Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent Recipe

 photo IMG_1764_zps61d805cf.jpgSince this seems to be the time of my life when I am doing a lot of "confessing", I guess I have another confession to make- despite posting a recipe for homemade liquid laundry detergent 3 years ago on my blog... I haven't used it in nearly that long.
There's a few reasons, but the main one really is that I don't like liquid laundry detergent, and don't feel like it's working as well as powdered detergent.
However, I've tried making powdered laundry detergent in the past, grating the soap, etc... but I ended up taking the wash out and finding little bits of bar soap stuck onto the clothes, so that made me not want to do it...
On top of that, my husband likes scented laundry detergent. I prefer fragrance free, but he doesn't feel clothes smell "clean" if they don't actually smell like perfume....
But I decided I wanted to try giving homemade powdered laundry detergent another try, especially now that I brought back the Downy Unstoppables- a laundry perfuming thing- from my trip to the US.
The clincher was keeping track of my groceries bill to the last detail, and trying to keep it lower and seeing that we were nearly out of laundry detergent. I didn't want to add the large sum of a big thing of laundry detergent to the monthly total, so decided to experiment with making my own.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Frugal Birthday Celebration for Mike and Me

 photo IMG_1746_zpsd7fc9b1d.jpgLast Tuesday, Mike and I celebrated our birthdays- he turned 28, and I, 26. I have mentioned, probably at every birthday, my philosophy of birthday celebrations- I'm very much a believer in them. I think people deserve to be pampered one day a year, minimum, where they can feel special and don't have to feel guilty about doing nice things for themselves. As a frugal housewife, I especially enjoy celebrating my birthday, because, while I do get nice things for my kids and husband here and there, I do feel guilty spending money on myself on "frivolous things", anything other than what I really need... but on my birthday, I do end up being less uptight, and not feel guilty for spending on myself.

Essentially, what ends up happening is my husband and I go on two official dates each year- one for our anniversary, and one on our birthday. And we spend money. But even spending money, we try not to go overboard, and try to pick a more frugal option. Like for our anniversary this past year, we had a romantic picnic date, with fancy homemade foods- much cheaper than a restaurant. And I think last year I bought steaks and other fancy foods that we loved and had them at home while my kids slept over at my mom's house.

This year, though, I am tired. I don't want to cook. I want to be pampered, to not have to work hard to prepare for our date, and clean up after. So I was looking into what frugal date options would be in my general area. Ideally I wanted something that wasn't food based, because I am so limited in what I can eat because of my gazzilion and one food restrictions...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Frugal Accomplishments This Week

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I recently started reading a great blog that is very up my alley, called "The Prudent Homemaker" who lives extremely frugally, but seems to have the same attitude as myself about it (trying to have the best life on as minimal a budget as possible). One thing she does each week is share a round up of what frugal things she did that week. I thought that I'd try doing that on my blog, and see how it goes (after first polling readers on my Facebook page). If I see it gets to repetitious or boring, I'll stop, but for this past week I had a fun time chronicling all that I did that was frugal. I'll try to get it posted each Sunday, latest Monday, with the week counting from Sunday to the following Saturday.

But since I started this thing Sunday, I first have to share what I did last Saturday night, a few hours before starting my "official chronicling"- I gave myself a cute layered shoulder length haircut.

For most of the week, I wrote down specifics of what I did frugally each day, but there were a few things I did all week long, so I'll post them first.

The Cloth Diaper Closet- A Cloth Diaper Lending Program

Do you have a baby, have a little one on the way, or planning on having a kid in the future? You probably are aware that one of the biggest expenses when it comes to babies is diapering. I cloth diaper my kids to save money, and try to use cheaper cloth diapers, such as Econobum One Size Cloth Diapers... But I know that even though cloth diapering is cheaper in the long run, sometimes it is too large of an investment to be able to lay out, especially if you're really short on cash like many of my readers are.
Therefore, when I was contacted and told about the Cloth Diaper Closet, a cloth diaper lending program for low income families, I thought it was a wonderful resource and was happy for Heather to share a little about why she chose to cloth diaper, and a little more about this program, so that hopefully you, too, would be able to benefit.

Hi! My name is Heather. I blog about natural and affordable ways to raise baby at Frugal Green Baby and also run The Cloth Diaper Closet, a lending program for families in need. I'm here today to show you how you can save money cloth diapering as well as help others in need!

A case for Cloth Diapers: The $1600 PooP

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pineapple Rind Drink Recipes- Zobo and Tepache

 photo 13a3075c-920f-4f68-8e9f-b086f1c98b13_zps945ecbef.jpgA few weeks ago I found pineapple really cheaply at the local farmer's market- a special treat because pineapple is usually a fortune. I bought 5 pineapples, and we really enjoyed them!
I had read about many uses of pineapple peels, and decided that I wanted to get the most from my pineapples, and not just eat the flesh, but also take advantage of the goodness the skin can offer me.

There are quite a few drink options that you can make with pineapples, most of them originating in South America or the Caribbean, though there are some African versions as well. What nearly all of them have in common is their being fermented. Chicha de Pina, Guarapo de Pina, and Tepache are all different names for essentially the same thing- you take your pineapple peel (and possibly the core as well), mix it with some sugar (ideally piconcillo or jaggery or some other unrefined sugar) and water and maybe some spices like cinnamon, cloves, or ginger, cover it, and let it ferment for a few days via wild yeasts. This should make a delicious, slightly sweet, fizzy fermented drink.
Unfortunately, I think the pineapples I started with were past prime (hence the cheap pricing) and when I tried making this, despite following the instructions to a tee (including pushing down the skins beneath the water a few times a day), mine molded.

So for my second try, I decided to cheat a bit. I also decided to change things up a bit.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Vegan Cauliflower Based Alfredo Sauce Recipe- Easy, Allergy Friendly and Delicious!

 photo IMG_1791_zps928340e6.jpgRecently I've seen this recipe pop up all over the internet- making a vegan, allergy friendly alfredo sauce from cauliflower, and it looked really good. I have to say that while the recipe looked very tempting- with cauliflower in season now, it can be purchased pretty cheaply, and it has no expensive or allergenic ingredients, etc...- I was very skeptical about it. Ok, cauliflower is white, fine. But other than that? It has a very distinct taste- there's no way on earth you can make cauliflower taste like cheese...
But... I'd been really craving fetuccine alfredo lately, and didn't want to use any purchased dairy free milks, or spend a fortune on cashews, and I honestly don't have the energy to make my own dairy free milks now with which to make the alfredo sauce. And when I saw cauliflower being sold incredibly cheaply at the farmer's market's reduced rack stand yesterday, I decided that I'd try this recipe out. Worst comes to worst- I'd have some cauliflower flavored pasta, and I do enjoy the flavor of cauliflower.

Because I assumed it would be pretty bland and tasteless, I increased the garlic in the recipe... Wasn't necessary. I mean- the extra garlic makes it pretty awesome, but surprisingly, this dish tastes very cheesy, and exactly like I think fettuccine alfredo is supposed to taste, even without any "cheesy" ingredients.
I highly recommend it.
Once I had the base recipe, I played around with it a little more, adding some other ingredients I like in my fetuccini alfredo, and they made it even more perfect, but you can leave them out and still have a terrific dish.
The one down side of this dish is that it doesn't really have protein, so you'd need to serve another protein with this meal.

But this is definitely a great way to get veggies into "veggie skeptics"!

If you're grain free/paleo/GAPS, you can serve this alfredo sauce over homemade zucchini noodles. I am also sure it would taste terrific over chicken (I'm thinking pan fried chicken breast).

In short, I think this recipe is perfect for everyone- from allergic people, to lazy people, to veggie haters, to vegans, to extreme frugalistas, to Paleo/Primal people, etc... Pretty much the only people who its probably not good for are people who have to stay away from cruciferous veggies...

PS. I used fresh cauliflower for this, but I am sure you can also use frozen cauliflower for it, but adjust the seasonings and liquid as needed, as frozen cauliflower is often waterlogged.

Vegan Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce Recipe- Easy, Allergy Friendly and Delicious!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Homemade Gluten Free Pumpernickel Bread Recipe- Sugar Free, Including Vegan Option

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Mock pumpernickel with Nordic style fixings
After seeing a friend of mine post a recipe for homemade gravlax (a Nordic cured salmon dish) I really wanted to try it out, so decided that for my birthday I'd treat myself to a small piece of salmon and make gravlax.
In researching how to make it (I don't think I'll be posting a recipe, since it's not exactly a cheap dish, and I only did it once and didn't measure it out, and don't plan on making it any time in the near future), I read that it's often eaten with pumpernickel or rye bread, cream cheese, and dilly cucumbers, and therefore decided to serve a similar style dish.
Only I didn't know how I'd make a gluten free pumpernickel or rye bread. I researched how to make pumpernickel bread, and recipes called for the addition of molasses, carraway seeds, and some cocoa powder, so I decided to try playing around with my gluten free vegan French bread recipe, adding those three, and seeing how it came out.
The results were very yummy. I can't say it tastes exactly like pumpernickel bread, since its been years since I had any, but it was great! There was something about it that reminded me of rye bread also. Either way, it's a great recipe, and tasted terrific topped with my homemade tofu based cream cheese, cucumber slices, gravlax, and dill...

Homemade Gluten Free Pumpernickel Bread Recipe- Sugar Free, Including Vegan Option

Monday, February 17, 2014

I Am Not Superwoman

Being "out there" on the web, sharing a lot about what I do, and how I live my life, as well as meal ideas and frugal strategies comes with its down sides.
One of them is this notion that people have of me, that I'm some sort of Superwoman. If I had a 10 dollars for every time I was called Superwoman (or Supermom, or some other variation)... Can't say I'd be rich exactly, but my financial situation would be vastly improved... I get called that at least a few times a week.
And I really, really don't like it.
You may wonder why. Do I have a hard time accepting compliments?
The answer is no.
It's really not that.
I don't mind accepting compliments that are true. (I used to have a hard time with that, but I've learned to accept compliments.)
It's just that I am not Superwoman, and compliments like that, which aren't true irritate me. A lot.

I was doing some introspection about why exactly it bothers me so much when people view me as a Superwoman...

There's a few reasons why it bothers me.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Orange or Tangerine or Clementine Citronette Recipe- Citrus Salad Dressing, Sugar Free

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On Wednesday, I went to the farmer's market, and got myself a bunch of produce for very little money from the "reduced rack store". As I explained in my previous post on that store, I tell him how much money I'm willing to spend, and he fills bags for me, depending on what he wants to get rid of.
He gave no tomatoes or cucumbers- the base of many of my salads, however he gave a lot of citrus fruit, and I bought pomegranates from another store that sells cheap past prime produce...
Though I didn't have the typical "salad veggies", I decided that I'd be making salad anyhow, using what I had. I used pigweed, also known as goosefoot, a wild green, for the base of my salad instead of lettuce or spinach, and topped it with clementines and grapefruits and pomegranate seeds. I knew this type of salad would be best with something citrusy, and since I had many clementines, decided to make a celementine based citronette- like a vinaigrette, only made with citrus fruit instead of vinegar.
It came out amazingly well. The dressing is sweet and sour and flavorful- perfect for a leafy, fruity salad like this!
You can make this dressing with tangerine or orange juice instead of clementine juice if that's cheaper/ more easily available to you- just note that clementines are a bit sweeter than some oranges and/or tangerines, so taste your dressing- you might want to add a drop of a healthy (or cheap) sweetener to it, which was totally unnecessary when I made this with clementines.
(If you don't add any sweetener, and use a GAPS legal mustard, this recipe is GAPS legal.)

Orange or Tangerine or Clementine Citronette Recipe- Citrus Salad Dressing, Sugar Free

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Date Sweetened Buckwheat Spice Cookies Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan

 photo IMG_1760_zps62b6994e.jpgI am always on the lookout for cheap desserts that I can serve my family, that don't contain refined sugar. The problem is that refined sugar is so much cheaper than non refined sugars, that desserts made with the healthier sweeteners usually end up being so expensive to make... so I rarely feel justified in making them. Dried dates, and specifically date puree (pure blended up dates, minus the pits) are the cheapest natural sweeteners available in my area, and though I use them to make larabars, once you add in the cost of the nuts, they're not so cheap anymore...
But I wondered- could I maybe use pureed dates to sweeten cookies? Would it work? I googled a bit and found some recipes that used pureed dates as a sweetener, so decided to experiment a bit with it.
I ended up with this yummy recipe for spice cookies made with raw buckwheat flour (made from green buckwheat, not toasted buckwheat), no xanthan gum, and no additional sweeteners other than the dates. I'll be honest- these aren't the sweetest cookies ever, so if you're expecting sugar cookies, you'll be disappointed. They're sweet, but mildly so- enough to satisfy a craving for sweet for someone like myself whose cut back on the amount of sweeteners in my day to day life. I'm sure you could make it sweeter by increasing the amount of dates in it, or decreasing the amount of flour, but I'm happy with how these cookies are at the moment.
I used spices that I like in the cookies- feel free to play around with the spices used, maybe using pumpkin pie spice mix, or even subbing the spices for cocoa powder. This is a good base to work with to create many different types of cookies.
If you don't need to be gluten free, I am pretty sure this recipe would work well with wheat flour, whole wheat flour, or spelt- just replace the raw buckwheat flour with that, and enjoy! It probably also would work well with an all purpose gluten free flour mix.

Date Sweetened Buckwheat Spice Cookies Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Swiss Chard with Spicy Peanut Sauce Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Easy

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Last week when I was in the farmer's market, I saw so many stalls selling beautiful swiss chard bunches. It is one of my favorite greens, and it's super healthy as well, so I decided to buy a bunch. It's been sitting in my fridge since then, in perfect condition, but I knew that very soon it would start wilting and be icky, and that would be a terrible waste of some perfectly good chard, so decided to cook it up for lunch today.

I had come across a recipe for Swiss chard spring rolls in a spicy peanut sauce and it sounded terrific, but I didn't want to make spring rolls- too much work- right now I'm in a very lazy mood when it comes to food prep, but I figured I'd just use the filling on its own as a side dish, with some changes to keep it more frugal.

Definitely delicious- I'll be making this one again!

Swiss Chard with Spicy Peanut Sauce Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Easy

Monday, February 10, 2014

Curried Carrot and Red Lentil Soup Recipe- Vegan, GAPS Legal

 photo IMG_1727_zps2985240a.jpgOn cold, wintry days, nothing is more appealing to me than a big bowl of steaming hot and hearty soup. Lentil soup not only is warm and delicious, it is super frugal as well (especially if you wait to stock up on lentils until they're on sale, which lowers the price even more). I came across this recipe last week and tweaked it to my liking, and ended up with a super scrumptious soup that really hits the spot!

This recipe is good for so many diets- from vegan/vegetarian diets, to gluten and grain free diets, and it even is GAPS/SCD legal, and as previously mentioned, it's gluten free. I also soaked my lentils overnight beforehand in a way that reduces the amount of phytic acid and makes it more digestible, so I've included instructions as to how to do that if you're interested...
I highly suggest you try this recipe out- hopefully you'll love it as much as I do!

Curried Carrot and Red Lentil Soup Recipe- Vegan, GAPS Legal

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Frugal Hostess Gifts

 photo IMG_1463_zps1cf81923.jpg When I was in the US last month on a work related trip, I was on a pretty tight budget. One of the biggest ways I saved money on my trip was by not staying at hotels or going to (many) restaurants, and instead, eating and sleeping at friends' houses (and the occasional stranger that my work contact set me up with) while there.

I live in a community where people gladly host people all the time, to sleep over and for meals, without expecting a hostess gift in return. Sometimes, guests will offer to bring something, but if they don't, we don't think they're rude- we host because we want to do good deeds and help people out, not because we expect or want anything in return. And when we do go out  in my community, like to a dinner at someone's house, the standard "hostess gift" is to offer to bring a dish to contribute to the meal, and even that is generally offered in advance, and many hostesses will turn down the offer.
So yes, hostess gifts aren't a big deal to me.

However, I don't want to be a rude guest, and I know customs vary from community to community, and I definitely wanted to show my hosts that I really appreciated the efforts they made to host me. I knew I definitely needed to bring hostess gifts with me.

At the same time, I was on a tight budget, and had limited space with me to bring hostess gifts. So I was trying to figure out what nice hostess gift I could give that wouldn't cost me too much money, but would be appreciated. I couldn't bring any delicious home cooked foods, like a plate of cookies... But was at a loss...

Facebook to the rescue.
When I posted on Facebook, looking for ideas of what to give for hostess gifts that would be nice, would be appreciated, and wouldn't break the bank, nearly all of them had the same thought- give them homemade, specialty, "artisan" soaps. Because while making soap doesn't cost me too much money, it is worth a lot more, if I compare it to other homemade artisan soaps sold by crafters, etc... And they are compact and don't take up too much room in a suitcase.

I decided to give gift baskets, filled with 2 different types of artisan soaps, as well as a bottle of hand cream made with a specialty local ingredient that can be bought relatively cheaply here, but is expensive and hard to find in the US. A friend even directed me to a shop that sold these at the lowest cost.


Have you heard of the show Extreme Cheapskates on TLC? Its a show where people who live on a super tight budget get filmed and get to show their frugal hacks to the many viewers of the show.
Since many people reading my blog are extreme cheapskates like myself, I thought it would be cool if some of you would go on the show, show the world how it's done, and inspire people to live within their means, no matter how small those means may be. 
Therefore, I was really excited to hear that Extreme Cheapskates is now looking for people to go on their show!

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Are you the thriftiest person you know? Will you go to ANY lengths to save a buck? Do you drive your friends and family crazy with your penny-pinching ways? If so, we want to hear from you!

 TLC is currently casting its third season of the hit show Extreme Cheapskates and is seeking singles, couples and families who love and celebrate the cheap life. If interested, please send the following information to

-Email address
-A few paragraphs about your lifestyle and the most creative ways you save money

Good luck! Go ahead and inspire the masses!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Homemade Shawarma Spice Mix Recipe and Creative Ideas How To Use It

I find it amusing when someone credits me for inspiring them to do something, and in turn, what I "inspired them to do" ends up inspiring me to do things I'd never thought of doing before.
Take this, for example.
Until my friend, Sara, became friends with me, she had never made or served lentils before, but after seeing how often they appeared on my family's meal plan, she started making them weekly, and its one of her kids' favorite foods. How does she make it- I wanted to know. With shawarma spice mix, she says. Hmmmm. Interesting. That is something I never would have thought of trying...
Shawarma is a Middle Eastern dish, originating in Turkey, in which lamb, beef, turkey, or chicken are grilled/roasted on a spit, with a delicious spice mix, and then shaved off into little bits, and then typically served in a pita or other flatbread, together with humus, tahini, vegetable salads, pickles, French fries, etc... You can make your own shawarma at home just by cooking small pieces of meat with this seasoning mix, etc...
However, I always associated the spice mix purely with meat- it never even occurred to me to put it on other things, like lentils, etc...
After my friend, Sara, told me about how much her kids loved lentils that way, I decided to give it a try. I fried up some onions until they were caramelized, mixed them with cooked green lentils, and seasoned them with lots of my homemade shawarma mix. It was delicious- one of the best lentil recipes I ever had.
Best part about it- my kids, who aren't typically lentil fans, really liked it as well!
After that, I started experimenting more and more with my shawarma spice mix- it also tastes great on veggies, like butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, etc... as well as on fish, and has many other great uses as well. I haven't made a dish seasoned with shawarma spice mix that I didn't like.

So... How do you make your own shawarma spice mix?
Very easily!
I have a coffee grinder, so I just used the whole spices... but if you don't have a coffee grinder, feel free to just use the already ground spices, adjusting the spice mix as necessary (ground spices are more concentrated than whole spices, so use a little less than the listed amount).

Homemade Shawarma Spice Mix Recipe

Monday, February 3, 2014

The "Burnt Store"- Shopping Cheaply at Salvage Stores and an Important Frugal Lesson

 photo IMG_1722_zps7ad1c8a3.jpgToday, I went to a store my sister, Violet, had told me about already for years... It's not so close by- took over an hour each way to get there (2 buses and a train each way)- which is why I haven't made it there until today... But I had heard wonderful things about it.

This store is called "The Burnt", so I always assumed it was called that because items in that store had come from stores that burnt down, and therefore the items were cheaper, but that's not the case... I have no idea why it's called that, however...

I'd first heard of this store when my Violet, who was shopping there, called me up and asked me if I wanted her to buy me a bunch of bottles of apple cider vinegar- since she saw it being sold for $1.60 a bottle, when it usually costs $3.45 a bottle locally. Of course I told her yes, and that's what I'd been using for apple cider vinegar for a few months- and once I ran out, it hurt to pay full price for it once again. (I use apple cider vinegar in most recipes that call for vinegar, as I don't use synthetic vinegar, wine vinegar is more expensive and too strong of a flavor, and rice vinegar is also much more expensive than apple cider vinegar. I use kombucha vinegar sometimes though.)
So I decided to make a trek there, to hopefully get more cheap apple cider vinegar, among other things. Only Violet told me it wouldn't be so simple. There was a good chance that I wouldn't find any apple cider vinegar there, good price or not.

This store is a "scratch and dent" type store, aka a "discount and salvage" grocery store. What that means is- lets say you have a store or a factory, and some of your products get their packaging ruined. Or they're nearing their expiration date. Or you have overstocks on a certain item. Most people won't want to buy them- people are "shallow" generally, in that they like pretty things, pretty boxes, and pretty packaging, even if the item inside is exactly the same.
If your boxes of Oreos got banged up, so they no longer have crisp edges and corners, or your cans get wet and the labels ruined, what do you do with them? You can't put them on the shelves in the grocery store- people won't buy them. No, you pass them on to a "Scratch and dent" or "discount and salvage" type store, who sells them for rock bottom prices because they aren't visually appealing.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Homemade Restaurant Style Sesame Chicken Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free, Refined Sugar Free

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Something I sometimes find challenging on this super strict diet of mine is that I can't really go out to a restaurant and get "restaurant food". So when I figure out how to make a standard "restaurant staple" that suits my dietary needs, and isn't too expensive, I get really excited.

Sesame chicken is one of those really delicious restaurant meals that can make me drool, but it nearly always is made with wheat, egg, and sugar- three ingredients I can't eat without getting sick, but fortunately this homemade recipe is just so good, even without any of those- I am sure even those not on a special diet will enjoy this recipe.

I've included alternatives for people who aren't gluten free and even for vegans below.

Homemade Restaurant Style Sesame Chicken Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free, Refined Sugar Free

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free Baked Ziti Recipe with Homemade Hazelnut Ricotta Cheese

 photo IMG_1714_zps4c491425.jpgThe other day, my family was invited to a party. And were told in advance that there probably wouldn't be anything at the party that we could eat- since it would be a pizza party with baked ziti, cakes, cookies, and a few salads... and that even though they couldn't provide a gluten free alternative for us, they still wanted us to come, and asked if maybe we could bring a gluten free, dairy free version for ourselves.
So, of course, I did that. Made gluten free pizza (came out terrific) as I've done many times before... but baked ziti was going to be a little more tricky. You see, I had never made gluten free, dairy free baked ziti before. And when searching for recipes online for it, almost all the recipes called for a vegan ricotta cheese made out of tofu... and the few that didn't, called for cheeses made with a nutritional yeast base. I'm currently out of nutritional yeast, and try to avoid soy if I can help it, so those recipes didn't help me.
What I did have was a package of Daiya brand vegan and soy free meltable cheese that I brought back from the US- but I don't have so much of it (only 4 packages total) so didn't want to use it all up just on the ziti. And I also had some hazelnuts...
I read a reference on a site to a homemade hazelnut ricotta cheese (which used nutritional yeast, but I decided I'd make mine without) and decided to use a combo of the daiya and hazelnut ricotta for my baked ziti. (I ended up using half the package of Daiya for the ziti, and the other half for my pizza.) It tasted terrific and was a big hit! Definitely making this again!

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free Baked Ziti Recipe with Homemade Hazelnut Ricotta Cheese