Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Latest Shopping Trip to the Farmer's Market and Salvage Store

On Sunday, I needed to make a bunch of gluten free bread mix to bring to some friends in the city that evening, and to do that, I needed a whole bunch of risotto rice so that I could grind it into flour. I thought that I'd need to drag all the kids with me to the grocery store (a short bus ride away) to buy the risotto rice, since I was sure I didn't have any, but I was very reluctant to do so because that would just add a lot of stress to my day and I wasn't in the mood for that. Before I headed out with the gang to the bus stop, I quickly checked my stockpile to see if maybe, just maybe I had some risotto rice in there and I could save myself a trip.
At first, I thought I had none and then I looked more closely and discovered not 1 or 2, but 4 packages of the rice that I was sure I didn't have, and nearly made the trip to the store to get.
Which made me realize- I need to organize my stockpile.
It doesn't help to have a stockpile if I end up buying repeats of things I have in my stockpile because I don't realize I already have them there.

So that evening, I went into the city, and while I was there, I first went to the farmer's market where I stocked up on some past prime (and not past prime) produce at super awesome prices.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fixing My Frugal Failings... Via Accountability

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Some of my cloth diapers... including a cute lacy cloth diaper
cover my neighbor just gave me as a hand me down
I've spoken to some friends who are frequent readers about this blog, what I post on it, and asked them their input, what they'd like more of, what they enjoy reading most about, etc... and they said they wanted me to show more of my human side, more of my failings, the reality of living frugally day to day, not just what I accomplish but also where I fail and fall short...

So I figured that I'd write a post about certain things and bad habits I've fallen into, often out of laziness, that aren't exactly frugal, and how I'm going to try to work to change that.

Ok, so number one, the thing that inspired this post is my baby's diapers.

I officially cloth diaper to save money, am all about the benefits of cloth diapering... And, uhm, err.... I think that in the last few months, at least, I've been cloth diapering maybe 10% of the time, if even.

First it was because my baby outgrew her newborn sized cloth diaper covers. I had been using the newborn sized Bummi's Super Whisper Wraps (BSWW) together with my Econobum one size cloth diaper covers, together with prefold diapers. When Rose got too big for the size small diapers, I couldn't find my size small and medium BSWW covers... In large part because of the mess in my house and that my storage space was very disorganized. (More on that later.)
So I was left with just my Econobum covers- 6 of them that I could find on a good day- 4 when I had misplaced one or two- and then I'd use those 4, they'd get dirty, and I'd run out of covers because of falling behind with my laundry (more on that later as well), so...  So basically I was using maybe 6-10 cloth diapers every week, if even.
So I started buying disposable diapers regularly.
And then when I was reorganizing our storage, I did find the larger sized diaper covers. I have more than enough now in the size that fits Rose. However....
Once I had the disposable diapers in my house, its hard to not fall back and use them, because yes, it is easier. While cloth diapering is a big money saver, it is definitely more work. And yes, laziness is a weak point of mine.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Frugal Pink Birthday Party for Anneliese

 photo 20141222_134245_zps73295ec7.jpgWhen I was a teenager, if anyone had told me that one day I'd have a little girl like Anneliese, I'd be shocked. Because as a teenager I was miss tomboy, involved in all sorts of sports, sciencey stuff, and just about as un-girly as they come. My favorite color was blue and I don't think I was ever into "princessy things" in my life.
Now Anneliese... my little three year old is about as girly as they come. I don't think I've ever met any girl more obsessed with pink (and purple), glittery sparkly things, princesses, rainbows, hearts, flowers, butterflies, fairies, jewelry, etc... This super girliness definitely didn't come from me, that's for sure.
In some ways, her being obsessed with all things girly makes my life harder (she is sooo picky to dress, and changes her clothes a million times a day), and in some ways it makes it easier (it is very easy to make her happy- just make it pink!)...

But the one thing I knew- for Anneliese's birthday, I wanted to make her a party that was "all about pink".

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

Hey there! It's that time of week where I share the latest frugal goings on in my house. Maybe I should start a "unfrugal blunders this past week" for those weeks where frugality doesn't happen so much? Haha...
Ok, so it was a bit of a crazy week, so I don't really have it broken down by day (I only even managed to write down what I remembered last night.... and now I'm running on three hours of sleep, sooooo....)

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Here's what we did this past week to save money... That I remember.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wild Greens (And Cheese) Patties Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free, Dirt Cheap, Paleo Option

 photo IMG_2518_zps531dc96f.jpgSorry for the decreased posting frequency lately. I've had a bit of a crazy week, as you probably can understand, what with my daughter's birthday and holiday season, etc! Hopefully this next week I will be back to posting with a vengeance- I have many amazing post ideas in the back of my brain just waiting to be written...

For now though- here's a great frugal recipe I've made recently- with foraged wild greens. It can be made with pretty much any wild greens you pick (I used a mix of sow thistle and mallow, but I've made with with a variety of other greens as well). It can also be made with greens that come attached to purchased root vegetables, like turnips, beets, radishes, etc... (And if you don't buy the greens, some stores or stalls in farmers markets will even give you these tops free). Alternatively, you can also make this with store bought greens, like spinach or swiss chard or kale or mustard greens... it just won't be as cheap.

I've made this a few times recently and this last time added some goat cheese (roquefort- my daughter can handle me eating aged goat and sheep cheeses, but not other dairy) into mine which added a terrific kick to it... though I'll admit it increased the cost. You can use any other cheese in it- not just expensive stuff- or you can leave the cheese out entirely to make it vegan/allergy friendly.

Oh- and did I mention that this recipe is naturally gluten free and egg free? Though, of course, you can make it with gluten or eggs if you  want to make it cheaper or with what you have available. Another bonus- these are relatively low carb as well, so they're great diet food. (If you want to make it super low carb, try replacing both the flour and the flax seeds with two eggs- I haven't tried it that way, though I'm sure it'll be great.)

Hope you liked it as much as I did!

Wild Greens (And Cheese) Patties Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free, Dirt Cheap, Paleo Option

Monday, December 22, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

Sorry this was a little delayed! We went out on a family trip yesterday and didn't get back until late, so didn't have a chance to post this yet!

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Here's what we did to save money this past week in the Penniless household.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chocolate Buckwheat Bread Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Xanthan Gum Free, Soaked Grain Option

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My kid has thrown me into a loop by deciding he doesn't want to eat cereal for breakfast anymore. While cereal and milk for the kids isn't so nutritious (even though I try to stick to the less processed stuff) I don't always have the energy to be cooking up complex breakfasts in the morning, don't always feel like standing over the waffle iron or skillet making pancakes... and I don't always have the fresh produce needed to be able to make smoothies.
So then the question is- what do I serve for breakfast that my kids will eat, that doesn't cost too much money, is relatively healthy, and doesn't take too much work?

Enter this yummy concoction. (I based it off this recipe.) I call it "Chocolate Buckwheat Bread" simply because I'm not creative enough to think of a cooler name, but it has been a staple in my home as of late. Everyone in my family loves it, there's minimal prep work involved, its pretty healthy considering its a sweet baked good, its refined sugar free, it's low cost and vegan and gluten free, it doesn't have any xanthan gum in it (which some people are sensitive to, and it also is expensive), and if you want to soak your grains first to make it more digestible, it works very nicely with that.

My biggest issue with this is the bananas required, because I don't always have bananas in stock. You don't really taste the bananas so much in it; I want to try this out replacing the bananas with another pureed fruit, like applesauce, or maybe mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash.

I use my green buckwheat flour for this recipe- if you don't have green buckwheat flour, see if you can grind it yourself in a coffee grinder (green buckwheat is soft enough to grind in a coffee grinder, unlike most grains). If the green buckwheat flour isn't an option for you, you can replace it with any gluten free flour mix (though it would probably have xanthan gum in it then), and if your family can eat gluten, feel free to replace the green buckwheat flour with any gluten flour, from whole wheat flour to regular wheat flour to spelt, etc...

Chocolate Buckwheat Bread Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Xanthan Gum Free, Soaked Grain Option

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Coins Tutorial

 photo IMG_2483_zps52d55fae.jpgMy kids love chocolate coins. They love chocolate in general, but if they had the choice of a square of chocolate or chocolate coins, chocolate coins would win, hands down.
The thing is- chocolate coins are expensive. Chocolate is expensive, yes, but chocolate coins are even more expensive per pound... We do buy chocolate coins occasionally as a real treat.... but I wanted to see if I could make chocolate coins at home. Both for cost reasons, and for the fun of it.

At first I wasn't sure if I'd need specialized molds or specialized equipment, and if my kids would be as satisfied from our homemade chocolate coins as they are from the store bought stuff... but I decided to give it a shot and see how it went. Google showed me that you could simply use mini muffin tins instead of official coin molds, so I went with that.

The cool thing about this is that once I figured out the basics of making chocolate coins, I am now able to play around with it and make specialty chocolate coins, like using my 85% cocoa chocolate bars, or turn my plain chocolate into cool chocolate, like mint chocolate, mocha, etc.

To be honest, I first did this project... and only after that did a price comparison. Locally, the cheapest you can get chocolate coins is $2 per 100 grams. I got decent quality chocolate bars on sale for $1.14 per 100 grams, and saw cheapo quality chocolate for $0.94 per 100 grams. If I'd bought the chocolate in bulk (like I've been considering, to be honest, at the rate my family eats chocolate), I could buy it for $0.76 per 100 grams. So, definitely cost effective to make your own.

And its a fun activity for the kids as well.

So why not make your own?

Here's how you do it. (Super simple, I promise.)

Homemade Chocolate Coins Recipe and Tutorial

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Crafting With Homemade White Clay- Recipe- Gluten Free Alternative to Salt Dough

 photo IMG_2492_zpsec748903.jpgI first heard of white clay from a friend on a local frugal forum, and now that the holiday season is here, I decided to try it out. If you've ever heard of salt dough, it's a homemade, solidly drying craft medium, completely non toxic, that can be used as an alternative to store bought air drying or oven drying clay, and while I've had good experiences in the past with it, as someone whose house is completely gluten free and doesn't want to have to worry about gluten contamination in her kitchen, salt dough isn't an option for us anymore.
Therefore, I was excited about this white clay recipe, which essentially is the same basic idea- a "clay" (more like play dough, actually) that air or oven dries into something hard, which can then be pained, which can then be used for all sorts of beneficial purposes.
Or it can just be done as a fun, creative craft, as an outlet. It doesn't actually need to be practical... but I like the permanence of this, and that it easily can be practical.

If you're still unsure of what to give your loved ones for the holidays, and are open to the idea of hand crafted gifts, you can use this white clay (or salt dough) to make some great gifts. Examples are picture frames, pendants, necklaces, magnets, decorative bowls and plates, sculptures, or hand prints. You can also make ornaments or candle holders, whether for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Diwali, Solstice celebrations, etc...
I am sure creative people can come up with even more amazing ideas to do with white clay and dough- the options are limitless.

Here's how to make your homemade white clay- with only three ingredients- water, baking soda, and corn starch or potato starch. I buy my baking soda in bulk super cheap so this really keeps down the cost of this tremendously. I did find my white clay to be a drop wetter than I wanted, so I ended up mixing it with a lot of baking soda to make it less sticky, so I suggest using less water instead of more, to hopefully make it less sticky. But again, if it is sticky, just mix it with as much baking soda as necessary to get it perfect.

Crafting With Homemade White Clay- Recipe- Gluten Free Alternative to Salt Dough

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why We Went Back to Homeschooling Our Kids- Again

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A homeschooling lesson- real life learning.
Baking, following instructions, reading, math, etc..
Those of you who've been following my blog for a long time already might remember some details about my kids' schooling journey, how originally we were homeschooling, unschooling inspired, and then last year we decided to send our kids to school, and now we're back at homeschooling, again unschooling inspired.

People were surprised at my choice- many at my choice to send them to school in the first place (how can an unschooler not only stop unschooling, but actually send to a regular school?), but probably even more people were surprised that we went back to homeschooling after this year- despite the fact that we said from the start that our goal was to send them to school just for a year anyhow. Many said that the second we put them in school, we'd see how much better school was than homeschooling, and I wouldn't want to go back to homeschooling (because I'd miss the free time I had), and it wouldn't be fair to my kids to make them go back to homeschooling, since they wouldn't want it after being in school.

So, hence, this post. Why we're back to homeschooling this year.
But in order to address that question, I'd first have to review the reasons we sent them to school last year in the first place.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

Its that time of the week where I share with my wonderful readers all the ways in which I saved money in the last week, hopefully some of which would be ideas that you could use as well.

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This week was really a great one in the Penniless household! Lots of frugal stuff going on, lots of things I'm excited about and happy to share with you. Top on the list? Foraging! Yay! Got lots of that done, and the weather was perfect for it!

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Experiences as Gifts, Appreciating What You Have, and What We're Getting Our Kids

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Photo credit: Naito8-
With the holiday season upon us, people around the world are stressing out about gifting- what they should give each loved one, and many are going into debt to pay for these extravagances. Forums I'm in are filled with discussions about how much to spend on each child ("Is $200 dollars reasonable per kid if we're short on cash- I don't know if I can swing $500 per child?"), feeling guilty about not spending enough on each child, or showing off how much they're showering their kids with all sorts of extravagances.

Tis the season to be materialistic and wasteful, it seems.

Not in our family.

Forget the fact that money is tight around here and cash doesn't flow like water into our bank accounts.

Even if I were rich, I still don't want to be teaching my kids to live their life in pursuit of material possessions, equating acquisition of paraphernalia with happiness. In fact, it is often the opposite- lottery winners are often miserable, and poor people can be very happy.

I mentioned it before Black Friday, and I'll say it again- the best way to be happy is to decide to be happy, to decide to appreciate what you have instead of focusing on what you don't have.
Even if there is a lot you're lacking in your life- just by virtue of reading this post, you automatically are lucky and have more than many people in the world do- you have the ability to read, eyesight, access to technology such as computers, cell phones, and internet. And that isn't mentioning the food in people's refrigerators, the roof over their heads, the clothes on their back, and the clean bill of health that I hope most blog readers have. (And if you don't have all 4 of the above, I really wish you success in getting those soon, and my heart goes out to you.)

We're trying to raise our kids to focus on what they have instead of what they don't have. To realize how much abundance they have in their lives.

Save Money With A Reliable Sewing Machine And Some Sewing Skills

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Photo Credit: foto76
I love my sewing machine and use it regularly, and it certainly saves me money. I hope you enjoy this guest post on saving money with a sewing machine!

It won’t have escaped your attention the amount of money you can avoid spending if you skill up to make things for yourself instead of having to buy them. Sewing machines are practical home appliances that come with great gains. Even if you are a dab hand at sewing with needle and thread, there can be a terrific advantage in speed from using the said commodity, meaning that you can afford to take on bigger projects like new curtains or reupholstering your furniture! If you're new to sewing with a machine, try looking for the best starter sewing machine; no need for something more complex.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pressure Cooking To Save Money

After my recent post about my drama with my pressure cooker, my friend Becky sent me a message, wanting to know if pressure cookers actually save enough money by shortening cooking time to be worth the expense. It's a good question, because while pressure cookers take less time to cook, and therefore use less money by way of utilities, pressure cookers aren't the cheapest piece of kitchen equipment, especially locally, where they cost upward of $140 dollars for a cheap one.
Becky, knowing my love of doing all sorts of crazy calculations regarding money savings wanted to know if I did the calculations, figuring out how much money was being saved and over how long, by minimizing cooking time using a pressure cooker, and if I compared that to the cost of a pressure cooker to decide if it was worth it.
To be honest, I've tried calculating how much I spend on each minute of cooking time with my gas stove, but I haven't managed to figure out how much money it costs per minute or even how to start figuring it out (we have large and small tanks of gas delivered here, but I have no idea how many whatevers it is gas is measured in, in each of those tanks), so no, I haven't compared the money saving with utilities by using a pressure cooker with the expense of the pressure cooker.
However, I do know for a fact that having a pressure cooker saves me money. Big time. Enough that I don't need the utilities calculation to find out if it was a justifiable expenditure. I even recently bought a second pressure cooker!

Here's how I use a pressure cooker to save money:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Delicious Tri-Color Root Vegetable Salad Recipe- Vegan, GAPS and Paleo Legal

With winter upon us, most of the primary salad vegetables are out of season, and therefore either hard to get or expensive. The cheaper, more available veggies are root vegetables, which most people tend to make into hot dishes, like roasted veggies and stews and soups. And while those are absolutely awesome and what many people crave in the winter, sometimes you just want a salad. A fresh salad, with raw veggies, crisp and delicious.
This is a salad that I invented recently when I had some turnips to use up. I'm not the biggest fan of turnips (I don't hate them but I don't love them), so I don't want them to be the star of the show when making a dish. This combination of turnips, beets, and carrots, with a mustardy vinaigrette worked terrifically so that you can barely taste the turnip- it certainly doesn't taste overwhelming- and it is diet friendly as well.
I loved this recipe so much that I've made it a few times since- sometimes with turnips, but also with kohlrabi in place of the turnip. Feel free to adjust the quantities- it's a forgiving salad- use what you have, then play around with it until it suits your taste.
My kids also really loved this salad. There's just something about raw beets in salads that is superb.
This salad tastes good fresh, but also tastes terrific up to a few days later, so it's a great salad to make in advance if you like to do meal prep.

Delicious Tri-Color Root Vegetable Salad Recipe- Vegan, GAPS and Paleo Legal

Monday, December 8, 2014

Having a Frugal Homeschooling Adventure

 photo 20141207_112643_zps67f315a6.jpgYesterday morning, right after waking up, I turned to my 5 year old, Ike, and asked him "If you could do anything at all, what would you want to do today?" His answer? "I want to go exploring in the jungle."
Unfortunately, we don't have a jungle near our house, but we do have a small forest, and I presented that option to him. "Want to go exploring in the forest together today?" "Yea!" Lee and Anneliese were also excited about the idea of the expedition, and I decided to use it to turn it into a fun learning experience.

Because we're back at homeschooling this year (yes, I will be writing a blog post, hopefully soon, about why we're back at homeschooling), I am leaning more towards unschooling. (I wouldn't call myself unschooling 100%, but definitely my "teaching method" is inspired by the unschooling perspective.) I want life to be full of learning opportunities, but with these learning opportunities more "hidden" so the kids feel more the fun and don't realize how much they're learning. By keeping the learning fun, it'll hopefully help my kids retain their love of learning and not turn it into a battle of wills, and their eventual starting to hate learning as happens with many kids throughout their schooling career.

I didn't tell my kids: Ok, today we're going to be learning about map skills, safety, history, nature, photography. But I did open the door to these opportunities so that they would learn these skills and have a great time while doing it.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

We have had a really beautiful last week locally, which made me want to do one thing- get outdoors! The kids and I went out a lot because of this, and we made sure to bring along frugal food for ourselves on all our trips so we didn't need to buy while out. And while out, we did a lot of frugal fun things that ended up saving us money.
To be honest, I didn't as many frugal things in the kitchen as I usually do- didn't make so much from scratch and barely made any legumes... but even so, I kept down costs in the kitchen by using only sale or reduced rack items.
For better or for worse, Ike decided he doesn't like cereal and milk anymore- he says milk "tastes like pineapple" and that if he has milk more, he won't like chicken anymore... Go figure. I have no idea what that means... but either way, he's not eating cereal and milk for breakfast, which means my lazy breakfast option isn't really doable anymore, which is pushing me to actually make healthier, cheaper breakfasts for everyone if I have to be cooking for Ike anyhow.

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So, here's what we did to save money this past week:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Homemade Healthy Chocolate Bars Recipe, Chocolate Chips, Etc... Refined Sugar Free, Vegan

 photo IMG_1849Medium_zps1ec1886a.jpgEver have a recipe that you were really excited about, really wanted to do something special with it, but you ended up getting disappointed? This recipe is one of  those. You have no idea how much I fell in love with it... but I sat on it so long because it simply didn't work for me.
Why am I sharing it then?
Because it still is beyond amazing.
Just not for me.

I've got a sweet tooth. I love chocolate most of all sweet things, but I end up feeling guilty about the chocolate I eat because it's filled with all sorts of bad ingredients, from white sugar to soy lecitin and a whole bunch of other not good for you things.

On my trip to the US, I went to Whole Foods, and for the first time saw a chocolate I didn't feel guilty about eating- only 3 or 4 wholesome ingredients... but the price tag... oh boy...

I'd wanted to make my own chocolate for a long time, and had tried so many different recipes with all sorts of different ingredients, but they all flopped for me, separating into unappetizing layers of oil and sweeteners, or becoming more taffy like than bar like..
But finally I figured it out.
Using coconut sugar- a dry sweetener- and coconut oil.

And it came out perfectly! I made a few batches of this chocolate. I loved it, my kids loved it, my husband loved it.

And then I got horrible stomach aches and nausea from me.

Apparently my sensitive stomach doesn't like too much coconut oil. Or even a little bit. Just having a small piece of this chocolate caused me stomach upset.

But I have a sensitive stomach, and specifically am sensitive to coconut, so... just because it doesn't work for me doesn't mean it wouldn't work for you.
Just don't go overboard in your chocolate eating and making until you know that you don't react badly to coconut oil...

That said, I'm hanging on to this recipe, and as soon as I'm able to get my hands on cheap cocoa butter, I will be making my own homemade chocolate bars, using this exact recipe.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Amazing Red Lentil Soup Recipe- GAPS Legal, Vegan

Lentil soup is one of those things that I've made many times, with so many different variations. Sometimes lentil soup can come out ok, and sometimes it can come across so amazing that you have a hard time resisting eating more and more of it. This recipe is one of those simply divine lentil soup recipes, turning this humble legume into something worthy of serving in a restaurant.
I based it off a recipe from the New York Times but played around with it to make it even cheaper, and it is no less amazing. I highly recommend this lentil soup recipe!
It is GAPS legal, and can easily be vegan. Additionally, it is super easy to make.

Amazing Red Lentil Soup Recipe- GAPS Legal, Vegan

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

It's that time again where I share with you all the fabulously frugal things I've done this past week- hopefully to inspire you and show you ideas where money can potentially be saved.

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Menu and Recipe Roundup- Gluten Free, Egg Free, Low Cost and Healthy

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I haven't shared my menu yet! Can't have that happening!

I'm not making everything myself- my mom and I are splitting the work, but we've discussed the menu together and here's what we came up with. Everything on the menu is gluten free, egg free, and refined sugar free (with one exception).

Gluten Free Rolls. I'm making this recipe, which everyone seems to love.

Orange Soup. Not actually made with oranges, but rather, with all those yummy orange veggies- sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash, a little zucchini and/or potatoes, and seasoned with nutmeg. Mom is making this.

Delicious Turkey Loaf- Whole turkeys are very hard to come by where I live (out of the US), not to mention expensive, but ground turkey is one of the cheaper types of meat, so my mom will be making my awesome turkey loaf recipe- though when I make it I usually spiral wild greens into it, but she'll be leaving that out.

Gluten Free Vegan Pumpkin Pie Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Soy Free

 photo IMG_2308_zpsdddaa956.jpgI just made the most unbelievable pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving dinner. It was unbelievable in many ways- firstly, it was just really awesome- it's the reason why I am making the same exact recipe for pumpkin pie as I did last Thanksgiving- if something ain't broke, don't change it.
Secondly, it's unbelievable because it breaks the conventional rules of pumpkin pie- it doesn't have any white sugar or eggs or cream- and unlike most vegan pumpkin pies, it isn't tofu based either- it is soy free as well. So you have an allergy friendly, totally healthy pumpkin pie- one I can eat without any guilt or feeling ill afterward. Not that it is low carb- it definitely isn't- but it's the healthiest pumpkin pie recipe I've ever heard of.
I make mine crust free because I can't be bothered to cook up a pie crust, but if you're not lazy, feel free to make your favorite/healthiest pie crust with it. This is the gluten free vegan pie crust I made it with last year.

As for sweetener, that is versatile, and really is dependent on how sweet your squash is. This year, my squash was really not sweet at all (to the extent that I had my husband taste test it to make sure it was edible enough to make into a pumpkin pie), so I used a lot of sweetener. If you have a more sweet squash, feel free to use much less. If you're trying to cut costs/amount of added sweeteners, I'd suggest first using the squash mixed with the date paste, and then taste test it to see if it is sweet enough. If it isn't, add the sweeter (white sugar or coconut sugar) in small increments until it reaches the desired sweetness. If you have a good sweet squash there's a good chance you wouldn't need any additional sweetener after using the dates.

P.S. If you're wondering why I use butternut squash for pumpkin pie- that is what "traditional" pumpkin pie is made from- if you look in canned pumpkin pie filling, its nearly always made with butternut squash.

Gluten Free Vegan Pumpkin Pie Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Soy Free

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Pressure Cooker Saga

 photo pressurecookers_zps6a8b0a73.jpgOr- Why you should always use your brain in the kitchen.

Ever do something without thinking, for a split second, and then end up regretting that thoughtlessness for a long time after that?
Welcome to my morning.

I wanted to make some lentil soup for lunch, and the recipe called for chicken broth. I had some water left over from steaming pumpkins, and I figured if I steamed chicken wings (my new favorite way of eating them- steamed, then fried), the liquid would make an amazing broth to use as the base of my soup.-
Easy as pie.

I loaded the chicken wings into the steamer basket of my pressure cooker, and tried putting the cover in. It didn't go in so easily- I assumed because the pressure cooker was a little too full- but I pushed hard and got it in anyhow. When I went to seal the pressure cooker to start the cooking process, I was unable to, and that's when it hit me- I used the wrong cover!
I have two pressure cookers- one taller than the other, but both with approximately the same diameter. Approximately, but not exact.
And I managed to take the slightly bigger pressure cooker cover, and shove it in to the slightly smaller pressure cooker.
And it was stuck.

I tried and tried and tried to remove the pressure cooker's cover, but I had no success whatsoever.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Falling into Sales Traps on Black Friday (and in General)

Thanksgiving is coming up. And what does that mean? Talking about what you appreciate in your life? Talking about the history of the holiday? Perhaps... but on the blogosphere, especially in the frugal blogosphere, the thanksgiving aspect of the holiday is severely overshadowed by the countless discussions about Black Friday, pre-Black Friday, and pre-pre Black Friday sales. What is on sale, what has the best sales, what is the best way to make the most of these amazing sales...
And you know what that does? 
It makes you think about all the things you want in your life, all the things your life would be better with, if only you had them. It makes your head in the mentality of "what I'm lacking" instead of "what I appreciate".

Why do you think stores make Black Friday sales? (And pre-Black Friday sales, etc... For the sake of this post and simplicity, from now on, all these sales at this time of year will just be entitled Black Friday sales.) Are they doing it because they really, truly want to help you out, want to help you save money?
They're doing it because it makes them money! You think they're doing it as a service to you, but stores are not having your best interest in mind when they have these sales- they're having theirs. These sales aren't a charity- they're a business decision.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

It's that time again where I share with you all the fabulously frugal things I've done this past week- hopefully to inspire you and show you ideas where money can potentially be saved.

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to Make Homemade Ghee- From Cow Butter and Goat Butter

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And if you're wondering why this container says gluten on it...
lol... its from back in the day when I bought straight
gluten to make seitan, and we stored it in this container.
Have you ever heard of ghee before? I hadn't heard of it until I started getting into eating traditional foods, and ghee was brought up as a good fat to be used.
What is ghee? Also known as clarified butter, ghee's what you get when you take butter and remove the milk solids from it. This post will teach you how to do that.

But why remove milk solids from butter? What's wrong with butter in it's natural form?

Nothing. Butter is great. Especially if it's from grass fed cows.
But ghee is better for many things.
Because it's higher smoke point, so you can use it for more things than butter since you don't have to worry about it burning.
Additionally, it is more shelf stable than butter.
And last but not least, it's got the milk solids removed from it, so often people who are sensitive to casein and/or lactose are able to have ghee even if they aren't able to have butter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Latest Shopping Trip

Sunday evening I went to the grocery store and I had an amazing shopping trip- for more reasons than one- and I just really wanted to share my scores with you. Since I've been trying to lose weight and have changed my diet up a bit (very minimal grains, lower carbs, and more animal proteins), my grocery bills have understandably gone up somewhat, especially since the prices of produce lately have gone up and I can no longer shop at many of the places I used to buy... so when I am able to get great prices for the foods I am eating, I just get really excited.
On top of that, I was able to pay for this shopping trip exclusively with money I earned doing something extra, so it didn't even come out of our regular budget, so that was awesome.

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Here's what I bought- at 2 shops on Sunday night- the local large chain grocery store and the local health food store. I paid a total of $139.46 for this shop.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Homemade Apple Pie Filling Recipe- Sugar Free, Starch Free, Vegan, GAPS Legal

 photo IMG_2176_zps58e79c34.jpgI wanted to make a dessert for my family, but a healthy one. I wanted no added sweeteners, healthy or not, and no grains or starches, healthy or not. I had a bunch of apples in my fridge, and my first thought was apple pie, but again, no grains. So I thought to just serve apple pie filling without the crust, and figured I'd use chia seeds as a thickener instead of the usual flour or starch, and let this apple pie filling be sweetened just from their own juices.
I experimented and this recipe came out so great I had to share it with you.
This recipe is vegan, sugar free, GAPS legal, Paleo/Primal diet friendly, allergy friendly, and much else. Feel free to use this to fill your standard pie crust or in any other recipe that calls for pie filling. Or just eat it plain- it's great all ways!

Homemade Apple Pie Filling Recipe- Sugar Free, Starch Free, Vegan, GAPS Legal

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

It's that time of the week where, once again, I do some reflection on the past week, and see whether or not I was spendy or frugal, and then share the frugal things with everyone. (Maybe once in a while I should have a "my frugal flops this past week". Hahaha.)

This past week was ok. Can't say it was the most frugal ever, but it wasn't spendy. I didn't do a ton of spendy things, but didn't do a ton of money saving things either. I've had better weeks and I've certainly had worse weeks...

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Here's what I did to save money this past week, broken down by categories:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Homemade Breakfast Sausage Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free, GAPS and Paleo Legal

 photo IMG_2126Medium_zps8499f986.jpgI'll be honest- the concept of breakfast sausage was foreign to me- it wasn't something I'd grown up with. I'd never eaten meat for breakfast until maybe last year on a camping trip. It just isn't how I was raised. And I thought sausage meant hot dog....
But a couple of years ago I learned about breakfast sausages, and that they sell them in stores, that they look like hamburgers, but they're often sweet, and served for breakfast.
Now that I'm trying to lose weight, I'm trying to cut back on my carbs (not cut them out entirely, just scale back somewhat), and to do that means I'm eating more animal proteins, and trying to eat a bigger breakfast to jump start my metabolism. Because of this, I've been more open to the idea of eating meat for breakfast, so when I found ground chicken on sale at a great price, I stocked up and decided to make breakfast sausage for myself with some of the ground chicken. It came out delicious.
I highly recommend you try it. If you're not a "meat for breakfast" type person, feel free to serve this for lunch or supper.
They freeze well, either raw or cooked, so even though this makes a large batch, you don't have to eat it all at once.

Homemade Breakfast Sausage Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free, GAPS and Paleo Legal

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How to Make a Homemade Weighted Blanket- Step By Step Instructions

 photo IMG_1958_zps0975ee55.jpgI think everyone in my family has sensory issues. My kids have sensory issues and my husband and I also have. In fact, as I speak to more and more people, I think kids without sensory issues are a rarity- some just have it to more extremes than others.

I've read that with kids with sensory issues, often deep pressure massages and similar things can produce a calming affect, especially when they're tantrumming. I'd read that there are weighted vests and blankets that are supposed to help give this deep pressure to kids; these are especially used in kids with autism, but not only for them- anyone with sensory issues can benefit.
How does it work? Supposedly the "added weight causes the brain to release neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that improve moods and induce a calming effect." Lots of people have found weighted blankets also help their kids sleep better.

Once I had a cold, and I was told to put some salt with a little rice in a pillow case, and lay my head on it; it was supposed to help dry up my congestion. I am not sure it actually worked; however, once I had my pillow case filled with salt (2.2 lbs), I decided to try it out, see if it could help calm down a hyper kid or a kid who is tantrumming, by putting some weight on them. I simply plopped the filled pillow case on my child, and saw that it had an almost instantaneous effect, and my kid really loved it. I said if just one little pillow case filled with 2.2 lbs of salt was that great- imagine what an entire blanket filled with salt could do.

And so I decided to make a weighted blanket for my kids.

The project was very easy, and cost very little. I think it was $5.40 total. (Much cheaper than the hundreds of dollars store bought ones cost.)

The kids love it. My husband loves it. I love it.

And yes, when a kid of mine has a melt down (fortunately not too often, especially once I took Ike off gluten), I just have them lie down and place the blanket on them- instant calming effect.

So here's the thing- I will first tell you how I made mine.
Mine works.
But it could be better.
So first I'll tell you how mine is, and then I'll tell you how to make it even better should you choose to make one yourself.

How to Make a Homemade Weighted Blanket- Step By Step Instructions

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Easy Green Buckwheat Porridge Recipe- Crockpot Option, Vegan, Gluten Free

One of the hardest things about being frugal and gluten free is figuring out good, cheap, healthy breakfasts. Porridge is an easy, cheap breakfast, but the standard porridge recipes are based on semolina wheat or oatmeal, both no nos for our family. I've made rice pudding before, but I find it annoying, because you first have to cook the rice, then re-cook it to make the pudding, mixing it well to make sure it doesn't burn. I've made corn meal porridge but it's not so nutritious. I was looking for something, and then it hit me- buckwheat!
But not just any kind of buckwheat- the green kind specifically. I've used it in so many recipes in place of oats, like in granola and granola bars- so why not as a mock oatmeal?
I've played around with this recipe a lot, and find the best way to make it is in the crock pot. I put it on low overnight and we wake up in the morning to a nice healthy meal. You can also make it not in the crock pot, but it's more work and finicky that way.

Easy Green Buckwheat Porridge Recipe- Crock Pot Option

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Getting a Mother's Helper- Life Changing

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Image Credit: AKARAKINGDOMS- FreeDigitalPhotos
If I had to name my biggest character defects, high on the list would probably be my messiness as well as my constant procrastination. This means that my house ends up usually getting very messy, and I have a hard time getting around to cleaning it up- something always comes up and gets in the way of my tidying up. My husband, on the other hand, needs neatness to be able to function. This has been a considerable source of tension in our marriage- that my husband was working full time, then coming home and cleaning up the mess that I made throughout the day.
For some time, we had discussed bringing in a cleaning lady, but constantly rejected the idea, since cleaning ladies are very expensive round these parts (they nearly make twice as much per hour as my husband does) and we would only be able to afford to take a cleaning lady maximum once a week for an hour or two. That felt pointless, since our house anyhow was getting totally clean once a week- it was maintenance that was the problem- by the end of every day, my place would be a mess, and it would just get messier and messier unless my husband cleaned it.
When I tried to be on top of cleaning it, things always came up. The kids need me, and I can't just ignore them to clean, because then they often end up messing another part of the house while I'm cleaning the first part. And even if my older kids didn't do that, Rose, the baby, often needs to be held.
It wasn't like I was being lazy. I was doing stuff a lot of the day. Taking care of the kids. Homeschooling them. Cooking up delicious, healthy, frugal meals. But cleaning always ended up on the back burner.
So in order for the place to not look like a bomb hit it, my husband would often stay up late at night cleaning, only to wake up just a few short hours later to head out to work. It was really hard on him, and understandably he would resent it, and would stress out.

Then my husband was given the option to increase his hours at work- and since he gets paid hourly, that meant a bigger income.
However, Mike was ambivalent about accepting the offer. While we could use the extra money, Mike wasn't sure he could handle the stress of the longer hours in addition to all the cleaning up he was already doing on a regular basis. He told me that he'd only agree to the longer hours if I could do the cleaning that he was currently doing, because he felt that cleaning up after me and the kids was already a part time job...
However, I wasn't sure what to do. I knew myself. I knew I could try to get the place cleaner, but I have a hard time with consistency. I start projects and then stop them after a short time. Its hard for me to stick to the task, especially on a long term basis, and I knew that that was exactly what Mike needed. I knew that even if I promised that I'd keep the place cleaner on a regular basis, despite my best intentions, it wouldn't happen.
I needed intervention.
And then I thought- what about a mother's helper?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Hey all, now's that time of week where I share with you the various frugal things I and my family members did to save money over the past week. Starting today, hopefully I'll be getting this post up on Sunday, and not Monday like I've been doing.

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

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Healthy Butternut Squash Pudding Recipe- GAPS Legal, Lower Carb, Vegan

 photo IMG_1963Medium_zps887d2881.jpgI've been pretty good about this whole eating well to try to lose weight and get in shape, but I'll be honest, the hardest part for me is the social aspect, since so much of the socialization in our culture revolves around food. I regularly go to this mom's get together at brunch time, and there typically are baked goods and other sweets (sometimes on the healthier end) for us to nibble on while we chat. I've been bringing along my own gluten free treat (for myself and sometimes for everyone else as well) but this past time I didn't want to eat junk, and I didn't even want to bring along a gluten free baked good, since I'm trying to be a little less reliant on grains for now. Yet at the same time, I wanted to have something "treat like" so I wouldn't feel too different.
This was what I came up with.
Pretty much pure butternut squash and spices- it only needed to be sweetened because this was a less sweet butternut squash, but if you have a good butternut squash, no need for any sweetener at all.
It was great and really hit the spot.
And it's GAPS legal. And vegan. Perfection.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Making Plaster Cast Footprints- A Fun and Educational Kids Activity

 photo IMG_2079Medium_zps44c471a3.jpgIt rained heavily the other day, and after the deluge stopped, I went outside with my children to enjoy the fresh air. Everything was wet; there was mud everywhere. In a patch of mud near our house, the kids and I spotted many prints made by various things- some animal prints, a bike tire tread, and shoe prints.

Seeing all those prints in the mud reminded me of an activity I'd read about in a book when I was a kid- making plaster casts of footprints. I already had all the necessary equipment, so decided to do this little project with my kids.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Gluten Free Vegan French Toast Recipe

 photo IMG_1805Medium_zps1a25e61f.jpgIts funny that, though my mom did most of the cooking in my house when I was a kid, most of my food memories involve my dad and the various things he cooked. Sunday mornings we would all sit around the kitchen table while my dad made something delicious- either pancakes from the New Settlement Cookbook or homemade waffles. But more often than not, he'd make us french toast.
Leftover bread, dipped in an eggy milky batter with a touch of cinnamon, and fried to perfection.
If there's any childhood breakfast foods I'd been missing lately, it was french toast.
But as someone who doesn't eat gluten, eggs, or dairy... I thought french toast was an impossibility.

Recently, though, my neighbor has been giving her kids french toast on a regular basis, and my kids see them eating french toast and asked me if I could make some for them as well.
Since they asked.... I decided to see how I could make french toast.
First I took some gluten free bread that I had left over, and made them french toast with egg and milk, etc... and my kids loved it! Only I couldn't eat it, and I'll admit, I was getting a little jealous.
So I tried to see if there was a way for me to make my own egg and dairy free French toast, so I could also partake in the awesomeness that is French toast.
Google helped me discover that you can make vegan French toast- with banana. But since I had no bananas at the time, since bananas weren't in season, I tried figuring out a way to make it with no bananas. I had great experiences using ground flax as an egg replacement- even for making mayonnaise, so I decided to try that for making my French toast- with tahini in it to make it more nutritious, higher in protein and calcium, etc...
It was amazing.
My kids said it was their favorite food ever.
Asked me to make it again and again.
French toast is typically made from leftover, stale bread (if you don't want to make homemade bread crumbs, bread crumb cookies, bread pudding, stuffing, or a whole bunch of other stuff with it), but my kids like this French toast so much that I've made fresh gluten free bread just to be able to make French toast with it... Though feel free to use whatever leftover bread you have.

While this recipe is gluten free, if you aren't gluten free and are just looking for a vegan, dairy free, or egg free French toast recipe, feel free to use regular gluten bread for this. It works just as well.

Gluten Free Vegan French Toast Recipe

Monday, November 3, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Hello y'all! It's that awesome time of the week, where I, once again, share what frugal things I did this week, hopefully to inspire and give ideas, as well as to share things that I do in my day to day life that don't necessarily need a whole post to write about each one.

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I decided that I'll be moving the frugal accomplishments of the week to Sunday instead of Monday as it's been, starting next week, so see you then!

Meanwhile, here's what we did frugally this past week in our home:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Alicha Recipe- Ethiopian Vegetable Stew- Vegan, Paleo, GAPS Option

 photo IMG_1880_zps1a93df8c.jpgLast week I made a wonderful Ethiopian feast. In addition to the flat bread and doro wot (chicken stew) and misir wot (red lentil stew) that I made spiced with my homemade spicy berbere spice mix, I also made this delicious vegetable stew, not spicy at all, which everyone in my family loved- from the oldest to the youngest. I highly recommend it, especially if you're new to Ethiopian cooking and want to "ease into it", and not serve something too exotic that your family may not like.
Alicha often has potatoes in it, but I decided to leave it out an use sweet potatoes and butternut squash instead. If you don't have these exact veggies, feel free to mix and match it up and use whatever vegetables you do have- just keep the spices and tomato paste the same.
This recipe is vegan, paleo legal, and if you leave out the sweet potatoes, is GAPS legal as well.

Alicha Recipe- Ethiopian Vegetable Stew- Vegan, Paleo, GAPS Option

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Miso Glazed Salmon Head Recipe- Cheap and Absolutely Delicious

Oh my gosh. I just had such a scrumptious supper, maybe one of the best I've had in a while. The funniest thing about it is that while I thought I was in heaven while eating it, others probably would find the thought of it absolutely revolting.
Because the centerpiece of my meal was half a salmon head. Miso glazed salmon head, that is.
Yesterday I wrote about how I got my fish heads at the farmer's market for about $1.90 each, with each head weighing in at over 2 lbs- this is an awesome price for fish round these parts. (Cheap salmon round these parts is over $5 per pound with bones- this had was roughly 95 cents per pound, so...)
Let me talk to you about fish heads, and salmon heads in particular.
First off- I know many people say "I don't want to eat something that's looking at me," or "I don't want something that looks like it was alive", and while I understand that, I would rather be fully cognizant of the fact that an animal died so my life could be sustained, and be appreciative of that, as opposed to being in denial, and pretending that that fillet or cutlet just magically appeared shrink wrapped in the grocery store, and wasn't part of a living, breathing being...
But that said- if eating something that looks like a face bothers you- just eat it upside down. Large fish heads, like salmon heads, should be sliced in half before cooking, so just turn it and eat it so the inside is facing you- you don't see any eyes then or anything too weird looking- just mainly meat and bone.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Latest Shopping Trip At Farmer's Market

Now that I wrote yesterday's blog post about my intention to lose weight and get in shape, I can finally write this post about my shopping trip yesterday at the farmer's market.
I had some produce in my fridge before going to the farmer's market- don't get me wrong. But I had some produce I really wanted, especially with this new diet of mine, and I hadn't been to the farmer's market in a long time.
Things have changed up a bit at the farmer's market- some of the stalls I used to buy from are no longer there, and some of the ones I went to no longer are selling the things I used to buy from him, so I explored the farmer's market anew.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How I'm Trying To Lose Weight and Get Fit

Today's lunch. (I had half the fish.
 The other half I ate for supper.)
Some of you might remember that I posted 5.5 months ago, when I was 6.5 weeks postpartum, that I wanted to lose weight, and how I would try to lose weight. The reason that I wanted to lose weight was because I was over 40 lbs more than the upper range of my ideal weight, and that scared me. I felt like a fat blob...
Well, over the last 5.5 months I did lose weight. Between 15 and 20 lbs. Not sure how much is from how I was eating and how much because of nursing (and tandem nursing to boot), and while I am glad my weight went down 15-20 lbs, I still have a long way to go... but my body seemed to have plateaued at this certain weight, 25 lbs above my upper end of my ideal weight range.
And I keep on getting people asking me if I'm pregnant. No, for the record.

I was trying to decide whether or not I should just "learn to be happy with my body" and not try to lose weight... but honestly, I would like to be a little less fat, would like to lose cellulite, and would like to be able to go clothes shopping more easily and/or fit into my old clothes better. Not to mention that I'd like people to stop asking me if I'm pregnant.

A friend recommended to me this program called "No Excuse Moms" which caused a little bit of an uproar and controversy back when, but in short, she says there's always an excuse why not to try to lose weight, etc... but being a mom isn't an excuse. In short, she has a program and a group to try to encourage and motivate moms to get fit and lose weight.
I read through the program and it sounded very up my alley. Not extreme overboard, cutting out carbs or fat or both- but rather sticking to healthier fats and keeping the carbs healthier- and only minimizing carbs past a certain hour. And stopping to eat minimum 3 hours before bed, but ideally by 7 pm.
It also includes a certain amount of exercise on a regular basis.
And you're allowed one cheat meal per week- but it should be planned.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Hello y'all! It's that awesome time of the week, where I, once again, share what frugal things I did this week, hopefully to inspire and give ideas, as well as to share things that I do in my day to day life that don't necessarily need a whole post to write about each one.

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This past week was a good one. Here's what we did to save money throughout the week:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Homemade Mild Berbere Spice Mix- Ethiopian Recipe

 photo IMG_1877_zps89c261b0.jpgIf you've been reading my blog for some time, you'll be aware of the fact that I'm very into "ethnic" foods from various cultures around the world, especially cultures where they make low cost, vegan dishes, such as India or Mexico. Ethiopian food is one of those that I love, since it is super low cost to make, relies heavily on legumes, and is so full of flavor that you forget you're eating legumes.
Ethiopian food can be pretty much be summed up in two words- injera and berbere.
Injera is a naturally gluten free, fermented flat bread which is the base of all Ethiopian meals. It is used as the plate and also as the utensils with which you eat the food. I have tried numerous times to make injera at home and have floppped many times...
Berbere is a spice mix made with many ingredients, and it is used in most Ethiopian dishes to give them their signature flavor.
Oh, and did I mention berbere is fiery hot?
I made an Ethiopian meal the other day, but with a homemade flat bread that was not injera, and I made homemade berbere to use in the various ethiopian dishes for the meal. I based it off of this recipe, only I didn't make it fiery hot- only mildly spicy (I wanted my kids to eat it!), and the food came out terrifically.
If you like things volcanicly hot, feel free to increase the amount of hot pepper flakes in the recipe.
For everyone else, keep it the same.
And if you like no spice, leave it out entirely.

For the most part I used non ground spices instead of pre-ground spices. If you use non ground ones like I did, just increase the amount you put in by a drop, since ground spices are more compact than whole.

Homemade Mild Berbere Spice Mix- Ethiopian Recipe

Friday, October 24, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Pudding Recipe- With Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding Option- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, and Gluten Free

 photo IMG_1882_zpsa3a3e365.jpgWho doesn't like chocolate pudding? In my family, the answer is no one, and from the looks on the grocery store shelves, it seems to be very popular with the locals here as well.
I like chocolate pudding, but I don't like the ingredients in most chocolate pudding recipes, and the other recipes, my body doesn't like. I figured out this chocolate pudding recipe that meets all my requirements- refined sugar free, egg free, dairy free, and soy free. Added bonus? It tastes yummy. And it's relatively cheap. And pretty quick to make as well.
If you're not sensitive to dairy, you can use regular milk for this, and if you're short on time, you can use any (store bought) non dairy milk for this pudding instead of the homemade sunflower milk- though I don't think coconut milk would work for this.
And if you're trying to keep the costs down, feel free to use white sugar instead of coconut sugar, just note that it'll be sweeter, so you probably want to cut down on the amount of sugar used, and also note that it's less healthy. Choice is yours.

Homemade Chocolate Pudding Recipe- With Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding Option- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, and Gluten Free

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What I Learned From My Fridge and Freezer Troubles

 photo IMG_1876_zps43165ec9.jpgWhen my husband and I went away about a month ago, we came home to a non working freezer. Since then the stuff in the freezer started frosting over and then defrosting, and I needed to fix the freezer on my own. And even after that, it stopped working well, and yet again, the past few days I had things defrosting on the top shelves of my freezer.
You have no idea how high my stress levels were. Through the roof, I tell you.
Because I was pretty sure that my fridge was slowly, slowly dying. Because why else would it stop working three times in the space of a month and a half?
I researched the costs of new fridges, and even went out to a store that sold them to check it out, and started freaking out at the disgustingly high prices I saw for a fridge similar in size to what I have now.
But before I would spend that much money on a new appliance, I figured we should invite the local appliance repair man to inspect our fridge and just give one final check before we sign the fridge's "death certificate".

I can breathe a huge sigh of relief, because the fridge needed only a few minor repairs, and I learned some stuff about fridge and freezer maintenance that hopefully will help prevent this problem in the future; I wanted to share it with you, so that you don't either have these issues and need to pay a repairman. (The repairman's fee was only 7% of what I would have paid for a new fridge like we had.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I Just Made a Weaning Party

I did something I never did before.
A few things, actually.
 photo turtle34.gifI nursed a kid until 2 months shy of her third birthday- my first two kids I nursed until 19 months each, this one until 34 months.
This is the first time I nursed all the way through a pregnancy and then nursed two kids at once, also called tandem nursing.
This is the first time I nursed a kid until she was old enough to have an intelligent conversation with me, that I could reason with her, and could tell me in her words how much she loved nursing.
And this is also the first time I made a weaning party.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

It's that time again, that time where I share just how frugal (or not) I was in a week. Fortunately this past week as a good one, and I have a decent amount of frugal things I did to share with y'all.

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Here's what I did this week to save money, divided by category:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Healthy Homemade Strawberry Jelly/Gummy Candies- Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free

 photo IMG_1841Medium_zps147db0ef.jpgOn Friday, I had the exciting enjoyment of emptying out my freezer, because it wasn't working and things were starting to defrost- fortunately only just a drop defrosted, and not an entire freezer full like happened the last time. I'd left the freezer open a drop (something blocked the door) and some stuff defrosted enough to spill onto the fan and then refroze, making the fan unable to move, and the freezer and fridge were starting to not work. Fortunately, we fixed it ourselves quickly and easily enough, but I found some strawberries that I'd bought on sale when they were in season and froze, which had defrosted with these freezer issues...
So I said instead of re-freezing those strawberries, I'd make them into a dessert.
I'd been reading about making homemade healthy sour gummy candies (similar to the homemade mango gummy worms I'd made before) and I was trying to figure out what flavor to make them, and then I decided to take the defrosted strawberried I had, puree them, and turn them into strawberry sour gummy candies. Only they didn't come out so sour, so next time I'd probably increase the lemon juice (and reduce the water) in this.
And though they were gummy, they were slightly closer to the texture of jelly candy than gummy candies; I would have liked them to be even chewier, so next time I make this, I'll probably use 7 or 8 tablespoons of gelatin instead of 6.
While I made these with strawberry puree, I'm sure it would also be terrific with other pureed fruit, like raspberry puree, mango puree, applesauce, peach puree, etc...
My kids really enjoyed these gummy candies. But the best thing I did with them was coat them with homemade chocolate, to make chocolate covered strawberry jellies, very similar to chocolate covered jelly rings... But I'll get to that in another post...

Healthy Homemade Strawberry Gummy/Jelly Candies- Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free

Friday, October 17, 2014

Chicken Piccata Recipe- Gluten Free and Dairy Free Options (With Vegan Suggestions)

 photo IMG_1838Medium_zps0805be34.jpgI had never heard of chicken piccata until I was searching for recipes to make with the capers that I foraged, but it instantly appealed to me- capers, chicken and lemon sounded like a match made in heaven.  Most versions of chicken piccata are made with gluten and dairy, as it is typically dredged in flour and then fried in butter, but I made this gluten free and dairy free by using gluten free flour and frying it in olive oil, and it was amazing.
I've also made this exact recipe with fish (tilapia) instead of chicken and it's amazing. And if you're vegan, you can fry up whatever form of fake meat you make- whether seitan, tofu or something else- instead of the chicken.
I finally wrote up this recipe after making it a few times- I'm serving it tonight with gluten free spaghetti and steamed fennel for a nice Italian style meal.
If you make this with a tapioca or potato starch, and possibly mixed with nut meal, or other non grain flours, this recipe is perfect for those who are on the Paleo diet plan.

Chicken Piccata Recipe- Gluten Free and Dairy Free Options (With Vegan Suggestions)