Sunday, February 28, 2016

Fun Foraging With The Kids Today

Clockwise from upper right- mallow, wild mustard, cat's ear, clover, sow thistle, and fennel

Some friends were talking today about wild mustard, and, of course, talking about wild greens makes me want to have some as well, so the kids and I went out in search of wild mustard, and whatever other wild greens I was able to get my hands on.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Chocolate Covered Bananas Recipe- Vegan, Paleo, Easy

I wanted to apologize for not posting so much this past week- I had an insanely packed week, working really hard. On Sunday, I taught a class on frugal grocery shopping, on how to get groceries for pennies. On Wednesday I taught a class on foraging for really busy people, with an emphasis on how to pick a lot of things in a very short amount of time, as well as a food prep demo, where we made 3 different foods with the plants we just gathered- (gluten free) pasta with wild greens, onions, and nutritional yeast, wild greens salad, and fennel tea.
I just now got back from a last minute foraging class in a city 2 hours from my home. I had to be there anyhow for an appointment, and since I had been requested by many people to do a class there, but it was difficult for me to get there, I decided to hit two birds with one stone, and yesterday I announced that there'd be a class there this afternoon, and it was an amazing turnout for less than 24 hours notice!
We had so much fun foraging and found so many things, including my very first wild asparagus! (I'd been looking unsuccessfully for years!) We also found lambsquarters, a bunch of different types of mustard, a bunch of varieties of sage, a bunch of different members of the dandelion family including sow thistle, cat's ears, and wild lettuce, chamomile, pineapple weed, garland chrysanthemum, and many, many more plants.
And now that I'm home I'm exhausted!

But just because I had a long day/week doesn't mean I'm forgetting about you wonderful readers!

So, I'm going to leave you with this recipe for chocolate covered bananas. It's easy, delicious, not too unhealthy, vegan, can even be paleo if you use Enjoy Life chocolate chips, and can be very cheap if you buy your chocolate chips and bananas on sale at an incredibly low price like I did. (Reduced rack bananas and scratch and dent store chocolate chips.)

Forget that they look like something inappropriate- they're totally worth it, and were a huge hit with my family and I'm sure they will be with yours. My kids said they were the best dessert ever, so I'll take that as a compliment. And since they were so easy and cheap to make as well, that's even more awesome.

Chocolate Covered Bananas Recipe- Vegan, Paleo, Easy

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Stevia Sweetened Jello Recipe- Low Carb, Paleo Dessert

I think it is absolutely impossible to get a picture of jello that looks remotely photogenic. Oh well...

I was looking for an idea for a treat to make for myself , but the thing is, I AM trying to lose weight, so I shouldn't really be eating snacks, as they are always extra calories from fat, or extra carbohydrates, both which contribute to weight gain if you have them to much.
But it's hard to not eat any treat or dessert when I make dessert for my family, and so I was trying to come up with an idea that wouldn't be high in either carbs or fat.

Stevia has no carbohydrates, tastes sweet, and is totally natural and unprocessed, (the stuff I use, anyhow- it's pure stevia leaves) and therefore, according to most natural foods gurus, is one of the better sweeteners to use. Unfortunately, many, like myself, do not enjoy the taste of stevia sweetened items, as it can have an aftertaste. Therefore, I do not tend to use stevia.

There is one way that I do enjoy stevia- and that is in drinks. Stevia sweetened tea is something I find pleasant to drink. And to turn stevia sweetened tea into a dessert I could either make freeze pops/popsicles, or I could turn them into jello.

Jello it was!

I knew from my fruit juice sweetened jello recipe what the proportion of liquids to gelatin were needed, and just went from there.

You can use whatever tea you like for this- I used strawberry tea and foraged sumac berries to make my tea.

It came out delicious! Fortunately I made a huge batch, since my kids all wanted jello in addition to the dessert I made them. Afterwards, I snacked on it between meals instead of eating other stuff, and it satisfied my sweet tooth without packing on the pounds... or the chemicals- so that's a score.

Stevia Sweetened Jello Recipe- Low Carb, Paleo Dessert

Monday, February 22, 2016

Got An Insane Amount of Food for Pennies!

I love when I am able to feed my family for incredibly little amounts of money. Actually, I think that is pretty obvious from this blog- though its called Penniless Parenting, Penniless Cooking would probably a more apt name, from the percentage of this site that is dedicated to frugal cooking.

Anyhow, there are just some times that as a very frugal person make you go "Wow! This is amazing, even for me!"

This is one of them.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Frugal, Simple, and Nice Romantic Paleo Birthday Celebration

Mike and I typically go out on two dates a year- one for our anniversary, and one for our joint birthday. Not counting the babysitter (if we don't manage to arrange a babysitting swap) we usually end up spending $50 on the meal, and that is without getting desserts, appetizers, etc. Just the meal itself.

Yesterday Mike and I had our birthday- his 30th and my 28th, and unfortunately, Mike had to stay late at work, so a date wasn't in the picture. We also didn't purchase birthday gifts for each other since we've had enough expenses lately what with the wedding and all.

So, I decided to make the best of it, and make a nice birthday dinner at home, a stay at home date.

Mike's favorite food in the whole world is ravioli in cream sauce, and I flirted with the idea of making some, but that would have entailed grinding flour, making the pasta, etc- a ton of work- so that it could be gluten free and I'd be able to eat it also.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Saving Money on Wedding Attire for My Brother's Wedding

 photo IMG_0140_zpshgnn4uho.jpgMy brother Josh got married last night and I'm really happy for him. He just married a wonderful woman that we all adore.
While we're ecstatic about the wedding, unfortunately attending such a wedding with our kids entails a lot of expenses, both transportation there, as well as wedding appropriate attire for the entire family.

As immediate family members of the groom there's certain expectation involved about how we should look, and while we want to look our best and fancy, we also don't want to be shelling more money out of pocket than necessary, especially since with 6 family members even little costs add up, even more so when they are larger expenses. The mission? Get nice clothes for the entire family, matching the kids with their cousins as well, and spend as little as possible while doing so.

An option that I'd used in the past, for my brother in law's wedding was this service that let you borrow from a huge selection of fancy gowns; it was free other than needing to pay for dry cleaning after. But that service now costs 25 dollars for rental in addition to dry cleaning so not worth it, especially since I needed for 3 people.

Instead I decided to take a chance and order from since I had friends who did that for their children for a wedding I attended and their dresses were beautiful and very cheap, as nice as expensive dresses purchased locally. I knew that as always when buying online especially when buying from China, there was a chance that the quality would be bad and/or it wouldn't fit. But they were so cheap that that was a gamble I was willing to take. Worst comes to worst they would be totally unusable and that would be $37 down the drain.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Asian Hot and Sour Fish Soup Recipe- With Salmon Heads and Nettles- Paleo, Low Carb

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The other day I made the most delicious fish pie with dirt cheap salmon heads and other veggies just sitting around my house, and after deboning the salmon heads I had a bunch of bones and skin left, which, instead of throwing out, decided to boil up to make a very healthy fish bone broth, In the past, I'd used that bone broth to make an amazing hot and sour Asian style soup, and I decided to do it again, writing down the details this time so I wouldn't have to figure it out all over again each time. I made mine based on what I had in the house, but it is flexible. If you don't have these exact ingredients, feel free to play around with it, as long as the base ingredients remain the same- the fish stock, ginger, garlic, coconut aminos/soy sauce/fish sauce, vinegar, and pepper. Each addition that I added increases the flavor punch, but you can leave them out if you don't have them, the flavor just won't be exactly the same.

A funny story about hot and sour soup, first, before I give you the recipe. When I was pregnant with my oldest, Lee, 9 years ago, I was very nauseous for a very long time. When I had some cravings for foods that appealed to me, I made them, because they were some of the few foods I could keep down. One time, I had a craving for Asian hot and sour soup, so I mixed up a batch to taste... and apparently pregnancy nausea made my taste buds very off, because when I served it to Mike, he said that it tastes like stomach acid, similar to the taste you get in your mouth when you throw up, and begged me to never again serve him "vomit soup".  And Mike is definitely not a picky eater, and will eat almost anything.
Well, years later, when not pregnant, I decided to make hot and sour soup, and when Mike asked if he could have a bowl, I told him "I don't think you'll like this- you called this "Vomit soup" last time I made it." But at his request, I gave him some to taste, and he really enjoyed it. Moral of the story- go easy on the vinegar, especially if your taste buds are "off" because of something like pregnancy, and add more to your bowl if you want it extra sour.
Mike and my kids are now all big fans of hot and sour soup. But in my mind, I still jokingly call it "vomit soup" because that story cracks me up.

This recipe is low carb, Paleo, and GAPS legal (provided you use the appropriate options). It's also pretty easy to make.

Hot and Sour Fish Soup Recipe- With Salmon Heads and Nettles- Paleo, Low Carb

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Top 35 Dirt Cheap Romantic Ideas for Valentines Day (and Whenever)

Image credit- Dan

Romance on your mind, but really don't have the money to spend, so thought you'd have to give this Valentines Day a pass?

Many people think that in order to show how much you love someone, you need to be willing to spend lots of money, showering them with gifts, wooing them with your money. Of course, in some relationships that is the case- if someone doesn't spend money on the other, they feel hurt, because the amount of money spent is equated with how much they actually value or love them and feel they are worth.
Fortunately, in relationships where both parties appreciate frugality, people generally understand that you can romance your partner or spouse without throwing big bucks at them. Here is a list of some frugal, and some insanely frugal ways to romance your partner. Of course, not everyone would appreciate every one of them, but hopefully there will be at least some things on the list that you or your partner would appreciate.

Top 35 Dirt Cheap Romantic Ideas for Valentines Day (and Whenever)

10 Ways to Cut Costs & Still Have the Perfect Wedding

What a timely post for Valentines day! Thinking of tying the knot? I hope you enjoy this guest post with lots of creative ideas to save money on your wedding, and still have it be amazing. For more frugal wedding tips and advice, here's my post I wrote about how to make a dirt cheap wedding.

According to Brides magazine in 2015, the average cost of a wedding in the UK was anywhere from £20,000 to £30,000. And yes – that made our eyes water too! Doubtless you’ll have scoured the internet for the best deals on bridal gowns and diamond sites, but have you considered these cost-cutting ideas when planning your perfect wedding?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Amazing Foraging and Photographing Trip Today

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Today I took the kids in to the city to photograph wild plants for the foraging book I'm writing. I actually planned the trip especially to photograph some dock (rumex) which I don't often see, but decided to photograph any wild edible that may end up being in my book. I decided to share some of what I took today.

We found an insane amount of wild edibles. The place was just bursting with color- mostly greens, lots of yellows, some oranges and pinks and blues and purples...

Everything in this post is edible. Some I've written posts about already, and some I still need to write about at a future time.

My kids had a blast foraging with me- their knowledge of wild edibles, even my littlest ones, is astounding- they probably know more species of wild edibles and how to identify them at 4, 6, and 8 than I did at 22.

This is very pic heavy, so it may take a while to load if your device/internet connection is slower.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Paleo Cheapo Fish Pie Recipe- Egg Free, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Allergy Friendly, Vegan Option

This recipe was inspired by my looking into the freezer this afternoon and seeing a bunch of the salmon heads I'd bought cheaply. I was trying to think of something to do with them, and all of a sudden, I got this idea- fish pie! I'd never actually had fish pie, nor do I think I ever heard of it before, but I assumed it must exist. So I did some googling and came up with a bunch of different examples and vastly different ideas for fish pie.
Something that many had in common was some milk or cream. And since I didn't want to use just fish, I figured why not add a lot of vegetables, specifically the ones in my house that needed to be used up. I considered making almond milk or coconut milk for the fish pie but I was feeling lazy so decided to nix that idea, and I also decided to nix the crust.
However, I decided that in terms of flavor, I wanted to base my idea for fish pie on chicken pot pie, only with fish instead of the chicken. And that I'd use nutritional yeast to give it a cheesy flavor instead of adding cream or a vegan cream type sauce.
At the last minute (literally last minute- after it was already in the oven!), I decided to add some almond meal to the top to fancy it up a bit, and justify calling it a "pie" even in the absence of a crust, but that was wholly unnecessary and just adds to the cost, so if you want to leave it out, feel free to do so.

I had this feeling it would come out tasty, but I did take a gamble. And it paid off. I think it's quite amazing. But since I haven't fed it to the entire family yet, I decided to ask Mike his opinion on it before I post it on the blog, so after he tasted it, his response was, I quote "Mmmmm.. very nice!"

I love when experiments work out nicely, and I have another cheapo recipe idea to add to my arsenal.

I literally just used the veggies I had in my house but the type you use really doesn't make a difference- use what you have in the house, whether its potatoes, mushrooms, green beans, fennel, sweet potatoes, or whatever- just use 3 1/2 cups chopped veggies total, plus onions, fish, etc.

If you don't have fish/can't eat fish/won't eat fish, feel free to replace the fish with either deboned shredded chicken or cooked chickpeas to keep it vegan.

Paleo Cheapo Fish Pie Recipe- Egg Free, Allergy Friendly, Vegan Option

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

All About Shopping at Salvage or Scratch and Dent Stores

Lately I've gotten really into my scratch and dent stores, also called salvage stores, and I'm really excited about them, since they save me a lot of money. However, the thing is, when you mention to people that you buy at a scratch and dent store, and immediately everyone has a lot of questions.

What is it?

What can you buy there?

Why would you want to buy there?

Is the stuff there good?

Is it even safe to eat stuff from salvage stores?

So, hopefully this post will answer all those most commonly asked questions so that you, too, can start shopping at salvage stores and save money.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Quick Fennel Kimchi Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Easy

I really love fennel, love its crunch, love its versatility, love its mild licorice like flavor, love that it is lower in carbs, and that in the winter locally I can buy it very cheaply. I have my favorite recipes with it, like in a salad with lemon and mint, and roasted with honey mustard, but sometimes I want to change things up a bit and try new flavors with my favorite ingredients, and so, this dish was born.
The other week I had an insanely large amount of fennel, and I thought to myself- why not try Korean? I have yet to taste a Korean dish that I didn't like.

I love kimchi, the spicy Korean version of sauerkraut, but it doesn't love me- cabbage bothers my sensitive stomach, yes, even after fermenting. I thought- why not make a kimchi inspired dish, just with fennel instead of cabbage. And since I didn't have the patience to wait for it to ferment, I used a touch of vinegar to replace the acidity usually there from the lactic acid producing bacterias.
It came out terrifically, and may even be my new favorite way to prepare fennel!

 For those people who aren't a fan of the flavor of fennel, this method really eliminates much of that licoricey taste, so I suggest you try it. And for those like myself that cant eat cabbage, I must say that this taste is nearly identical to regular kimchi, so its an overall winner. Next time I may try fermenting the fennel for a more authentic taste as well as the nutritional benefit, but this quick fennel kimchi was terrific.

There are 3 ways to make this recipe- I will include them all.

Quick Fennel Kimchi Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Easy

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Candied Honey Mustard Turnips Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free

I think I figured out that my method of masking flavors I am not in love with tends to either be "Koreanize it," "curry it," or "honey mustard it". I love those flavors, and they're strong enough that when they are combined with other flavors, they mask them.
I've written about turnips before, that even though I am really not a picky eater and will eat almost anything, turnips are one of those things that I simply don't care for their flavor.
The thing is- my friend Rachel was asking me yesterday, if I buy all my produce really cheaply, what do I do when I need something for a recipe that I couldn't find cheaply? I told her that I don't work that way- I get what is cheap, and if it's dirt cheap I get even more of that item. I then find recipes based on what I bought already, and then go from there. So that means if turnips are on sale really cheaply, I'll buy them, and I'll figure out something to do with them. Yes, even though they are the lowest down on the list of my preferred veggies. I don't hate them, I just don't care for their flavor.
So I mask it.

I bought 8 lbs of turnips, 4 giant turnips each weighing 2 lbs, for about 30 cents a pound, and then when I got home, tried thinking what to make with them. I had considered mu sangchae, Korean turnip salad, but then chanced on a recipe for candied turnips. Only it used things that I couldn't and wouldn't use- white sugar and butter. But from there I thought- if it is sweet enough, I'm sure it'll taste great. And since I just love mustard, decided to throw some in there for good measure.
I used jaggery syrup in mine, but feel free to use any sweetener of choice.

The result? Absolutely delicious. Like candy. The way I've most enjoyed eating turnips. But... its pretty sweet, almost enough that I'd eat it as dessert. So you might want to go easier on the sweetener.
And since I am a mustard lover, I put a ton of that in as well; you might want to reduce the mustard amounts if you don't like it as much as I do.

Lastly- this started off with 5 cups of chopped turnips and ended up filling only one bowl when fully cooked, so I will be doubling this next time I make it.

This recipe is paleo, vegan, allergy friendly, and refined sugar free, and you can make it super cheaply if you use white sugar as your sweetener. If you use honey, you can make this GAPS legal as well.

Candied Honey Mustard Turnips Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Today's Insanely Cheap Produce Shopping Trip

I talk a lot about frugal shopping, specifically my dirt cheap buys at the farmers market, mainly the grade b veggies and fruit. (Now I must admit that while I write farmer's market on my blog that's mainly for ease of translation, because it's really an open air market with a variety of vendors selling a variety of things and lots of competition, not 100% a farmers' market.)
It's a busy place and can be confusing, hard to know your way around let alone where to find the best deals, like which vendors sell their 'seconds' cheaply, but over the years of shopping there I've discovered the way to get the best bargains and usually end up paying only 20-40 cents a pound for my produce. People get inspired by me to do the same but can't figure out where to shop to get the deals I do, so they asked me to please take people around the market and show them where to find the best prices.

Today I led a group of about a dozen or so people around the market, and they were so excited to now know where they can also get amazing prices.

After they finished I did my own shopping with a few of the people who I'd shown around earlier tagging along with me to watch me 'in action' and I have to say I impressed myself even!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins Recipe, Gluten Free, Vegan, and Refined Sugar Free Options

I regularly go to a Mommy and Me type get together on Tuesday mornings, where the hostess provides yummy homemade treats for everyone to eat, but more often than not they're gluten filled, which means that my kids can't eat them. It's hard for them to see everyone else getting these baked goods when they can't have them, so I try to have something to bring along for them that is gluten free and ideally not too unhealthy.

The kids woke me up earlier this morning than I usually wake up, and instead of grumping about the lack of sleep, I decided to take advantage of the extra time I had before the class to throw together a quick batch of muffins. I'm currently short on produce (going shopping tomorrow) so I couldn't make my standard muffins. I had coconut so made up this recipe and it was terrific. Since I'm out of coconut sugar and my other standard sweeteners, I used white sugar for this, but next time I make it I'd use coconut sugar.
I made mine gluten free and vegan but this recipe would work just as well with wheat flour and eggs.

These muffins were a big hit also with my kids, and with the other people attending the class. I can't give my personal opinion on the taste because I didn't eat them because I'm trying to be better about sticking to paleo only, so I didn't even have a bite! Yay for self control! But everyone liked them, even gluten eaters, so I'll take that as a mark of success.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins Recipe, Gluten Free, Vegan, and Refined Sugar Free Options

Monday, February 1, 2016

Replacing a Plug on an Expensive Appliance to Save Money

On Thursday afternoon I bunkered down for a major cooking session, as I had two families of guests coming over on the weekend, and I planned on doing a lot of cooking from scratch. I took out my food processor, something I needed for at least 5 or 6 different dishes, and it simply wouldn't turn on. I tried so many things, one after another, and nothing worked. Eventually, I unplugged it, and as I pulled out the plug for the transformer that I needed to use to be able to use my American food processor, one of the prongs came off of the plug.

That was the issue.
And it was a huge one.

I use my transformer regularly. I paid $185 dollars for my transformer on sale, and need it to run my heavy duty grain grinder, and my sewing machine. I didn't want to have to buy a new transformer, but without a usable plug, did I really have a choice?

I put the converter away, borrowed my friend's food processor that didn't need a transformer, and made my food... and then forgot about it.

My brother is getting married in two weeks, and the dress I bought needs some alterations done to it, and instead of paying a seamstress to do it, I decided to do what alterations I could, and only pay the seamstress for what I don't know how to do. So last night, I cut and pinned the dress, took out the sewing machine, took out the transformer, since my sewing machine is also an American appliance, went to plug in the transformer, and then remembered- the plug is broken; it is unusable.


Then Mike said "You can just change the plug, its not a big deal".