Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Homemade Tomato Juice Recipe From Tomato Paste

 photo IMG_1710_zps219993da.jpgI have to admit- I don't like drinking water. But store bought juices and even homemade juices are generally pretty expensive (unless you make my fruit scrap drink), and drinks like lemonade usually either contain white sugar (which makes me sick) or unrefined sweeteners (which are expensive). But if I can have a cheap drink that isn't water, and isn't filled with all sorts of junk, I get really excited...
When I was in the US recently, on all my (many, many) flights, complimentary drinks were served- you know, water, soda, various juices, etc... Soda I knew wasn't an option for me because they are so full of garbage and/or sugar so they'd make me feel sick... and even canned juices are usually with added sugar, and therefore, not an option. I decided to go for tomato juice, and the chilled, red drink tasted so delicious and was really thirst quenching.
After my 4th can of juice (or thereabouts- I told you- many flights), I decided to look at the ingredients, to see just "how bad" those drinks were. And what I saw surprised me. Pretty simple ingredients- and they weren't from "freshly squeezed tomatoes" or anything. No. They were made with tomato paste, water, and salt. That's it!
With ingredients like that, I didn't understand why people ever buy tomato juice, when it's probably super simple to make it from tomato paste. Except I never made it before, and I never knew how easy it was to make tomato juice.
Today, I decided to try it out. Is it actually simple and easy to make my own homemade tomato juice from a can of tomato paste?
Does it taste the same as the store bought stuff?

Here's how you can also make it yourself. Cost wise, it is definitely worthwhile, since one (580 gram/2 cup) can of tomato paste, locally costs about $1.40, makes half a gallon of tomato juice, and a small, approximately 1 quart container of tomato juice costs about $2.85- so this is a quarter of the cost...
If you like to drink tomato juice plain, just make this and use it as is, or refrigerate for a refreshing drink. You can also use it to make Bloody Mary's (just add lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco sauce, and vodka), or in recipes that call for tomato juice, like many stuffed cabbage and tomato soup recipes.

Homemade Tomato Juice Recipe From Tomato Paste

Monday, January 27, 2014

My Latest Frugal Produce Shopping Trip- Adaptability Required

 photo IMG_1702_zpsa70bbde5.jpgI have had to change how I shop for produce quite a few times in the last few years, because we are definitely going through a lot of produce each month, it's the biggest chunk of cash in our food bill, and the cheap places I used to rely on end up not always being so cheap eventually... The place near me that used to have amazing loss leader produce sales- between 7 and 25 cent a pound produce- one day a week, no longer has those sales. Another nearby grocery store used to have decent veggie sales, but they again, no longer sell veggies at such good prices usually. And the reduced rack in one of the local grocery stores rarely ever has fruit or veggies there (other than red peppers or hot peppers, which we tend to not buy) so even that I can't really rely on.
I started going to a local produce sale that happens once a week for 2 hours, where all produce is sold for either 40 or 60 cents a pound, which is terrific, since most produce in the local stores is at least twice that. That is where I do most of my shopping, but sometimes I can't make it to the sale during those few hours a week, and sometimes I run out of produce when there isn't a sale the next day, and we can't just "do without" produce for a few days, but I really hate to pay full price for produce when I am used to getting it much cheaper...
But even that weekly sale isn't always the cheapest for everything- there is never anything cheaper than 40 cents, and I can find cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, etc... on sale for cheaper than that- sometimes even half or a third the price, so even though its cheap, doesn't mean that it's not worth comparison shopping, and/or buying some stuff there and some stuff in other places.

This morning, I looked in the fridge and saw we were completely out of produce. Ok, not exactly- I had one red pepper, one zucchini, two wilted beets, two wilted cucumbers, and a few oranges... but those definitely weren't enough to last us a few days, and I was having a really hard time figuring out what to prepare for my family for meals with such little available to work with.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Asian Rice Noodle Salad Recipe- Vegan, Cheap, and Easy- With Grain Free Alternative

 photo IMG_1700_zps4c232747.jpgI had a guest coming. And had the perfect menu planned and cooked. Time was running out. And then I tasted the rice--- way over salted! To the point gthat I couldn't serve it! I was stressing out, because even though I could cook more rice in my pressure cooker in just a few minutes, I was completely out of rice.
What I did have, though, were rice noodles- rice vermicelli- which take less than 5 minutes to cook. So I decided to prepare them, and make a rice noodle salad with them to serve.
Only I wasn't having much success in finding a good recipe to make with them- all the recipes I came upon called either for a variety of greens- cilantro, parsley, basil, mint, and/or chives, or fish, or bean sprouts, or cabbage, or all the above. And I had none available.

Fortunately, I managed to piece together this recipe from various sites, and came up with a delicious rice noodle salad that hit the spot, and used only what I had in the house...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Space Themed Birthday Party on a Budget

You know what is ridiculous? My older son, Lee, turned 6 in September- 4 whole months ago... and I threw him a fabulous outer space themed birthday party (his choice) on a ridiculously low budget, and I entirely forgot to post about it!
That can't be! I was so super proud of what I managed to do for his party- everyone had a phenomenal time- and I have to admit, a lot of times when I do something like this, I have in mind that it will be fodder for a future blog post, so... it needs to get written up already.
I'm lucky that I still had the pictures on my computer (I tend to get delete happy with photos) and was able to find them easily enough.
So, without further ado- here's how I made this fun, space themed, low cost, pretty healthy birthday party for my six year old and a bunch of his friends:

As always, our birthday parties take place outside, on the dirt patch in front of my house, which gives us more room. We set up folding tables, and placed black tablecloths on them, upon which I sprinkled large shiny metallic confetti to look like stars.

I was trying to think what type of healthy food would be "space themey" and decided to make one platter of "green stuff"- kiwi slices, cucumber slices... Green, because, you know- green Martians, and the moon being made of "green cheese" and all...

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I found star fruit in the grocery store for not too expensive (this was in the summer, mind you, when they were in season, not like now in the winter when they are out of season and prohibitively expensive), and sliced them in to star shapes, which I then put on a plate together with cantaloupe which I cut into crescent moon shapes.

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Homemade Face Paint Recipe

 photo IMG_0715_zpsf1450913.jpgThis is a partial post- I am writing a full post with details about why I am posting this... and it will hopefully be up in a few minutes. But since I wanted this post to be google searchable, I am leaving this recipe as a separate blog post, and just linking to this recipe from the other post.

This is how you make homemade face paint.
Is it super healthy? No. It has chemicals in it. It has lotion in it. But... it's cheapskate. And made with things most people already have around the house. And for once in a million years that I am using face paint, yes, I don't mind tremendously using these chemicals which are "officially" safe by FDA standards, even if I wouldn't usually use it.
And if you have chemical free versions of the things below, you can certainly use them instead of the standard ingredients, but that'll up the price.

I've included how to make green face paint, to get a nice alien green (see- I'm already alluding to my next blog post...), but you can use whatever color food colorings you want to make your face paint whatever colors you desire.

Homemade Face Paint Recipe

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie Recipe- Gluten Free, Nightshade Free, Dairy Free

 photo IMG_1695_zps861274fe.jpgLast week, when I was in Kansas City, I was treated to two wonderful suppers- the first which I asked my host to post as a guest post on my blog- sweet potato lentil dal with rice, and the second was a delicious sweet potato shepherd's pie.
I'm back home now and recovering from jeg lag- last night's supper was super simple, but today I cooked a real meal for the first time in nearly 2 weeks- and what I was craving was sweet potato shepherd's pie. I had never had it before last week, but it's definitely going to be something I'll be making more often. It wasn't too much work, and being winter, sweet potatoes are in season and cheap... and I've found ground beef pretty cheaply lately, so altogether this is a relatively frugal meal for us. I looked at the original recipe posted by my host on this blog, but decided to change it up a bit and make it completely nightshade free, and without wine, to cut down the costs, and I am pretty satisfied with how it came out.

Lately, I've discovered that in addition to the super long list of things that make me feel icky, potatoes also have been making me nauseous. I'm hoping this is just a stupid pregnancy thing, because I really really really like potatoes, but even just a little bit makes me so nauseous- so frustrating. But because of that, since shepherd's pie is generally made with mashed potatoes instead of sweet potatoes, this will be what I'll be making. There also are many diets where potatoes are avoided and sweet potatoes allowed, like the Paleo diet, nightshade free diets, etc... so this is a good alternative in those cases as well.

This dish was a hit with my whole family. I hope it will be with yours as well.

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie Recipe- Gluten Free, Nightshade Free, Dairy Free

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What I Brought Back Home From My Trip to the USA

I'm home!!! After a long trip- nearly 13 complete days from when I stepped out the front door until I stepped back in again, I am home from the US.
Bearing goodies!

People asked me what I bought in the US and why those specific things, so I said- why not just make a post about it?
Here is all what I bought:

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Preparing For the Worst

I like to be an optimist, always hoping for the best, because, in my opinion, living life otherwise can be pretty depressing. However, as a frugal person, it is also important to be a realist, and prepare for the worst, because if you don't, you can be caught in a lurch that can create a very expensive situation for yourself.

For example, on my trip to the US (wrapping up in a few minutes- in the airport, preparing to board), I decided to “prepare for the worst” and not even consider flying without getting travelers medical insurance, even though I didn't think I'd likely need it- I mean, after all, I'm a healthy woman, even when pregnant, and I rarely ever go to the doctor. But it worked out very well that I got health insurance, despite my being sure I wouldn't need it- because I did end up visiting the hospital while on my trip, and my preparing for the worst saved me and my family thousands in medical bills.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Difference Between Raw and Toasted Buckwheat

Yesterday, I stayed by my friend, H, who runs a gluten free, dairy free, processed food free household, just as I do. She was proud of herself for making buckwheat granola bars (she didn't use my recipe for buckwheat granola bars, but another, similar one) and she loved the taste, but complained that they really were hard to eat, made her feel like she was breaking her teeth.
I tasted the bars, and immediately felt I knew why they were rock hard.

"Did you use toasted buckwheat, or raw buckwheat?"
"I used raw buckwheat groats."
"Are you sure? Can I see them?"

H showed me the package of buckwheat she used, and sure enough, what she had was toasted buckwheat, not the raw buckwheat that is called for in recipes like buckwheat granola bars. H was surprised- "But I didn't toast these- doesn't buckwheat groats mean they're raw?"

Absolutely not.

This is definitely not the first time I've had friends attempting to make a recipe that called for raw buckwheat, and they used toasted buckwheat, and were very disappointed by the results.

So, here is the difference.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Visit to Whole Foods

Where I live, there are health food stores, but they are small- the largest one is roughly the size of your average Payless store. When I knew I was coming to the US, in addition to visiting Walmart and Target, I wanted to pay a visit to either Whole Foods or Trader Joes, a health food store that is super sized (like everything else in the US ;) ) also for the experience, and also to get a taste of how American health food shoppers shop, to get ideas of pricing and such so I know about how much my American readers end up spending on various health food items.

My hosts in Kansas City took me on a trip to Whole Foods, which has been nicknamed "Whole Paycheck", and now I understand why.

I have to say, it was quite an experience for me- so many options of healthy items in one place- locally, I either can't find what I'm looking for, or have only one option and can't really price compare or even decide which brand I prefer....

The problem with a place like whole foods, though, is that with so many options in front of you, it's very tempting to just browse the aisles and just get what appeals to you, even if you don't need it, because it's good looking, it's not unhealthy, and it's right there in front of you!

Take this shelf of chocolates, for example. Locally all the chocolate is filled with such garbage, and here was a shelf filled with chocolate made with 3-5 ingredients, all not bad. For example, they were pure cacao powder, cocoa butter, and unrefined cane sugar, and then maybe a natural flavoring or two. It is so tempting to want to treat yourself to a bar of chocolate... but at 6 or 7 dollars for a small bar of chocolate, those little treats add up in price very quickly.

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We did end up buying one bar for 3 adults to share- a chili flavored chocolate- and it was out of this world delicious- and unlike most chocolate, I didn't feel sick after eating it.... But this was definitely a one time treat, because it is seriously too expensive to buy even on a semi regular basis.

The Importance of Life Insurance

I must admit that preparing for the future isn't always something I put as a first priority. When money is tight, its easiest to just think about the present and not about possibilities of what may happen, the “what ifs” and all that. Preparing for the future may seem like a luxury that you can't afford if you're too short on cash, and yet, not preparing for the future can be disastrous from a financial perspective.

One of the biggest situations in which this is true is the concept of life insurance. To find out about your options, click here to read more about Life Insurance from Suncorp.

I never really understood how important life insurance could be until a family member was saved from total chaos and poverty because of their forward thinking in getting life insurance.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Guest Post- Crock Pot Lentil and Sweet Potato Daal

 photo IMG_0289_zps452c5e9b.jpgI love how things just seem to work out amazingly sometimes... I've written about certain concerns about how I'd be eating when traveling in the Midwest of the US this week for work, especially since I am on a pretty restricted diet- no gluten, dairy, processed food, soy, eggs, fish, sugar, etc... It definitely isn't easy to be feeding me, but I've connected with 3 of my Facebook friends who are on a very similar diet, and they offered that I stay at their houses while in their city, and it's been really amazing, because I've been able to feel confident that I can eat there without getting sick. It's also given me the opportunity to meet these amazing women.
However, I was going to Kansas City, and I don't really know people here, other than one person, who is completely unfamiliar with a natural foods, gluten free, restricted diet, and she offered to host me, but was a little intimidated by all my food sensitivities, so she set me up with her friend, Daniella Silver, a health coach and blogger, who is on the same page as I am in terms of food sensitivities- they eat gluten free, dairy free, processed food free in their home, a "real food diet", and I've been staying here the past two days, and really been hitting it off with her and her husband... In large part because I don't feel like a kooky crazy hard to feed person here, because they eat so similarly, and live so similarly in general, with a similar outlook on life (cloth diapering, natural parenting, etc...)
Last night for supper, over dinner, we were discussing about blogging, and the husband, Yosef Silver, was telling me about his foodie blog. We were eating a delicious lentil and sweet potato daal, with wild rice, kale chips, and a veggie salad, and I asked him if he'd like to guest blog the recipe for our supper here, because it is definitely up my alley and the alley of the readers here, as it is processed food free, super healthy, and cheap, as well as vegan... And he was happy to, so now I'll hand over the floor to Yosef.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Update On My US Trip- Attitude is Everything

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Chicago Ohare Airport
I've been in the US for nearly 6 days by now, on a work related trip. I've gone through 7 airports so far, 5 flights, and a lot of nights of little or no sleep. I'm not sure whether I'm exhausted or not- ask me in a week when I get home and I'll tell you- but I am having a great time and really enjoying myself.
It's not that this trip has gone perfectly well from the start- there have been snafus and ups and downs, which I'll get to in a minute, but even with all these things that are going wrong, I have no complaints about how things are going, and I'm not letting it ruin my experience- people decide whether they want to have an easy time or hard time, and attitude makes a huge difference in whether or not it'll turn out like that.

Lets start out with the first snafu.
I booked a flight from my home country to NY, leaving on the 8th of January. I, for some reason, assumed that it was an overnight flight, and would only arrive in NY on the 9th of January. So, I booked my ticket from NY to Cleveland on the 9th of January, 6 hours after when I assumed I'd be arriving, since I needed time to travel from JFK to La Guardia airport.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Food For My Trip

Wow, clock is ticking. I am leaving for the airport in less than 2 hours...
My husband always laughs at me that I pack up my whole home when I go way, but in this instance, I feel I am justified. :-D It's icy cold where I'll be flying, and I'll need to be layering clothes in order to stay warm. On top of that, I couldn't just pack to bare minimum- I will be staying at people's homes instead of at hotels, so I bought along nice (and frugal) hostess gifts for each person that will be hosting me. (Post about this to come.)
And in addition to all that, I need to bring food for myself.
Because of my food restrictions- in addition to being gluten, dairy, and egg free, I currently can't eat any sugar, fish, processed foods, and legumes only if properly prepared... and many nuts and seeds either give me bad stomach aches or make me nauseous, or both- eating while traveling will not be so easy. I mean, I am sure with visits to health food stores I would be able to find foods I can eat, but I won't have cooking facilities where I am, nor time or money to be visiting health food stores... I also can't rely on the airplane to provide me with meals, so at the very least, I need to bring enough food to last me on my long flight.
My priorities were focusing on bringing starches that were easily transportable and shelf stable, as well as proteins that were also easily transportable and shelf stable. I tried to do this frugally as well, but when not possible, I spent more money on it...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Going on a Trip!

 photo ustrip_zps4dad9a7e.pngI haven't been to the US, where I was born and grew up, since I moved to this country 7 1/2 years ago. My close family all lives here, and flying to the US is pretty expensive, so I had no reason to spend a fortune flying to the US, though I do miss it and have been somewhat "homesick" for my old town, my old haunts, my old friends, etc...
I am really excited, because I am flying to the US at last- for work, but I will still be able to see old friends and family that I haven't seen in years. It's just me flying on the trip, without my husband, without my kids. It's the first time I'm ever spending a night away from Anneliese in her life... but ever since I knew I was going on this trip (about 2 months ago), I redoubled my efforts at night weaning her, and she is now sleeping through the night, so she should be able to handle my absence...

In some ways, I am super excited for this trip, in other ways very nervous. It's a big thing for me, going on a business trip for the first time (covered by my work, so it's not out of pocket for me)- a lot of pressure to make a good impression, and mentally I'm not completely prepared for it. I've been so busy working out the technical details of the trip, arranging flights, lodging, travel arrangements, and other logistics that only in the past few days was I really able to focus on the mental aspect, what I'll be doing while I'm there, and preparing for it...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Curried Turnips Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free

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Curried Turnips, White Rice, and Apple Chutney
I've mentioned a few times before on my blog that I really am not a fan of the flavor of turnips. Meaning, I don't hate them, but they are so strongly flavored that I feel I need to do something to mask their flavor somewhat when eating them, especially if they are not being included as part of another dish with many other ingredients. Almost all recipes I've seen for turnips involve mashing them (not something that appeals to me, given their strong taste), or putting them as one of many veggies in a soup or a stew. But I am always on the lookout for turnip based dishes that have strong enough flavors that they don't just taste like a whole lot of turnip. Especially when I am able to get turnips really cheaply like I did yesterday.
I've already made turnips into a spicy Korean salad, turn them into pickles, and even have made them into hash browns.
I figured that Indian foods are strongly enough spiced that curried turnips would probably be terrific. And it is! Yes, you still taste the turnip, but it's well balanced by the other flavors...

Curried Turnips Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Homemade Play Dough Recipe- Gluten Free, Chemical Free

 photo IMG_1430_zpsacb1fbb6.jpgThe other day my kids went over to their friend's house and had a fun time playing with play dough, and asked to have play dough at home as well. The thing is- I prefer not to buy play dough since it is usually filled with all sorts of nasty chemicals, and all the homemade recipes I've seen call for wheat flour- something we don't keep in the house due to gluten sensitivity (even small amounts) and for cream of tartar, something I haven't been able to find locally.

Today I came upon this recipe for a homemade play dough that is without gluten or cream of tartar, and it worked pretty well, and is easy to make. I colored mine with natural food colorings and the kids had a great time playing with it.

Homemade Play Dough Recipe- Gluten Free, Chemical Free