Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cheap Paleo Chocolate Cake Recipe- With Beets!- Nut Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Grain Free, Coconut Free

I wanted to apologize for not posting so much the last little while- it's spring break over here so I've been taking advantage of that and trying to teach as many foraging classes as possible while kids are out of school, which means less time in front of the computer to write posts. (6 classes in the last 4 days alone, in 4 different cities. I'm exhausted!)
But, I made this cake and shared it on my personal Facebook wall and so many people asked me to share it, so exhausted or not, here it is!

My niece turned 1 year old and her mom asked me to make a birthday cake for her, but there were a few specifications for it: no refined sweetener, no grains (gluten free or otherwise), and healthy.
On top of that, I didn't want to make it very expensive, which this type of cake generally would be, typically using lots of honey and nut meal. On top of that, I didn't have coconut flour (which also is quite pricey) which these types of cakes generally use.
I decided to experiment with a cake recipe and hope I came up with something good.
Because I wasn't using anything solid like white sugar or nut meal but wanted the cake to solidify, I decided to use a whole boiled beet in the cake, something which sounds weird, I know, but there are lots of recipes out there putting beets in chocolate cake so I decided to give it a try.
Because honey is expensive and I can get dates cheaper than honey, I decided to try making the majority of the sweetness be from dates and beets, and only add honey as needed for that extra bit of sweetness.

The results of the experiment?
My husband, kids, and I all enjoyed it. Of those who attended the birthday party, the majority liked it a lot and wanted the recipe, but maybe a third of the people who tried it weren't fans.
Here's why- I think.
First off- it tastes healthy.
If you're expecting a cake that tastes exactly like plain ol' chocolate cake- you'll be disappointed.
Secondly, it is sweet enough, but not very sweet. Kind of like if you take a bite of 75% dark chocolate expecting milk chocolate the first thought running through your head will be "OMG this isn't sweet!" But if you go in expecting 75% chocolate, you will appreciate the mild sweetness and enjoy it.

That said, here's the recipe.

Cheap Paleo Chocolate Cake Recipe- With Beets!- Nut Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Grain Free, Coconut Free

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Homemade Healthy Strawberry Jam Recipe- Paleo, GAPS, Refined Sugar Free, Vegan Option

I had an idea to make something like cinnamon buns for dessert, only with strawberry jam inside it instead of a cinnamon sugar mixture. The strawberry buns flopped (gotta improve the dough recipe) but the strawberry jam that I made to go inside it came out so wonderfully that I think this will be my go to recipe for strawberry jam. It's refined sugar free, pectin free, and is Paleo and GAPS legal and can easily be vegan too. You can make it with only whole fruit, and it is not too difficult to make. I highly recommend this recipe.

Homemade Strawberry Jam Recipe- Paleo, Refined Sugar Free, Vegan Option

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Giving Our Homemade Couch a Makeover To Suit My Tastes- For Free!

Ever have an idea that in theory was great but in practice didn't work out as planned?

That's what happened with our couch. Two years ago, sick of having no couch in our home, Mike turned a wooden shoe box he'd built into a couch, by first turning it into a bench, then I added cushioning and a cover to make it be a couch. 

The problem with it was that the shoe box was built as that, not planning to be a couch, and so, the seat wasn't wide enough. As a bench it was fine, but when we put the cushions on the bench and the back, it used up much of the available sitting space, leaving you without enough room to sit comfortably, making it feel like you were constantly falling off.

 photo IMG_0985_zpsacf20dc0.jpg

It worked, in a pinch, but when we found enough money and the space to put in a small couch a year ago, the shoe box couch fell out of use, and other than being a place to store our shoes, it became the place of choice to pile on clutter and mess... since no one sat on it anyhow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How to Make All Sorts of Different Homemade Soaps including Breast Milk Soap

Most people who've been in the "crunchy" aka "natural parenting world for some time have heard about the amazing properties of breast milk, not just in nourishing babies but also for healing all sorts of ailments, from pink eye to ear infections and diaper rashes, because of the antibodies and other disease fighting aspects within. A friend of mine thinks that the reason her daughter survived cancer is because she nursed throughout chemo.

I'd heard about making soap from breast milk; it's meant to be be more beneficial than regular soap, with many of the benefits of breast milk, so very healing. It intrigued me, but I hate pumping so didn't have any to work with. Then someone who I am close with (and trust that her breast milk is safe and disease free) told me that she had pumped and froze milk for her baby who refused to drink milk that had been frozen- the babe wanted only freshly pumped milk, so she didn't know what to do with all the milk she pumped. I said I'd take it for soap making... and then it sat in my freezer for a while until I finally got around to making it yesterday.
Do I know if the milk retains its properties once made into soap? Nope. But even if not, no harm done and its still good soap.

Monday, April 18, 2016

So What Does Poor Mean Anyhow?

Photo credit- David Castillo Dominici
Last week I wrote a post discussing whether or not eggs are really as cheap as they are made out to be, and in the comments section there was a little back and forth about being "poor" and if that is something worthy of criticism.

Completely unrelated to that, the other day I went with my kids to the city, and my oldest, Lee, who has been saving up his money, decided completely on his own to bring along some of his loose change to be able to give it as charity to the beggars he'd inevitably see on the street. While in the city, we started talking about charity, needy people, etc, and then he asked me "Mommy, are we poor?"
I mean, as someone who is famous for living frugally and goes by the name "Penniless" I guess such a question from my kids was inevitable at some point.

My answer to my son started with "Poor is relative; compared to some people we're poor, and compared to other people we're rich."

But the thing is- it got me thinking- what does poor mean anyhow, and are we poor?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Figuring Out The True Price of Eggs- Are They Really So Cheap?

Image credit- Simon Howden
I think the standard frugal kitchen maven knows, de-facto, that eggs are the cheapest protein you can serve your family, other than legumes (cooked from dried beans, not canned).

But I don't like taking such knowledge for granted- I mean, is it really true? Is it perhaps even wrong, like the common knowledge that chicken breast is the cheapest type of meat, because there's no bone in it, and that wings and necks are a waste of money because they're mostly bone, which I actually proved wrong, when I did my calculations to figure out which type of meat is actually cheapest, and discovered that, contrary to popular belief, necks and wings are cheaper than breast, even once you factor in the bones and skin.
And maybe eggs are the cheapest animal protein sometimes, like if you can shop at Aldi's- but where I live eggs are much more expensive than Aldi's- so maybe here they are not the cheapest option?

I'll admit, eggs have been my go-to protein to cook for my family when they don't want legumes, because I assumed they were cheapest- but are they really?

Add to that the fact that there are three different sizes of eggs sold locally regularly- medium, large, and extra large, all with different pricing, and I really had no idea which was the best buy.

So that made me realize- it was time do to another crazy calculation- to figure out how much I'm really paying for my eggs, figure out type of egg is most worthwhile to buy, and if eggs are actually the cheapest type of animal protein out there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

You Need a Budget- And I Do Too!

I have to admit, budgets scared me for a long time, and to be honest, still scare me a lot. I'm going to get all emotional on you in this post and I hope you'll bear with me while I do so.

I know the importance of budgeting. I know the importance if "giving every dollar a name" as all financial gurus recommend, so that you know where each of your dollars is going and money doesn't disappear without you knowing where it went. Instead, you're supposed to decide where you want your money to go, and then you spend only that.
Its a wonderful idea, and its amazing in theory, but the thing is, a budget only works if you actually have enough money to cover your expenses. If your expenses are higher than what you are making, writing up a budget won't actually work, and all it'll do is make you feel depressed, sad, panicky, and hopeless about your financial situation. Speaking from personal experience, unfortunately.

So for years, despite knowing the importance of a budget, our family had none. I did not want to calculate how much more we were spending than what we were bringing in. I didn't think any good would come of it. That's why I'm really happy I was contacted by YNAB, a top rated budgeting app, who were interested in sponsoring this post. (Get three months free by clicking here - no credit card required!) Because it gave me the push to do something I should have done long ago. But more on that in a bit.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Wild Greens Baked Samosas Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan

The other day, my friend Renee sent me this link to gluten free samosas, made with rice paper wraps, and at first, I'll admit, I wasn't particularly interested in this Indian three cornered stuffed dish- not sure why though, since I love Indian food. But then I was trying to decide what I should do with a bunch of wild greens that I had in my fridge, and then thought- why not use this technique for samosas, but instead of filling it with potatoes and peas, fill it with wild greens?
I was a drop skeptical that it would work at first, because I haven't had the best luck with cooking rice paper wraps before (they tend to get soggy pretty quickly), but I figured it was worth a try.
My son, Lee, who was helping me make them didn't particularly enjoy the filling when I made it- he thought it was too sour, and I almost added some baking soda to the dish to neutralize the acidity in it, but then once the samosas were made and the filling was eaten together with the rice paper wraps? Well, lets just say that my kids were fighting over them, who would get the first ones ready, who could have more. Needless to say, they were disappointed when there were no more left, and I'll certainly be making these again.

I made these with dock, but you can make it with any greens you like for the filling. If you're using a more bitter type of leaf, blanch in boiling water first before using. Feel free to add a drop of lemon juice to your greens if you want to recreate what I did, or leave out if you'd prefer to have something less tart.
Alternatively, feel free to replace this with whatever filling you like, something with Indian style spicing.

Wild Greens Samosas Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Paleo Scotch Eggs Recipe- Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free, Easy

I had a really long day today, and I'm just about to head in to bed, but first I wanted to leave you with this really yummy recipe that not only is healthy, it is frugal and allergy friendly and pretty easy to boot.
Paleo Scotch eggs.

Now Scotch eggs are things that I didn't grow up with, but apparently they're eggs wrapped in sausage, then dipped in bread crumbs and baked or fried. At least that's what wikipedia claims. 

I discovered them when I was trying to come up with a main dish for a family get together with a lot of people, and I had ground beef, but in limited amounts. I wanted to be able to serve the ground beef without skimping on the protein and still tasting good.
They were a huge hit; everyone said I should make it again.

This is the recipe I used, and have since made quite a few times. This recipe has been sitting in my draft folder for a while already- I think since October even- because every time I made it, I didn't get a picture, so finally this last time I made it, I said I'd get a picture no matter what, even if it wasn't photogenic.

And so I apologize for the quality of the picture and lack of fancy plating- I took it in a rush, and at least some picture is better than none.

Now if you want to laugh... I made my paleo Scotch eggs... egg free. At least the sausage part. I know it sounds ridiculous, but... I don't tolerate eggs, and wanted to be able to eat some also. Instead of wrapping mine around a hard boiled egg, one time I wrapped it around a mini baked onion, and the other time around a mini baked sweet potatoes. A whole mushroom was another consideration as well. And then you get the ridiculousness that is eggless scotch eggs, which pretty much is just veggie stuffed sausage. Whatever the name is- my version was yummy, and everyone else enjoyed their eggy version. You can use an egg in the recipe in place of flax gel. And if you don't have ground beef or want to cut costs, you can use ground chicken or turkey for this, but may need to adjust the seasonings.
To keep this Paleo, I left off the bread crumbs one time and another time dipped it in ground almonds. Both were good, but I don't think the ground almonds made it so much better, enough to justify the extra cost of the nuts (they're expensive!), so I plan on leaving them off in the future. Feel free to use breadcrumbs for dipping if you don't need this to be paleo or gluten free.

This works great as travel food.

The best way to eat Scotch eggs is with mustard sauce- loose recipe below.

As much as this is a recipe, its more a cooking idea- feel free to adjust or substitute the ingredients, just keeping the same general idea. Last time I made it I was out of all my healthy sweeteners, so I just used a spoon of 100% fruit, unsweetened jam in place of sweetener and it worked out wonderfully.

Paleo Scotch Eggs Recipe- Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free, Easy

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Paleo Pepperoni Dock Wraps Recipe- Made With Wild Greens

I've been doing lots of crazy busy things around the house as well as out of the house, and today I needed to just catch up on all the housework that has been piling up. Of course, even if I need to take it easy, the kids and I still need to eat, but I needed something with minimal work, and, of course, minimal cost.

When I was cleaning out the freezer the other day I took out my homemade pepperoni, which inspired this lunch. For the kids, I originally was going to do something simple- slice it on a store bought gluten free bun (not so healthy, I know, but I am able to get a pack of buns for $1.40, which makes each bun 23 to 35 cents, depending on the type, so a good backup when I'm in a pinch), but then thought- why not make it BLT style, sort of. I spread their buns with mayo, ketchup and mustard, added a tomato and a slice of onion, and used a dock leaf in place of lettuce.

The kids really enjoyed it; Ike said it was the best lunch ever- pizza being the best one. 

Seeing the kids enjoy theirs made me wonder what I should have for lunch. Last time I was picking dock I was thinking how much it reminded me of collard greens, so I put two and two together and figured- why not use these leaves to make paleo wraps, the same way collard greens, kale, and lettuce often are. The more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me, since dock leaves (the ones near me are fiddlehead dock- rumex pulcher) are nice and thick, so they would be strong enough to hold the fillings without ripping, and they have a nice lemony taste, but are not too overpowering. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Crazy and Fun Kitchen Experimenting and Foraging

It all started with my new book that arrived in the mail- Pascal Bauder's new book, The New Wildcrafted Cuisine, which I received as a review copy (the review will be coming soon, this post is just a little taste), and I've been devouring.

The book makes you see the foods in the wild and in your kitchen (even if you're not a forager) from a completely new perspective, with unique ways of preparing those foods, and after reading only half the book, I got a hankering to get my groove on in the kitchen and do something interesting and different.

So last night, I went out and foraged some redbud blossoms, lavender, rosemary, and green almonds. I put some lavender and rosemary and green almonds each in their own separate container and then covered them with vinegar to infuse them, and hopefully make some tasty flavored vinegars.

After that, I decided to try dehydrating things as well. I sliced the green almonds thinly and dehydrated them, as well as redbud blossoms and lavender stalks. Since I had the oven going, I decided to see what else I could dehydrate, and got inspired to dehydrate some ferments as well- I did some fermented carrots, fermented wild fennel stalks, and fermented tomato/wild fennel/mint salsa. I reserved the liquid from the salsa and will be using that to make a salad dressing.

Top tray- redbud. Midle tray- fermented fennel fronds, fermented carrots, and unseen- fermented tomato/fennel/mint salsa. Bottom tray- green almonds, lavender.