Friday, May 31, 2013

Algerian Chicken with Potatoes and Olives Recipe in the Pressure Cooker

I love my pressure cooker- it allows me to make healthy, delicious, cheap food easily, in short amounts of time.
This dish is a perfect example of that. Its cheap, filling, and together with a veggie side dish is a one pot meal. And took a total of 5 minutes prep time and 20 minutes cooking time.
I got inspired for this recipe by an Algerian potato and olive stew I found in a cookbook. Chicken in the pressure cooker comes out with an amazing texture; the white meat stays moist.
You can make this with any type of chicken that you have, from a whole chicken to thighs to drumsticks to wings to bone-in chicken breast, but I suggest that if you use a less fatty part of chicken, that you add some oil to help keep it moist.

This has got to be one of the yummiest potato and chicken dishes I've even tasted. Very worth it.

If you can't do potatoes for whatever reason, you can leave them out and replace them with other veggies, like kohlrabi, parsnips, zucchini, turnips, cauliflower, etc... but the flavor will be somewhat different.

Algerian Chicken with Potatoes and Olives Recipe

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Foraging Wild Onion and Garlic- Allium Family- Free Foods

 photo 100_7126_zpsb142b85e.jpgMy favorite type of stuff to forage are those things that replace the stuff that I would be using anyhow. Therefore, when I first discovered wild onion/garlic 3 months ago upon a visit to my sister, I was ecstatic, and since then, I've found two more types growing close to home. Wild onions or garlic? you probably want to know, and the answer is both and neither. What I've found is plants in the allium family, which is the same family as garlic, onions, shallots, chives, leeks, etc...
Each member of the allium family has a somewhat different taste, but all have a taste that is either garlicky or oniony or both, and with varying ranges of sharpness.
But all allium family members are edible, and most can be used in place of onion.

Allium members are healing to the body and are antimicrobial. The whole entire plant is edible (though some parts become to fibrous to be enjoyable to eat, once they're older), and they can be eaten raw or cooked.

There are no poisonous look alikes once you look for a few basic markers about the plant.

How to Identify Wild Onion and Garlic

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Homemade Healthy Chocolate Milk and Chocolate Syrup- Refined Sugar Free, Dairy Free, Delicious and Creamy

 photo 100_7296-Copy_zps3bb038c4.jpgYesterday, I was in the local Mom and Pop's store with my kids, and Ike asked me if they could please have some chocolate milk as a treat. In the past, I would have bought the chocolate milk, despite it containing sugar, because, as far as treats go, it's on the relatively healthy side because of all the calcium and protein in the chocolate milk...
But in the past week or so, I have come to realize that Ike really, really, really cannot handle dairy, not even occasionally. That in addition to stomach issues caused by both, just like eating gluten causes extreme behavioral issues in Ike, dairy also causes those same issues. He goes bonkers when he eats dairy- I see the struggle inside him- it's like he's possessed by a demon and can't stop what he's doing, but is very upset about it because he doesn't want to misbehave... There'll be a moment of that lucid Ike peering out from the maws of the beast, asking me to please help him, verbalizing his request and then the monster returns and no trace of lovable Ike remains, for hours until the dairy is out of his system...  It's gotten to the point that Ike understands exactly what dairy does to him (in addition to knowing about what gluten does), that he is willing to do without dairy, and doesn't put up even one bit of a fuss when I tell him that he can't have that food because it is dairy.

But I care about Ike, and I know how hard it is for a 3.5 year old to go without all these foods that his friends eat and that he loves, so I'm trying extra hard to make healthy, dairy free, gluten free versions of these foods. (In case you were wondering- I've been dairy free for 1.5+ years already, but I let my boys have dairy on a semi regular basis- I wasn't strict with them at all.)

 photo 100_7293_zps72f31fe3.jpgSo after I said no to him about the chocolate milk in the store, I decided that I'd make it up to him so he doesn't feel like he has to miss out on the good things in life. I decided that I'd be making Ike safe chocolate milk today for the family. Dairy free, as well as sugar free and processed food free.

It came out absolutely delicious. I used a combination of homemade coconut milk and homemade sunflower milk, because sunflower milk can have a somewhat grassy taste sometimes, and I wanted to mimic the creaminess you get in store bought chocolate milk.
It was a big hit. And my kids said it was tastier than the store bought chocolate milk. I heartily concur!
If you have no dairy issues, feel free to make this with regular whole milk- it'll be great as well, and healthier than the store bought stuff.

The recipe is in two parts- first the homemade chocolate syrup, which can be used to top ice cream, granola, or any other place you'd use store bought chocolate syrup, and then the chocolate milk itself. (But if you're looking for cheapness over health, this recipe for homemade chocolate syrup is cheaper, and you can use rapadura instead of the white sugar if you want.)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Keeping Cool Frugally... Take Two

 photo ac_zpsc7c07624.jpgThe problem with frugality is that it can easily turn from a smart move, living within your means, to becoming a game of "lets see how little I can do without" even when you can afford to have that, even when doing without that is hurting you and your family. But its hard sometimes to spend money on yourself, especially in ways that you've previously talked about doing without, because as much as you know it's a good idea, you still feel like a failure, like you're letting people down. Because if even you, the "frugal queen" decide not to skimp in this way, why should anyone else?

That's one of the things tough about this blog.

I feel like some of you put me on such a pedestal  as the "ultimate frugalista", that even when it makes sense to do something less frugal, even when I can afford it, and being extra frugal ends up making me and my family suffer and not have as good of a life as we could have, I feel pressure to still not do it, because I have to be an inspiration to my readers, that I can't "cave in", that I have to be a good role model and not let y'all down.

But summer is one of those times when I just suffer. And my husband does even more than I do.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Signs of Life and Growth in the Summer

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Sprouting zucchini plant
In my area, it rains in the winter, and the summer is hot and dry. Our prime foraging season is the middle of the winter, when all the vegetation grows like wild because of the rain, sprouting out of the earth at such a rapid pace that it's hard to keep up, hard to know what exactly you should forage, because there is just so much that you can't possible eat it all.
And after the over abundance of greenery, when greens are coming through your nose because you had so many of them, in salads, in quiches, in soups, on pizzas, in stir fries, in stews, in patties, in stuffing, stuffed with things, that you don't want to look another green "in the face" again, it just all dries up and dies, and makes you wonder how a land that was flourishing so much just a week or two prior is now filled with brown, dried, dead plants, completely inedible and relatively useless.

And then you see little signs of life.

Amid all the dried out plants, there are the treasures of the summer, those special foods that you were waiting for because they aren't just the endless monotony of greens, greens, and more greens, but actually are real vegetables and fruit with substance, things you can sink your teeth into.

This post is dedicated to all the wonderful goodies that are coming into season now. And yes, there is much less abundance of edibles this time of year. You aren't guaranteed to find something to eat every step you take.
But when you do, you reach gold mines, some of the best foraged goodies, in my opinion, of the entire year.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cajun Dirty Rice Recipe- With Cactus Paddles- Vegan Option

 photo 100_7276_zpsa4276aa8.jpgI have to thank my friend Ashley for introducing me to dirty rice. I know, the name is really weird and unappetizing, but I wasn't the one who made up the name, so it'll have to stay. If I would make up my own name for this, it would be "really yummy Cajun rice with cheap meat" but oh well.

Ashley sent me this recipe when I was looking for a good recipe to make with chicken livers. Dirty rice traditionally is made with the cheapest types of meats, like liver, hearts, gizzards, etc...  and the Cajun seasoning combined with them and rice makes for a winning meal. Though I'll admit, my kids still weren't a fan of liver prepared that way, but liked all the other cheap odds and ends in this dish. Feel free to use whatever chicken or poultry or meat parts that you have- if they're not already cooked, pre-cook them. Or just use up leftovers this way.

Dirty rice typically is made with green peppers, but since peppers sometimes bother people's stomachs, I tried it out with cactus paddles, which have a very similar taste, and it worked beautifully that way as well.

You can also make this vegan if you like, by subbing the meat with red beans and mushrooms.

Cajun Dirty Rice Recipe- With Cactus Paddles

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Foraging Large Num Nums- Natal Plums, Carissa Macrocarpa- Wild Edible

 photo 100_7260_zpse61039fa.jpgI went to the beach today with my mom and kids. And even though we brought our own food along with us, we were very excited to discover that the num nums were in season and ready to eat.

Yes, there really is a food called num nums. Large num nums in particular. Sounds inappropriate, but its really just this yummy fruit, originating from South Africa, and now cultivated and used as shrubbery in warm climates throughout the world.

Its scientific name is carissa macrocarpa. It's also known as natal plums, even though it's not related whatsoever to plums- its most closely related to the very deadly oleander.

I first found out that this fruit was edible when I was visiting my mother in law's apartment while the gardener was trimming the shrubbery. I noticed the round red fruit and asked him if they were edible or poisonous- he popped one into his mouth, told me it's called carissa, and it's edible and tasty.
I then realized that most of the bushes all the way down her street were actually this plant, and they were covered in this delicious fruit.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Love Don't Cost a Thing

There are many stories about kids with busy parents, where the parents keep on buying their kids more and more expensive gifts to try to buy the kids' love, but nothing is good enough for the kids, because it turns out that what they want isn't things, they just want to feel loved...

It seems that in today's world, when there is a problem, people like to throw money at it, thinking that money solves everything. Buy something for someone sad, spend money on this specialist and that specialist, etc... Bottom line being, if you have enough money, you're able to make any problem go away, and if you don't have money, you're out of luck.

I don't believe that.

When a problem comes up, I try to see how it can be solved without money, and when its an interpersonal problem, many times I find it doesn't need anything other than attention and love.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Healthy Homemade Thai Sweet Chili Sauce Recipe- Sugar Free Options, Gluten Free, Vegan Option

 photo 100_7237_zps92f558d3.jpg
I try to stay away from processed foods whenever I can, but there are some items that I've cheated with, either because I was lazy or because I didn't know how I could make it myself, and the ingredients didn't look "so bad".
Thai sweet chili sauce was one of those items. Not too expensive, not such a long list of ingredients and especially not too many scary sounding ingredients... and it wasn't too expensive, so I would use it here and there.
I love sweet chili sauce as a dipping sauce for egg rolls, on chicken, on rice, on mashed potatoes, in chicken salad, as well as for many other things.
And finally I decided to see if I could make my own recipe that would be healthier and/or cheaper than the store bought stuff.
The recipes I found online all used white sugar and white vinegar, but I made mine with honey and apple cider vinegar, which is healthier. But if you're vegan or just trying to keep this as cheap as possible, you can use the alternatives listed in parenthesis.
This isn't the spiciest or sweetest sauce, and I prefer it that way, but feel free to add more hot pepper flakes, or sweetener or vinegar if you prefer it that way.
I've included a few thickeners that I know will work, but if you don't use those thickeners, try playing around with thickeners that you do use, like ground flax seeds, ground chia seeds, pectin, xanthan gum, agar, etc...

Healthy Homemade Thai Sweet Chili Sauce Recipe- Sugar Free Options, Gluten Free, Vegan Option

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Update on Potato Growing Experiment

 photo 100_7229_zps53fb864d.jpgA few months ago, I decided to do an experiment and try to grow my own potatoes from some potatoes that had sprouted in my kitchen. I had heard that you could grow potatoes in a bucket, and since I only had a little space on my porch for growing things, I decided to try that out.
I haven't had much success with gardening in the past, so this was an experiment... Would it work, or would I manage to kill it like I've killed so many other things I've attempted to grow...

Supposedly, when growing potatoes in a bucket, you let it grow until the plant dies, and then you dump it out and find your bucket filled with potatoes.

So since my potato plants had grown and died, I decided to dump out my buckets of dirt today and unearth my huge amount of potatoes!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Healthy Cheesecake Recipe- Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free, Grain Free, GAPS Legal, Vegan Option

 photo 100_7228_zpsd4eaedd8.jpgI'm a big cheesecake fan. Love the tangy cheesiness... and haven't had any cheesecake for over two years.
That is, until today.
Because I don't eat dairy, or gluten, or refined sugar, or processed foods, or soy... I didn't know it was possible to have cheesecake.
But I found a recipe for a cashew based cheesecake. And yes, cashews sure ain't cheap. I won't be making this one on a regular basis. But for special occasions? Absolutely!

It's everything I could hope for in a cheesecake. Tastes like cheesecake. Doesn't bother my tummy. Is vegan and GAPS diet legal, is refined sugar free, doesn't have any weird/crazy ingredients. And looks pretty too!
I based my recipe off of this one.

The biggest downside is the cost.

Oh well.

Still very yummy.

Note- I don't have a high powered food processor or blender, so mine ended up a bit gritty, but I assume if you have a better one than I do, yours will be smoother.

Healthy Cheesecake Recipe- Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free, Grain Free, GAPS Legal, Vegan Option

Monday, May 13, 2013

Why I Choose To Not Have a Television

In my house growing up, we had two televisions. One in the basement, in the TV/playroom, and one in the kitchen. Every day, during breakfast, my dad would have the news on, and then when he left for work, the station would switch and we'd have some kids' show, like Arthur. My little brother and sister got to the point that they'd only eat breakfast when there was Arthur or Telletubbies on, and since my mother was concerned about them not eating enough, we always had TV on during breakfast.
On Sundays, we'd watch Magic School bus. My mom would record educational TV shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy, Reading Rainbow, and other similar shows when I was younger. I'd look forward to a sick day when I could lie down on the couch in the basement and just watch TV non-stop. Big Comfy Couch, Arthur, Price is Right- anything- so long as it was TV. I would lie there, eyes glued to the screen, from morning until evening.
When I wasn't sick, I used to watch TV when I got back from school when my mom was out (I was in love with Dawson's Creek when I was in high school). We'd have to earn TV time, and mom only wanted us to watch educational stuff. (And Star Trek. Because she was a Trekkie, and she watched it, so we ended up watching it with her.)

I was in love with TV growing up. As you can see, whenever I could watch, I would.

And yet, as an adult, I choose not to have a TV in my house. No, I don't mean that I don't have cable. No TV whatsoever, cable or no.
Yes, we do watch movies on Youtube, etc... but no TV.
I have lots of issues with TV, which is why I don't bring it into my house.

Here's why I choose to have no TV and to raise my kids with no TV, even though TV was a big part of my life growing up.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Red Lentil Vegetable Curry Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, GAPS Legal

 photo 100_7209_zps0ef39671.jpgYesterday, my friend stopped by my house with a car load of free vegetables that she got from the grocery store. Free, because in another day or two, they would be spoiled, and needed to be used up as fast as possible. I got a huge crate of bananas, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, peaches, and pears, and as I looked at them on my counter today, I said to myself "Penny, use these up, or they will spoil and you'll feed the dumpster instead of your family!"
But I just looked and looked and looked and couldn't think of something to make with carrots (the most vital), zucchini, and tomatoes that wasn't stew or soup... and with the hot weather here lately, I simply wasn't interested in a soup or stew.
So I asked friends for ideas of what to make, and a few people suggested curry.
Curry it was!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Frugality When Time is Short

Easy pasta salad
One comment I've gotten a lot of in regards to this blog is that while I have plenty of great ideas, they all take time, and they're only good for stay at home moms. I never really thought of it that way- frugal is frugal, right? And how much actual time does it take to do these things, after all?

I've never been a full time working mom. Only been part time working mom, working mostly from home, so I've had more free time to get frugal endeavors done. I never paid that much attention as to just how much of what I was doing I was able to do because of my being home. Because each money saving thing doesn't actually, truly, take that much time.

But lately, I've been much busier, doing a project that is as time consuming as a full time job (perhaps even more, because much of what I do is long after typical working hours are usually over, staying up until 2 am working), and yes, I've realized just how much of what I used to do to save money is just beyond me at the moment...

I'm too tired to think about money saving ideas.
I'm too spent to do some creative planning and multitasking that's necessary in order to get things done.
I just want easy.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Return to Cloth Diapering

 photo 100_7194_zpsd4c2eb28.jpgI think one of the hardest things about having a frugal blog is the expectations people have of you, they assume you have to do everything you talk about, all the time, and if you are going through some things and you aren't doing certain frugal measures you've talked about, people start wondering why. And then you start feeling defensive, feeling the need to explain yourself, why you're no longer doing what you recommended that others do.

A big example of that in my life is cloth diapers.

For the past 2-3 months, I haven't really been cloth diapering. And every single time, it seems, that people see me change my daughter's diaper, they ask in shock- "What? A disposable diaper???" And every time, I feel guilty about it. Why am I not cloth diapering? Why am I using a disposable diaper? Have I lost my "frugal touch"?
~ ~ ~ ~

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Vietnamese Style Sardines in Spicy Tomato Sauce Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Easy

Sorry, not the most photogenic dish in the world!
I think sardines get an unfair bad rap in the US. I think it must have to do with an association with Oscar the Grouch and sardines. Or something else. Who knows? But either way, it seems that most people, even people who generally like fish, avoid sardines. And its a shame, because sardines are pretty nutritious, and they're some of the cheapest fish out there.
Some people who don't like sardines have only ever tried sardines in a can, and perhaps didn't like the taste.
Or they tried fresh sardines, and couldn't find a good recipe for it.
I was in that second category for a while- wanting to make sardines because they were cheap, but not having a decent recipe. Then via google, I found this recipe for Vietnamese style sardines in spicy tomato sauce, which I tweaked to my liking.
It absolutely hit the spot, and after making it quite a few times for sardines, I discovered that it can be used for other small cheap fish as well, in addition to fillets. It is now my go to fish recipe because it's cheap to make, its easy and quick with few ingredients, and my kids like it and I absolutely love it. It also gives me a good excuse to use my homemade fermented fish sauce, but if you don't have any homemade stuff, you can use bought stuff.

I sometimes serve it over spaghetti or rice or mashed potatoes. If grain free, consider serving it over zucchini spaghetti. In Vietnam it's usually made into a sandwich on a baguette with mayo, pickled carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, and soy sauce. (Use homemade gluten free French bread as your baguette.) I often just dip flatbread into the sauce after I finish eating the fish plain- the sauce is so finger lickin' good that I would even use it as a condiment!

This recipe works for a variety of diets, including GAPS, Paleo, gluten free, grain free, etc... The only diets I can think of that it doesn't work for are vegan, and nightshade free, and fish free diets.

And if you don't have homemade fish sauce and can't buy it- I recommend that you make some, if only so you can make this recipe!

Vietnamese Style Sardines in Spicy Tomato Sauce Recipe- Refined Sugar Free

Birthday Party Fun on a Limited Budget

This is a guest post by Nancy Evans, a freelance writer who enjoys writing about money saving and families.

Planning your child's birthday party can be a lot of fun. You want to provide a fun memorable day for not only your special birthday girl/boy, but the guests as well. Think back to your childhood. What did your favorite parties contain? I am going to assume you hit one too many piƱatas for any of them to really stick out.

In this economy, it's not about keeping up with the "Smith" family as much as it is about using your creativity to make this day special for all of those on the guest list. Having a completely free party is not possible but a budget party that includes a homemade cake, ice cream and some reduced-cost or free activities is certainly within reach.