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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

No Shame, a Little Guts, and a Lot of Free Food

Today I went to the market to meet with my friend Juli, who was coming with her kids, and she wanted me to show her around the market. My fridge was already full from the last time I was there and got so much food for very little money, but I did need some fruit, because all I had was citrus fruit. So I went with the goal of getting other non citrus fruit, and if I found anything free, then why not...

In the end, in the above picture, I got all that for free. And yes, you've got that right- that isn't just produce.
In fact, I would say today was one of my better hauls of free stuff, lots of "high brow" foods- chicken, beef, and produce that is generally sold very expensively. Specifically I got an extremely large amount of chicken skin and chicken frames, chicken bones (from drumsticks), beef bones, a very large amount of cardoons, en entire box of pink lady apples, and a few clementines, a tomato, a pepper, and an eggplant.

People see/hear that I got all this for free, and I generally get one of a few reactions.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sesame Baked Sweet Potatoes Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free

A while ago I discovered how delicious the various orange vegetables (sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, etc...) taste with a sweet soy sauce based sauce. Koreans make a dish like this, where sweet potatoes or pumpkins are braised in a sweet soy sauce mixture (gogoma jorim is what it is called when made with sweet potatoes), and I've made it like that a few times. Out of this world delicious. But the problem with such dishes is you have to stand by the stove constantly to make sure it doesn't burn, and to make sure that the veggies are fully cooked before you run out of liquid. Additionally, because of the mixing to prevent burning, the produce, especially if using softer things like pumpkin, starts falling apart and becoming mushy.

Inspired by my love of Korean cooking, and my knowledge of various jorim type recipes, I decided to make this sesame baked sweet potato recipe, which works just as well with pumpkin, butternut squash, and carrots, though the cooking time may vary, and it tasted so delicious. Its hands off, and because of its cooking method, burning isn't as likely and the produce doesn't fall apart.
I was debating whether or not I should call this teriyaki sweet potatoes because the taste is very much like that as well.

If you can't eat sesame seeds, or otherwise don't have them, you can leave them and the sesame oil off- the taste will be different, but still delicious.

Sesame Baked Sweet Potatoes Recipe- Paleo, Vegan

Preserving More Produce

I truly feel blessed whenever I get my hands on free produce. The other day, once my fridge was already mostly filled after my last nearly free "grocery shopping" trip, I was gifted with even more produce, in very large amounts.

It was predominantly extra large sweet potatoes, celery, and carrots, with a smaller amount but still significant quantities of clementines, beets, and purple onions.

I did not have room in my fridge to store all of that produce, and fortunately it was mostly in very good condition, so it was great for fermented produce. (When I get my produce from the reduced rack, unfortunately, it usually is not good enough quality to be used for fermentation- it'll likely mold if I attempt to ferment it, so when I have good quality produce, I am extra tempted to ferment what I can.)

I chopped up some beets and am fermenting them into beet kvass. a probiotic beet based drink.

I am making fermented Moroccan style carrots using this recipe (only with no oil, since I've since learned that it is a bad idea for fermented), and then I pickled celery three different ways. Once was stalks in brine with homemade Cajun seasoning. I thought that might taste extra awesome since celery is a standard ingredient in Cajun dishes. I made one of celery leaves seasoned like kimchi, with ginger, garlic, and got pepper flakes, and the other was just super simple, in brine with caraway seeds.

I dehydrated a bunch of produce as well, and am still dehydrating more. Celery leaves got dehydrated, separately from celery stalks. I dehydrated both cubed sweet potatoes and sliced sweet potatoes, and will be making more dehydrated sweet potato chips. I dehydrated cubed carrots and also sliced purple onions, which I will then use as a spice, and also grind to make onion powder.

Lastly, I cleaned out my freezer and found room to store some things there as well. 
A reader sent me instructions on how to make Indian masala in bulk to freeze, and while I haven't gotten around to doing that yet, the instructions included tips on putting one cup of the sauce in a ziplock bag, and then flattening it and freezing it that way, allowing you to break off as much as needed to use, instead of needing to defrost the entire thing at once. That inspired me to saute up a bunch of the purple onions, and freeze them in bags, flat, so I can break off what I need each time to use that. 

I chopped up celery and carrots too, and froze them separately, and I also froze a few bags of celery and carrots already combined, to be used as a soup base.

I still plan on dehydrating more carrots and sweet potatoes, but essentially it'll be more of the same of what I already did.

It's nice that by preserving this produce, I am able to lengthen its life so that once my fridge is no longer packed to the gills, I'll still be able to have and enjoy this produce.

I love food preservation!

Have you done any food preservation lately? What was it?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fried Green Bananas or Plantains Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Easy and Delicious

Occasionally when I lived in the US as a kid, my mom would come home with plantains, and we'd make fried green plantains. They were soft and sweet and delicious, but locally plantains are a fortune, when I can even find them, so fried green plantains are out.
Fortunately, fried green bananas taste very similarly, and can be made very cheaply.
I tend to buy bananas from the reduced rack, because even in season, their price rarely seems to get down very low, and especially considering the fact that a large percentage of the banana gets thrown away, making it cost even more per pound than it would appear at first. Buying from the reduced rack allows me to pay as little as possible for bananas, and most of the time reduced rack bananas are brown, mushy, and overripe, which work amazingly in dessert recipes and either eliminate completely or drastically reduce the need for sweeteners in recipes.
Sometimes, though, the bananas I buy cheaply are green, and aren't just being sold at the regular price, left to ripen, because they got nicked or similar, and therefore they won't necessarily ripen completely. When this happens, that's almost better, because green bananas can be made in recipes that call for green plantains, such as fried green plantains or bananas.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Paleo Update, and Insane Foraging and Extreme Frugal Food Shopping

I feel like those reading my blog for a while think I'm so inconsistent, and terrible with follow through, because I can't count how many times I said I'd do something... and then fell off the bandwagon. But I think that's life, and especially when there are a lot of things going on, its hard to keep doing what you'd intended on doing, even more so when those things are challenging.

Why am I bringing that up? Because Paleo. It wasn't that long ago that I wrote about having been off Paleo and how it made me exhausted, and that's why I was going back on...  Guess what? I did go back on Paleo and I did have much more energy, but then in the last two months I've been so insanely busy with everything related to my book, and life in general, that I went back to shortcuts in food preparation, and despite it being a relatively healthy diet (not counting the junk I was eating... though that wasn't too frequent), it was heavy on non Paleo foods like rice and lentils. This past week I've been crazy exhausted beyond belief, falling asleep every night at 8 or 9 pm, crashing. That is not me, and the last time I felt that perpetually exhausted was when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy with Anneliese and eating gluten since that was all I could keep down, so I knew something was not right. (No, not pregnant.) People were trying to tell me that it was just that I ran myself down, that I've been working so hard with everything book related that I have to give my body time to recover, but I knew it wasn't just that.
I knew it was diet.

And so, I decided that I would go back to Paleo. I have to. Not half-heartedly this time. It isn't worth it. I may think I'm saving time and energy and money by making only one meal for the entire family, a non Paleo but frugal meal, and eat that together with the family, but if that means that I end up being more exhausted and having much less energy and sleeping 4 more hours every night, that's not much of a time saver- I may be spending less time on food prep but I have fewer hours in my day available period, because I'm wasting my time sleeping. (And yes, sleeping is a waste in this situation, because its not that my body actually needs those hours of sleep, but rather that I'm hurting my body and making it need to recover.) I end up wasting more time because then I have fewer hours available in my day...  
Even from a frugality perspective it isn't worthwhile, also because I know I can make Paleo meals extremely frugally (I have a post on that coming up very soon, I hope), And with less energy, I can just do the bare basics to take care of my home and my family and can't find any energy to work to make money, so even financially these "money saving" things set me back.

Since Friday I've been strictly Paleo once more. Its a night and day difference in terms of energy. Instead of feeling like a sluggish sloth who wants to catch as many winks as possible, I feel bursting with energy even after doing supposedly physically taxing things, and even at times like now when I am running on only 4 hours of sleep. When I'm sharing my Paleo meals, people are asking me how I find the time and energy to make such meals, but what they don't get is... I really can't afford not to. Its an investment into my health and well being that is really, really worthwhile. 

A few things happen, though, that make me slip and not end up sticking to Paleo. One of those is when everyone has a treat or special food to eat, and I just have plain and boring foods. I decided that I wasn't going to set myself up for failure, and I'd make sure to be prepared. When I made my family sushi (a super easy cheater sushi-post on that up soon-since I made this on Friday, when I still was running low on energy since my new regime's effect hadn't had a chance to kick in yet) I made sure to make myself a Paleo approved sushi plate, so I wouldn't be tempted to cheat. I made my daughter a birthday cake, and was able to hold myself back from eating that because I made myself a Paleo crumble and a Paleo cheesecake, so I wouldn't feel like I was missing out. In short, I can't just make nice things for everyone else and then do nothing nice for myself, and then expect myself to hold strong and not cheat. Whole 30 diets talk against this type of thing exactly, but if anything, this, more than anything, makes the case why incorporating SWYPO foods is a good technique to make Paleo a lifestyle that is sustainable in the long run.

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Another thing that makes me fall back to non Paleo eating is when my fridge is mostly empty, or at least without a lot of variety, and I have no back up Paleo approved foods in the pantry and I'm hungry. I have energy to cook two sets of meals when I can let my creativity run free and know I'll come up with some terrific foods, but when I don't have many options with which to prepare food. I get uninspired and then non Paleo food, even plain white rice, seems so good and tempting. 

I knew, therefore, that the first order of business if I wanted to do this properly and stick with it is to make sure my house is filled with plenty of varied produce (and animal protein, but that's for another trip). So yesterday I decided to fill my fridge frugally, and take the time to nourish my soul as well. 

I went to the city to stock up on produce, with the goal being to eventually head over to the open air market. Before that, though, I went to a nature reserve in the city, walking distance from my bus into town, with the goal of foraging some unique and special veggies. In my town. I can forage, but I'm a little bored of what we have here right now, and I can't find as much variety or things close together, and I knew this nature reserve was special. There's a stream in it, which meant there was a chance to get some watercress (not any other natural body of water remotely near my house that I can get to easily), but even if not, I knew there would be plenty of great things there that I could use to fill my fridge.

I didn't leave disappointed. While I struck out on the watercress (I found a tiny amount, which I left to grow), for the first time in my life (despite looking so many times, and sporadically finding a few stalks), I managed to find a large amount of wild asparagus. I adore asparagus, but it costs so much money locally (a bunch this size costs around $10) that I can't bring myself to buy it. Finding that asparagus just made my day!

Our Urban Homestead's Kitchen Today

I feel like a real homesteader, you know, those farm wives that are all self sufficient and do everything themselves from raising their own food to transforming it to something that will feed their family for long periods of time, etc... all entirely from scratch. Though we don't live on a farm, what we have is definitely a little suburban homestead, and today I homesteaded to an extreme.

It started off this morning when I went in to the city to refill my pantry that was getting bare. I foraged a bunch and got some great things, and then after that, went to the farmers market and got a bunch more things very frugally. Details on that will be in tomorrow's post hopefully...

But ever since I got home, I've been non stop taking care of all the produce that I brought home.

I first cleared off my counters enough so I could take pictures of my haul on the counters, and then had to clean out the refrigerator to make room for everything in it that I brought home. I took out the stuff that, unfortunately, I let spoil. Other leftovers I combined to make supper for the family (leftover rice and leftover lentil soup, with the addition of some tomato paste, became rice with lentil sauce, and I served that with cabbage salad made from a cabbage about to go off). I found a Paleo meat dish and had that for my supper (more on me and paleo vs my family, hopefully in tomorrow's post as well.)

I then sorted out my fridge and put like with like, and then found room to fit everything in my fridge that I bought. Well, almost. I took out some produce from my fridge that needed to be cooked or otherwise it would go bad...

I had some beets, radishes, fennel, and hot peppers.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Making Your Home Gluten Free- Without Breaking the Bank: Beginner's Guide to Going Gluten Free- Part 2

Gluten free corn tortillas I made from scratch
When my friend Daniella's son was diagnosed with Celiac, I told her I'd help her transition her son to going gluten free, with a series of posts on my blog, and I did part one-  the Beginners Guide to Going Gluten Free: What is Gluten and How to Avoid It, which did a very thorough job of explaining that aspect, but part two, the part that actually tells people how to make the transition... never got written. However, now another friend's kid is most likely going to be diagnosed with Celiac, so what better time than to put out part two of this guide.

So, you or someone you love has been diagnosed with either Celiac or gluten sensitivity, or otherwise told to avoid gluten by a medical professional. Generally when someone is told something like that, it is scary and overwhelming and people don't know where to start. On top of that, these diagnoses are nearly always are not temporary (though some say gluten sensitivity can be reduced via certain gut healing diets, but Celiac is not one of them), so it isn't just a temporary change people have to make, but a change that will be for the rest of their lives.
Nearly anyone "in the know" will tell you that gluten free diets are much more expensive than gluten diets. People who tell you otherwise are not comparing like with like. A processed food filled diet that contains gluten will be much cheaper than a gluten free processed food filled diet. An all natural made from scratch gluten diet will be much more affordable than a from scratch gluten free diet. Those who say going gluten free saves money or doesn't cost any more are only accurate if you switch from a processed food filled gluten diet to a more frugal, made from scratch, gluten free diet, but that isn't a fair comparison. I know that when my family switched to a gluten free diet for our family of six, most of the extremely frugal things that I did in the kitchen became much more expensive. Yes, our family size grew, but that doesn't account for the nearly doubling of our grocery budget. Gluten free living is expensive.
People often go to health food stores or health food aisles to find their gluten free items, which typically mark up the prices of their gluten free items.

But, I'm here to tell you that while it is expensive, there are ways to make a gluten free life less expensive than it would be otherwise, and without needing to shop in overpriced places catering to those gluten free. However, I'll admit that much of this takes a lot more work. Life is a trade-off though. In life you can typically save money, or save time, but saving both at the same time is much more rare. (Though I do have a post coming up on how to save money while very short on time.)

How To Make Your Home Gluten Free -- Without Breaking The Bank

Gluten Free Sesame Noodle Salad- Vegan, Easy, and Delicious

I want to apologize for not having posted recently- life has been a bit hectic here for a variety of reasons. Part of it was that I hosted a lunch time family reunion for 21 family members, first time hosting a crowd in our new house. It was a crazy day, and while people offered to contribute dishes to the meal, because of dietary restrictions, I offered to make all the food for the entire get together. Which, you can imagine, was quite a lot of food.

When trying to figure out the menu plan, part of my thought process was to divide up the food into different categories. Some would be a little more time consuming to prepare, but those dishes needed to be completely freezer friendly (I made dairy free beef moussaka, and gluten free dairy free enchiladas in advance, and then froze them), and the rest of the foods needed to be quick to prepare because I didn't have room to store so much ready food in my fridge at one go, so everything needed to be cooked the morning of. But I also had a lot of other preparations I needed to do that morning, including cleaning the house top to bottom, and finish arranging the rooms that hadn't been fully finished since we moved in, since that was the first time most of the family members had seen the house, and the first time that any of the family members saw it when it wasn't in the middle of the unpacking-just-moved-into-the-house frenzy, and we wanted to impress.

I decided that sesame noodle salad would appear on the menu, since it has always been a crowd-pleaser, and it is super easy to make. The fact that it is low cost and gluten free and allergy friendly is just an added bonus. I highly highly recommend this dish. (Though I have a sesame noodle salad on my blog already, I much prefer this recipe to the old one.)

Gluten Free Sesame Noodle Salad- Vegan, Easy, and Delicious

Friday, March 10, 2017

Homemade Corn Tortillas Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, and Easy

I wanted to make enchiladas, and my friend Amanda, hearing that, offered to give me the masa harina she had in her house, which I could then use to make some great gluten free corn tortillas. I was really excited about this, because I'd wanted to get my hands on masa harina for a while but wasn't sure where to buy it locally.

Masa harina is a corn based flour used for making tortillas. It should not be confused with corn meal or corn flour or polenta, since masa harina is made by grinding corn that had first been soaked in a lime (calcium hydroxide- not the citrus fruit) solution, which then completely changes the texture of the corn into something that makes a wonderful workable dough.

Using this masa harina, also known as maseca, I then made some corn tortillas very easily- with just two other ingredients- water, and salt. When I say easy, I don't mean that there wasn't any work involved- I had to roll out each one, but rather, it didn't flop and was relatively straightforward to work with, not a finicky dough at all. It reminded me a lot of making gluten free vegan chapatis, an Indian flatbread.

So, how do you do it?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Homemade Cooked Tomato Salsa Recipe, Restaurant Style- Cheap and Easy Salsa Roja

Growing up, my dad used to buy these giant bags of tortilla chips in bulk, and as a family we'd enjoy them dipped in salsa, whether mild, medium, hot, or volcanic, depending on what my dad bought that time and our moods. Recently I've been getting a hankering for chips and salsa, so I bought some jarred salsa and it was really delicious and hit the spot, but the price was outrageous. $5 for the small jar of salsa, and $5 for a medium sized pack of tortilla chips. As much as I loved it, the cost for this snack- $10- was quite ridiculous. 
My little sister, Lizzy, came over and discovered chips and salsa through me (she is many years younger than I am, so didn't grow up in the US with these foods as I did) and wanted to buy some. I told her not to waste her money on salsa, because it is so easy to make it yourself. Which reminded me that I should probably do the same.

I had a bunch of tomatoes that were getting soft in my fridge, some that needed spots cut off, and some onions that were getting old. I realized that making salsa would be the perfect thing to do with them- I get some delicious salsa for next to nothing (something like 25-50 cents for the jar, depending) and I also get to use up some produce before it goes off. While the peppers I used were nice and crisp, it works just as well with peppers that are beginning to soften. 
This batch made a large pot full of salsa, which then got transferred into 5 large jars and canned, which is the equivalent of 6 or 7 of the store bought jars they were selling for $5 a pop, or what would cost $35. And instead it cost me about $3.25 to make the entire batch, so 1/10 the price. 
Best thing- it really is not a lot of work at all. 

Now I need to whip up another batch of my sweet potato chips to eat with this salsa, because that is so much cheaper and healthier than tortilla chips. 

Though I love salsa best with chips, it is wonderful so many different ways. I like topping chicken and fish with salsa (either before or after cooking it), putting it in tortillas or wraps or sandwiches, cooking vegetables (especially green beans) in salsa. Pretty much any place you'd use condiments, you can use salsa and it will be great.

While my recipe calls for cilantro, you can play around with it and use other spices in it as you desire. If I don't have cilantro, I sometimes add parsley or field eryngo instead, or just leave it out entirely. Whatever herbs you add will change the taste slightly, and that is fine- it'll be good regardless. If you like, you can also add a drop of cumin to the recipe.

Because I make my recipe with produce that is about to turn, often that needs parts cut off, I've listed the ingredients both in total amounts of each vegetable, as well as in cups, so that if you aren't using whole tomatoes or peppers or onions, you don't have to do the guess work- just measure them by the cup.

Homemade Cooked Tomato Salsa Recipe, Restaurant Style- Cheap Salsa Roja Dip -- Paleo, Vegan, and Easy

Friday, March 3, 2017

An Insane Cooking Marathon with Free Food

I mentioned once, when I got so much free milk, that I love getting free food, but too much of it can stress me out, and this was no exception...
The other day they were giving out free past prime produce and nearly expiring rice milk, and because the weather was bad, nearly no one came, so there were huge amounts of food just sitting there, that would get thrown out, so despite having food in my house already (not a very full fridge, but full enough) I took home a cart full of groceries. After clearing off my counter, I unloaded all the groceries, and took this pic.
It was an insane amount of food.

A ton of radishes, a ton of carrots, a ton of clementines, a relatively large amount of red onions, 15 bottles of rice milk, a medium amount of beets, and a bag of sweet potatoes.
Which is awesome. But I didn't have room in my fridge for that.
I decided to put as much rice milk as I could in the freezer, leaving out 5 cartons of it that didn't fit. But that meant that I had no room left in the freezer for anything else.

I tried to come up with as many ideas as possible for so many carrots and oranges and radishes as I could that wouldn't be boring, and that, ideally would be either shelf stable or last a while in the fridge, and then had an insane cooking marathon to get it all done.

I still have a bit more to do, but here's what I made with all that (plus some stuff in my fridge that needed to be used up to make room for what I needed to put in):

Friday, February 24, 2017

Raw Nettle or Spinach Pesto Recipe- Vegan, Paleo, and Cheap

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Nettle pesto on spiralized zucchini
I almost feel silly sharing a recipe for pesto here made with wild greens, because it seems like, other than scrambled or in a salad, pesto is just about the most common way that people prepare wild greens. But the thing is, pesto is yummy when made right, but if not made correctly, with the right proportions, can taste bad. For that reason, I wanted to share this recipe for homemade pesto, without any parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, that tastes great, and works for both paleo and vegan diets and anything else in between.

Feel free to use this pesto as you would a standard pesto recipe, on pizza, pasta, as a sandwich spread, on fish or chicken, on spiralized veggies, as a topping on potatoes or sweet potatoes, or anything else that comes to mind. (For more ideas, see this post on 50 things to do with pesto.) I just went simple and put it on gluten free spaghetti for my family, and on spiralized zucchini and baked sweet potato wedges for myself.

While I make this with nettles, it also works well with spinach leaves, lambsquarters, chickweed, or any other non bitter leaf with a relatively mild flavor.

If you're concerned about making this pesto with raw nettles, as they have stingers that can hurt you, note that while cooking gets rid of the stingers, blending up the nettle has the same affect and you don't have to worry about getting stung from the finished product. Handle the leaves carefully (gloves help) before putting in the food processor to avoid the sting.

Raw Nettle or Spinach Pesto Recipe- Vegan, Paleo, and Cheap

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Working Hard, Foraging and Cooking Up a Storm

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Musakhan chicken dish, made with foraged sumac

Dear wonderful readers,
I haven't gone anywhere.
Nope, just been super duper busy.
My final everything for my cookbook is due on March 6, and that includes all the photography which I am having professionally done...

Friday, February 17, 2017

Foraging Salsify or Goatsbeard- Delicious Wild Edible

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When people first hear about foraging from me, a response I typically get is "Oh, so you eat grass?" I've noticed that most people who aren't immersed in the world of wild plants sees large swaths of green and instead of noticing different plants, they just see a green blur, which they dub grass.
I explain to them that no, I don't eat grass, as I'm not a ruminant and therefore my body cannot digest the cellulose in the grass. However, there are some plants that look like grass that I do forage, but no, they aren't actually grass.
Salsify is one of those plants that looks so much like grass that for the first 5 years I was foraging regularly, I didn't know how to identify it, especially not at its early stages of growth, the time most ideal for picking it. Now that I do know how to identify it, I see it everywhere and it has transformed into my absolute favorite foraged plant. (Ok, perhaps a slight exaggeration- I also absolutely adore redbud and wild chard and purslane- salsify ties with them.)

Salsify, also known as goatsbeard, Jerusalem star, and oyster plant, is known in Latin as tragopogon. Originating in Europe and Asia, and with a long history of cultivation (it was even mentioned by Pliny the Elder, who died in the Pompeii eruption in ancient Rome!) it now grows wild in most of the world. Even non foragers have often heard of salsify as there is a cultivated variety sold in the grocery store. There are a few different varieties of salsify, each slightly different but with the same general properties, and all edible.
If picked at the right stage, salsify is a yummy root vegetable, but the greens and flower buds can also be eaten, but more on that in a bit.

10 Tips to Save Money Dining Out

Eating out is great, but I feel guilty about doing so unless it is done on a budget. Here's a post by Swapnil, a British reader, who loves to inspire people to develop a realistic savings plan and pursue their financial goals.

I love to dine out. Having said that it’s not just about satisfying my taste buds, but since I am a foodie, this lets me experiment and actually experience the vicarious pleasure that I feel while watching different food shows.

For some people, this kind of indulgence means breaking the bank. They turn down any plans of dining out to meet their personal budget. The common piece of advice to such people is to get their own ingredients and do the cooking at home. The plan does sound interesting in the first place, but there is only so much you can do. After a stressful and hectic day, you certainly deserve the occasional pampering instead of dreading the idea of cooking a new fancy dish at home.

While I love cooking and I am a DIY person, but I don’t sacrifice or say no to these indulgences just to fulfil my cost-cutting agendas, rather I pick the smarter way to dine out. You can easily keep the budget under control by making smart choices. I'll begin with tips on how doing it. The hungry patrons like me who enjoy gulping restaurant meals can adopt these:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Mini Makeshift Edible Garden

In our old apartment, the first one we had when we got married, we had a yard, and much of the time we didn't make too much use of it (to get to the yard you had to walk through one of the bedrooms). Eventually we got chickens and rabbits and that was fun, but no gardening- the yard was just filled with weeds that, at that time, and I didn't know those weeds were edible, predominantly. 

We had considered a vegetable garden and fruit trees for a while, but since we never knew how long we'd actually be staying at that place, we didn't want to invest the time and money on something if we would possibly just leave it behind. After a few years of a dirt and weed filled yard, we eventually made a vegetable garden where we grew tomatoes and swiss chard, and attempted a passionfruit vine and luffa vine (but those died) but wouldn't you know- that's when we ended up moving, after a few months of our veggie garden, and into an apartment with no yard, no dirt, etc... where we were for the next five years.

In our years in our teeny tiny apartment, I tried to see what gardening I could do, tried window boxes many times, but it's really not the same, because many things can't grow in window boxes because there isn't enough room, and because we barely had room for window boxes as is. We grew kale for a point, and mint, and purslane and aloe vera, tried tomatoes and zucchini and herbs and potatoes and sweet potatoes, but they all flopped for one reason or another. I wanted to garden, but knew that trying to get a green thumb working with window boxes only wasn't helping my cause.

One thing I looked forward to the most with our brand new home that we bought was the yard; I have such plans on my own veggie garden, square foot gardening in the front, a wild edibles yard in the back, and maybe a fruit tree or two. But since we moved here mid-November, we have had so much to do that a garden wasn't the first priority. Building a square foot garden takes time- from building the wood frames to getting the soil to buying the seeds, etc... We still haven't built a bookshelf for the kids' bedroom, so if we build anything right now, it's that. The square foot garden will have to wait.

However, despite that, I did manage to do something to appeal to my "growing my own food" desire. Bit by bit I've been growing food in our yard, so right now we have a mini makeshift edible garden.

Away From Home: A Working Parent's Guide to Keeping Children Safe

Once upon a time, I pictured myself always being home with the kids, never working outside the house, and just being there for them 24/7. Life happens, and even though I'm home with my kids most of the time, I'm a work at home mom most of the time, but also work out of the house on a semi regular basis. Keeping my kids safe while I'm out is definitely important to me, so these tips a reader sent me on how to keep your children safe when you're away is definitely well appreciated.

Parents would give everything to keep their children happy and out of harm’s way. However, not everyone has the luxury of just staying at home to take care of their kids. Most people have to work to provide for the needs of their children. Good thing there are ways to keep your little ones safe, despite not being able to oversee them 24/7. Here’s a brief guide for working parents out there:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Green Meatballs in Creamed Greens Recipe- Frugal, Paleo, Egg Free, Dairy Free and Delicious

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When people hear meatballs, typically what comes to mind is beef meatballs in tomato sauce, over pasta. If you're from other parts of the world, Swedish meatballs in a cream sauce may be their first association.
But as a forager and frugalista, not to mention someone who likes to change things up a lot in the kitchen, I don't generally make the typical meatballs. Sometimes I do, yes, but more often than not I make my meatballs with ground chicken or ground turkey, since I am able to buy it at a fraction of the cost of ground meat where I live.
I'm always looking for new and different ways to use greens in my kitchen, since foraging in my area (and most areas) is predominantly leafy greens of various shapes and sizes, and it gets boring to eat greens the same way ad nauseum.

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Green meatballs in homemade tomato sauce, over homemade gluten free soba noodles

A few years back, I thought that instead of the bread crumbs or ground vegetables or other fillers people add to meatballs to both stretch them out and make them more moist, since I had such an abundance of greens, why not add them into my meatballs? Ever since doing that, I realized how amazing that combination was. Added bonus- you get foods in funky new colors- bright green meatballs replacing the typical brown. Remember back in the day when Heinz put out ketchup in a variety of colors, including green ketchup? Green meatballs are exciting and different in a similar way to that green ketchup, and I even got my girls, who typically aren't so into greens (wild or not), to really love this dish, so much so that despite the huge amount that I made, there were no leftovers.

These green meatballs taste amazing as is, and can be eaten without any sauce at all, but I made them even better by combining them with a sauce made from creamed greens, and served over oven baked spiralized sweet potato "noodles" for myself and over rice for the kids. Simply amazing. The best part- this meal was not only frugal and delicious, it was paleo, egg free, dairy free, healthy, making my body feel great.

I've included the recipes for both the green meatballs, which can be served with whatever sauce you like, and the creamed greens, which can be served both with or without meatballs (either green ones or standard meatballs), and over whatever you like, whether grains, pasta, potatoes, etc...

I couldn't recommend these recipes more highly.

I used a combination of nettles and chickweed for my meatballs, and wild swiss chard/wild beet greens for my creamed sauce, but the greens you use are up to you. You can use any non bitter greens for the meatballs, foraged or store bought, such as kale, spinach, mallow, milk thistle, hollyhocks, etc... For the sauce, you can use any greens you'd like, even bitter ones- just make sure to de-bitter them first if using bitter ones (chop and either soak them in boiling water or bring to a boil for a few minutes, depending on their bitterness).

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My wild swiss chard. Like regular chard, only smaller. And free,

Just a note: depending on preference, you can either blend up your onion in the food processor or not. However, if you do blend them instead of mincing them well, they will make your meatballs more watery and therefore harder to shape into perfect circles, and they will need to be boiled, not baked. Though this recipe does call for boiling the meatballs, if you just use chopped onions instead of minced, and you see the meatball mixture is firm enough to shape into balls, feel free to bake them instead.

Green Meatballs in Creamed Greens Recipe- Frugal, Paleo, Egg Free, Dairy Free and Delicious

7 Proven Tips on How to Balance Work and Family Time for Busy Parents

When Danny Nguyen from Myparentingjournal.com, a parenting blog dedicated to good practices, advice, tips, and resources for parents around the world, sent me this article about trying to find the proper work life balance, it really hit home. 
As much as I am enjoying the business I'm bringing in, and the financially security it leads to, I've been really struggling with trying to juggle all my various responsibilities, between my work, my kids, my house, etc... while still maintaining my sanity. I hope you appreciate his piece as much as I did. 

Presently, most parents spend very little time with their families due to hectic work and business schedules that leave them with little or no spare time at all to spend with family. However, this does not necessarily need to be the case irrespective of how busy your life is as there are effective tips and strategies you can use to achieve a work-family balance.

Family time is very important as it enables parents to bond with their children and assist them in tasks such as homework. In addition to this, this time presents parents with an opportunity to assess the progress of their children as well as monitor their behaviors. Here are some proven parenting tips that you can rely on when working towards achieving a work-family balance:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Chews Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Paleo Option

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I love my chocolate. A lot. But I am trying to stay away from white sugar and eat healthier in general. So when I saw someone in a healthy eating group share this recipe for homemade chocolates using date syrup as its sweetener, I knew I had to try it out. But using jaggery syrup, since that is the cheapest non refined sweetener I can get my hands on locally.
Of course, the recipe as is didn't appeal to me, because once I was tweaking a part, I just went a-tweaking and changed pretty much everything in it. I replaced the coconut oil with palm oil (cheaper, and irritates my stomach less), date syrup with jaggery syrup, then decided that it needed peanut butter, because, hello, healthy chocolate and peanut butter? Even more winning combination!
Now that I made these changes, my chocolates don't qualify as Paleo, since peanuts are a legume and forbidden on the paleo diet, but they could just as easily be Paleo if you used nut butter or sunflower seed butter in place of the peanut butter.

These chocolates are not crunchy- they are more chewy (similar to this recipe, but not quite), so when molding these, keep size in mind- you don't want them to be too big to fit into your mouth. Because they're chewy, they last longer than if it were crunchy, since there is a limit to how fast you can eat these. I made about 40 slightly bigger than bite sized chews with this recipe.

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Chews Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Paleo Option

Thursday, February 9, 2017

My Completely Free Grocery "Shopping" Trip- Foraging and Salvaging

I just had a conversation with my publisher about my cover photography for my book, and what we want on it, as well as the photography for within the book, and then I realized that I don't have the ingredients needed to make all these foraged items, and to get them, I'd have to go into the city to go to a park there to forage. So I did.

I was there with a ticking clock- I arrived only 2 hours before sunset, and wanted to make sure I got enough of what I needed in time to make it back to civilization (and electric lights) before it got dark.

I had a long walk, and then got to the park and came home with a giant bag of goodies! Usually when I forage, it is mainly greens, and greens don't tend to be so heavy, but what I foraged certainly was heavy enough to feel it!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Making Homemade Miso- Recipe and Cost Breakdown

My new homemade lentil miso
Growing up, my mother did much of the day to day cooking in our home, introducing me to various dishes and cuisines from around the world, but it was my dad that did the funky stuff. The earliest memory I have of him doing interesting kitchen stuff was making port wine, and us stomping the grapes for it. Around the same time, we started tapping our neighbors' trees (with their permission) with sap to make maple syrup.
At some point later, my father started making sake, miso, beers (mainly stouts, but the occasional pale ale), and meads. He loved biochemistry in school, but became a doctor, and considers this brewing of his kitchen chemistry.
Since moving abroad, my dad hasn't really been making much wine, beer, and meads (I make the wine, and my brother Josh is the beer maker), but he's been on a miso kick, making miso like there's no tomorrow.

Making Homemade Miso- Recipe and Cost Breakdown

Does Bundling Insurance Really Save You a Bundle of Money?

I really appreciate this post by one of our readers, Ema, because I know next to nothing about insurance, and how to get the best rates, and I'm thrilled to be learning more.

If you’ve seen or heard a commercial for insurance, you’ve probably heard this common call to action: “Bundle and save!” The implication is that purchasing multiple kinds of insurance coverage from the same carrier—be it auto, homeowners, renters, business, or another type—can yield discounts and advantages that will save policyholders money. To determine whether bundling insurance is the right move, it pays to look at all sides of the equation. Keep reading to learn more about some of the ins and outs of bundling insurance so you can make an informed decision next time you’re considering whether your coverage is the best fit for your needs.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Surviving or Thriving on a Budget... What Is The Difference?

My super frugal grocery shops- for me a pleasure, for others,
 just barely surviving
Today I got into a discussion with someone who is familiar with my blog, and I was mentioning to her about how the focus of my blog is about living as well as one can within their means, however small, and not just doing what you need to survive. The tag line of this blog is and always has been "A Rich Life on a Minimum Wage" and I feel my life and my blog live up to that.
This person, however, said that she felt my blog was more surviving, not thriving, since I talk about family cloth, dumpster diving, and getting free chicken frames and such.

Hence this post.

Because I need to explain something that, I feel, is the essence of my approach to life and finances and frugality. 

Frugality is not one size fits all. In any way, shape or form.

Not only does everyone have a different financial situation, you can have two people with the exact same income, and frugality for each of them would look different.

Why is that?

Monday, February 6, 2017

I Got a Book Deal!

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Not the cover we'll be using in the end
I've been sitting on this news for a while already, until everything was set in stone and it was a done deal, but now I can finally share... my book, Penniless Foodie in the Wild, my adaptable cookbook suitable for foragers and frugalistas alike... is not going to be self published like I originally planned! I had tried to upload it to Amazon to be available to download it in the kindle store as an ebook, and then do it as a print book self publishing... but I was having technical issues and I wasn't able to upload it.

So while I was trying to figure out the technical issues to be able to upload it, I got contacted by a publishing company offering me a book deal, and they'll be publishing this book, a print and ebook version, and I'm really excited about this one!

To be honest, I hadn't bothered with even looking for a publishing company, was just going to self publish, since I know how much heartache and heartbreak people have when trying to find agents to represent them, and then trying to find publishing companies to be willing to accept their book, and I had no interest in going through that. But this company contacted me, simply based on my blog (the best resume as a writer is a successful blog!) so I got to do things the official way, without the heartache and headache involved.

I have to finish all the last details for the book within the next month, including getting the professional photography finished (and, of course, that means foraging the ingredients and making the various dishes to be photographed), so I assume I'll be busy busy busy getting that done... but I'm really hoping that this book will be out, in print, by the time the foraging season gets into full gear in the US!

I just had to share the good news!

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