, and get grossed out by the chalky taste of the unripe bananas. They end up going in the garbage, which is a waste, but Debbie felt that that was inevitable, because nothing could be done with those open green bananas that wouldn't ripen?

I told Debbie about making fried green bananas, a really yummy and easy thing to do with unripe bananas, and she liked the idea. I mentioned that you can use green bananas in place of plantains in any recipes that call for plantains. O, a Puerto Rican friend who was there also shared that she used to have a lasagna type dish made with fried plantain and ground beef and tomato sauce- you could use green bananas for that as well. And then I remembered a recipe my friend D shared with me recently- gluten free vegan empanadas made out of plantains- I had wanted to try that recipe with green bananas as well, but haven't been buying bananas much lately because they haven't been too cheap.
But then later on today I got a bunch of bananas (reduced rack quality) free, some of them green bananas that needed to be used up ASAP because they wouldn't ripen as they were partially open.
Perfect- why not try out those empanadas?

Empanadas are filled dough pockets, similar to pierogi, usually fried, but sometimes baked. Empanadas sometimes are filled with meat or vegetables or cheese, etc... They can be made vegan or not, sweet or savory. Often empanadas are made with a wheat dough outer, but there are recipes where the outside is made out of mashed plantains.
I had to change up the recipe somewhat because I was using green bananas instead of plantain, but they worked beautifully. I made them gluten free, but you can make them with gluten if you like.

This recipe is very versatile- its the concept that is important more than the exact recipe and details.

Green Banana Empanadas Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan Options


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Homemade Gluten Free French Bread Recipe- Including Vegan Version

 photo 100_6488_zpsbfdf5bcd.jpgOne thing I've missed since going gluten free is a nice loaf of bread, ideally a baguette. They sell these nice, long baguettes in the store near me, chewy crust and fluffy center, and I get so nostalgic for those unhealthy gluten stuff... I recently discovered this recipe for gluten free French bread, made some changes to make it healthier and cheaper, and tried making it egg free as well. I was very pleased with the results.
My gluten eating sister, Violet, said that the bread tasted very good, and you could tell that it wasn't gluten bread, but it was still very yummy. So that definitely gets points, that a gluten eater was happy with this gluten free bread.
The egg free variety worked, but I'll admit that I don't think the texture is as perfect as the egg variety- slightly wetter/gummier on the inside instead of fluffier.
I've made this recipe a few times, and it works just as well with honey or sugar.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups Recipe- Dairy Free, Gluten Free

 photo 100_6486_zps85fd77b7.jpgI wasn't planning on posting this recipe today. I was going to post an amazing recipe for pie. Or French bread. Or something else. And then I posted this picture of what I made today on facebook, and like a million people started oohing and ahhing over picture, asking for the recipe.
It's really simple.

It's not the healthiest in the world, though could be...

But it looks great. Perfect for a party.

Homemade peanut butter cups, Reese's style.

Its very easy to do.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Homemade All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Mix Recipe- Type 2- Gourmet Gluten Free Flour Mix

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Blueberry apple black currant pie I made with this flour mix,
my second pie with the mix
I am absolutely in love. It's my mom's birthday tomorrow, and I was asked to make her a blueberry pie in honor of the occasion, gluten free and dairy free, of course. Now my mom is a gluten free eater as am I, but the rest of the guests in attendance are gluten eaters, and they are picky about their non gluten free stuff. When they came to me for Thanksgiving and I made a pumpkin pie, no one really cared for the pie crust, and to be honest, neither did I. But I don't like pie crust anyhow, really, so it didn't seem like such a big deal anyhow.
But I was asked to please make this blueberry pie with a good crust, even if it is gluten free. So I searched and searched the internet, and found a recipe, which came out terrifically, which I'll hopefully post either tomorrow or sunday. But it used this wonderful all purpose gluten free flour mix, different from my typical all purpose gluten free flour mix.
And the mix is really amazing- I even used it to make French bread- whose recipe I'll post as soon as I experiment with an egg free version.

But in the meantime, here's the mix, which I originally found on SimplyGluten-Free.com

Baked Apple Bites Recipe- Vegan, Sugar Free, Gluten Free, GAPS Legal

I've been doing a decent amount of kitchen experimentation lately, and fortunately the results have been pretty decent. But I only want to share the recipes after I've experimented even further, so I can give you various substitution suggestions...
So in the meantime, I have this very easy snack idea/recipe to share with you.
It is the hugest hit in my house.
What's best about it is that its totally healthy! Vegan, gluten free, grain free, refined sugar free without using any expensive or hard to find sweeteners, GAPS/SCD diet legal, Paleo/Primal, and much else. There's not many recipes that you can say fits most diets, but this fits right in there.
Along with homemade Larabars, of course.
Oh, and did I mention cheap too? And incredibly delicious? And easy too?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Homeschooling Lesson About GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms)

It all started out very simply. I made homemade popcorn for an after dinner snack. My oldest child, 5 year old Lee, wanted to make sure that it was good to eat. "Right popcorn is healthy, Mommy?"
"Well, uhm..." I hemmed and hawed, not quite sure what to answer.
"But it doesn't have sugar or chemicals in it, right Mommy? So it's healthy?"
I have this rule in my house that I try my best to abide by. I don't lie to my kids. I answer any question my kid asks at a level that they're able to understand, even if it isn't necessarily something that other parents would chose to tell their kids.
But if I have mixed feelings about something, especially from a health perspective, I'll let my kids know. I won't just pretend that it's a clear black and white issue. And I don't shy away from difficult topics...

So, the popcorn issue.
I guess now's the time to maybe approach the topic with him, I thought to myself... But I had mixed feelings myself, because I find the topic somewhat scary/upsetting for me as well.

"Lee, are you sure you want to know whether popcorn is healthy or not? Because the answer is something that's a little bit scary, even for adults."
"Yes, Mommy, I want to know. I won't be scared."

Hey, I guess, why not.
A little impromptu homeschooling lesson. Science. Biology. Genetics. Health. Politics. Etc...

 photo 100_6460_zpsffb58633.jpgI took out my clipboard and started to draw and teach. Lee is already familiar with the concept of cells from various science themed videos he's seen, so I reviewed the concept that everything that is alive is made up of lots and lots and lots of tiny building blocks called cells, like teeny tiny Lego, that you can only see through a microscope.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How on Earth Can That Be Edible???

Very edible, and very protected cactus
paddles/nopales and prickly pear fruit
One of the reactions I come across the most when teaching people how to forage is astonishment that a certain food is edible. "That certainly doesn't look edible!" This holds true for things like thorny thistles, glochid covered cactus paddles, and stinging nettles, among many other things. How can something that looks and seems so inedible actually be used as food?

Surprisingly enough, usually those very plants that you'd steer clear from to protect yourself, are the same plants that, not only are edible, but are also usually the most nutritious type of plant.

The reason this is, though, is very useful knowledge, and can help you figure out what types of foods are likely to be edible, especially if you're in a survival type of situation where you need to find some type of food to eat, and you don't have a guidebook to help you.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Homemade Baharat Spice Blend Recipe

In the past while, I've explored many different cuisines from around the world, and one thing I've noticed is that most of them tend to have a mix of spices, often similar spices, that are staples in their cuisine. Chili powder in Tex Mex cooking, garam masala in Indian cooking, hawaij in Yemenite cooking, berbere in Ethiopian cooking, etc...  If you went through the list of ingredients in those spice mixtures, each of those would have a large overlap.
I recently discovered this spice mixture called Baharat. Its an Arabic spice blend that, to be honest, reminds me a lot of garam masala. In fact, one day I made something with garam masala for supper, and the next day for lunch served a dish with baharat, and my husband thought it was the same thing! ;) He doesn't have the most refined taste buds. But at the same time, I could see where he was coming from. The flavor of baharat spice mix is like garam masala. Mixed with regular curry powder. And chili powder. And hawaij.
Basically, it's good. If you like the various spices within, and like these other spice mixtures that I've mentioned, you're sure to like this one as well.

Baharat is used on chicken, meat, fish, in stews, soups, sauces, etc...
Try it out. You won't regret it!
P.S. The recipe usually contains black pepper. I left it out. I'd rather add heat to my food separately from the rest of the seasonings.

Baharat Spice Blend

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