Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gluten Free Stuffed Chicken Breast

When making food for a crowd, you want to keep your costs as low as possible, but when you have a special event that you're cooking for, you can't necessarily serve beans and rice, and you don't want the foods you're making to look skimpy and cheapo...
That's why, when I want to make large quantities of food, and am expected to make meat, I chose to make stuffed chicken breast, as I've figured out that chicken breast is pretty much the cheapest type of chicken per pound. Stuffing the chicken breast fancies it up somewhat, and allows you to use smaller pieces of meat for each person without it looking skimpy. You really can use very little meat and make a fancy meal for little money, and impress people more than if you'd served the more expensive chicken legs. In fact, I used only the chicken breasts from 7 chickens to serve 30 people, and still had plenty left over, not to mention getting "Oohs" and "Ahhs" when I served up the dish.
You can make this with many variations and it'll still be just as good and just as fancy.

Gluten Free Stuffed Chicken Breast

Friday, March 30, 2012

Homemade Orange "Duck Sauce" Recipe

Sorry for the somewhat infrequent posting this past week- we just had a wedding in the family last night, and I was very busy with wedding preparations... On top of that, today the festivities are continuing and I agreed to help cater 3 meals for 30 people, so I've been cooking and cooking and cooking and cooking...

I wanted to share a recipe with you that I am making for the party, something very delicious and easy to make. Its "duck sauce", but instead of being made with apricots, its made with orange juice. I use it for cooking chicken (in this case stuffed chicken breast), as a sauce for rice, as a dipping sauce for egg rolls, etc... Use it any way you'd use regular duck sauce. I didn't make up this recipe- I tweaked it from a recipe I got on a forum. Its really, really delicious.

Orange "Duck Sauce" Recipe

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Frugality and Home Birthing. Moms Are People Too!

Anneliese, an hour after being born at home
I know, I know, this post is long, long, long overdue. Even before Anneliese was born at home, I said I'd include a frugality vis a vis homebirthing post in my homebirthing series, and its been three months since my baby was born and I still haven't written it up. Sorry for taking so long...

You may be wondering how someone like myself who advocates not spending money unnecessarily, who promotes living with as few luxuries as possible and with only the bare minimum, who runs a blog on extreme frugality, can justify having had a home birth, being as a hospital birth would have been covered entirely by insurance, while I had to pay cash out of pocket for my homebirth.

If you were wondering that, you definitely are not alone. In the weeks preceding my homebirth, whenever she'd stop by to visit, my mom would turn to me quizically and ask "Hello, what about "Penniless Parenting"? Did you forget about that?" She thought my "wasting money" on a homebirth was the antithesis of frugality.

And you know what? It was also a big dilemma I had. Was I being a hypocrite if I spent money on a homebirth? I really wanted one, but was it really necessary or just a wasteful luxury that would be "nice to have" but I could manage without? Its nice and all that I teach about frugal living, but if I don't practice what I preach and make large, wasteful expenditures, do I lose the right to write and run this blog?
I was so torn on this issue for so long, that despite having set aside money for a homebirth since before I even got pregnant with Anneliese, I was considering just setting my plans aside for a homebirth, and instead, using that money to pay off debt. Was my homebirthing just an expensive want that I should do without, in the name of frugality?

But I really, really wanted that homebirth.

And I was so incredibly torn.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop

Hearth & Soul Hop
Welcome to this week's edition of the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, where each week, cooks from around the globe share their most delicious, nourishing, and heart warming recipes. The cooking carnival where you come to share your best kept cooking secrets, those recipes with the magic ingredient in it called "Soul Spice"-  the made from scratch recipes that you make with love to feed your family, friends, and loved ones.

My co-hosts for the blog hop are:
Alea of Premeditated Leftovers,
Swathi of  Zesty South Indian Kitchen
and April of The 21st Century Housewife

Favorites from last week:
Mint Bean Salad- SCD Friendly- I've been toying with the idea of possibly going on the GAPS or SCD diets, to heal my gut and possibly get rid of my gluten intolerance, but it seems every recipe I read is more expensive than the next. This recipe, however, is SCD legal and frugal. It makes me hopeful that it is doable. I gotta try this one out- it looks great!
Indian Spiced Carrot and Beet Salad- Carrots and beets are in season now, so I'm constantly on the lookout for new ways to make them. I'll be helping catering a weekend for 30 this weekend (and not getting paid because I'm doing this as a wedding present for my relative), and trying to keep the costs low; this definitely will be on the menu.
Tapping the Trees- If I'm not mistaken, this family tapped their maple trees to get maple sap, which then gets boiled down to make maple syrup. Growing up, my family would tap our maple trees and the maple trees in the neighborhood and hang milk jugs on them. Our homemade maple syrup was so yummy, and this is invoking such nice memories.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Frugality is Like Dieting

Image credit
The more I think about it, the more I realize how much frugality is like dieting. Biggest difference is- I hate dieting, but love being frugal.

So what exactly do frugality and dieting have in common, and what inspired this post?

When I meet new people, I generally get asked what I do, and of course, I end up mentioning that I have a site and a magazine column about helping people save money. And nearly every single time, I end up getting the same question. "So tell me, how do I save money?"
*Insert eyeroll here.*
I almost want to lie when asked what I do, because I hate this question so much. Ok, not so much the question that I hate, but I really dislike answering that question.
At this point, you might be wondering "Why on earth? You have a website on frugality, after all; you obviously enjoy sharing about frugality, so what is your issue with answering that question?"

I'll tell you why I dislike that question, and it overlaps with the frugality and dieting aspect.

Homemade Shichimi Togarashi- Japanese Seven Spice Powder Recipe

 Until pretty recently, I only knew of three types Japanese foods- miso soup, sushi, and beef negimaki. But, on my quest to figure out something different with all my fennel/anise that I bought cheaply, in season, I discovered Japanese 7 Spice Powder-Shichimi Togarashi- such a unique and different mix of flavors that I never, in my wildest dreams, would think of mixing. Honestly, until I tried it, couldn't imagine it "working", but seriously, its really good.

I like having as little food waste as possible (why else would I come up with a recipe for banana peel chutney or watermelon rind salad?) and this recipe fits right in with "my type" of cooking; it uses something that people would generally otherwise throw out or compost- tangerine or clementine peel. (You could also use orange peel for this, but I prefer not to because it means cutting off the bitter pith.)

Japanese seven spice powder has many different variations to it- this is one I came up with based on a bunch of different ones I read on the internet. Its great in stir fries together with soy sauce, on meat and chicken, in crackers, and apparently in soups, but I havent tried that out.

Homemade Shichimi Togarashi- Japanese Seven Spice Powder Recipe

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mu Sangchae- Korean Turnip or Radish Salad Recipe

Remember how I posted my recipe for hash browns made with turnips, perfect for times like now when turnips are one of the few cheap veggies I could get? I mentioned then that I'm not in love with the taste of turnips but wanted to use them anyhow because they're cheap, so I was looking for recipes?
My friend Sandy led me to discover Mu Sangchae, this really delicious Korean turnip salad. Because of the combination of spices, the taste of turnip is not overwhelming at all. My kids inhaled this salad, leaving very little for me to eat, every single time I made it. You may find that you need to double it so you can get your full share.

The original recipe is generally much spicier and much more garlicky, but I lessened the spice and the garlickiness to make it more pleasing to my palate.

Mu Sangchae- Korean Turnip Recipe

Friday, March 23, 2012

Okonomiyaki- Japanese Cabbage Pancakes (Vegetarian, Gluten Free)

I think I was well into my teenaged years before I realized that there was actually a difference between Japanese and Chinese food. I partially blame restaurants, though, because often Szechuan beef is served side by side with sushi; they often make no differentiation between Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cuisine. In fact, much of what is sold as "Chinese food" in restaurants today originates in the US and is not authentic Chinese, Japanese, or Korean recipes. (Hint- throwing some soy sauce on some food doesn't make it Chinese food.)

This weekend, I have some pretty authentic and frugal Japanese, Chinese, and Korean recipes to share with you. Hope you enjoy them!

This one is truly a keeper. Its made with cabbage, a vegetable that is pretty cheap this time of year, it is full of protein and vitamin C and flavor, and is nightshade free and can easily be made gluten free. (My Paleo friend tells me that it can be made Paleo friendly, but I haven't done it that way yet.) Its also been a big hit with my kids.

What is it? Okonomiyaki- Japanese cabbage pancakes. Or, as my kids call it- Meenoyukyuk or omoyuki. Okonomiyaki are often made with ground pork- making these without meat makes them much cheaper, and they're still very good.

Vegetarian Okonomiyaki

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Too Many Tomatoes? Opportunity Knocks...

 I got some really strange looks at the grocery store on Tuesday. And when I say strange looks, I mean strange, you know, the kind that makes people's eyes bug out of their sockets, and their mouths drop open. I kind of understand the reason I got all those looks; after all, I was piling 15 packages of tomatoes into my cart. In case you were wondering, that's 50 pounds of tomatoes. No, not a typo. Fifty. Pounds.
Am I crazy?
Or just ultra frugal, not wanting to miss an opportunity to save money, regardless of whether I get strange looks or not?

As she was ringing up my purchases, the cashier, trying to speak in as nonchalant a tone as possible, asked me "What do you plan on doing with all those tomatoes?"

I did answer her, but wanted to tell you as well. Why on earth did I buy 50 pounds of tomatoes, and what on earth am I going to do with them all?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to Reupholster a Chair- Easy DIY Tutorial


In our house, we have exactly 5 chairs, purchased over 5 years ago in a moving sale, when my husband and I were first getting married. (Ok, we have 4 plastic chairs on our porch that we use when we have company, but those aren't "in our house.) Those chairs have held up well over the years, but the one part that hasn't- the fabric seat covers. With lots of use, as the only chairs we have, the seats got so grungy and nasty and gross and disgusting that I felt embarrassed having people over and offering them a seat. I half wanted to throw those seats out and buy new ones, but I couldn't justify the expense when they work perfectly, even if they looked a little too icky.
I inherited this piece of sturdy, thick, plaid fabric, and inspiration hit me- I'd use this fabric to reupholster our chairs and lend new life to them.

This was such an easy project- I did most of it while nursing the baby or holding her on my lap. Frugal too- because I inherited the fabric, my only outlay was on the staples for our staple gun- the package cost 2 dollars, and we didn't use even a whole package. If I had had to purchase the fabric, it would have cost me a bit more, but even so it would have been pretty low cost.

So, how do you reupholster your chairs yourself?
Here's how:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop

Hearth & Soul Hop
Welcome to this week's edition of the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, where each week, cooks from around the globe share their most delicious, nourishing, and heart warming recipes. The cooking carnival where you come to share your best kept cooking secrets, those recipes with the magic ingredient in it called "Soul Spice"-  the made from scratch recipes that you make with love to feed your family, friends, and loved ones.

My co-hosts for the blog hop are:
Alea of Premeditated Leftovers,
Swathi of  Zesty South Indian Kitchen
and April of The 21st Century Housewife

Favorites from last week:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe- With Oil, Gluten Free and Regular

I really like chocolate chip cookies. They're one of my favorite type out there. The most annoying thing about them is that they usually are made with butter or margarine, and I don't always have butter in the house, don't touch margarine with a 10 foot pole, and yes, butter is expensive so I try not to use too much of it. Oh, and also, since I don't have a microwave here, and since I always forget to leave my butter out to soften, its a pain in the neck to cream the butter and sugar for those cookie...

Enter these delicious, oil based chewy chocolate chip cookies. So soft and delicious, so sweet and yummy. And best of all- with a simple change, you can make these either gluten free or with gluten, whichever you need. No more bakery chocolate chip cookies once you have this recipe. (Oh, and since no creaming is necessary, its so easy to whip these together- I had a batch ready and made in about 15 minutes start to finish, including preheating the oven.)
You'll notice that there aren't a ton of chocolate chips in mine- that's the most expensive part of the recipe, so I skimp on mine; the cookies are just as yummy with fewer.

Chewy, Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe- Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Friday, March 16, 2012

Easy Gluten Free and Regular Pasta Recipe

I think one of the hardest adjustments for me when going gluten free was missing out on pasta. I never was a big bread eater, but we probably had pasta a few times a week. I do occasionally buy gluten free pasta, but it so exorbitantly expensive, so what used to be a staple in our home is now a rare treat.
That makes me a bit sad, because while I can replace pasta with rice in a vast majority of recipes, sometimes you just want pasta, you don't want rice- you're sick of it, and it doesn't always do the trick!
I've figured out how to make my own gluten free pasta, and you have no idea how excited that makes me. Because now I can make my favorite comfort foods without paying through the roof for it. I figured out the cost, and while this is more expensive than regular homemade noodles, it is about half the cost of the store bought gluten free noodles. I used store bought brown rice flour for my gluten free mix because I was too lazy to grind it in my coffee grinder, but if I had, it would have been even cheaper. (It comes out to be approximately 65 cents per pound of cooked noodles, based on the prices in my area, but depending on how much your gluten free flours and eggs cost, you'll get different prices.)
No, its not the quick pasta dish that it would be if I bought the store bought noodles, but its very yummy and much more affordable, making this recipe a winner for me.
One thing I especially like about this recipe is that the dough is very easy to work with; it doesn't fall apart like some other gluten free pastas I've attempted to make. You don't need a pasta maker to make this pasta- just your handy little rolling pin and a pizza cutter or knife.

I've included a gluten filled variation for those of you not on a gluten free diet- it's even cheaper with wheat flour.

Easy Gluten Free Pasta Recipe

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Homemade Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Mix Recipe

One of the most annoying things about gluten free cooking is that you can't just use wheat flour for your recipes. You generally need a mix of different types of flours, because gluten free grains aren't like wheat- some are heavier, some are lighter, some are denser, some are stickier, etc... and in order to get something to be even remotely reminiscent of wheat flour, you usually have to mix at least 3 or 4 different ingredients...

To make gluten free cooking and baking easier, companies sell gluten free flour mix to use instead of regular flour that work in most recipes, but you know me- I don't like buying anything that I can make myself, especially if I can make it cheaper than the store bought alternative...

I've scoured the net for recipes to make my own gluten free all purpose flour mix, but most call for expensive ingredients, or ingredients I can't buy locally, or a combination of the two. Fortunately, I've discovered this gluten free all purpose flour mix that doesn't use any crazy expensive or exotic ingredients (well, compared to the standard gluten free stuff) and works pretty well in so many recipes. You have no idea how excited I am to be sharing this recipe with you. Its pretty much  the "solution" to the "gluten free issue".
I've used it successfully in making wontons/noodles, in making my cheapo vegan chocolate cake recipe, in my pancake recipe, in roll out cookies, etc. With a good gluten free flour mix, you can cook like you used to cook, with (almost) all your old recipes, just GFied.

So now, I proudly present to you, the tried and tested all purpose gluten free flour mix!

Some recipes for gluten free all purpose flour mixes leave out the xanthan gum- I include it, because it allows you to replace the flour in your old recipes as is, without needing to add the xanthan gum each time.

Homemade Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Mix Recipe

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Save Money on Laundry by Line Drying

Laundry is my arch nemesis. I would have to say its the household chore I enjoy least. I mean, you just keep on doing it and doing it and doing it and the job never ends because there's always more laundry to be done! I rarely ever see the bottom of my laundry basket, and when I do, it lasts less than an hour. Kind of like with dishes in the sink (no wonder I strongly dislike dish washing as well!), but laundry has more parts to the task than dish washing- first sort it, then put it in the washing machine, then put it to dry, then take it out of wherever it was drying, then sort it, then fold it and put it away. Oh boy, I get tired just from thinking about it.
And it doesn't help that of all the appliances in our house, our washing machines have given us the most trouble. (We replaced our old one after it stopped working completely, and our current machine is on its last legs, constantly gets stuck mid cycle, and we have to do things to it midcycle- 4 times to be exact- to get it to continue working.)
I consider laundry to be a royal pain in the you -know-what.
Which is why, when I'm feeling lazy, or taking it easy after birth, or overwhelmed, laundry is the first thing I let slide.  And then when I do it, I try to cut corners where I can.
By using my dryer instead of line drying my laundry.

Uh... yea.
Not good.
Dryers use a ton of electricity.
But its easier to use the dryer. Especially in the winter when it often is raining outside, so I can't hang laundry on my outdoor rack, or if I do, I have to daily look at the weather forecast and check when it is supposed to rain so I can (hopefully remember to) bring it inside before it gets drenched...  Especially in a teeny tiny apartment where a folding laundry rack filled with wet clothes takes up so much of our barely existent floor space. Especially when its winter and our dryer is diverted indoors to help warm the place. (Safely, rest assured. We don't have one that releases carbon monoxide.) Especially when I have a 2.5 month old baby and my "hands are full" (even though she is such an easy baby and is content to "play by herself", she still needs to nurse and be put to sleep every so often) and I have a good excuse to be lazy...

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop

Hearth & Soul Hop
Welcome to this week's edition of the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, where each week, cooks from around the globe share their most delicious, nourishing, and heart warming recipes. The cooking carnival where you come to share your best kept cooking secrets, those recipes with the magic ingredient in it called "Soul Spice"-  the made from scratch recipes that you make with love to feed your family, friends, and loved ones.

My co-hosts for the blog hop are:
Alea of Premeditated Leftovers,
Swathi of  Zesty South Indian Kitchen
and April of The 21st Century Housewife

Favorites from last week:
Preparing Teens for Life with a Budget from Kids and Canning Jars- A really wonderful and inspirational post about how to teach your kids to understand money and budgeting. I may do something similar with my kids when they're older, but I have my reservations- I'm not sure I want my kids to feel guilty about eating more expensive foods when I serve them.
Early Spring Foraging from the Frugal Farmwife, one of my new favorite blogs. Foraging is such a great way to save money; I'm always happy to hear about what fellow foragers are picking.
Black Bean Soup from Passionate Perseverance- A yummy looking, frugal, and vegetarian soup that I'll be sure to try out.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Carribean Red Beans and Rice Recipe

One of the things I love about beans is that they're pretty darn cheap, and they are so, so, so versatile. I have bean recipes I like to prepare that originate in Africa, bean dishes from Asia, from the Middle East, from the US, and from Central America. (Anyone want to share some European or South American bean recipes? I'm building my collection.)
This bean recipe is Carribean style, and let me tell you, its delicious! When I first saw this flavor combination in the recipe upon which this recipe is based, I thought it would taste weird, but don't worry- its very yummy!

This recipe is very frugal, especially if you use home cooked kidney beans instead of canned, but don't worry- it tastes great enough to become a family favorite.
If you're not a rice eater, I've included a variation to make a red bean sauce that I've successfully made to serve over pasta or mashed potatoes.

Carribean Red Beans and Rice Recipe

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Healthy, Low Carb, Turnip Hashbrowns Recipe

Some foods get a bad rap unnecessarily. Take hash browns and eggs, for one.  Its what people probably imagine is being served at greasy spoon diners around the US and otherwise, artery clogging foods that, if you eat them on an even semi regular basis, will make you keel over and drop dead from a heart attack.

But honestly, if you follow the traditional foods movement like I do, you'd know that cholesterol is not the evil thing the AHA would have you believe, that you need cholesterol for proper brain and nerve functioning and development, and that eggs don't cause heart disease (even backed by studies in mainstream sources like JAMA-Journal of the American Medical Association). 
Hash browns, prepared properly, especially with a side of eggs,  is actually a really healthy, filling, and nutritious  dish.

I'm trying to keep my grocery costs as low as possible now, despite the ever increasing prices, and that means utilizing foods that aren't necessarily my favorites. Turnips are some of  those. I am not the biggest turnip fan (that isn't to say that I hate them, they're just not my top choice as I find them very strongly flavored), but because turnips are some of  the cheapest vegetables I can find now, that's what I'm buying, and I'm trying to figure out all sorts of uses for  them, even for the non turnip lovers. (Here's a recipe for turnip pickles, another good use for turnips.)

This is a dish I've whipped up for breakfast a few times and it disguises the strong taste of turnips beautifully- turnip hash browns! This is a yummy way to cook this low cost root veggie, and its also a good alternative for people on a nightshade free diet, or low carb or Paleo/Primal diet. I know it sounds odd, but I guarantee it, it tastes nearly exactly like the potato version.
And if you'd rather make  these with potatoes, just sub potatoes for the turnips in this recipe to make some really delicious hash browns.

Turnips, for the record, are pretty nutritious, and are a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, manganese, calcium and selenium.

Turnip Hashbrowns Recipe

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Great Homemade Toy (and Home Schooling Get Together)

Earlier on in the week, I took my kids to their first ever "homeschooling get together". Homeschooling is pretty rare in my area, and though my children do have friends, they had yet to meet kids their age who learned exclusively at home until a few days ago.
My kids had a great time, making new friends, tasting their first green smoothies, doing creative projects from recycled material, while I chatted with the parents there about many of our common interests, like health, cooking, frugality, and homeschooling. We even went on a foraging walk together, and while I knew more than some of the parents there, I was happy to learn new foraging tricks. (Like, did you know that you can eat nettles raw if you smash the stinging hairs first with your finger, going with the direction of the hairs and squeezing the leaf?) I also debated aspects of vegan diets with these people, as they're all vegans, and discussed GMO's and ethical farming, and so many other topics. I even got my first up close and personal view of a CSA box (and am considering possibly joining a local one).

 But all that preamble is just to explain the background of where I saw this really cool toy, made out of recycled material, and educational and can be used in so many different ways. I asked the dad if I could show take a picture to show it to you readers, because I thought it was a terrific idea that you might like to try out yourself if you have young kids. He was happy to share the idea with me for me to share with you. (And there's a good chance he's reading this, so I just wanted to publicly say thank you!)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cheater Cheap Kimchi Recipe- Homemade Korean Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is one of the healthiest foods out there, and it's been around a really, really, really long time. Sauerkraut is basically lacto-fermented cabbage, and it seems like every region of the world has its own version of sauerkraut, partially because fermenting was one of the ways to get their vegetables, grown in the summer, to  last all throughout the winter; kept in cold storage, sauerkraut will last for months and months.

The Korean version of sauerkraut, kimchi, is the tastiest, in my opinion. Its generally made with specialty Chinese cabbage, but I'll let you in on a little secret- I make mine with regular cabbage- much cheaper- and it comes out just as good. Kimchi and sauerkraut are also made with special equipment like crocks and food hammers (whatever their official name is- maybe mallet) and involve this complicated procedure. Me? I don't like wasting money on unnecessary equipment, nor do I like complicated procedures when the same job can be done with less time and effort.

So, here you have it- my cheater kimchi. No special equipment, no special ingredients, but a really special taste!

Stay tuned- in the next few days I'll have a recipe for you that'll call for this kimchi. Yup, that's right- you can eat kimchi plain, as a condiment, but you can also cook some awesome frugal dishes with kimchi; I can't wait to share some with.

Speaking of sharing recipes, I'll have mostly recipes for you for the next few days. Unfortunately my laptop screen is broken, so I'm back to using my problematic old laptop until I can get the screen fixed, and the laptop doesn't work well; it works very slowly, etc... Because of this, writing longer, more intricate posts will be a challenge; I will try to though, but in the meantime instead of leaving my blog with no posts, I'll be sharing recipes as they are easier to write with the computer issues I'm currently having. (Not to mention that I was in the middle of 2 complicated projects for my blog on that computer that I can't access, unfortunately, without the screen despite trying...)

Cheater Cheap Kimchi Recipe

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop

Hearth & Soul Hop
Welcome to this week's edition of the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, where each week, cooks from around the globe share their most delicious, nourishing, and heart warming recipes. The cooking carnival where you come to share your best kept cooking secrets, those recipes with the magic ingredient in it called "Soul Spice"-  the made from scratch recipes that you make with love to feed your family, friends, and loved ones.

My co-hosts for the blog hop are:
Alea of Premeditated Leftovers,
Swathi of  Zesty South Indian Kitchen
and April of The 21st Century Housewife

Favorites from last week:
Black Bean Brownies- This recipe is world famous by now, but still, I love it! I was able to get an insanely picky eater friend of my son to have 3 pieces of this bean dish...
Aloo Palak- This Indian spinach and potatoes recipe looks terrific; I'll probably make it with wild greens instead of  the spinach.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Grow Your Own Kombucha Mushroom Mother Tutorial- Make Your Own SCOBY

I love kombucha, if I haven't made that obvious already. Kombucha is one of my favorite probiotic foods, one of my favorite drinks, and in general, something I love to have around the house. 
One of my favorite times to drink kombucha was in early pregnancy- when I was regularly drinking kombucha, my morning sickness got much less bad, but I digress.

Ever since hearing about the amazing health benefits of kombucha, I really, really wanted to get my hands on some, but found out, to my chagrin, that it is illegal to sell kombucha in my country because of some fear mongering and scare stories because of a lady who behaved irresponsibly with her kombucha and therefore fell in harm's way... Man, I hate it when governments try to interfere with our food choices (ahem, raw milk...), but again, I digress.

I tried having a friend mail me a bottle of kombucha from the US, but for some reason (I forget what), it never ended up happening...
Luckily, about 6 months after I had wanted to get my hands on some kombucha, a Russian friend of mine had her mom come to visit, and her mom brought along something that is common in their Russian circles- what they call a "Tea mushroom". Aka a kombucha mushroom, or SCOBY- a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, what is used to make kombucha tea.


And ever since then, I've been in the kombucha business. My kombucha mushroom, also known as a kombucha mother, each time I make a batch of kombucha, has been making babies, which I give to friends and family who want to get in on the kombucha business. 
But what if you don't have a kombucha mother? What if none of your friends make kombucha and have kombucha babies to give you? How can you start making kombucha without needing to buy a kombucha mushroom from a supplier?

Easy! You grow your own kombucha mother!

Its so simple I'm almost embarrassed to post it, but its something that not everyone knows, so I figured I needed to share.

DIY- Grow A Kombucha Mother

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Homemade Honey Roasted Sunflower Seeds Recipe

Date Syrup Roasted Sunflower Seeds
I grew up with Planter's Honey Roasted Peanuts. Oh boy were those good... and also pretty expensive and unhealthy... I bought a huge amount of sunflower seeds in bulk (50 pounds total!) and while I've used them here or there in recipes, when I wanted a high protein, filling snack, I'd go for almonds, because eating those sunflower seeds plain wasn't so yummy- raw seeds have a bitterness to them that doesn't make them a good candidate for the munchies. Only almonds can be expensive, and I already have so many sunflower seeds at home... and even if I didn't buy them in bulk, sunflower seeds are pretty much the cheapest "nut" I can get locally, and even in the US, they're most likely the cheapest "nut". I tried to figure out if I could make these sunflower seeds honey roasted, to get that "Planters Honey Roasted Peanuts" taste in my sunflower seeds, and... Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner!
There are 3 different "honeys" you can use for this recipe to make it refined sugar free; if you don't care about the refined sugar aspect, I've included a recipe that is cheaper than all the others as it is made with white sugar.
All who've eaten these have loved them... the biggest problem is we're going through them like crazy in my house- in the past few days I must have made at least 6 batches of these honey roasted sunflower seeds... but at least we're making a dent in those 50 pounds of sunflower seeds at last! If you have an Instant Pot, you could also consider cooking sunflower seeds there."

Homemade Honey Roasted Sunflower Seeds

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chicken, Beans and Greens Soup Recipe

Its been cold and icky weather in my area lately; I wanted to make a hearty, nourishing soup for my family to eat. I threw together this dish, that, though its rather minimal in ingredients, tastes quite delicious, and best of all, is pretty frugal, gluten free, and high in protein and nutrition. It was loved by everyone who ate it, including my guests.
I especially love this recipe because in my experience, greens and white beans pair together so beautifully; the creaminess of the white beans makes the greens silky smooth.
You can change up the ingredients to suit what you have around and it'll be just as yummy!

Chicken, Beans and Greens Soup Recipe

Friday, March 2, 2012

Homemade Worcestershire Sauce Recipe- Vegan, Sugar Free, Gluten Free

So many times lately when browsing the net for food ideas, I see recipes calling for Worcestershire sauce, but I hadn't made any gluten free vegan Worcestershire sauce, even though I knew how to make it already. I decided finally to throw together a batch, and this time, I decided that not only would I make it gluten free and vegan, I would make it refined sugar free as well.
For those of you on Paleo diets or otherwise, don't fall for impostor recipes for homemade Worcestershire such as this one- you will have wasted your money and your time, making a condiment that tastes like nothing more than flavored vinegar and completely unlike Worcestershire sauce. Worcesterchire sauce is a very complex flavor, and has many ingredients for a reason; using any fewer and the taste won't be as it should.

In my attempt to make a sugar free Worcestershire sauce (and unlike my previous attempt at making sugar free Worcestershire sauce when I used that impostor recipe), I got a winning recipe that tastes pretty similar to the store bought, sugar full, non vegan, and gluten full Worcestershire sauce. No, it isn't carb free or Paleo friendly- it contains gluten free soy sauce, as well as healthy sweeteners molasses and date honey. You can make it with regular honey in place of the date honey, or with coconut aminos or Braggs liquid aminos if you want it soy free.

Here it is. Yes, lots of ingredients, but by golly, its worth it! You won't find something like this in the store, and other than the molasses and honey, the ingredients aren't too expensive.

Worcestershire Sauce Recipe- Vegan, Sugar Free, Gluten Free

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Co-Sleeping, Babywearing- Frugality at the Expense of Safety?

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I have a weekly column on frugality in an international magazine, and I wrote an article not so dissimilar to from my article I wrote on Baby Bare Basics, and oh boy, did that cause controversy.
A few negative letters to the editor about my piece were written and printed, and on top of that, I was privy to whole long discussions on facebook about my article on my friends' facebook walls where people (who didn't know I was able to read what they were saying) said things like "I feel sorry for her kids; they're going to have to go through lots of therapy, being raised so deprived like that" and "Oh my, she really went too far- she cares more about frugality than the safety of her kids!"
And yes, the letters to the editor printed were about exactly that- accusing me of reckless behavior in the name of frugality, especially in terms of baby wearing in a homemade baby carrier and co-sleeping instead of using a crib. Don't I know that co-sleeping kills? Don't I know that babies can get really injured in a homemade baby carrier? Why am I advocating doing dangerous things?

In a way, I was really bothered by those accusations, that people really felt I cared more about a few bucks than about my kids safety. I mean, I wasn't too upset, because I knew that wasn't true- I certainly do care about my kids safety, health, and well being (if I didn't, why would I spend more money to have healthier foods?), I just don't necessarily buy into what the medical establishment says, like when they say co-sleeping is a terrible idea and I can very easily kill my kid by doing that.
Because I know things aren't as clear cut as "the books" and "the studies" make it out to be, I feel totally comfortable co-sleeping with my baby, confident enough in its safety to advocate it to others. But others don't always know this information, that there actually are studies proving the opposite, so I wrote a piece on safety vis a vis frugality, specifically focusing on the safety of co-sleeping and baby wearing, and I put a lot of research work into the article, and it was accepted very well... and I wanted to share it with you, so you too can benefit from this information.

So, here it is.

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