Friday, May 30, 2014

Homemade Sweet Pickle Relish Recipe- Vegan and Refined Sugar Free

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I over-processed my cucumbers in this pic-
 leave the pieces larger!
I'm on a cucumber streak now, if you haven't noticed. They're in season here, and I can get them in large quantities for super cheap. Here's how I make sweet pickle relish out of cucumbers- the good thing about this is this can be made with past prime cucumbers that are already wilting, but then they'll last a long while. You can either use this relish as a condiment on its own (I love it on my hot dogs), or you can mix it with mayonnaise to make tartar sauce.
I make mine refined sugar free.
This can be canned, or you can keep it in the fridge for a long, long time- the vinegar in it keeps it from spoiling.
This recipe will make quite a lot of relish- feel free to halve or quarter it to make a smaller batch.

Homemade Sweet Pickle Relish Recipe- Vegan and Refined Sugar Free

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Stir Fried Cucumber Recipe- Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Vegan, and Delicious

 photo IMG_0133_zpsf2nmer7o.jpgI had a lot of cucumbers that I got for free, thankfully, and while I love cucumbers in salads and in chilled soups, I like variety, and don't like eating the same dish over and over, no matter how tasty it is. So I was looking for a cooked cucumber dish (I knew I could cook cucumbers ever since I made herbed baked cucumbers).
My friend Robin suggested that I make stir fried cucumbers. I found a few different recipes for that, and this is how I combined them all and added my own unique twist. They taste pretty amazing- I think cucumbers and soy sauce are absolutely a winning combination- and are terrific both hot and cold. Taste and texture-wise, they are pretty similar to "al-dente"-ly (is that even a word? lol) stir fried zucchini when you cook it this way- soft, but with a bit of bite, without the bitterness you sometimes find in cucumbers.
My cucumbers have small seeds in them, without the big gelatinous seedy that you find often in American cucumbers, so I don't take out the seeds, but if your cukes are the standard American cukes, you might want to scoop out the seeded texture before cooking them this way.

Stir Fried Cucumber Recipe- Gluten Free, Sugar Free, and Delicious

Electric Heating to Lower Costs

Brought to you by My Electric Radiators.

Most of us are all feeling the strain on our wallets when in comes to heating and lighting our homes. Anyone that keeps up to date with the UK energy news will be only too aware of the implications it is causing. It was announced only last week that E.on, one of the so-called 'big six' energy firms had mis-sold energy tariffs to customers, often switching a customer to a worse plan than they were previously on with another competitor. With the large energy firms at the helm of it all, it's crystal clear that there is an outcry for a new solution.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Breakdown Of Grocery Expenditures This Month, and Analysis

With preparing for giving birth, giving birth, etc... I stopped keeping track of my grocery expenses meticulously like I was doing a few months ago... but decided to start tracking again. I started my month on the 23rd of April, continued it until the 22nd of May. Why from the 23rd? Because that's when I decided to start keeping track, and I knew if I waited till the beginning of the month, I'd likely forget. No better time than the present to start something is my motto, so that's why my "month" isn't the conventional month.

I have to say I got a little bit of "sticker shock" when I added up the totals from my grocery shopping this month. The first month I started keeping track of my grocery expenses and their breakdown- October-November 2013, we spent $433 on groceries for the month, and I was hoping to get it lower than that- but the next month it went up to $480. This month, the total for our groceries was... wait for it... $619! Yikes!
I must admit though, that part of the reason why it was so high was that it was the first month I started actually stocking up on staples post birth- my house was soooo empty before I did my first shop of the month, so I ended up spending more on that than I'd typically spend on groceries. And, as you'll see, I bought some stuff in bulk this month, which will last me a good few months at least, if not more, so all in all, it'll probably average out to much less per month. On top of that, some of what I bought (some of the cheeses) were for a special one time event, so that also upped the price.
But... That doesn't mean that there aren't any things we spent on that were a waste, that we'll try to change for the future.
In fact, after I added up the grocery total, and the breakdown on money spent in each category, Mike and I sat down together and evaluated what we spent on, what we were happy with, what we weren't happy with, and discussed strategies on what we plan on changing in the future, etc... and, of course, I'll be sharing that with you.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

This Memorial Day I want to give thanks to all the soldiers who fought and especially those who gave their lives for the US of A. Notable among these is my dad, who served both in Iraq and in Kuwait, as part of the Stryker Brigade for the US Military, saw many of his friends die, and my dad returned home with a permanent shoulder injury from being thrown around in a moving vehicle while treating patients under fire. Thanks Dad and everyone else who puts their lives on the line to keep us safe.

~ ~ ~

This past week was pretty good in terms of frugality. I specifically did not go grocery shopping at the farmer's market, to try to stretch my produce that I bought 2 weeks ago as long as possible. I just picked up onions, carrots, and radishes to pull us through the week, and we succeeded. I had to get a little creative with my cooking, but I managed. I also did a decent amount of foraging to make our produce last.
We used very few diapers for Anneliese this past week, as she's been better about potty training, and wearing underwear more and more often, though still not all the time. And, still, Rose is fully cloth diapered, exclusively nursed, and we haven't used the dryer once.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cream of Fennel and Potato Soup Recipe- Dairy Free

You have no idea how annoying it was- I had typed up a recipe to post today, included all the pictures and a whole long write up... and then as I'm about to publish it, I realize I forgot to include the main ingredient, and its quantity, into the recipe... so, so much for posting that recipe today- I'll need to make that recipe again, and then see how much of the main ingredient I put in it, before I can post it.
So instead, since I really wanted to get a blog post up, I'll share this recipe I had in my archives waiting to be posted... even though I can't find the picture to go with it. But let me just explain to you how it looks, so you can picture it in your mind's eye- an offwhite creamy, velvety, and smooth soup.

Cream of Fennel and Potato Soup Recipe- Dairy Free

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Indian Lemon Rice Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan

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Lemon rice with curried peas, red lentil dal,
 sauted and steamed carrots, and sliced radishes
One day I wanted to make something with rice, but wasn't in the mood for plain old boring white rice. The idea for lemon rice popped into my head, so I looked on google to see if such a thing existed, and discovered that lemon rice is an actual dish, part of Indian cuisine. From there, I searched the internet and found many various versions of lemon rice, each unique in their own way, but nearly all called for curry leaves, which I do not have. So, I put together a bit from this recipe and a bit from that, and came up with this finalized version of Indian lemon rice that does not contain any hard to find ingredients. It typically is spicy, but you can use as much spice as you like and make it bland if desired, or fiery if that is what you prefer.
It's also the perfect thing to do to repurpose leftover rice.

Indian Lemon Rice Recipe

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Roasted Garlic and Lentil Spread Recipe- Vegan, Sugar Free, GAPS Legal

I got a 10 lb bag of green lentils from a friend of mine who didn't know what to do with it, and she figured I would make good use of it. I definitely am, and have been trying to come up with different and varied lentil recipes, since there are only so many times I want to be eating lentils and rice before I get sick of it.
Yesterday, I made lentils stuffed into hollyhock leaves that I foraged, and I had a lot of leftover cooked lentils from that. I decided to try to make a lentil based spread out of those lentils, and figured that it would probably pair very well with roasted garlic. Roasted garlic is not only super flavorful, it also is creamy, which pairs very well with legumes like lentils, since I find the most off putting aspect of lentils its mealiness (which feels "dry" in your mouth), which you can't notice when paired with something creamy. (Also acidic things paired with lentils make you not notice their texture quite so much, I've found.)
I also added a decent amount of oil to it, which helps it be smooth and creamy- I'm not really concerned about fattiness or whatever, since I don't think fat is unhealthy- just use the oil you consider to be healthiest to keep this healthy.

Use this as a dipping "sauce" for vegetables, or as a spread on crackers or bread. Or just eat it by the spoonful, since it is yummy enough for that. Pictured above is the spread as an open faced sandwich on my gluten free flat bread, together with foraged lambsquarters, tomatoes, and onions. Delish!

Roasted Garlic and Lentil Spread Recipe- Vegan, Sugar Free, GAPS Legal

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How To Get The Most Use Out of a Lot of Past Prime Produce

When people saw how much produce I bought last week, most of them were probably thinking to themselves "What on earth will Penny do with that much produce before it goes bad, especially since it is past prime?" So I figured I'd tell you what I did with it all...
But this post is really more general. While it is inspired by what I did with all my 122 lbs of past prime cheapo produce that I bought last week, hopefully it'll also be useful for anyone who is interested in buying past prime produce but not letting it spoil and go to waste, or for people who are interested in buying cases of produce from the farmer's market/wholesale for much cheaper than their going rate, but want to know how to use them up in the best way possible.

Venice Family Vacation on a Budget

This post is brought to you by one of our partners.

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If you intend to tour this city while on a tight budget, here are tips on how you can shave off some costs.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

This past week I had a super frugal week, doing things that will not just have saved money this past week, but also will carry over and help me save money in the coming weeks. This week left me relatively exhausted in a good way, but also on a high, feeling proud of myself for my frugal accomplishments
On diapering related matters- we're kind of stepping up the potty training a little bit, since I got Anneliese cute new underwear that she likes and wants to wear, so we're using fewer disposable diapers for her. And of course, Rose is still exclusively cloth diapered and exclusively nursing, so she isn't costing us a thing, fortunately.

Here's what I did to save money this week:

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Homemade Bibimbap Recipe and Technique- With Vegetarian, Vegan, Egg Free, Paleo, and GAPS Options

Bibimbap. What a fun name for a food! Whenever I say it, I feel like bursting out in song. It took me a while to realize that bibimbap is a real name of a delicious food, meaning mixed rice. A Korean meal that has quickly made it well onto my list of favorites.
What exactly is bibimbap, you ask? It is a prettily plated mixed dish, typically with rice, a few types of vegetables, each prepared separately, and maybe a protein or two. Typically it is topped with a fried egg and a sauce, usually a hot sauce, but I leave out the egg because I don't find it necessary, and I am sensitive to eggs.
The reason I like bibimbap is because it is very versatile. It tastes great, but can be made pretty much with whatever you have in hand, and therefore can be made to suit whatever diet you're following, pretty much. Even the rice can be replaced with some other grain, like quinoa, or even by cauliflower "rice". Now that I'm trying to increase the amount of veggies I am eating, and cutting back on the amount of grains, I find that bibimbap can help me get all those veggies in, feel satiated, and truly enjoy my meal. And it's also the perfect way to use leftovers.

I served bibimbap at a meal recently where we have a guest who is a pretty picky eater. The beauty of bibimbap is that I was able to serve her just what she liked, while everyone else got to enjoy all the other parts of the dish. This is a perfect dish for picky eaters or for families where everyone has different dietary preferences.

So, while I'm sure everyone wants me to include an official specific recipe... I'm not really going to do that. Because the beauty in bibimbap is that you don't need to follow a specific recipe, and it'll still be awesome.

Here's two pics of different meals of bibimbap that I made, just to give you examples of how your bibimbap can be varied.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Korean Cucumber Salad Recipe- Oi Sangchae or Oi Muchim- Refined Sugar Free Option

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I love cucumbers- they are so versatile as an ingredient! They can be eaten plain, in a greens salad, made into dill pickles, sliced up and mixed with yogurt to make an Indian raita or Greek/Turkish tzatziki, in gazpacho, or even cooked like in this baked herbed cucumber recipe. But I have to admit, my favorite way to use cucumbers is in Asian inspired dishes, like this cold Korean cucumber soup called oi naengguk. It is out of this world. And Asian cucumber salad is terrific- I don't usually use an exact recipe- I tend to just throw together a bit of soy sauce, sweetener, lemon juice or vinegar, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and an allium family member (onion, garlic, scallions), etc... and call it a day. But since I know some people prefer more precise recipes, here's how you make oi sangchae or oi muchim (not really sure what the difference between the two of them are- they seem to be exactly the same thing)- a Korean seasoned cucumber salad. Spicy and delicious and perfect for a hot summer day. Also perfect as a component for bibimbap, a delicious Korean dish that I'll be sharing the recipe for soon, hopefully on Sunday.
This recipe can easily be made GAPS and Paleo legal or vegan.

Korean Cucumber Salad Recipe- Oi Sangchae or Oi Muchim

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Delicious Curried Peas Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free

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It's past my bedtime, but I didn't want to leave you without a post for today. So, without preamble, here's a yummy curried pea recipe I invented myself when I decided to make an Indian meal for myself and a friend but didn't really have much variety by way of veggies with which to work, but I did have peas. The recipe came out delicious. Hope you like it as much as I did. It is vegan, gluten free, dairy free, grain free, sugar free, GAPS legal, etc...

Delicious Curried Peas Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Awesome Haul of Free Swaps From A Book Swap

 photo IMG_0236_zpsb1ac758b.jpgI just got home a few minutes ago from a book swap.
I love reading. Books are expensive to buy locally. English books are even more expensive. Even second hand books aren't cheap here, especially at the rate at which I devour books.
And the libraries here aren't free, and don't have such a large selection of English books.
That's why I love that some people in my area started making book swaps.

For a book swap, people bring all the books they no longer want, set them out on a table and people see what others brought, and take what appeals to them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Whole Lot of Food- A Little Bit of Money

Today I went to the city to do my shopping for groceries. I could have possibly waited a day or two longer to go shopping, but my produce was running low, and since I am trying to cut back on the amount of grains I am eating, I wanted to be able to have a decent selection of produce to pick from for my meals, so decided to go already. It was 8 days since my last produce shopping trip at the farmer's market, and I was trying to see how long I could stretch the produce I got then which cost me $25. I think making that last 8 days is not bad, especially with how much produce we eat.

This is the result of my shop. Any idea how much it cost me?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

I had a great frugal week this week. I am proud of myself for what I did to save money. :-D I had a bit of a task to try to figure out how to serve more weight loss friendly, less grain heavy meals, healthier eating, etc... without spending a lot. I think I did a good job.
Things that are general, and not daily frugal things:
Rose is still 100% in cloth diapers. Anneliese, we ran out of disposable diapers for her, so she was in cloth diapers until I bought new. In case you're wondering why we use disposable at all for her- she really uses so few diapers a day (since we're partially potty training) that paying for disposables isn't costing so much, so I'd rather not have to deal with her poops in cloth diapers if I can use disposables. It probably takes us more than a month to go through a package of diapers for her, so its not a big deal.
I am extra pleased with myself that we did not use the dryer at all this week, despite having lots of laundry to do and it raining a few days.

Here's what we did to save money this week:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Homemade Gluten Free Flat Bread Recipe II- Vegan, Yeast Free, Cheap, Versatile

Homemade cream cheese sandwich on yeast free flat bread
I posted my gluten free flat bread recipe a few years ago, and I still use that as a base for most of my flat breads, but I've since adjusted how I make it, mainly to make it cheaper, but also to make it healthier. In addition to that, this morning I wanted to make flat bread to use to make sandwiches for my kids, but couldn't find the yeast anywhere so I experimented and made this with baking powder instead of yeast and it worked beautifully, so I've decided to share that option here, since I know there are many people who avoid yeast as well...
I either cut these up into squares (or triangles) to use for sandwiches or into rectangles which I use to make wraps, like in place of hot dog buns... The recipe is pretty flexible- I tend to not even measure the last 4 ingredients exactly at all- just throw it all together, and it works perfectly.

This makes 2 smaller trays of flat bread or 1 big and thicker one.

You can also make these into smaller circular shaped flat breads, as alternative to pitas. When I do that, I spread them with a light brushing of olive oil, and then spread them with zaatar spice mix before baking. This also works as a crust for pizza- just bake it first, then add the sauce and toppings.

Gluten Free Flat Bread Recipe II- Vegan, Yeast Free, Cheap

Sauted and Steamed Carrots Recipe- Super Delicious and Easy

My lunch the other day- Creole spiced fish, sauted and steamed carrots,
steamed zucchini with tahini sauce, and Asian inspired cucumber salad
Carrots are one of those vegetables that I can almost always get cheap year round, and when I can't get them cheap, I get them super cheap. While carrot sticks are yummy as is, my kids aren't the biggest fan of them, and they don't feel very "meal like".
This is a recipe I recently figured out to make carrots, and they are definitely delicious. My kids love them, my husband enjoys them, and this method of preparing them makes the sugars carmelize somewhat, so they are sweet enough to satisfy my cravings for sweet, without needing to have added sugar. I've been serving this pretty often- sending it with my boys for lunch, using it as my "carb" portion of my meal now that I'm trying to cut back on my grains, and using it as a component in more complex dishes, such as bibimbap (a Korean dish I'll share in the future).
It's pretty simple and easy to make, with very minimal ingredients, but tastes great. I figured I needed to post it as a recipe here on my blog. It's actually more a cooking method than an actual recipe, but whatever.

Sauted and Steamed Carrots Recipe- Super Delicious and Easy

How to Achieve an Extravagant Family Vacation without Spending a Lot

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An extravagant family holiday on a budget might sound a bit too good to be true, but it doesn't have to be. If you are savvy about the choices you make, you are going to be able to enjoy some impressive savings. The reality is that most holidaymakers squander money on luxurious holidays because they are paying far more than they need to for this extra bit of comfort.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Getting Into Shape... Hopefully

My healthy, delicious, "diet" friendly breakfast this morning.
My baby is 6.5 weeks old, and I decided I want to start getting into shape.
Yes, I know round is a shape. :-D
But I weigh more than I'd like to. A lot more than I'd like to. No, I won't share the exact number...
And yes, I know that I need to take care of myself nutritionally, and that I shouldn't detox or do any drastic dietary changes while nursing, especially not while nursing 2 kids.
But at the same time, I don't want to be gaining weight like I have been since I gave birth, and ideally would like to shed those pounds, and if possible the weight I gained during pregnancy...

Now why am I posting it here?

Because I am doing it in a hopefully frugal way. And because I know that when I post my goals somewhere publicly, it encourages me to stick to it and not slack off after a day or two.

So, here's my plan. It's intended to not deprive myself nutritionally one bit, to not leave me hungry, but still to hopefully lose weight and get into shape.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

I had a long day, I'm exhausted, so I'll keep this intro short, and I'm not going to elaborate much on the notes I took all week. I had a pretty good and frugal week. General frugal stuff we did- laundry was all line dried, Rose was exclusively cloth diapered...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cold Beet Borscht Recipe- Dairy Free, Vegan Option, Refined Sugar Free Option

Beets are cheap now. And they're healthy. So I like to make beet dishes now when I can. This chilled beet borsht recipe is one I kind of made up myself, based on different recipes I read. Beet borscht is usually sweetened with sugar, and served with chopped cucumber, hard boiled eggs, baked potatoes, and a dollop of sour cream. I decided to leave out the sour cream, sweeten mine with honey instead of sugar, and put all the fixings directly into the borsht directly, because that's just how I swing.
If you're egg free, you can leave out the egg. If you're looking to make this cheaper, you can use sugar instead of honey (but use more sugar than the amount of honey listed, since honey is sweeter). If you eat dairy, feel free to add a dollop of sour cream to yours. And if you're nightshade free or on the GAPS diet, feel free to leave out the potato.

This soup has been a hit every time I made it- people have wanted seconds and thirds. Its perfect to serve now that the weather is getting warmer where I live, but beets are still being sold cheaply.

If you're going to play around with the amount of sweetener, lemon juice, etc... in here, note that the flavors meld more once you let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two, so first add a little bit, and then let it chill, and once cooled, see if you need to adjust it.

[ETA: This is embarrassing. I just realized I posted another very similar variation to this recipe just a year ago. I guess if a recipe was good enough to post twice, it's a worthwhile recipe to make, eh?]

Cold Beet Borscht Recipe- Dairy Free, Vegan Option, Refined Sugar Free Option

Friday, May 2, 2014

Homemade Dairy Free Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe With No Ice Cream Maker- With Alternative Fruit Options, Sugar Free Options

 photo IMG_0115_zps99ef36b3.jpgI'm having a guest over soon, and this guest provided us with a duck and a roast to cook for while she is here. I am really excited about this- I've never cooked duck before, but found some great looking recipes to try out.

Because she provided us with fancy main dishes, I decided that I will make a nice dessert to end our meal- strawberry ice cream. Yes, it meant a few extra dishes, but it was worth it. This ice cream ended up being super delicious, with a great, easy to scoop texture. It's light and airy, and the perfect dessert for a warm summer day.

This recipe is dairy free and chemical free, as well as being much cheaper than the superbly overpriced ice cream that they sell in the stores here.
I made my ice cream with strawberries I bought about 2 months ago, cheaply, which I froze for later use. I used white sugar for this ice cream. However, you can do this with other frozen fruit you have- frozen mango, raspberries, blueberries, melon, peaches, nectarines, etc... And, depending on the sweetness of your fruit, you can leave out the sugar entirely. Alternatively, you can use healthier sweeteners, such as coconut sugar, sucanat, rapadura, honey, etc... If you use honey or leave out the sweetener, this will be Paleo and GAPS legal.

And of course, the best part of this all is that there is no ice cream maker required. Nor do you need to open the freezer every half hour to mix it, as is required in many homemade ice cream recipes that don't call for an ice cream maker. It's a bit more work at first, but once it's in the freezer, you're done.

Homemade Dairy Free Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe With No Ice Cream Maker- With Alternative Fruit Options, Sugar Free Options

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Connection Between Aggressiveness and Conformity to Society

This morning, I was at a social get together with a bunch of ladies from my community. We're a group of ex-pat Americans living in another country, so we identify with each other and have a lot of similar issues when it comes to raising our kids in the manner that we see best, with our values, especially when some of them counteract with the local society's values.

Today, the topic that we were discussing was aggression and bullying. While there is no shortage of amazing people living here, one of the biggest difference between Americans and the locals is that the local society is very aggressive. Not necessarily in a bad/mean way, they are just very strong individuals, very much into being "manly" and fighting to get what you want, and not letting people push you around. You need to be tough to live here and not get stepped on.

We moms were discussing how this results in being a decent amount of what we'd consider to be bullying in school. The parents were saying how they try to get the teachers to get involved to stop the aggression, but the teachers don't stop it- they just teach the one who is being pushed around to "fight back" and stand up for themselves. The Americans were saying that they don't want to teach their kids to shove back when pushed, scream back when screamt at, hit back when hit, etc... because that is "bad manners". But local society is very big into teaching kids to do exactly that, because otherwise you'll get taken advantage of. In short, they're aggressive, and think that teaching these skills at a young age will help them manage in the long run, help them out in life. And in many ways, they're right. People who are too soft spoken here do end up getting taken advantage of- you need to be tough here so that doesn't happen.

The conversation evolved and someone brought up an anti-bullying "thing" they were trying to implement in schools, which reminded me of something I had just learned about in a parenting class I'm taking, and made me think about why our local society is more aggressive.

Let me start at the beginning.