Sunday, July 28, 2013

Chilled Raw Tomato Soup Recipe- Vegan, Grain Free, Sugar Free, Easy

 photo IMG_0348_zps0c3a1bc5.jpgI'm a fan of chilled soups in the summer- they're a very refreshing appetizer that both quenches thirst and tastes delicious, while usually being very easy and cheap to make. This chilled raw tomato soup is similar to gazpacho, only it is entirely tomato based. It's a big hit with everyone who's tasted it, and it takes less than 5 minutes to make. And it's gluten free, dairy free, egg free, vegan, sugar free, grain free, Paleo/Primal, etc... Very worthwhile.
It's also the perfect thing to do with past prime tomatoes that are a little too wilty to put in a vegetable salad.

P.S. In the past, when I've shared recipes like this, people were sure there was a typo when they saw how many tomatoes. Nope, not a typo- there's 15 there. This is tomato based, after all...

Chilled Raw Tomato Soup Recipe- Vegan, Grain Free, Sugar Free, Easy

Friday, July 26, 2013

Quick Homemade Vinegar Pickles Recipe with Dill- Sugar Free, Easy, GAPS Legal

 photo IMG_0341_zps28c3dc62.jpgI am fortunate to get my hands on past prime fruits and veggies on a regular basis, and the thing is, they have to be used up quickly before they spoil. They don't necessarily have to be eaten immediately, but they should be cooked, frozen, or put in another environment that preserves, to either kill any spoilage going on, or to slow it down. The thing is, often I get cucumbers that aren't in perfect condition, but I can't freeze them or cook them because I have yet to find a good recipe using cooked cucumbers.
So I'm usually at a loss as to what to do with those cucumbers, and usually I either don't take them, or I take them and they spoil in my fridge because I didn't know what to do with them.
Sometimes I turn them into gazpacho or Korean cucumber soup, and sometimes into cucumber agua fresca but even those need to be eaten up quickly, because they don't include any ingredients that would retard spoilage. I've thought about pickles, but I'd been disappointed in the past when trying to make fermented veggies from past prime produce. Since pickling with lactic acid bacteria (pickles in brine) is a sensitive process, it is a bad idea to use any produce that isn't 100% fresh, as it'll likely ruin the batch because of mold. And the pickling process also takes a few days, and sometimes you don't want to wait that long to eat your pickles.

That's why this pickle recipe is so good. Because it's made with boiling vinegar, the boiling liquid kills spoilage causing bacteria, and the vinegar stops it from spoiling later, which makes this recipe the perfect one for past prime cukes. Additionally, it takes less than 12 hours for them to be ready, good for when you don't have half a week or more to be able to eat them.
Surprisingly, unlike most vinegar pickles I've eaten, these don't taste very vinegary- they actually taste nearly identical to regular lacto-fermented (salt pickled) cucumber pickles. And they're also missing the sugar that you find so often in vinegar pickles.

Give these a shot- if you like pickles, this is sure to be a hit in your home!
They're vegan, GAPS legal, Paleo/Primal friendly, and perfect for every diet.

Quick Homemade Vinegar Pickles Recipe with Dill- Sugar Free, Easy

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Freezing Fruit to Save Money

 photo IMG_0335_zps4b53b407.jpg
Bottom shelf- frozen peaches, nectarines, mangoes, and bananas. 
I absolutely love mango. It's my favorite fruit in the whole wide world. It's my husband's favorite fruit as well, and my kids would eat it day and night if I'd let them.
The thing is, though, that even when they are in season, they are expensive fruit where I live. Which means we usually only end up getting mangoes a few times a year.
This morning I was in the grocery store and saw mangoes- on the reduced rack. I've never seen them there before. The reduced rack is a great way to get produce cheaply- caveat is- they're past prime.
I took a good look at the mangoes and saw that they looked pretty good, unblemished, free of nasty looking bits. Just ripe. Very ripe.
I bought the lot- a ton of mango! And while I was at it, a bunch of peaches and nectarines from the reduced rack. 
At a great price.

Now what could you do with a lot of past prime fruit? I'll give you a hint- you put them in your fridge for a day or two or three and there's a good chance you'll have a stinkin' lot of mold.

You freeze them!

Freezing fruit is a great way to save money.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Homemade Buckwheat Crackers Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Easy

 photo IMG_0321_zps1d985e02.jpgI like crackers, my kids like crackers, my husband like crackers, and I used to make homemade crackers. Before we went gluten free.
Since going gluten free, I've tried so many cracker recipes, and they all have their big down sides. Rice flour based ones end up being really hard and sharp, so much so that they hurt your jaw and can cut your gums, and other ones are too sticky or too much work.
But I persevered, and finally I found a gluten free cracker recipe that I modified to suit our needs, that not only is easy to make and with simple ingredients, it also tastes good and has a good texture.
These easy buckwheat crackers.
I've made them plain, as garlic crackers, onion crackers, sesame crackers, etc... The flavor options are limitless.
I highly suggest you give these a try.
And if you're not a gluten free person, and your goal is just to save money, try out my homemade crackers made with wheat.

Homemade Buckwheat Crackers Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Easy

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Homemade Gluten Free Egg Free Gefilte Fish Recipe- Fish Loaf- Refined Sugar Free

 photo IMG_0312_zps6ad3294e.jpgIf you haven't noticed yet from the recipes posted on this blog, I am a lover of traditional, ethnic foods. Korean, Japanese, Mexican, Ethiopian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Russian, etc... Jewish ethnic food is no exception. I like ethnic food because it usually is full of flavor yet made with healthy, all natural ingredients- no need to rely on chemical flavor enhancers to make the food taste good. And in many cases, they are also pretty frugal, because people generally weren't so affluent and able to consume large quantities of meat and fish, so the recipes tend to stretch them when using them.
Gefilte fish is one of those ethnic foods that I really love- an Eastern European Jewish fish dish, made from ground white fish and ground veggies. It's either boiled or baked, either in logs and then sliced, or in little dumpling shapes. It's generally soft and sweet, sometimes peppery, and usually served cold with beet and horseradish puree, though some like to eat it with mayo. I'll be honest- not everyone likes gefilte fish- some find its softness off putting, and some people think "fish shouldn't be sweet", but I'm certainly a fan, along with many others.

I'd wanted to make my own homemade gluten free and egg free gefilte fish, without any white sugar, but I wasn't sure it would be so doable, because without eggs and gluten, what would hold it together? Ground fish does not hold together the way ground meat does.
I made up this recipe and decided to bake it instead of boiling it, to ensure that it wouldn't fall apart. I like gefilte fish baked smothered in mayo and surrounded by a medley of spiced vegetables, the way I once had at a friend's house. You can leave out the veggie medley if you prefer.
It holds together beautifully when baked- staying moist and soft, and has a very authentic taste, despite my changes from the traditional.

Whether you've eaten gefilte fish in the past or never eaten it before in your life, this recipe is certainly worth a try!

Homemade Gluten Free Egg Free Gefilte Fish Recipe- Fish Loaf- Refined Sugar Free

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How to Build a Loft Bed- DIY Tutorial and Plans- Space Efficient and Frugal

We live in a very very very small apartment with 3 kids, and we manage to make it work, without feeling too cramped. Part of that is by figuring out creative solutions to make the place as user friendly as possible, and to try to streamline the furniture to maximize the space most effectively.

We have 3 main rooms in our home- the living room/dining room/kitchen, the main bedroom, and the smaller kid's bedroom. The smaller kid's bedroom used to be a storage room and the kids all bunked with us. Then we cleaned up and decluttered the storage room and turned it into a usable kids' bedroom.
But that was only phase one.
Still crowded and cramped.

On Monday, we completed phase 2 of the project (and it only took us 1+ year after completing phase 1! lol- how efficient!) and made a loft bed for the kids' room. 
The reason for the loft bed is such:
With such a small room, and such a small house, space is a premium. Using vertical space is one of the best ways to do this- why take up room on the floor when you can use up empty room on the wall? 
By making a loft bed, we now have the mattress high off the ground and the kids can play in the space underneath. We also have another mattress that we can put down over there should we have guests or should the kids decide that they no longer want to sleep on the same mattress. (They like each other's company while they sleep at this stage in their lives.)
By making the loft bed, we've effectively doubled our usable space in the bedroom. See the difference between this and the previous one?

The completed made from scratch loft bed.
Because wood is expensive where we live, this project cost us 165 dollars, but if you'd buy the same wood from Home Depot or a lumberyard, it would probably cost you around 50 dollars.

While 165 dollars is a lot of money, its at least half or a third of the price of a purchased loft bed where we live. And the added benefit is that because this room is narrow, with a low ceiling to boot, we needed the bed to be a certain dimension, and we were able to build the bed exactly to those specifications. 

Here's how we built the bed, including plans so you can build it as well.
It took us approximately 5 hours, including mistakes we made and needed to fix. I've included details about the errors we made so you can learn from them- no need to reinvent the wheel.
(P.S. I drew the plans up, purchased the wood, measured the wood, and then Mike cut the wood. I positioned the wood and held it in place while Mike drilled and then screwed in the screws with the drill. It was a team effort, but mostly me. :-D Just feel the need to take credit and give credit where it's deserved. I'm just not in any of the pics since I was the one snapping them, not because Mike did it all.)

Saving Money With Junk in Your House!

 photo securedownload_zps75b8f7e6.jpgThis is a guest post.

It never hurts to save a dollar here and there, and by all means those dollars really can add up quickly. The fact of the matter is, times are rough financially speaking and a little assistance always helps. So now the real question is, how do we get those extra dollars?

If you have ever looked around your house, in closets, rooms, and/or garages and gasped by the sheer vast amount of stuff you have then you may be sitting on a pile of extra dollars and not even know it. A lot of our unwanted or unused items can actually be worth a pretty penny. From jewelry buyers all the way to collectors, there is almost a buyer out there for anything and everything.

Italian Style Herbed Lentil Veggie Soup Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Grain Free, GAPS Legal

Don't you love when a dish you made as an experiment comes out so perfectly and deliciously?
I was pleasantly surprised at just how terrifically this Italian inspired herbed lentil veggie soup that I made yesterday came out. Packed with flavor and nutrition, not to mention being pretty cheap, vegan, and suitable for many special diets including grain free, GAPS, etc... it's just perfect. Not too hearty that it's too heavy for the summer, but filling nonetheless.

I just had to share this delicious recipe with you. I used lots of fresh herbs in it- feel free to play around with the herbs, adding more or less of each kind, or different herbs altogether, or dried instead of fresh, etc... And feel free to play around and replace canned stuff with fresh stuff, canned tomatoes with fresh chopped tomatoes and watered down tomato paste, and use whichever vegetables you have available in the house. It'll be good no matter what, I assure you.

This makes a lot of soup- feel free to halve it, or make it in advance and freeze it in portions for later use.

Italian Style Herbed Lentil Veggie Soup Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Grain Free, GAPS Legal

Monday, July 15, 2013

Homemade Loft Bed- Sneak Peek

Yesterday, I got inspired. Ok, I was inspired for a while already, but yesterday my inspiration got renewed.
I decided to make a loft bed for my kids.
You see, they have a teeny tiny bedroom, as part of our teeny tiny house. Floor space and storage space is very minimal in my home, and especially in the boy's bedroom. No room really to play on the floor because it was all taken up by mattresses. We wanted to get the mattresses off the floor and make the bed into a loft, allowing there to be floor space for storage and playing beneath the bed.

Yesterday I drew up plans, today I went to the hardware store and bought the supplies, and then Mike and I spent all day building the bed. We're exhausted!

I think the bed looks terrific! The boys love it as well!

Homemade Sesame Bars Recipe

 photo SesameSquares_zps6672c429.jpgThis recipe for homemade sesame bars is a guest post. Looks delicious and scrumptious, not to mention being gluten free (so long as you use gluten free oats).

1 1/8 cup of medium oatmeal

1 3/4 cups sesame seeds

3 tbsp Lyle's Golden Syrup

1/4 cup Tate & Lyle Fairtrade Light Brown Sugar

4 tbsp sunflower oil

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Onion and Sage Chicken Recipe- GAPS Legal, Paleo/Primal, Gluten Free, Sugar Free

Sometimes the most simple recipe can end up tasting out of this world. Take this onion sage chicken that I made today. Just a few ingredients but tastes sumptuous and delicious. The chicken is moist and flavorful, all the ingredients in it are cheap, and it's perfect for every single diet I can think of- other than vegan/vegetarian, of course. Allergy friendly to boot.

I used foraged sage for this, but you can use store bought or home grown sage as well.

Onion and Sage Chicken Recipe- GAPS Legal, Paleo/Primal, Gluten Free, Sugar Free

Friday, July 12, 2013

Delicious Herbed Tomato Sole or Tilapia Recipe- Gluten Free, GAPS Legal, Paleo/Primal

 photo fish2_zpsd230ec21.jpgI was at my mother's house last week and she wanted to cook up some fish, yet didn't know how to make it. I asked if I could cook the fish for everyone, and she was thrilled to let me do so. I scoured the internet for inspiration, and then came up with this recipe that, if I may say so myself, was one of the best fish recipes I ever made in my life. So sumptuous, so delicious, and if I may say so, pretty as well. It's good both hot and cold. It was a big hit with everyone.
I made it with sole, but you could make it with tilapia fillets. It's not an exact recipe, because you can play around with it and the herbs used, so long as you follow the general idea.

Best of all- the recipe is good for all diets other than nightshade free diets and vegan diets, such as the GAPS diet, gluten free diets, Paleo/Primal diets, etc... It's healthy, sugar free, dairy free, egg free... What's not to love?

Delicious Herbed Tomato Sole or Tilapia Recipe- Gluten Free, GAPS Legal, Paleo/Primal

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Make Money From Your Clutter

When I was a teenager, I loved listening to music- it was my lifeblood. Whether I was happy or sad, bored or angry, I had music to listen to that fit the mood I was in. Because of that, I accumulated lots of music CDs from groups that I loved. A huge CD rack held all that music for while I was not listening to it. My collection grew and grew, and with time, I had such a large collection.
As the years went by, my taste in music has changed and, to be honest, there are lots of bands that I used to listen to in the past who I'd never listen to anymore. (Metallica, Linkin Park, and Eminem, anyone?) Their CDs just take up room and provide me with no benefit.
I know there are many people like myself who've accumulated CDs and DVDs that, quite frankly, don't interest them at this point in their lives, but they don't know what to do with them. They don't want to throw them out, because why should the CDs that are in good condition go into a landfill when someone else could enjoy them?

Decluttering can save a lot of money, because it means that you can downsize to a smaller home comfortably, once you get rid of all the junk that was just taking up living space beforehand. If you've accumulated CDs and DVDs and video game that are taking up room in your house, now's the time to get rid of them. And you can make money while you're at it! buys your old CDs, DVDs and video games so you can declutter and earn some extra cash while you're at it. For each item you sell, you just enter its barcode, share a picture of it, and find out how much it is worth. You then ship it to MusicMagpie- free shipping- and get a check back in the mail! Isn't that cool?

Why keep your clutter when you can get cash for it?

See my disclaimer.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How to Make Homemade Makeup- Recipe and Tutorial- All Natural and Cheap

 photo 3a837cae-a282-497b-bbc6-9a46a52afa68_zps369e9f71.jpg
Me wearing homemade makeup- blush, lip
gloss, eye shadow, and eye liner
(sorry, my exhaustion showing through)
A friend asked me if I had  any suggestions as to how to make homemade makeup posted on my blog. I did not, and that is surprising, because about a year and a half ago, I did this whole long experiment with various items I had around the house, making my own makeup for an article I was writing for my magazine column I had at the time, and I had planned on writing up something for Penniless Parenting as well.
But you know how things are- sometimes you get distracted and such plans get forgotten, until a long time passes without having done what you'd originally intended on doing.

But thanks to my friend who reminded me, here's how to make homemade makeup. I'll admit, this is just revamping the article I'd originally written for the magazine- I'm a little overwhelmed with some things in my life and not able to spend as much time writing now... But it's still the same great info.

Full disclaimer though- I still prefer my store bought makeup, as it stays on better and longer, and I like the colors better. And no, they're not all natural makeup, they're chemical filled stuff. Maybe one day I'll switch to natural stuff all the time, either store bought or homemade, and I'll be glad to have this info filed away for that date.
If nothing else, though, this was a fun experiment.

And if you currently don't wear any makeup because of the health concerns and frugality reasons, then I guess today is your lucky day!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Making Kombucha Mushroom Jerky- Recipe- Vegan Jerky

 photo f19f43c0-c34d-4ad4-a335-a2268968578a_zpsd49bf5a1.jpgI love jerky. Beef jerky, chicken jerky, fish jerky. I don't really care what type. I just want a yummy, chewy snack that is healthy, easily transportable, etc...
But the thing is, though, that jerky typically is made from some sort of animal protein, which is pretty much the most expensive type of food you can buy. Making jerky pretty much out of the budget for our family.

Imagine, just imagine, that you were able to make jerky for free. Yes, that's possible if you hunt or fish, but since we can't do either where I live, I can't get animal protein for free.

There is a free alternative.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Apricot Raisin Chutney Recipe- Sugar Free, Gluten Free

Apricot raisin chutney with mung bean curry and Indian spiced cabbage
I love chutneys- they are the Indian version of ketchup, the condiment that you eat with your foods to make it taste either sweet and sour or spicy (and often a mixture of them all) in addition to whatever other base flavor your curries have. I haven't tasted a chutney that tastes bad with any Indian food, they're always a welcome addition.
The one thing about Indian food- it's so unphotogenic! Sorry about that!
I hope you like this recipe for apricot raisin chutney. You can probably also make the same thing with peaches without any adjustments (other than the quantity of peaches, because they're bigger than apricots, so fewer are needed). I made this without refined sugar, but you can use white sugar instead if you want to make it cheaper.

Apricot Raisin Chutney Recipe- Sugar Free, Vegan, Gluten Free

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sending My Homeschooled Kids to Camp

This summer I did something that shocked a lot of people, and led to people making assumptions about our family's lifestyles and plans for the future.
I signed up both my boys for the city-wide day camp this summer.

When people heard that, I got a mix of reactions:
Oh, so you're no longer homeschooling? You changed your mind and decided to send your kids to school next year? What made you change your mind?
Camp is expensive! Why spend money on that of all things? Why not keep them home in the summer, especially if you have good reasons to homeschool, and there are kids for them to play with during the summer? Isn't camp a waste of money?
If you have issues with school, why do you not have a problem sending to camp? It's got the same issues as school, and they don't even learn anything!

So many incorrect assumptions there!