Thursday, June 22, 2017

I'm still here

For those of you wondering why I haven't posted anything in the past while... I'm still here. I just have been doing a lot of thinking. As a result of various things going on in my life, thinking about how I run this blog and why, and if I plan on making any changes to it for the future. I don't have an answer yet and hopefully will go back to my regular scheduled programming soon, I just can't tell you exactly how soon.
Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Planning an Exciting and Frugal Vacation Abroad

Destination: Lublin. Photo credit Lukaszprzy
I recently learned about a site called SkyScanner.com, which allows you to find cheap flights around the world. Unlike many price comparison websites where you need to put in a specific location and specific dates, SkyScanner lets you put in your departure location, and then from there on, it's flexible. You can pick a specific location or choose "Everywhere". You can choose specific dates, or you can ask it to show you the cheapest dates.
So of course I plugged in my location, and since I didn't have a specific location in mind, or a specific date, I just left those open... and found something that astounded me. Flights from my closest airport to Lublin, Poland, for 23 dollars each way. Yes. That is including taxes and fees and all that. Its a no frills airline, and it is only on specific dates, but I said that that is too amazing of a deal to pass up.
So I booked it.

From July 5-July 10 I will be on vacation in and around the general Lublin, Poland area.

Dom mansjonarski w Lublinie (2009-06-12)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Chicken Yakisoba Recipe- Gluten Free, Paleo Option, Vegan Option, Allergy Friendly

Yakisoba made with the vegetables listed below, plus with the addition of swiss chard

In my house growing up, my mom, despite being a very adventurous cook in general, and teaching me to love foods from cuisines around the world, had very specific ideas about what flavors and foods could and couldn't get together. Fruit did not go with vegetables, and onions with fruit were an anathema to her. (When people gave us fruit chutney with onions, you wouldn't believe her incredulous reaction.)
One of those combinations that my mom considered a strict no-no were tomatoes and soy sauce- tomatoes were something Italian, soy sauce Asian, and never the twain shall meet... For the longest time, even after I rid myself of most of my mom's particular cooking ideas, and even after I began to embrace fusion cooking, I still couldn't wrap my head around the concept of tomatoes or tomato based anything with soy sauce, as tomatoes 'had no place in Asian cooking' (which isn't entirely accurate anyhow).
Imagine my surprise, therefore, to learn about yakisoba, an authentic (if relatively modern) Japanese recipe, that was made with tomato based ketchup, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce! I've been trying to find out the history of the sauce, how the fusion dish came about (and am in the middle of reading a book about the end of the shogunate in Japan and the beginning of western influence on Japanese society in the middle of the 1800s), but I am not finding a definitive answer, though I suspect it has something to do with the "westernization" of Japan, and then adapted post World War Two (but would appreciate further clarification)...

15 Summer Nature Activities for Kids

This post was written by Joe, an outdoor enthusiast and lead editor at Nature Rated; a website which rates and reviews the best outdoor gear for people who quickly want to know what to get. He believes in no fluff, to the point reviews, which help you choose the right gear for your next adventure.
Whenever daily life gets him down he heads to the nearest lake or river with his kayak and camera spending time recharging his batteries.

What are your kids doing this Summer? For many of us summer time with the kids is a time to enjoy the outdoors, the sunshine and if you're lucky the ocean.

As much as kids love summer holidays, keeping them busy can be a real chore! If you've not got the luxury of a summer camp then it's up to you as parent to find things for the youngsters to keep busy with.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Insanely Frugal Shopping Guru- Interview with Penny's Dad

Hello there everyone. Today I decided to do something a little bit different. I've talked about my parents before, and how I grew up, and shared various things my dad and mom have taught me about saving money and cooking... Recently, though, my dad has been talking to me about his monthly grocery budget and I'll tell you something- if you think I'm nuts and crazy frugal, he outshines me by a mile.
My dad cooks mainly for himself, 3 meals a day, seven days a week, and has guests (2-4 at a time) over for about 7 or 8 meals a month.
His grocery bills on average are about $43 dollars a month for all that.
Yes, you read that right. This is not a typo. 4. 3. dollars.
And I thought my 428 dollars-575 dollars a month (ok, for a family of 6, granted) was frugal. The biggest difference is that my dad is cooking for one (mainly) and I'm cooking for 6, and my dad and I have very different diets. My diet is very vegetable heavy, gluten free, processed food free, pretty much paleo, and my kids eat gluten free. My dad on the other hand doesn't avoid processed foods in theory, but overall does simply to save money, and he eats a lot of gluten and refined carbohydrates and white sugar, etc... I wouldn't necessarily recommend someone follow my dad's shopping and dietary habits, but since I know there are many out there that don't see the need to eat the way I do, gluten free and practically paleo and a "traditional foods diet" but just want to eat decent meals on a low budget, I figured that it would be a nice idea to share how he shops and cooks. Maybe it'll inspire those of you who eat a diet more similarly to his than mine.

Here's the thing. I wanted to tell you about how he shops and how he keeps his grocery bills so low, but I knew many people wouldn't be likely to believe me, so for a month I asked him to keep tally to the nearest dollar, and for the month of May he spent $75.50. With half of that being food that he stocked up for a few months in the future. He predicts that he'll probably spend under $30 this month, but I'll follow up with him next month to see.

My dad is here right now, visiting, and I decided to write this post interview style, so he can tell you about how he shops the way he does, where he shops, what he eats, why he does it, and all that.

Meet my dad, Cardiologist Colonel Edward of the US Army, currently on inactive duty and living abroad not so far from where I do.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Marinated Artichoke Hearts Recipe- Canning Option Included

I love artichokes in so many ways. Marinated artichokes have got to be some of the most delicious methods of artichoke preparation, but they cost a ridiculous amount where I live- roughly $7 for a small jar. Making it yourself, though, especially when artichokes are bought frugally in season, or even more so, when bought from the reduced rack, they are a fraction of the cost. I made each jar for under $1, probably under 50 cents. I use pint sized jars for my recipe.

Once you have your artichokes prepared, it is very simple to marinate them. You can marinate them and then keep them in the refrigerator, or you can water bath can them, and then not need to store them in the fridge. 
Just note that when I water bath canned my artichokes, they ended up turning a brownish/purplish color, so if you want your artichoke to stay a pretty light green color, it's best to make them into refrigerator pickles. (Perhaps there is a way to make it maintain its color even when water bath canned, I just haven't managed to figure it out yet.)

You can do this with as many artichokes as you want, as my recipe is per jar. Double, triple, or increase as desired.

On top of being a low cost recipe, these marinated artichokes are delicious and suitable for a variety of special diets, whether gluten free and paleo to vegan and allergy friendly. If you love artichokes, give it a try- you won't regret it.
While I used oregano and thyme in my marinated artichoke hearts, feel free to mix up the herbs, using whatever flavors you like best paired with your artichoke hearts.

Marinated Artichoke Hearts Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Allergy Friendly

Making Realistic Recipes from Cookbooks

A cookbook suitable for any kitchen
When you open a cookbook, sometimes the perfectly styled dishes there can seem very intimidating, something that people without time, money, or energy can’t recreate precisely with their cooking.

However, cooking doesn’t have to be a stressful experience- you can take recipes from cookbooks and make them your own, in a way that suits your lifestyle. Reading a cookbook doesn’t have hard and fast rules- you can use the pictures and recipes there as inspiration (who doesn’t enjoy flipping through cookbooks with beautiful pictures, and then get inspired to want to make similar?) and then adapt them as needed. Don’t like a certain ingredient? One of the items listed in a recipe is unaffordable? Substitute! Consider using frugal ingredient substitutions, as I listed here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How to Clean and Prepare Artichokes for Pickling and Stuffing

I absolutely adore artichokes. Growing up, we had them on special occasions with my family, and because of that, I have really positive associations with that vegetable. I love artichoke any way I can get it, baked, boiled, stuffed, marinated, in soups, salads, you name it...
I felt like I hit the jackpot when I got 30 lbs of artichoke for 25 cents a pound, but I will admit, I was just a little bit overwhelmed. Much as I love artichoke, the only way I'd ever made it before was boiled or baked, whole; when I'd had it other ways, I'd always started with frozen or canned. I didn't want to just boil or bake all my 30 lbs of artichoke whole, but didn't even begin to know where to start if I wanted to turn my whole artichokes into hearts or to be able to can them.

I did a lot of googling to try to figure that out, and I'll admit, even that wasn't so helpful, since most of the instructions were vague or called for baby artichokes, which I didn't have.

However, I managed to figure it out and turn my artichokes into artichoke hearts for stuffing, canned them, made them into soup, and it's a game changer. I feel worlds of options opening up for me in the kitchen now because of this.

To help explain how to clean and prepare artichokes for pickling and stuffing, I made a video of my sister Lizzy, demonstrating how to do this. If it looks hard, I literally showed Lizzy how to do this only one minute before making this video- it's easy to learn. As that was her first time doing so, note that the more often you do this, the more practice you get, the faster you can get it done.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Tuna Tartare with Capers on Beet Carpaccio Recipe- Paleo and Delicious

The other day I was looking for a fancy dish to make for a nice meal, but didn't want to spend too much money on it, saw some beets in my fridge and capers I'd just foraged, and got inspired to make this dish, tuna tartare with foraged capers and sow thistle capers on beet carpaccio. I first saw my friend Ben make a dish similar to this; his plating was an inspiration for mine.
Carpaccio is a dish invented in the 1950s and originally made with paper thin slices of beef topped with olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and salt, and more recently people have started making meatless versions of it out of beets.
Tartare is typically made from raw meat or fish, onions, capers, and seasonings, and is similar to the raw fish ceviche.

When I made this dish, my entire family was in love, and the dish itself, despite its fancy appearance, was relatively easy to make and quite frugal. Tuna steaks, I'm sure you're thinking, are not remotely frugal, but if you compare the price per pound with canned tuna, tuna steaks typically work out to be significantly cheaper. I used just one tuna steak for this recipe and stretched it with lots of capers and onions and it was enough to serve as an appetizer for our entire family. The fish in this recipe cost me about a dollar, the beets about 35 cents, the onion was free, and the rest of the ingredients were so insignificant in terms of cost- a fancy appetizer like this for under $1.50, approximately the price of a can of chunk light tuna locally, definitely a frugal dish, even factoring in the tuna steak.
If you want to do a more fish heavy dish, and not have such a high onion to tuna ratio, you're welcome to do so, it will just increase the cost, and it tasted fishy and delicious enough like this, so I wouldn't change anything.

In terms of safety and raw fish, I'd suggest you do your own research about what types of tuna that you can locally buy are safe to eat raw. Sushi grade tuna would work, for example.

I used a combination of homemade foraged pickled capers and sow thistle capers (recipe in my book Penniless Foodie in the Wild, now available in Kindle version as well as print, on Amazon) in my recipe, but you can use store bought pickled capers or any mock capers, or a combination thereof in this recipe.

If you want to keep this vegan and/or lower the costs, you can simply make the beet carpaccio, thinly slice a raw onion and scatter it on the beets along with capers, before adding the rest of the toppings, and it tastes delicious and looks beautiful, albeit a little less so, that way as well.

Tuna Tartare with Capers on Beet Carpaccio Recipe- Paleo and Delicious

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Tale of Our Bedroom Vanity

Our new house, while nearly double the amount of living space of our old place, is still quite small for our family of six. Other than the bathrooms, the smallest room in the house is my bedroom. We did design the layout of the apartment, putting the walls and doors where we wanted, more or less, since we bought the place before internal walls were built, and we could have possibly made our bedroom bigger. However, any additional space we added to our bedroom would either make our kitchen/living room/dining room smaller, which we didn't want to do, or getting rid of our second bathroom, not either something we were keen to do. We made the choice to sacrifice bedroom space for the sake of the rest of the house.

Out bedroom is 8.5 feet by 10.3 feet, or 2.6 meters by 3.1 meters. 87.5 square feet or 8 square meters to be exact. Add to this the fact that there are two doors in the room (one from the hallway, and one to the bathroom) and no built in closet space, we needed to figure out how to store everything two people need in the bedroom. This was not an easy thing to do by a long shot.

But we figured it out, by building our own beds and night stands, used some Ikea "hacks" and repurposed some furniture from our old apartment, and we mostly figured it out...
Other than a place to store my makeup, jewelry, hair things, etc... I needed a vanity...

Getting Fit Doesn’t Require An Expensive Fitness Club

This post was written by Sandra Adams, a reader who loves staying fit on a budget.

Being fit has several different aspects. For one, it makes us more healthy. Bodies that are fit and strong have better immune systems, develop diseases less frequently, and are often healthier later in life than. Another aspect is the way being healthy makes us feel. When our bodies are healthy, it means they are working in good order, which has the result of a feeling of stability and well-being. Finally, being fit has a good outcome for our appearances as well. Looking our best has positive benefits for our social lives, and we also feel better about ourselves when we look and feel our best.

However, many people think that to get fit you must pay. Whether through expensive gym memberships, personal training, pricey fitness clothing and gear, or a handful of hot yoga classes, the industry of fitness certainly makes it appear than fitness goes to only those who can afford it. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whether you’re trying to lose a little extra weight or attempting to get rid of male breast tissue, the tools you need are already at hand. Here are the best ways to get fit, without spending a lot of money.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Paleo Fish Cakes Recipe- Egg Free, Gluten Free, Grain Free

I recently got my hands on a large amount of free fish (in the form of fish heads and fish bones that I cooked and then separated the meat from the bones), and have been looking for different ways to use it. My dad used to make tuna croquettes when I was a kid, and I really enjoyed them, and I thought to make similar with my fish. 
This recipe for fish cakes is flavorful enough that it doesn't even need any dipping sauce or topping, but feel free to use whatever types of toppings you enjoy on fish croquettes, from tahini dressing as I used to aioli to Russian dressing to tartar sauce. They also would work well as burgers in a bun with fixings.

This fish cake recipe can with with any cooked flaked deboned or boneless fish, or even canned fish, such as tuna or salmon. 
Mine are completely paleo and egg free, and manage to hold together nicely even without using any flour. If you don't eat a paleo diet, feel free to replace both the chestnuts and almond flour with either gluten free flour or gluten flour of choice, adding enough so that it has a decent texture that holds together into patty form.
As these don't have flour or egg, these are softer fish cakes and need to be handled gently.

I used fennel and carrots in my fish cakes, but feel free to replace them with whatever other vegetables are cheap where you live.

Paleo Fish Cakes Recipe- Egg Free, Gluten Free, Flour Free

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cheater Fast Sushi and Paleo Sushi Techniques

I've been a fan of sushi since I was a kid and have passed on that love of sushi to my kids.

The first time I ever had sushi was on a trip to New York when I was in elementary school. We stopped at a restaurant just as we were about to come home, had a variety of different types of sushi, and quickly became hooked.

Once home, we saw that it wasn't so easy to find sushi in my home town, and what there was cost a lot of money, so my parents, do-it-yourself-type people decided to learn how to make their own. Because we couldn't get sushi grade fish easily, our sushi was always made either with only vegetables or with the addition of lox or surimi (fake crab) strips.

I quickly mastered the art of rolling sushi (it's really not difficult, and becomes much easier and faster with practice), including the more complex inside out rolls. Sushi making, overall, was no big deal for me....

...Alright. Other than the rice.

Making sushi rice was always the most annoying part of making sushi for me. 

Tips to Staying on a Tight Budget Without Driving Yourself Crazy

This blog post was written by James Daniels, a freelance writer, tech geek, and avid reader. I especially find it useful because these are tips that take very little time to implement and can pay off quickly.

If you feel like you are constantly stretching your pennies until they scream, take heed: with a few adjustments and tricks, you can make living on a tight budget less of a burden. Check out the following ideas that should give you more money left at the end of the month:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Do Chua - Vietnamese Style Pickled Carrots and Radishes Recipe - Paleo and Cheap

When I got my hands on a lot of free carrots and radishes a couple of months ago, I wanted to figure out something amazing to do with them. I'd remembered reading about a Vietnamese carrot and daikon pickle on VietWorldKitchen.com and decided to try to make my own take off from them, using regular radishes instead of daikon, and using non refined sweeteners instead of the white sugar often found in recipes.
Vietnamese carrot and radish pickles are an essential component of the famous Vietnamese sandwich, banh mi, a baguette filled with mayonnaise, chili pepper, cilantro, sliced cucumbers, soy sauce, a cooked protein of choice (from fish to meat to chicken to tofu) as well as these carrot and radish pickles. While not Paleo, I do want to try to make a banh mi inspired wrap, with those fillings and Vietnamese spicy sardines, a common component in banh mi sandwiches.  

I started off with this authentic do chua recipe and played around with the ingredients and proportions until they were to my liking, so I won't say my recipe is authentic anymore, but it is close enough that I think it still can be called do chua. 

Since that original time, I've often been able to get cheap or even free carrots and radishes and I've made them many times since. They are so delicious that my daughter will try to sneak fistfuls out of the refrigerator when I'm not looking. Every single person I've served these pickles to enjoyed them.

Best part about them? They are a great way to make past prime veggies last longer- the vinegar and salt preserves the vegetables, and these can easily last a few months in the fridge. I have not tried canning them, but I don't see why that wouldn't work (although it probably will take away from the crunch factor).

The way I make these pickles, they come out full of flavor, nice and tangy, with the perfect balance of sweet, sour, and salty. Feel free to adjust the ratio of vinegar to sweetener to suit your taste preferences- I use more vinegar and sweetener than in the original recipe. I've used date syrup, jaggery syrup, and honey as the sweetener in mine- white sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar all will work as well, depending on your dietary needs/preferences and budget. Do chua doesn't typically have onions in it, but I find them a welcome addition.

If you aren't a big fan of the flavor of radishes, note that they don't taste radishy here, and even non radish lovers generally like them here. But if you want to leave them out, feel free and just increase the amount of carrots.

Do Chua - Vietnamese Style Pickled Carrots and Radishes Recipe - Paleo and Cheap

A Happy Garden Update!

You have no idea how long I've waited to write this post!
Growing up in Cleveland, my family had a decent sized house with a relatively large yard. While most of it was grassy, wonderful for playing, and we had a grape arbor/swingset and club house we built, we had many different distinct areas for gardening. A vegetable garden in the very back, where we grew all sorts of things like asparagus, rhubarb, corn, chives, snow peas, zucchini, and tomatoes. A garden along the side with blueberry bushes, gooseberries. A garden along the other side with raspberries and wineberries. Various fruit trees like apricots and peaches. Another little area with mint and horseradish. And in the front a flower garden with strawberries, and on our tree lawn, around our tree, we grew Jerusalem artichokes.

My mother has a green thumb and loves gardening. I've wanted to be like her and garden, growing my own food as much as possible, instead of buying it from the grocery store. But we lived in a rental apartment the first five years we were married, and we never knew how long we'd be staying there, so were loathe to invest in a garden that we would have to leave behind.
Eventually, though, after we'd been there for 4.5 years we said that if we'd been there that long already, we'd probably be there another while too, so why not just make a garden already. We planted tomatoes and swiss chard... and then decided (and rather suddenly, at that) to move, because we'd had it up to there with our hellacious landlord. We gave away our chickens and rabbits, packed up our house, and moved to an apartment that not only was half the size of our previous one, but also had no yard whatsoever.
For the next 5 years we were in that apartment, having no idea when we'd be able to afford to move to a bigger place. I got more and more into frugality and self sufficiency, really wanted to garden, but had very little success. Any gardening I could do had to be in pots and planters.
Most plants that I attempted to grow from seed never actually grew. The ones that did start to grow, overall, did not do well in the planters. We had a few moderate successes, but my experiences made me think I was just a plant killer. The few plants that I had growing that I managed to not kill, and even could harvest from occasionally, were aloe vera and purslane.

Basic Things to Know About Mutual Funds

Often when I talk to people about saving money and how to save, they scoff and say "That's not saving. Saving money means actually having money to put aside into savings." When I teach people how to be frugal and save money on their groceries, household expenses, clothing, or anything else, the point is to live within your means enough so that you have excess cash left over after your expenses. That cash, after building an emergency fund, can be saved, and also grown in all sorts of methods, such as mutual funds. Reader Janica Buenconsejo explains a little more about this next option, how you can turn your saved money into more money in the future.

A lot of people are looking for ways to grow their money. Some would start a small business so that they can earn from something they actually want to do, like making accessories or printing shirts. Others would fund a project or a start-up company and expect a sizeable return of investment once it earns. However, some choose to invest their money through buying stocks or bonds.

If you choose the latter, you should that there are many kinds of investments you can choose from, depending on the risk factor and the length of time you want your money to in play. However, if you are afraid of risking money, note that it is not just about buying stocks or bonds; there are less stressful ways of investing. A mutual fund is one such kind of investment and is probably the easiest way to invest in the market, even young adults can start doing it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Paleo Stuffed Artichoke Hearts or Zucchini Recipe- Egg Free, Frugal

I adore artichoke; it is one of my absolute favorite vegetables. The best part of the artichoke, of course, is the heart. When I brought home a large amount of artichokes super cheaply, I knew that I wanted to make stuffed artichoke hearts with at least some of them. I prepared the artichoke to access the heart and hope to make a post in the near future on how to do that yourself. If you don't want to do that, or only have access to frozen artichoke hearts, feel free to use them in this recipe.
Stuffed artichoke is generally made predominantly with ground beef which gets expensive, with dairy that I don't eat, or with rice or breadcrumbs mixed with the meat to stretch it further, also things I don't eat. 
I took the idea for stuffed artichoke hearts that I've eaten elsewhere--beef seasoned with lemon and mint-- and made it more frugally and without ingredients I don't eat. Here you have allergy friendly, frugal, paleo stuffed artichoke. 
If you don't eat artichoke, or they aren't frugal or in season where you live, I made half of my batch with artichoke and the other half as stuffed zucchini, and they are equally delicious.

I find that when vegetables are stuffed with meat that is not stretched with rice or another vegetable, the meat ends up getting dry and not so pleasant to eat. Because the meat in this recipe is steamed in the oven and mixed with zucchini, it stays very moist and delicious.

I highly, highly recommend this recipe.

Paleo Stuffed Artichoke Hearts or Zucchini Recipe- Egg Free, Frugal

Friday, May 19, 2017

Some Fabulous Deals at the Market and Lots of Free Food

The other day I was in town, heading to the market via public transportation and I met another English speaker. She saw my empty folding shopping cart and asked me if I was heading to the market. I confirmed that, so she commented, "You can get some pretty cool deals there." Yes, definitely.
We were talking a bit and then introduced ourselves by name, and when I said mine she exclaimed "Oh! You're the frugal market lady! I read about what you get there!" That was amusing.
Anyhow, we then started talking and she asked me what I was planning on getting there and how much I planned to spend. Since I had a decent amount of vegetables in my house already, although not all the ones I needed, I told her that I planned to spend no more than $30, but ideally less than $15... Usually when I go to the market I don't decide beforehand how much I plan on spending. I just buy what I need for as little money as possible—trying to find as many free or nearly free things as I can—and whatever I spend, I spend.I does typically end up within the $15-$30 range, hence my goal. Once I have a challenge though, I have a lot of fun seeing just how little I can spend, because I enjoy proving something to myself and the one who challenged me.

I came home with all this food. 83.6 lbs of produce. 22.2 lbs of fish. 105.8 lbs of food, all paleo and unprocessed and healthy, for a grand total of.... wait for it... $11.42!
That works out to under 11 cents a pound for all that food!

Modern Ways to Save Money

As a frugal conscious person living in today's modern world, I am very appreciative of the fact that today's technology and specifically the Internet allows me even more ways to save money than were open to us in the past. Here's a few ways the Internet can help you save money in 2017.

Save differently.
I know how challenging it can be to put away money to savings when cash is short and you can't find many ways to save. This 52 Week Saving Challenge is based on the idea that it's hard to find money to set aside to save, so it starts you off small- just one dollar put into savings the first week, two weeks the next. Because of the gradual way in which you are putting aside money you don't feel a big hit to your wallet. Instead gradually you learn to spend less and less money so you have what to put in savings but by the end of the year you will have saved a lot of money.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Homemade Carrot Peach Leather Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Easy

I got a very large amount of carrots recently for free (more about that in a later post), but because they weren't in the best of conditions, they needed to be used up sooner rather than later, or at least something needed to be done with them to extend their shelf life. 
With some, I made my sweet and spicy carrots medallions. With others, I made a stir fry with other free vegetables. I made Vietnamese carrot pickles (recipe to come soon). But I still had so much more left and was trying to figure out what to do with them. (Chilled carrot soup will probably make it to my menu soon, either with orange juice, or with leek and cumin.)

When I was on my recent hiking getaway with my mom and sisters, we were brainstorming with ideas of Paleo food to bring along that wouldn't be too heavy (since we had to carry it on our backs) and while homemade ground beef jerky was for protein, figuring out vegetables was harder. I thought of making butternut squash leather, and my mom did so, and it was pretty tasty but lacking something. Eating it together with the banana leather it was perfection.
Seeing my carrots on my counter, I thought I'd take inspiration from that butternut squash leather, and see if I could turn my carrots into "fruit" leather. (I know it as fruit leather, but have a hard time with calling it fruit leather when its pretty much vegetable leather.) I did some googling to see if carrot leather worked on its own, and all other people seemed to add fruit to it, so I figured why not. It still is predominantly carrots, but I added a few peaches that had soft spots and would spoil if I didn't use them up soon. I decided to add some ginger and cinnamon so it would be reminiscent of pumpkin pie.
Well, I can't say that it worked. I don't taste the pumpkin pie. Next time I should probably increase the amount.
But what I can say is that this leather tasted amazing. In fact, I'd say its probably some of the best tasting "fruit" leather I've eaten in a while. My kids loved it too.
It doesn't taste quite carroty and it doesn't taste quite peachy, but somewhere between the two, just the right amount of sweetness, etc...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Homemade Egg Free Hollandaise Sauce Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, and Delicious

Foraged asparagus with vegan hollandaise

My 9 year old son Lee sometimes asks me "Mommy, how do you come up with all your recipe ideas?" and I tell him, more often than not I get inspired by recipes I see on the net or elsewhere. I don't usually make recipes as I find them, because of food sensitivities and monetary constraints. Some recipes I am especially proud of, as I figured them out from start to finish, not basing them off any or even multiple other recipes, but entirely out of my head.
My vegan, flax seed based mayonnaise is one of those recipes that I figured out entirely on my own, and it is really an amazing one, with the exact texture and taste of egg based mayonnaise (unlike most vegan mayonnaise recipes whose texture leaves much to be desired).

When I was lucky enough to be able to forage a bunch of asparagus (something I rarely eat, as they are ridiculously overpriced here, and wild ones don't grow so frequently where I live), I wanted to serve them in the most delicious way possible, that would let their flavor shine (and not be hidden in a quiche or soup) while adding something to bring its flavor up a notch. Cliched though it is, I decided to serve my asparagus with hollandaise sauce.
Or my version of it anyhow.

I'm not a vegan by a long shot, but unfortunately I've got a sensitivity to most dairy and eggs. I've tried my way around it, tried duck eggs instead of chicken eggs, but I can't eat them either. And even ghee, which is clarified butter, with the milk protein removed, something many dairy intollerant people are able to have, makes me react, unfortunately. So the classic hollandaise sauce, made from egg yolks and butter is out for me. But that didn't mean I wanted to give up on it.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Easy Homemade Peach Sauce Recipe - Paleo, Vegan, Delicious

Peaches are coming into season around here, which means that I can find them on the reduced rack at the grocery store or market, being sold for very little or even sometimes free. When I get them extra frugally or free, they often are mushy and/or banged up, which means that they should be cooked so they don't spoil. This peach sauce works perfectly well with overripe and/or mushy peaches, and is freezer friendly too.
We had this peach sauce with my homemade strawberry chocolate cheesecake swirl ice cream, and while each tasted amazing on their own, they were perfection together. This peach sauce, so delicious, is extremely easy to make, to the extent that I almost feel silly sharing the recipe here. It works great as a topping on ice cream, pudding, yogurt, or any cakes or brownies, or even eaten on its own.
And of course, it is paleo, vegan, without any refined sweeteners, etc...

Easy Homemade Peach Sauce Recipe - Paleo, Vegan, Delicious

Friday, May 12, 2017

Homemade Strawberry Chocolate Cheesecake Ice Cream Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, and Easy

I had another recipe that I wanted to share today, but upon request I'll share this delicious and easy recipe with you today instead. I debated what to call this. My kids call it ice cream, so I might as well just call it that. However, it is based on an idea for cashew based vegan cheesecake with strawberries that my family and I really love. Cashews make a delicious mock cheesecake, with a cheesiness that you don't often find in vegan foods. This recipe is made with almonds, not cashews, but it still has a resemblance to it, hence the cheesecake ice cream name I gave it. While I made this with almond butter, feel free to make it with cashew butter instead. I have not tried it with other nut butters, but if you want to experiment, feel free.

This recipe is pretty easy to make. The only thing to note is that the ingredients do need to be added in the order written, otherwise it can flop, so keep that in mind and follow the instructions precisely.

Homemade Strawberry Chocolate Cheesecake Ice Cream Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, and Easy

My Frugal Produce Cooking Marathon

Yesterday I had a really great shopping trip, bringing home a bunch of produce for very little money. Much as I love a good deal on produce, bringing home that much at once does mean that I need to figure out what to do with it all so it doesn't spoil and gets the most use.

Here's what I did with the produce I brought home yesterday. Of course there is still much more fresh in my fridge to use up at later dates, but this is the food prep I did for now.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

My Latest Super Frugal Shopping Trips

I love a good bargain. My husband frequently sees what I buy cheaply and laments that I "brought the entire market home with me". But yes, I do have a hard time passing up a great bargain, and yesterday's shopping trips were no exception.

Here's my total shop from yesterday. Guess how much it cost?

The entire shop cost me $76.15!

If you break up the shop into produce and meat, all that produce (the vast majority of what is pictured) cost me only $30.70, and the meat cost me $45.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Frugal Girls Mini Vacation

I just got back from a great trip with my mom and two sisters, Violet and Lizzy. We moved abroad when my little sister Lizzy was only 6, and Violet and I moved out of the house right around then. We realized that we girls never really did trips together, and Violet had the idea to go on a hiking trip/mini vacation with the three girls and our mom, and we had an awesome time. 
It was frugal and fun and just hit the spot.

Violet wanted to go to this specific water hike that is very famous, and is a rite of passage, of sorts, for locals, as it something a large percent do growing up here, which we never did since we only came at a later stage.

We left yesterday afternoon, came back yesterday night. 

Entire cost of the trip? 

$25 per person plus groceries.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Nightshade Free Hot Sauce Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Delicious

I love my hot sauce. Whether tobasco or sriracha or any other type, being able to add a kick to my food easily is something I really enjoy. In a discussion with a friend of mine who is off of nightshades (the family that includes potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes), she noted how I use nightshades in most of my dishes. That confused me, as I avoid potatoes, eggplants, and peppers because they bother my stomach, and make many tomato free dishes. Then it hit me- hot sauce. I use it a lot. And it is made with hot peppers or hot pepper flakes.
It got me thinking- what if I could make a hot sauce that is nightshade free? Peppercorns are actually not in the nightshade family, so if I could make a hot sauce based on them instead of the usual hot peppers, we'd be in luck, and hopefully all those sensitive to nightshades would be able to finally have hot sauce. (People off nightshades are often told to add horseradish or mustard or fresh garlic or ginger to their food in place of hot sauce, but it is definitely not the same. They have very different tastes.
I set out to see if I could make a peppercorn based hot sauce, but first scoured the internet to see if I could find something like that already out there, but came up empty. So here it is. And it's darn good. I would say it rivals my homemade sriracha sauce in terms of taste. I highly highly recommend this recipe, and not just to people who can't use nightshades, but everyone. The one issue with it is the color not being as attractive as the bright red sriracha you see in the grocery store. Oh well.

While I used sweet potato in this recipe, if you're on the GAPS diet or another diet that forbids sweet potatoes, I am confident that it would work just as well with pumpkin, butternut squash, or carrots in place of the sweet potato. The purpose of the sweet potato is to add a mild sweetness that sriracha has, as well as thickening it, and any other orange veggie would work as well.

Nightshade Free Hot Sauce Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Delicious

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Reddit Ask Me Anything

Hi everyone! I just wanted to let you know that today I am doing an Ask Me Anything on Reddit, under the username PennilessFoodie! Anything you want to know about me, or anything you wanted to pick my brains about, that's where to do it! Just a reminder though- as I'm an anon blogger and don't give away my identity, location, or religion, if you do know any of those things about me, please keep them off your questions on reddit. Thanks, looking forward!

Here's the link to the reddit post. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

My Latest Super Frugal Shopping Trip

It is no secret how much I enjoy shopping at the open air market. As a family who goes through a lot of produce, I hate paying supermarket prices for produce when I can get it all for a fraction of the price.

Because I regularly go to the open air market, I develop a relationship with many of the sellers, who get to know me as someone who loves a good bargain, and they offer me better bargains than they offer everyone else, sometimes.

This last time I went to the market was no exception.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

DIY Workbench and Tool Storage

To say that my husband has a lot of tools/building equipment would be an understatement. It is an enjoyable hobby of his, and fortunately it is a cost effective one. Building our own furniture and other things we need in the house, and in general doing our own fixing saves us money, in both the short and the long term. The problem is that when you have a lot of tools, it can be hard to keep track of them and find what you need when you need it.

To be able to store his tools more easily and make them easily accessible to him, my husband built this tool storage station of sorts, without spending a thing. We have a small apartment, as we divided a two floor home into two apartments, one to live in and one to rent out. We have "stairs that lead to nowhere", as the division between the two apartments was made by building a wall at the top of the stairs. We use the upper part of the stairs for storage, and my husband made use of the landing in the middle of the stairs, as a place to store his tools. (Eventually we would like to build a storage shed in our yard, either from scratch or prefabricated, and plan to move this work station there.) I like that his tools now have a place of their own, out of the way of our general living area so it doesn't take up valuable room in our small home, and out of the kids, meanwhile utilizing what otherwise would be wasted space, yet easy enough for my husband to use when he needs it.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Penniless Foodie in the Wild: Adaptable Recipes for Foragers and Frugalistas is Now Out!!!

Awesome news to share with y'all!!! My new cookbook, Penniless Foodie in the Wild,  Adaptable Recipes for Foragers and Frugalistas, is finally out and available on Amazon!

This has been a work in progress for months (or years, depending on how you look at it), and I'm really excited by it.

It's not a foraging ID book, but that is in the works. Its not even just for foragers- those with no interest in venturing out into the wild will also enjoy this food- it's just low cost good food that can be made with wild edibles or things from the grocery store.

Here's what the blurb at the back of the book says:

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Russian Vinegret Recipe- Root Vegetable Salad

One time, not so long ago, I was at a friend's house and was offered some absolutely delicious salad, a Russian one called vinegret. In American English, and in many other languages, vinaigrette is a type of salad dressing based on vinegar, but Russian vinegret is actually the name of the salad, not just its dressing. There are so many different versions of vinegret, and I posted one a few years back with mayonnaise, but that day at my friend's house, discovered one even tastier and easier, made without mayo.

Last night I made a get together at my house, a belated house-warming party (I was going to do one in December, but we ended up getting sick, and since then, so many things came up that it got pushed off until last night), to show people my new home, and in general, just to have fun with friends and family. (I don't know if house-warming party is the right term for this, since according to Wikipedia gifts are the norm at house-warming parties, but gifts were totally not the point of this party.) I wanted to keep costs down but still serve lots of yummy food to everyone. I made this vinegret and it was enjoyed by all. It was quite easy to make, not to mention frugal, using all seasonal produce that can be purchased cheaply at this time of year.

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The layout of one of the tables at the party, vinegret in the back,. Also shown: sesame spaghetti, quinoa salad, veggie crudites, cabbage salad, lentil salad, tahini dip, beet and carrot salad with mint, and purchased gluten free crackers.

I have made vinegret a few times this way, and each time it tastes slightly different but just as delicious. I don't have an exact recipe, more a general guideline on how to make it, since the recipe is flexible and can be adjusted to taste.

Vinegret traditionally is a cold salad made with potatoes, beets, carrots, and cucumber pickles, but as I generally try to avoid white potatoes, I have made this with sweet potatoes and it is awesome. If I don't have cucumber pickles, I also just use plain cucumbers for this. You can add cooked (but not canned) peas to this as well- baby peas are my favorite, but as I can't usually get them very cheaply (and they aren't paleo) I tend to leave them out.
Apologies about the picture- when it is freshly made you can see the different colors in the dish more distinctly, but as it sits, the color of the beets start overtaking everything, and you get a dish with various shades of pink instead of the original magenta, orange, white, and green.

Russian Vinegret Recipe- Root Vegetable Salad

Monday, April 24, 2017

Getting Air Conditioners and Making a Cardboard Playhouse

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Yesterday, for the first time in our married lives, we got air conditioners for our home. Growing up, we actually never had air conditioners, but just used fans, and were totally fine. A year or two before we moved away from Northeast Ohio, my parents installed central air conditioning in our house to increase its market value.
Then we moved abroad, and again, no air conditioning.

This September, we'll have been married 11 years, and we've never had "real" air conditioning in our house. We started off using fans when necessary, and trying to avoid using fans when those weren't necessary, to keep down our electric bills. One summer we were just so miserably hot that we bought a portable second hand air conditioner for our bedroom (we were co-sleeping at the time, so it was for the entire family). It stood up on the floor, connected to one of the windows with a pipe, and worked... sort of. During times when the fan blowing on you simply felt like a car exhaust blowing on you, this portable air conditioning unit was a welcome relief even if it didn't actually make you comfortable, but it did a terrible job of actually cooling down the room. It just made it marginally better. And we didn't have any air conditioning in the living room/dining room/kitchen. The portable unit we had was barely strong enough for our small bedroom, let alone the bigger living room/dining room/kitchen. And the children's room was built in such a way that we couldn't put any air conditioning there.
So essentially, no AC in our place.
In the winter, we used blow heaters and radiators and halogen heaters...

Yesterday we finally bought real air conditioning units that double as heaters (I think they are called split system heat pumps). The same unit warms the place in the winter as cools it in the summer. It is supposed to be the most cost efficient way to heat your home here. When we designed the layout of our new home, we had them build it with preparations already there for the air conditioning units, so we wouldn't have a large expense to install them (places for pipes and electricity).
But we spent most of the winter here without those units, since I didn't get around to ordering and installing them.

Finally on a price comparison website I found some decent pricing for these AC units. One large one for the living room/dining room/kitchen, and one small one for my bedroom. The kids' room is right near the living room/dining room and should be able to be cooled or heated from the adjacent room, but if not, we may also put the portable AC unit in there. We also put an air conditioning unit in our rental unit's living room. (They brought and installed AC units from their old home into two of the bedrooms.)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Chinese Style Corn Soup Recipe- Without Eggs

This past week has been a very busy one in my house, foraging so many different things, shopping a for frugal groceries, doing a lot of cooking from scratch, and even being filmed by a film student for a "day in the life of" documentary for her documentary making class.
With this film student, I went to the market and while there, got an insane amount of produce for very little. It was 55 lbs of produce for 20 dollars, and that included some great things, like dragon fruit, baby greens, fresh basil, lots of fruit, and a whole lot of ears of corn on the cob. I'm a big fan of corn on the cob, and was so excited about them, since I rarely see them for a price I like, so I don't buy it much.
Unfortunately, I didn't realize that my kids aren't big fans of corn on the cob (but enjoy it just fine off the cob), so after cooking up the lot for dinner, I had quite a bit left over.

I decided to whip up a batch of Chinese restaurant style corn soup, using that corn on the cob and chicken broth (made from my free chicken frames) as the base. I looked at a few different recipes for inspiration, but most had egg in it, which I don't eat, or used canned corn and creamed corn, or just seemed rather bland, so this recipe is entirely my own. If you don't have corn on the cob to use for this recipe, I'm sure it will work just as well with frozen corn or canned corn. Instead of grating the corn, put 1 cup of corn in the food processor instead of grating the two ears.
I used a large amount of ginger and black pepper to give it extra oomph, but feel free to use less ginger and leave out the pepper if you want less bold of a flavor.
While I haven't tried making this vegan, I am sure it would also work fine using vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth.

Chinese Style Corn Soup Recipe- Without Eggs

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Making Your Own Vegetable Sprouter for Microgreens and Sprouts

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Many people are familiar with sprouts, such as bean sprouts or alfalfa sprouts. Generally people purchase these at the grocery store, but it is quite simple to make them at home. (Though I've made mung bean sprouts many times and mine always turn out less sweet and crunchy than the store bought type, and with a bitterness missing in the store bought ones. My alfalfa sprouts come out perfectly.)

In my grocery store, they also sell various microgreens, especially sunflower seed and lentil microgreens, which is like sprouts, but continued a little past the sprouting stage. Microgreens are sprouts taken to the next level. Sprouts generally are eaten when just a sprout starts coming out of a seed, before there are any leaves, and the entire thing is eaten. Microgreens are sprouts that you let continue growing further, so the sprout turns into a root and a stalk, with little leaflets on them. They are packed with nutrients, much more so than a mature plant of the same variety. They are used in many fancy restaurant style/gourmet dishes, and the fact that I can make these myself for next to nothing gives me a thrill.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sweet and Spicy Carrot Medallions Recipe- Easy, Cheap, Paleo and Vegan

Sorry for not having posted so much lately, my husband has been on spring break from work, so we've been spending time as a family and less time on the computer and writing posts on my blog. I'm sorry about that!
So, what's new with me?
My husband has built so many cool things for our house- I posted about a couple of them already, have another few to show, and we're still working on some more projects. That has been really fun.

Since people here are also on spring break from school, I've been taking the opportunity to teach foraging classes when people are available, and that has been great! It's so nice to open people's eyes to new types of food, and help them see the wild edible plants all around them. Yesterday in one of my classes, I had a three year old enthralled by foraging, wanting to taste everything I showed them, and his excitement with the edible plant world reminded me so much of my little daughter, Rose, also three, and also in love with picking her own wild plants to eat (under my supervision, of course, but she's getting very good at identifying them).

My book is due to be released next week via the publisher, Passageway Press, on Amazon and more, and as the clock is ticking down anticipation is building. I've reviewed the final proofs and I think it's going to be really awesome, and can't wait to have a hard copy in my hands after all this time! When I saw the cover photo (not releasing it until the book is released) I was ready to squeal with excitement.

I've been watching a lot of cooking shows lately and getting really inspired by the various techniques I've seen them apply, and am trying to implement them in my kitchen, so that has been fun.

With all that going on, I've been alternating between cooking fancy meals, some with no recipes at all, just made up on the spot but ending up perfect, and some with recipes from this blog (like the musakhan I made the other day), and then some times I just want simple but good.

This carrot recipe has been my go-to carrot recipe lately, because as simple as it is, it is also delicious. My kids and I can finish a whole batch in about one meal. We love snacking on them hot or cold. They have the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and spicy, and our family finds them very addicting. As there have been requests for me to also share my simple recipes here, I decided to share this one with you guys.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Homemade Pallet Spice Rack- DIY Makeover

I wrote in a previous post how many spices I use, and how the little bitty spice racks I see them selling all over doesn't hold nearly enough spices for me, and the few I've seen that seem somewhat large enough are extremely over priced. I was overjoyed when my husband made me a homemade spice rack made entirely out of pallet wood. It was beautiful and rustic and perfect and held so many spices....

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Learning How to Cook Like a True Korean

A friend of mine, Hannah, is a foodie just as I am, and a reader of this blog. When she went to Korea for a business trip, I have to say, I was just the slightest bit envious, since going to Korea one day is a dream of mine, in part because of my fascination with Korean cuisine. Just yesterday while grocery shopping, I met a Korean expat currently living in the city nearest me, and I got so excited about meeting her, because someone else would appreciate my love of all things Korean. 
Hannah told me that while she was in Korea she got to experience a side of Korean cuisine that most tourists don't get to experience- Korean real, home cooking, not the touristy stuff or the foods geared towards restaurant clientele, but every day cooking. I asked Hannah to write up about her experience as a guest post, because it sounded fascinating..

A few weeks ago I had a business trip to Seoul, South Korea. I was excited about the prospect of traveling to a part of the world I had never been to before, meeting new people and seeing new places, but I wasn't too excited about the food. I know Korean food is supposed to be amazing, and I have seen many Korean recipes here on Penny's blog, but I didn't think I'd be able to try much for myself because of my strict dietary requirements. Oh well, I thought, I can enjoy travel even without the food.

 The first day, everything went as planned. Together with friends we went to a food market, the food looked amazing, and I found a stand that sold roasted sweet potatoes- but a different variety than the one I know. I enjoyed the treat, even having two.

But as the days went on my frustration mounted. Finally, on the day before last, I asked a friend of a friend who is Korean-American, living currently in Seoul, if she knew of anyone who could give me a private vegetarian cooking class. She immediately invited me to spend the evening with herself and her parents, and promised me a cooking class with her mom, using only ingredients I could eat. So I set out in the subway from the center of the city to a quiet suburb, as many people in this huge city of 20 million do every day.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Our New Upcycled Guest Bed -- Completely Free and Very Easy!

When we were first married we lived in a two bedroom apartment, one room for us and one for guests. Then we had our first child and while he started off in our room, by a certain point he ended up getting the second bedroom, and we lost our guest bedroom.
When we moved to our smaller apartment nearly 6 years ago, we still had two bedrooms, but one was teeny tiny, and it got filled with two children, my two boys, while my daughters slept in our room.
I enjoy having guests, and one of the hardest things for me about our extra small space was our inability to host anyone - at first we didn't even have a couch in our very small living room/dining room/kitchen.
We managed to find a couch that fit our extra small dimensions and bought an Ikea Solsta couch that opened up into a bed! We could have guests at last, even if it meant them sleeping in our living room. Only the bed that opened up was extremely uncomfortable- two thirds of it was padded but the last third was just wood covered in fabric, not something I'd offer to a guest. We had children over (nephew and niece) who were short enough to fit on the soft 2/3 of the couch bed, but no sleep over adult guests.

One of the things that excited me most about our new and much more spacious house was that it had three bedrooms, one which became my office, but also is intended to double as a guest room. However. while I wanted a guest room for so long, with so many expenses involved in moving and setting up a bigger household and all the new furniture we needed, a guest bedroom just wasn't a priority from a financial perspective. And so, despite our larger home, we still didn't have accommodations for guests.
We do have a spare mattress that was fitting under the triple bunk bed in my kids room, for when my daughters want to sleep in separate beds, and when my little sister Lizzy asked to spend the weekend, I set up that mattress in the guest bedroom, which was OK to sleep on, but honestly, wasn't the nicest accommodations so I wouldn't feel comfortable inviting anyone else to sleep over with the room looking like that.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Homemade Pallet Trash Can

My husband loves building out of pallet wood. I've already shown a couple of projects my husband made out of pallet wood (sometimes with my help, but more often than not without). He likes building out of pallet wood because it's free, easy to find, and you end up with a nice rustic look, of which my husband is fond.
Quite a few times in the past I came home and found my husband with a ready made project built from pallets, waiting for me.

The other day, I came home from teaching a foraging class and saw my husband's latest project- a trash can, or as my South African husband would say, rubbish bin, made from pallet wood. I hadn't known this, but for a long time our garbage can was irritating my husband, as he finds the standard plastic one to be quite ugly, and not space efficient at all. The fact that trash cans are generally either round or trapezoidal makes them leave empty space at the sides, so you can fill up the trash bags less and need to take the garbage out more often.
The covers for most garbage cans tend to be swinging ones, which often get dirtied when you throw in the trash, since even once you pick them up they swing back into place. And at least with our previous one, the hole in which you need to place the garage sometimes isn't big enough, which meant that often when trying to empty the dust pan into the trash can, it didn't fit, and some stuff spilled out onto the floor.

And so, this pallet trash can.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Foraging Wild Swiss Chard or Sea Beet in my Backyard!

I love Swiss chard but it's not so cheap to buy locally. I mean it's not a fortune but it's more than I'd like to pay for a leafy green. In my home growing up we grew Swiss chard in our garden and enjoyed it. When married and in our first home, the one with a garden and chickens, my mom gave me some Swiss chard to transplant into my yard and it grew wonderfully giving us a regular supply of yummy greens. But then we moved and the Swiss chard was no more as we has no yard.

Image my excitement when I found out that there is a wild Swiss chard relative, the ancestor of beets and chard, called sea beet, growing locally! It pretty much looks identical to store bought Swiss chard, only growing in the wild. Though native to the coasts of Europe, Northern Africa, and Southern Asia, it now grows in many other parts of the world. It's scientific name, beta vulgaris maritima, meaning common beet sea references the fact that it's originally a coastal plant.

Unfortunately though, while it grows in other parts of my country in large quantities, in my city, I guess because we're not near the sea, I've only ever seen it in two different places. One of those places is near my husband's work, in the part of the  city that is nearest to my town... and that same plant has been growing there for years. But just one plant. I would go back and pick some and then come another time to pick some more. But that was the only place I could forage it. I wouldn't even tell anyone about that plant because I was afraid that  someone else would get there first and there's be nothing for me... I thought of it as 'my Swiss chard plant'.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Vietnamese Scallion Oil Recipe -- Mo Hanh -- Easy, Paleo, Vegan, Allergy Friendly

There has been a request for some super simple recipes here, which is why I'll share this one, even though it seems quite silly to me to share something so simple. But as people said when I shared my fried banana post, even if its not something complicated, it may be something that others wouldn't have thought to do, so why not share?

Last night I wanted to make a Korean style dinner, because I had leftover Korean cucumber salad, and ready fermented wild mustard, carrot, and fennel kimchi (which came out awesomely, by the way), and a bunch of wild salsify greens that I wanted to cook up. I figured that to go with the theme, I'd make them Korean style (recipe/method to come soon).
For lunch I had been super lazy and just threw a batch of chicken wings into the oven to roast, not even salting or spicing it whatsoever, just 100% plain. Recently I'd read about a scallion oil garnish that sounded good, so I threw together my own batch and topped the plain chicken wings with that. It was divine, and completed the Korean theme!

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Or so I thought...

Because when I tried to go back and find that recipe on Maangchi.com, my go to source for delicious Korean recipes, I couldn't find it. And then remembered that I had originally seen it on VietWorldKitchen.com, My chicken wings were Vietnamese then, not Korean. Though, cooking Korean foods a lot, and being familiar with their various commonly used ingredients and many of their recipes, I wouldn't be surprised to find scallion oil in a Korean kitchen, albeit with a different name than Mo Hanh.

Mo Hanh might have specific recipes in some places, but this is more a general idea than an exact recipe, because proportions don't matter so much.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Reese's Flavored Chia Pudding Recipe- Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Dessert- Vegan, Paleo Option

Recently we had a guest over from Namibia, which was really cool. For those that don't know (I didn't until she was at our house), Namibia used to be called South West Africa and gained independence from South Africa only in 1990, and is has a very large Afrikaaner population, the Dutch descent people who also comprise a significant percentage of South Africa's white population. My husband is part Afrikaaner (my mother in law's mother) and part English (mother in law's father) (along with Greek and Lithuanian from his father's side), so having over an Afrikaaner and getting to learn more about their culture and language and history was pretty awesome. South African English and Afrikaaners have some similarities in terms of culture and some things very different (and I see that my mother in law is an equal mix of English and Afrikaaner in terms of personality and culture), but one thing they have in common is similar eating habits.
Which brings me to this post.

I grew up with cakes and cookies and other baked goods being our standard desserts. Mandelbrodt was one of the most common, oatmeal raisin cookies and marble cake too, not to mention brownies. Ever since we've been married, though, my husband constantly tells me "Why serve something heavy like that at the end of the meal? You just ate something filling- dessert should be something light, like ice cream or pudding or jelly (the South African word for jello)!"
Well, sometimes I take what my husband says into consideration, and make his style desserts. Other times I stick to mine. My versions of desserts are usually more easily made with pantry staples and quickly, whereas the light desserts usually take more work or have ingredients that I don't always have in the house.
When I knew this Afrikaaner guest was coming, I decided to go with the South African accepted type of dessert- something light, but I didn't have much time available to prepare something, and my kitchen wasn't full of many of the ingredients I would usually use to make such desserts. I thought and thought about what type of dessert to make, and came up with this one.

Chia seeds are in the sage family, and have a special property that makes them absorb tremendous amounts of water and swell up. You can grind them up and use them as a vegan egg substitute as you would ground flax seeds, or you can let the seeds swell up and make desserts or drinks based on that, such as this chia kombucha drink, as long as you don't mind the gelatinous texture of soaked chia seeds.

I used chia seeds to make this quick no fuss pudding. It did need some time to sit to let the chia seeds fully absorb the liquid, but actual hands on time to make it was very minimal. And it used only ingredients I had in the house.
This makes quite a large batch- feel free to halve it or quarter it or whatever.

I used peanut butter, since that was what I had available, but any nut or seed butter can be used for this, whether walnut, almond, cashew, hazelnut, sunflower seed butter, or tahini etc.... You can even use coconut milk or rice milk or regular milk in this, but then it won't have that Reese's chocolate peanut buttery taste that you can get when combining the chocolate with other nut or seed butters.
What I like about this recipe is its versatility, that you can use whatever sweetener or nut butter you prefer or have in the house, so I could make mine cheaply and vegan and refined sugar free by using jaggery syrup, but you can make it paleo by using nut butter, and as cheap as possible by using white sugar if you don't try to avoid it.
I topped mine with dragon fruit that I got super cheaply at the market because it was from the reduced rack, and coconut cream, but you can top it with whatever fruit you have available, or leave out the fruit if you want.

Not only is it a wonderful dessert that went over well with my family and with my guests, leftovers also made a great breakfast.

Reese's Flavored Chia Pudding Recipe- Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Dessert- Vegan, Paleo Option

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