Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cauliflower Popcorn Recipe- Spiced Roasted Cauliflower, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Refined Sugar Free, Vegan

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I'm very short on time today, so I'll leave you with a really yummy recipe for cauliflower- suitable for every diet I can think of. Its my favorite way to make cauliflower, and my kids gobble it up. I got the basic idea and the name from a bunch of friends that make this similar, but the exact quantity and ingredients are my own.

Cauliflower Popcorn Recipe

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Quinoa Craisin Spice Cookies Recipe- Allergy Friendly, Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

 photo IMG_20130329_180345_zps241eb372.jpgI had a bunch of cooked, unspiced quinoa sitting in my house, demanding I use it up creatively.  Since we were running low on healthy snacks and I'd wanted to make cookies of some sort, I figured that I'd try and experiment to make quinoa based cookies. Not with quinoa flour like I've seen in so many recipes, but with cooked quinoa. Before I tried it out, I scoured the net to see if I could find a similar idea for a recipe, but didn't really strike gold- all quinoa cookies seemed to call for peanut butter and I wasn't interested in that type of thing. So I just played around with this recipe and prayed.
And they turned out to be so amazing that I just HAD to share them with you.
The reason these cookies are so special, in addition to being soft and delicious, is that they are refined sugar free, have no eggs, no dairy, no specialty expensive flours, no nuts, etc... and therefore are perfect allergy friendly cookies- other than the potato starch in there that is a nightshade, and can be replaced with tapioca starch- this recipe is free of all the top 8 allergens- and therefore perfect for any multiple allergy household, without being full of all sorts of unhealthy ingredients, as often found in allergy friendly foods...

I want to apologize about the quality of the picture- my camera is acting wonky and therefore the picture was from my cell phone...

Quinoa Craisin Spice Cookies Recipe- Allergy Friendly, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

Friday, March 29, 2013

Back From Our Camping Trip

Wow, those were 2.5 amazing days on our camping trip. We really had a terrific time- its a toss up which family member enjoyed it more, because we all had such an amazing experience. The kids really thrive outdoors, and honestly, so do Mike and myself.

As fun as it was, I'm exhausted though. Need a vacation from our vacation. :-D

So I'll just leave you with a few pics for now as a preview, and the rest of the pics as well as my whole write up on the topic, will be another post. (In fact, I think I may break it up to 2 or 3 posts- one on how it was, what we did, etc... one on what we brought, what we recommend bringing, etc... how to make your own trip a success, and one with the menu plan, etc...)

Our tents and view in one direction, and the way back home...

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Going Camping!

I've been waiting for this day for 7 or 8 years... I grew up going camping every year, often twice a year, usually in a tent but sometimes also in cabins. A few weeks after our wedding, we went camping with my family, but it was in a really stupid place- in the backyard of a cottage, and we werent allowed to build a bonfire. Totally felt idiotic to be camping there, and it didn't fill my desire to go camping.
And then since then, camping wasn't a possibility because we had no car with which to transport our stuff, and then even if that wasn't an obstacle, the kids were at ages where I didn't feel comfortable camping with them.
But now that Anneliese is walking, I really, really wanted to go camping.
A friend of mine also wanted to go camping with her family, so we decided that we'd camp together.

We remembered that there is a forest and meadow walking distance from our home, so decided that we'll camp over there.
My husband is on spring break now, so it's perfect timing.
Decent weather- cool but not too cold, and sunny.

So today we're going out camping. We'll be back friday, and I'll tell you all about our trip.

But this is a pretty much zero expense vacation- we borrowed our tents and the rest we just used what we had in the house. Only expense is food, which, honestly, is not much more expensive than we would be eating anyhow now with my husband's seasonal allergy friendly diet.
We plan on supplementing what we're bringing with stuff we forage.

See you when we come back!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Eggplant Roll Ups Recipe- Asian Style- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, GAPS/Paleo/Primal Legal

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I never will tire about talking about how frugal food does not need to mean bad food. I love proving to people that you can have fancy food on a minimal budget, especially when I have company.

We recently had a special dinner with extended family, and one of my many contributions was these Asian style eggplant roll ups. (Another contribution was my stuffed mallow leaves.) They were a big hit, gobbled up! Everyone wanted to know how I made them.

And the best part about it was that they were totally healthy, great for a variety of diets (GAPS, SCD, Paleo, Primal, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, etc...) dirt cheap, and completely versatile- the only required ingredient here is eggplant.

Since I got these eggplants for free, as they were past prime and they would have been tossed otherwise, it was even cheaper... If you have a seconds rack at your grocery store, check it out to see if you can find any past prime veggies to make this even cheaper. Or just wait till eggplant is in season and cheap.

The recipe idea for this originally came from a recipe I saw in a cooking magazine at a friend's house, but it was made very differently. My friend told me that she changes this up and uses other filling ingredients, etc... which inspired me to mix and match myself.

Asian Style Eggplant Roll Ups Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, GAPS/Paleo/Primal Legal

Monday, March 25, 2013

Homemade Grain Free Teriyaki Sauce Recipe/Soy Sauce Replacement- Refined Sugar Free, Soy Free, GAPS/SCD/Paleo/Primal Legal

 photo 100_7007_zps37c461cb.jpgOk, if there's one question I've been asked repeatedly on this site, it was the result of my homemade soy sauce experiment. It's a little hard for me to admit failure, especially after posting my experiment on my blog... but here it is. My experiment failed. I never bothered tasting it, because after sitting in the sun for a few months, it started growing this hot pink bubble textured mold. It freaked me out.

So then I was back to square one, trying to figure out something to use as a soy sauce substitute, for my stir fries and other similar Asian dishes. Yes, I know there is the product Coconut Aminos, but they don't sell it locally, and the only gluten free soy sauces they sell are either a fortune or have artificial colorings, etc... And if I can avoid soy, even better, because too much soy isn't good for you.
There are all sorts of recipes on the net for homemade soy sauce alternatives, but I wasn't too thrilled with certain ones I tried.
My friend Debra, on the SCD diet (similar to GAPS) said that she uses date syrup and salt as an alternative to soy sauce for a SCD legal stir fry. I tried that, but ehh, it didn't do the trick for me, but I used that basic idea and vamped it up to make a really yummy terriyaki sauce alternative, which, if you ask me, tastes not that far off the real deal, despite not having any soy or grains or refined sugar.
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I use a bit of potato starch to thicken mine, but it's not SCD/GAPS legal. You can either leave it out if you're on the GAPS/SCD diet, or if you're on GAPS thicken with ground chia seeds, but those aren't SCD legal.

It really is terrific and can be used in place of any terriyaki sauce, or for any stir fries or baked Asian type dishes, etc... I just made eggplant roll ups with them.

I hope you like it!

Homemade Grain Free Teriyaki Sauce Recipe/Soy Sauce Replacement- Refined Sugar Free, Soy Free, GAPS/SCD/Paleo/Primal Legal

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Stuffed Cabbage Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Egg Free, Grain Free Option, and Stuffed Mallow Leaves

 photo 100_6994_zpscfe8f5ab.jpgSomething I really enjoy is taking cheap foods and making them look fancy, which is why I really like stuffed veggies. Stuffed cabbage is one of my favorites. My mom never really made stuffed cabbage, but we would often have stuffed cabbage for our school lunches, which I would relish. That was one of their specialties, chewy cabbage leaves in a delicious soupy sweet and sour tomato sauce. I salivate just thinking about them.

When I tried learning how to make stuffed cabbage myself, I learned that most recipes call for tomato juice or V8 or something else of the sort that is expensive round these parts, so I figured out how to make it with just watered down tomato paste and spices. I put together a recipe that is processed food free, with refined sugar free alternatives, and is egg free as well.

But I'll be honest, as much as I love stuffed cabbage, cabbage that hasn't been made into sauerkraut doesn't really agree with me, so I try avoid having too much cabbage. Since I have an abundance of wild greens near me, I like to stuff those instead, reminiscent of stuffed cabbage, and they taste very similar, and are more digestible, not to mention cheaper. The greens I tend to use the most for these are giant mallow leaves, as well as their cousin, hollyhocks, a commonly cultivated but also often wild plant.

I've included all variations in this recipe- with cabbage or with wild greens, with sugar or without, and with rice or with alternatives. Whichever version you decide to go with, you won't be disappointed.

Stuffed Cabbage Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Egg Free, Grain Free Option and Stuffed Mallow Leaves

Sorry About the Comments

Way back when I first started my blog, I didn't like that when commenting and replying on Blogger, all comments just appeared one after another, without the ability to make a thread of comments replying to specific comments. I wanted to be able to respond to each commenter individually, etc... and to facilitate discussions. So I looked for something else.
I also have some personal information that I don't want people revealing on my site in the comments section...

So I chose to use's commenting platform. Which allowed premoderation, and threads of comments.

And I was happy with them for a while.

And then I realized that I started having some issues with their platform, that it didn't always work, etc... And as of late, it hasn't been working more often than not.

Now I discovered that Disqus hasn't been working for many, many people for a while, and there are hundreds of comments made through the Blogger platform... and I am completely sick to my stomach.

Because the comments are mostly trash. 75% of the comments are spam, with such disgusting porn like comments. It makes me sick to my stomach that anyone who's looked at the comments on my blog had to be subjected to those porny comments.
And then there were the spammy comments about payday loans, etc... which I am very opposed to from a frugal perspectice.

Basically, I'm disgusted that the comment section of my site didn't mesh with what my site is about- family friendly, frugal oriented, etc...

And then there were the normal commenters, who were just commenting normal stuff on my posts.
And I feel terrible that these commenters felt like I was ignorning them, because I never replied to them. When the fact is, I never knew those comments were there- I thought the comments that Disqus emailed me every day was all the comments I got.

So I owe you an apology- sorry for not responding to your comments. And sorry for subjecting you to those nasty disgusting spammy comments.

I will be getting rid of Disqus- so long and good riddance- and I will be premoderating all the comments now so none of those spam comments get through.
And now that I know where to look for them, I will see your comments that you make and will try to respond to every one of them.

Thanks for your patience, and again, I'm sorry.

(Right now I'm going through the 500 comments on Blogger, and deleting all the gross disgusting spammy ones...)

And if in the past you haven't commented because of this, please do comment now that this won't be an issue anymore.

P.S. I am trying to remove Disqus and not having much luck because of stupid web design stuff. I'll have to redo the whole web design of my blog, which I'll try to do over the next few days. Please be patient with me as I redesign...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Easy Grain Free Vegan Cookie Base Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Nut or Seed Based

 photo 100_6984_zps54dd717d.jpgI've been doing lots of cooking experimentation, coming up with recipes that are both grain free and egg free, especially desserts and other baked goods, because usually its either one or the other, but rarely both. (How many grain free egg free recipes do you know of? Most grain free is egg based, most egg free are grain based.)
On top of that, being refined sugar free also makes my experimenting even more challenging.

But I did it. More than once.

Here's a grain free, egg free, dairy free, refined sugar free cookie recipe. You can make it nut free as well if you have allergies to those, by using only safe seeds, such as sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds that are certified nut free.

Note: They're pretty versatile, and you can change up the flavor. Consider adding some chocolate chips for chocolate chip cookies, or some cocoa powder for chocolate cookies. How about adding cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg? Maybe add some cinnamon, ginger, cloves and molasses to make gingersnaps. How about adding cinnamon and raisins to make a mock oatmeal raisin type cookie? Lemon zest can be a wonderful addition... The possibilities are endless, so long as you don't add extra liquid. (And if you do, remove some of the water in the recipe to compensate.)

So what's the recipe?
Here it is:

Easy Grain Free Vegan Cookie Base Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Nut or Seed Based

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Upcycled Sock Necklace Tutorial- Like a T-Shirt Necklace

 photo 26d6e17a-e204-4993-bfd4-7a2cf89eefc2_zps5eca82c8.jpgIn the crafting and upcycling world, T-shirts are very beloved, as they allow for a huge variety of crafts to be done with them, and most people can get their hands on t-shirts easily. But though people do have excess t-shirts often, usually those t-shirts can be put to good use, unless it was really ratty. But who wants to craft with a really ratty t-shirt anyhow?
Basically, people are taking something useful they have and turn it into something else. Still better than buying craft material for a project, but even better than that is to take something that can no longer be used, and turn it into something useful.
Take socks, for example.
Socks get holes very easily. Often the upper portion of the sock is perfectly good, even when there are holes next to the toe. Or the sock is perfectly good, but it no longer has its pair.
Socks, are therefore, one of my favorite crafting materials.

For inspiration, I look for crafts made with old t-shirts and see if I can make them with socks. How do you make things with socks? Well, you just turn the socks into yarn, as I show in this post.
One of the things I've seen a lot is t-shirt necklaces. I thought to myself- hey, I can make those from socks.

So I did. The necklace I'm wearing in that pic is made out of old socks. 3 socks, in particular- one adult sock and 2 baby socks, one magenta, one pink, and one pale yellow, but you can use any color socks that you want.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Banana Fritters Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Sugar Free, Vegan

 photo 100_6953_zps33d8a68b.jpgWith my husband on a grain free diet as of the past two weeks, because of his seasonal allergies, my cooking for my family has changed somewhat. We're eating largely grain free, but for some meals I make my husband a grain free meal, and make the rest of the family something with gluten free grains. But desserts I don't feel like making twice. And most of the time, I don't feel like cooking twice. So grain free it is.
And we're refined sugar free, and dairy free, and I really try to make everything egg free as well. So that makes cooking fun.
I mean, it can be hard, but it's also fun for me to experiment in the kitchen and come up with new yummy foods that fits the necessary criteria and are also cheap.

These banana fritters are like a cross between sweet pancakes and donuts. You can serve them either for breakfast or as a dessert- I prefer dessert. If you want to fancy them up for dessert, try drizzling them with a chocolate sauce or with healthy homemade powdered sugar.
They're vegan, gluten free, sugar free, grain free, etc... and pretty easy as well. They're also made with overripe bananas, the more overripe the better, which I buy from the reduced rack in the grocery store for a fraction of the price of regular bananas. It's a fun alternative to banana bread. And trust me, you won't miss the sugar one bit!
If you don't mind eggs or grains, you can play around with this recipe- it's just a general guideline that can be adjusted- I've made banana fritters with eggs and rice flour before.

P.S. In case you were wondering, my husband's allergies have been much, much, much better this season, and he feels wonderful in general on this strict diet. :-D

Banana Fritters Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Sugar Free, Vegan

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Homemade Vegan Mayonnaise Recipe- Flax Seed Based, Soy Free, Nut Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

 photo 4558a6be-4126-47ca-ae9e-df5faf05064c_zps69c9c770.jpgI haven't bought store bought mayonnaise in who knows how long. It's filled with so many nasty ingredients that I even would get a headache from them when I would be lazy and not feel like making my own mayo, and instead borrowed a spoon or two from a neighbor. Food colorings, artificial flavorings, preservatives, etc... Ick. Not to mention usually being made with soy oil or canola oil, both which I avoid because they're GMOs and because I try to avoid using poly unsaturated fatty acids, as they cause inflammation...
So I started to make my own homemade mayonnaise using only real ingredients, and even made it lacto-fermented so that it was probiotic as well.
But then I discovered that I was sensitive to eggs, so started making an egg free mayonnaise, based on mustard. It was also great for anyone who was wary of using raw eggs in mayonnaise. It was perfectly textured... only had a strong mustard taste, and some people hate the taste of mustard, and some foods just don't go with mustard.
So I was looking for another vegan mayo recipe, soy free, and mustard free this time, and saw that most such recipes were based on nuts... and I don't want to spend more money than necessary, and nuts are not so cheap round these parts. I finally found a recipe based on flax seeds,  and modified that to suit my needs, and came up with this recipe. You can add mustard if you want, but it doesn't need it at all and can be left out- I made mine without to see how it tastes- perfect!
The texture is amazing, exactly like regular mayonnaise (unlike a bean based mayo I tried... which tasted like oily hummus), it looks like regular mayonnaise (other than some flecks from the flax seed) and it tastes like real mayo (unlike an avocado based mayo I tried, which, quite frankly, tastes like guacamole).
Utter perfection. This will definitely be my go-to recipe for mayo from now on, and I recommend it be your go-to recipe as well.

You can use this recipe any place you'd use regular mayo, from making salad dressing to tuna salad to potato salad, to toppings for fish or chicken or whatever.

You can make this recipe vegan, refined sugar free, gluten free, using only healthy oils, which is why it's labeled as such, but I've included alternative ingredients so you can make it to suit your tastes. The way I made it is GAPS legal, but you can adjust it as needed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mooncup Menstrual Cup- A Cheap Green Tampon Alternative- A Review

 photo 100_6864_zpsbdb483e4.jpgSo most of the people who read this blog are women, but I do know there are men who read this blog. Men, this post is not for you. This is strictly girl talk, about girly stuff, you know, periods, blood, women parts, etc... so you can just pass on by now.

And now that I've got everyone's attention, ladies (hey men, why are you still reading this?), lets talk about periods.

Skin irritation.
Needing to keep well stocked in feminine hygiene products.
Trying to figure out with your used feminine products when using the bathroom at someone's house and they have no garbage can.
Carrying your purse to the bathroom with you or keeping your feminine products rolled up inside your shirt so no one can see that you're bringing pads or tampons to the bathroom with you.

Those are the things that probably come to mind when thinking about periods. Periods aren't fun, they're annoying, despite the fact that they mean that your body is working properly.

But imagine if you could make your period be just the shedding of the uterine lining, with no other of the annoying aspects, no cramping, no needing to buy pads or tampons regularly, figure out a way to unobtrusively bring them with you to the bathroom and then to dispose of them afterward.

It's possible.


I started using cloth pads a few years ago, after Ike was born and my skin was getting irritated by the prolonged use of disposable pads.
Not only did the switch to cloth pads mean that I had less skin irritation, the surprising new benefit was that I had much less painful periods than I did before. The chemicals in both pads and tampons somehow cause more painful (and generally heavier) periods. Not just theory- it worked 100% for me. On the few occasions that I didn't have cloth pads with me and I used disposable pads, I had such bad cramping that I was writing in pain, and as soon as I switched to cloth, the pain instantly stopped.
I refuse to put anything chemically based near my private parts, not pads, not tampons, no sirree. Not worth the discomfort.

So I made my own homemade cloth pads, and all was well.

And then someone recommended that I try out a menstrual cup, a green tampon alternative.

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Homemade Healthy Sauerkraut Recipe Video

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I've posted before my recipe for sauerkraut when I didn't used to pound it. I've started pounding my sauerkraut, despite the extra work involved, because I've discovered that, for some reason, it keeps better for longer than when I just submerge the cabbage in salt water.

Here's my video on how to make your own sauerkraut, pounded, but without any special equipment.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Starting to Vlog- and Easy Grain Free Spaghetti Recipe Video

Lots of local people have asked if I can teach cooking classes, and I'm strongly considering the idea, but I can't do it in my home, because my kitchen is too small for a crowd. I asked a friend if I could teach the classes in her large kitchen in her home, and she said she would be happy to host, and suggested that I also make cooking videos at her home and post it in youtube. Which greatly appealed to me- why not make youtube videos about cooking, in addition to just sharing recipes on my blog?

So I decided I'll start Vlogging in addition to just blogging. Hopefully it'll be fun for you to watch, I had fun making these videos. Mike is my videographer, and Anneliese is the background music. ;) I'm just starting out, so I hope you'll bear with me as I learn details about how to make videos.
P.S. I don't have a lisp- I have no clue why my camera makes me sound like I have a lisp!

This is my introduction video-

And now that we have that intro, here's my first "official" video, how to make your own zucchini pasta without a spiralizer.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Grain Free Red Lentil Crackers Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, GAPS Legal

 photo 100_6827_zps750b33bf.jpgSo my husband's off of gluten and all grains, as well as most legumes. And all processed foods. Because of seasonal allergies. And I'm trying to be cheap. And make yummy foods that aren't too different from the standard fare. Now how do you do that?
It ain't easy, I tell ya. More work in the kitchen, lots of creativity, etc.
But one thing I did do was make these crackers.

They were pretty good texture, decent taste, but I'll admit, I preferred them with a dip/spread to plain.

Oh, and did I mention they're GAPS legal and grain free and gluten free and high in protein?
My husband found them very satiating paired with hummus. To make it a completely GAPS legal meal, pair these crackers with hummus made out of white beans instead of chickpeas- same taste, but GAPS legal.

I made these crackers with red lentil flour, but I'm 99% sure they'll work with any legume flour, from chickpea flour to white bean flour to mung bean flour- I based the concept for this recipe on one I saw made with chickpea flour, so if you aren't on GAPS and just want a grain free cracker, feel free to use any legume flour.
If you want to soak your legumes/seeds, feel free to replace some of the water with kefir (water kefir or milk kefir), kombucha, or some other acidic medium, and leave it out for 12 hours before adding the rest of the ingredients.

How will Health Savings Accounts change in 2013?

Those of you who are looking to save money on health care may choose to have a high deductible plan together with a Health Savings Account, as it generally turns out to be cheaper. Here's a guest post on HSA's that those who have them (or if you're considering switching over to them) will hopefully find useful.

Tax season might not be your favorite time of year but recent changes may pique your interest for next April. The IRS has made changes to their regulations and requirements for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Funds contributed to HSAs are not subject to federal income tax and can be a great way to save money. However, the 2013 changes may make this more difficult.

What you need to know:

Dealing with Seasonal Allergies- Naturally, and on a Budget

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Nettle juice, nettle tea, water kefir, and raw honey
I am very fortunate that even though I had many health issues growing up and until recently, I have never experienced seasonal allergies. My mother had allergies to ragweed and to freshly cut grass and other similar things, but I never really knew what hay fever was. Until I met my husband, who always had such bad seasonal allergies.
Allergies meaning that during the most beautiful season of the year, the time of year where the weather is just perfect, not too cold and not too hot, where the hillsides are covered in beautiful flowers and the trees are all in bloom, when I want to do nothing but spend time outside admiring the sheer beauty, my husband wants to do nothing other than stay inside with a blanket over his head, suffering because of his incredibly itchy eyes and drippy nose. And no, all the allergy medications that my husband tried didn't help him at all.

And then last year, my husband and I read about the gut/body connection when it comes to allergies, and that seasonal allergies is a type of auto-immune disease, and like other auto-immune diseases can be dealt with by strengthening the immune system and by dealing with the problem from the gut, outward. We learned that pollen is just a trigger, but the real issue is too much hystamine in the gut, which causes all these allergic reactions, from hives to runny noses to itchy eyes. (That's why you take anti-hystamines to deal with those.) Hystamine forms in the gut as a result of eating foods that aren't good for you and gut pathogens proliferate, and after reading this article last year, Mike went off gluten for the duration of allergy season. And it helped a bit, but not 100%.

This year, he has been mostly off gluten anyhow, because I don't cook gluten- he just has occasional gluten out of the house, but he still was having seasonal allergies this year- it just started a few days ago and already it's been bad.
So he decided to take it a few notches further and hopefully kick out the bad histamine producing gut flora by strengthening his gut and avoiding even more foods, in addition to doing whatever he can to strengthen his immune system.

Frugal Seasonal Allergy Fighting- Naturally and Effectively

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Making a Secondary Ferment for Water Kefir and Kombucha

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Blueberry lemon water kefir
So you started making kombucha or water kefir because you know just how important it is to be having probiotics on a regular basis, and wanted to save money and make it yourself instead of buying expensive store bought kombucha all the time.
But then you wonder- why is it that my kombucha tastes like flat sweet and sour tea, and my water kefir like mildly effervescent mild lemonade- don't they sell falvored fizzy kombucha? Can't water kefir be soda like?

Ah yes. You can definitely have your kombucha and water kefir be various flavors and be very fizzy too- all you have to do is make a secondary ferment!

What exactly is a secondary ferment?

Well, to begin with, I have to explain the science behind making kombucha and kefir, the standard "first ferment".

Water kefir and kombucha are made by putting something called a SCOBY- a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast- in water with sugar, and in the case of kombucha, with tea. (Here's how to grow your own kombucha mother/SCOBY.)
The SCOBY is filled with a bunch of beneficial probiotic bacteria and yeasts, which eat the sugar in the drink, and convert it to acid, a little alcohol, carbon dioxide, and a few other beneficial substances. At the same time, the bacteria and yeast are busy multiplying and growing in the liquid, as well as being concentrated heavily in the SCOBY.

When you drink the water kefir or kombucha, in addition to getting the liquid, you're also a healthy dose of the probiotics that have grown and now live in the liquid.

So the secondary ferment.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Homemade Upcycled Magnetic Tangrams Toy

 photo 100_6807_zps49b4294b.jpgDo you have a bazzilion magnets lying around the house, or cluttering up your fridge? You know, those magnetic advertisements that so many companies hand out, that you don't really want anymore and probably didn't even want to begin with?
Instead of them cluttering up your fridge- make a fun creative toy for your kids out of them.
Make magnetic tangrams!

Ok, I don't know if these can definitely be called tangrams, because they're not puzzles, but they're close enough that that's the name I chose for them.

Just pull off the paper layer of the advertisement from the magnet and you'll be left with a white layer. If you don't mind more work, you can pull off all the white so yours is entirely black, but I didn't bother.

Then cut into different shapes of different sizes.

I made circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, semi circles, arcs, quarter circles, diamonds, ovals, cloud shapes, etc... in all different sizes and dimensions.

Once they're cut out, get designing!

Homemade Gluten Free, Oat Free, Buckwheat Granola Bars Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free

One of the staples lots of people have in their homes for quick "nutritious" meals on the go are granola bars, because they assume that it's a healthy food. Store bought granola bars, unfortunately, are far from the health food people make them out to be . But the reason people believe granola bars are a healthy food is because of deceptive advertising. Take a look at Nature Valley granola bars, for example. They claim to be "100% natural", but then their ingredients contain things like high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, soy protein concentrate, maltodextrin, GMO canola oil, and the catch-all "natural flavorings" which very rarely is truly natural, but is manipulated in a lab so it is so far from its original form (take castoreum- written as "natural flavorings" on the package, but is really the secretion from beaver glands manipulated in a lab to taste like vanilla or raspberry) that it can hardly be called "natural". Doesn't seem much like a health food anymore to you, does it? Nature valley is even being sued because of this deceptive advertising, claiming to be a health product when it's not..
And of course, on top of everything else, store bought granola bars are pretty expensive, and making them at home is much cheaper and really not hard at all.

I got a recipe for homemade chewy granola bars about 2 years ago from my friend Debbie, and have made it multiple times since then. I lost the recipe, and then found that her recipe is identical to this one I found on 
While its certainly better than store bought granola bars, I don't use brown sugar because most brown sugar sold is just refined beet sugar with added molasses, and I prefer not to use rice crispies if I can help it- both because most rice crispies actually has gluten in it (in the form of malt) and the ones near me without malt in it are contaminated with gluten- I've found actual puffed wheat cereal in the same bag... On top of that, there is some question as to whether extruded cereals, like all puffed cereals, are actually healthy or bad for you- the Weston Price foundation says they're bad... and I? I'm not sure 100%, but I do try to keep my home free of things that can't be made at home, and since its not possible to extrude at home, or at all without special factory equipment, I have my doubts...
But either way, store bought rice crispies aren't so cheap, at least not round these parts. So I'd skip them if I wanted to save money, even regardless of the potential health issues.

I decided to try and make this recipe, updated for my current dietary restrictions, as well as trying to make it even healthier, while keeping it as cheap as possible.
My granola bars are gluten free, oat free (my stomach doesn't do well with oats, even gluten free oats), dairy free, egg free, vegan, and free of processed foods like rice crispies, white sugar, and corn syrup.
They came out perfect!
Mine came out crunchier, and less chewy, but I suspect that it's because I cooked mine a drop too long. I'd like to try them again cooked a drop shorter and see if they're chewy, but even if they're not, that's fine with me.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Flax Seed Crackers- Vegan, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Refined Sugar Free

 photo 100_6745_zps268f3061.jpgI first heard of flax seed crackers from a friend of mine, J, who dabbles in raw veganism. She makes her crackers with whole flax seeds and red peppers and I don't know what else, and they're yummy. But I never made them her way.
I recently saw a recipe for flax seed and banana crackers- a 2 ingredient recipe- (forgot where exactly), and I took the idea and expanded on it, and made a flax seed banana cracker with more than two ingredients. They taste good, but they're sweet, so they work well with sweet toppings like peanut butter and jelly, cream cheese, etc... or anything really that would taste ok on a cinnamon raisin bagel.
But since not everyone wants something banana flavored, I made a cracker recipe that wasn't banana based- it uses carrot puree with the flax seeds. They came out terrific as well.
The texture of these crackers is terrific- crunchy, but not jaw/teeth shattering like lots of gluten free crackers I've tried making. They're a drop thicker than your standard cracker, but they still work fine even so and the texture isn't negatively affected because of that.

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Banana flax seed crackers with peanut butter and homemade grape kiwi jam

If you're a raw foodist, you can dehydrate them to keep them raw. I prefer to cook mine though.

Feel free to play around with the spices and other ingredients in here.
Note- if the recipe says "ground flax seed", that's how much you need, after it is already ground. If it says "whole flax seeds", that is the amount that you need of whole flax seeds, and the amount will be different after ground up.
If you leave out the coconut sugar, these recipes are GAPS legal.

Homemade Spiderman Costume Instructions- Tutorial

Lee dressed as Spiderman, in a pose
he assumed Spiderman would take
We recently had a family event where we were supposed to attend in costume. I don't believe in buying store bought costumes, also because of the cost, and also because I love the creativity required and artistic side of me that comes up in making my own homemade costumes.
I wasn't sure what to dress up as, and I like making our whole family dress up with a theme when we dress up, and since Lee asked to be Spiderman (not that he even knew what that was until a friend insisted on educating him on the topic), I decided that the rest of the family would be superheros as well.

I went to the local thrift store, where all clothes is sold for 25-50 cents a piece, and purchased all the necessary clothes that I would use to make our costumes. It helped that our costumes all would be made with 4 basic colors- red, yellow, white, and blue. I just searched for as many articles of clothing with solid colors (or mostly solid), also to be the base of the costume, and also to be accents on the costumes.

See all those clothes?

6 dollars total.
And I had more than enough to make all our costumes.

My goal for the costumes was to make them look as decent/accurate as possible for as little work as possible. Though I have a sewing machine, I didn't feel like taking it out- so everything was sewn by hand. Or attached with a glue gun. I didn't use a glue gun to attach anything to clothes that I wasn't cutting up, because I wanted to leave the option open to use the clothes afterward, and a glue gun would ruin the clothes, but hand stitching could be removed.
I ended up overbuying- there was one shirt I bought that I didn't need for the costumes in the end. :-D 25 cents over, not too bad.

I think everyone's costumes came out pretty awesome, but for ease of people finding this tutorial through google, I'm separating the costume ideas into posts of their own. For now, I'll post about how I made Lee's Spiderman costume.
Doesn't he look cute?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gluten Free Lemon Bars and Lemon Curd Recipes, Gluten Free, Egg Free, Refined Sugar Free, Dairy Free

 photo 100_6764_zpsd39a80bd.jpg
Gloopy, yummy, gluten free, dairy free, egg free,
refined sugar free lemon bars. Not the typical yellow
 because unrefined sugar is brown, not neon yellow.
The other day a friend of mine posted a picture of lemon bars on Facebook. Mmmmm, they looked delicious.
I didn't even bother opening the recipe; I knew already I wouldn't be able to make it- it was full of gluten and eggs and sugar and probably also dairy, all things I don't eat.
But wow, I was craving lemon bars so much after that.
I investigated quite a few lemon pie bar recipes, and all of them seemed to have the same basic idea- pie crust type bottom, baked, then a lemon curd type filling placed on top, then baked some more, and topped with powdered sugar.
Simple enough.
All I had to do to make lemon bars that I could eat was take a lemon curd recipe that I could eat, bake it on top of some gluten free pie crust, and voila- lemon bars!
Well, mostly.
But it wasn't so easy to find a good lemon curd recipe. Because most lemon curd recipes contain eggs. Or sugar. Or dairy. Or all three.
But I found one vegan lemon curd recipe, which I then changed up and made not vegan by using honey in it, etc...
My lemon bars came out pretty awesome.
Though I must admit, because there is no egg in them, they didn't set up as nicely as I hoped. They're more gloopey than bar like, with a top that likes to run unless you keep it in the fridge all the time.
But the taste is phenomenal.
I'm sharing the recipe though, even though it can use a bit of tweaking. I'll let you do the playing around with it- I'd probably add another 1/4 -1/2 cup potato starch to thicken it up some more so its more solid and less gloopy. Or maybe add 1/4-1/2 cup ground flax seed.

If you just want lemon curd- just leave out the pie crust part and you have lemon curd. :-D

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Homemade Gummy Candies and Gummy Worms- Refined Sugar Free, Chemical Free, Healthy

 photo 100_6694_zps47453567.jpgOne thing I learned when getting into "real food" cooking, is that sometimes, the foods that you thought were healthy really aren't at all, and the foods that you thought were totally unhealthy or at the very least, pointless from a nutritional standpoint, are actually quite good for you.
Take Jello, for instance. I thought it was complete garbage. Sugar. Food colorings. Artificial flavorings. And gelatin. What could be nutritious whatsoever about that?
Well, the sugar, colorings, and flavorings certainly aren't, but gelatin is actually very good for you- it's basically concentrated bone broth, which is very, very healing for your body, including being terrific for healing the digestive tract, being soothing for joint issues, aiding in muscle growth, keeping the skin healthy, etc...
Obviously homemade jello is much healthier than the store bought varieties, as you can control the ingredients and make it chemical free, refined sugar free gelatin.

This recipe for gummy candies and gummy worms is basically jello with extra sweetener and extra gelatin to make a homemade healthy candy instead of the more wobbly jello.
Does it taste exactly like regular gummy worms? Not 100%. But it's close enough that it's been a hit with all the kids I gave them to. (And I gave them to quite a lot- over 20.)

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I made mine mango gummy candies, made with mango syrup, but you can make this with any fruit juice concentrate and fruit juice and honey, playing around with it according to taste, so long as you keep the liquid to gelatin ratio the same. (1 3/4 cups liquid to 10 tablespoons gelatin.)

Homemade Gummy Candies and Gummy Worms- Refined Sugar Free, Chemical Free, Healthy

Friday, March 1, 2013

Buckwheat Crispies Treats- Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

 photo 100_6768_zps6db9496a.jpgIsn't it great when you're able to make homemade healthy versions of your favorite treats?
This recipe for buckwheat peanut butter crispies is like peanut butter rice crispies treats, except its not extruded and with a more nutritious and high protein pseudograin. They are delicious, and unlike what I was expecting, have a nice crunch, a little softer than peanuts.
This isn't very sweet, just mildly sweet and yummy.
I based it on this recipe. You can make it vegan by using maple syrup instead of honey, as in the original recipe.

Homemade Vegan Roll Out Sugar Cookies Recipe- With Gluten Free and Refined Sugar Free Option

photo 100_6767_zps3dd5b047.jpgMy mother didn't usually make sugar cookies growing up. Not quite sure why. She made lots of different types of homemade snacks and desserts, but sugar cookies is one type of cookie I don't recall her making.
My association with sugar cookies comes solely from the sugar cookies given out in school around the holidays, delicious, sweet, and crunchy, and made into all sorts of cute shapes.
I haven't been the biggest sugar cookie maker myself, I must admit. The name "sugar cookie" makes me feel that it is "oh so unhealthy", and so high in sugar that it's bad to eat. I'd rather make cookies with more innocuous sounding names.
The last time I made sugar cookies was for a party after Anneliese was born, when I made these cute girly shaped sugar cookies, frosted with naturally colored homemade royal icing. But I couldn't even eat those, because the cookies weren't gluten free.

My son found the boy cookie cutter I had, that came with the girl cookie cutter, and asked me "Mommy, why don't we ever use this? Make a cake really flat and we can cut it out in boy shapes."
I told him that those are for making cookies in that shape, and he asked me if I could do that.
"I dunno," I hemmed and hawed, not sure I'd be able to find a decent roll out sugar cookie recipe that was gluten free, and not particularly interested in making sugar laden sugar cookies...
But then I decided to do a search online and see if I could come up with a decent gluten free vegan sugar cookie recipe, and I struck pay dirt- lots of wonderful looking recipes!
I went with this recipe I found for vegan gluten free sugar cookies, healthied it up a bit, changed it up somewhat, made it somewhat cheaper, and came up with these terrific sugar cookies, which, not only don't have white sugar in them, the sugar they have in them, coconut sugar, is really high in minerals and really low glycemic index. Awesome. And oh, perfect texture also!
You can glaze the cookies. I'm not sure I will. :-D I think they look cute enough unglazed.

The best thing about these cookies is that unlike most roll-out-cookie doughs, this needs no refrigeration, so it's much faster to make.

I've included a wheat version and a refined sugar version and a less healthy version if you're just after cheap and don't have food restrictions.

Homemade Vegan Roll Out Sugar Cookies Recipe- With Gluten Free and Refined Sugar Free Option