Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cherry Mulberry Crumble Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free Options, Versatile Recipe

I know I'm a great cook. But I also know that what I make sometimes can be somewhat unusual, and acknowledge that some less adventurous eaters may be too intimidated to eat something that I made, and that is ok with me too. There's this relative that I have that falls into that category. He has his specific tastes, and isn't so interested in venturing outside his usual foods, and consequently, he doesn't usually want to eat anything I made. But he's now on a Primal diet (basically paleo plus dairy) and we got together as a family and I knew he'd been missing desserts, so I suggested that he try out this dessert that I made, a cherry mulberry crumble, that was with foraged mulberries and was grain free, refined sugar free, and absolutely delicious. Being the skeptic of my food that he is, he didn't want to taste it, even though I reassured him that it was delicious and that I was sure he'd enjoy it, but finally, doing me a favor, he agreed to have a little taste.
And then wanted more. And more. And more.

Yes, it's that good.
Why this introduction?
Well, obviously to show you how tasty this recipe is, but also to explain that I know what it's like to be a forager and a healthy cook, and have people who are intimidated to eat the healthy foods I make with foraged foods. And I know that I'm not the only one out there (I've heard stories from other foragers of making delicious meals for a group and no one being willing to even taste it), and maybe this story, and this recipe can give you hope. Yes, as a forager, some of the foods I make are interesting and different, but using a recipe like this, you can make foraged foods into something delectable and "normal" enough that even non adventurous eaters can and probably will enjoy.
Everyone else at the get together also really enjoyed this dish, it goes without saying.

While I made my crumble with foraged ingredients (ok, partially- the cherries weren't foraged), this is a really versatile recipe and you can make it with any fruit that cooks well, foraged or store bought or homegrown. I make crumbles with peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, strawberries, num nums, plums, blueberries, etc... Any fruit that can go into a pie can go into this crumble, such as blackberries, raspberries, or even rhubarb or knotweed! Just adjust it to taste- if you use fruit that are less naturally sweet, you'll want to add more sweetener or it will end up too tart. This is actually the perfect thing to do with past prime fruit that need to be used up quickly before they go off.

Additionally, while I made mine grain free, from a mixture of almonds and tapioca starch, feel free to use 3 cups of whatever flour you enjoy most, from wheat flour to rolled oats- only use 1 cup of oats and 2 cups other flours if using oats- to gluten free flours of choice, depending on your budget, dietary needs, and what is available in your house.

I used jaggery syrup as the sweetener in mine- feel free to use whatever liquid or dry sweetener you prefer to use, adjusting to taste as needed.

Cherry Mulberry Crumble Recipe- Paleo, Refined Sugar Free Options, Versatile Recipe

Teaching Your Teen to Be a Safe Driver

This is a post by Nancy Evans, and the timing for it seems very apropos. No, we don't have a teen driver, or any teen in our house, for that matter, but my husband, finally, is starting to learn for his driver's license and has his first class tomorrow morning, so these are all important points to review with him as well! No, we still aren't planning on getting a car, but having a license will open more work opportunities for him, as well as allow us the option of renting a car for day trips if need be.

Congratulations, you now have a licensed teenaged driver in your home. It is a monumental moment in their lives that essentially says they’re on their way to independence. As their parent, it’s only natural to have your reservations about the idea. Not only does this means your child is no longer a baby, but you’re also concerned about their safety and well-being on the road. Don’t panic; there is a solution to keeping your teen safe – education and practice.

Luckily, parents play a significant role in keeping their teens safe as they become more experienced drivers. To help you and to ease your fears, here’s some advice on how to instill the importance of safety behind the wheel to your teenager.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Planning For A Frugal and Fun Summer by Being Organized

Image Credit- Stuart Miles
If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'd know that we homeschool our kids. Therefore, you might think that summer is no different than year round for us, in terms of being able to go on trips, etc... and for the most part, that would be true. I do take the kids on trips year round, since we're not limited to the hours after school is out, and I do tend to prefer taking them to places when it is less packed by all the summer/vacation hordes... However, my husband works during the school year and is off for the summer, which means that if we want to do any trips as a family, summer is the best time.
I'm a spontaneous person, often do trips and activities spur of the moment, but have been working on pre-planning a little more, as it's working well for our family in terms of meal planning (even if I've been using that as a general guideline and not exact), and I find that if things aren't scheduled into a calendar, they often get pushed off more and more until I don't end up getting done as many things as I want done. For this summer, I wanted to fill the calendar with trip days, all preplanned, to ensure that these trips happen.

I also have a little pressure to get as many trips in this summer as I can, as next year, I probably will be sending Ike to school (we just had an appointment today to check out a school for kids on the autism spectrum and it went well). That means that any trips as an entire family need to be done this summer, as we won't be able to do them with all the kids once the new year starts in September, and even if I wanted to go on trips with the kids who were home, I'd have to make it back home in time to meet my kid when he gets back from school, so trips won't be so easy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Latest Frugal Shopping Trip

This morning, I was looking at my fridge, trying to figure out what I could make for myself with what was available. I saw mountains of carrots, one lone zucchini, some past prime cucumbers, and some wild greens, and that was about it when it came to available produce to use in my house. Last week when I went to the market, I couldn't find much by way of produce that I can eat without bothering my stomach that could also be cooked, and wasn't super high in carbs, and today, as I pondered my fridge and what to eat, I realized I needed to shop... 
Yes, I can fill up on fruit and carrots and sweet potatoes and such, but I have reached a plateau in my weight loss, and I would like to try to lose another 5-15 lbs tops, after having been staying the same for 9 months or so... And to do that, I know I need to have the bulk of my diet be produce, lower carb produce, along with some proteins at each meal, and that's it...

But then I have two other competing thoughts going on at once in my head. Yes, I want to lose more weight, but I also want to keep down our grocery bills to save for our trip this summer (which will be at the end of July in the end, to a different place that I hadn't originally considered, that will work out even cheaper and is more local, but not too local, which means even less time to save up for it) so Mike feels more comfortable with it, and spending money on out of season veggies or expensive brussel sprouts and broccoli and asparagus is not exactly the best way to reduce grocery bills... On top of that, I need to think about my sanity too. I am trying to juggle a lot of things at once, and fortunately using my meal plan is allowing me to keep my sanity while cooking frugally for the rest of the family, but my paleo food can be more time consuming to make, and I don't always have the energy to spend time preparing the more time consuming cheaper produce (nopales, I'm looking at you)...

And so, when I went to the grocery store today, I tried to strike a balance between frugal shopping, my sanity, and my health and weight loss goals...

I think I did decently well.

This is what I bought:

Total shop cost: $59.80.

Here's what I got, and why:

OurPact, A Review

I let my kids use technology, such as computers, smart phones and tablets. In fact, not only do I let them, my husband and I recognize their value educationally- yes, even the 'non educational' games and shows on it. I think life is for learning and if having a tablet allows them to learn more about the world at large then it should be recognized as that and not shunned as a time waster and brain sucker. Between the four kids of mine there are three tablets regularly in use and I'm totally cool with that.

A big thing about letting my kids use their tablets is trust. Trust that when I say something is inappropriate/not good for them, they won't watch or play that. My kids have been very good about that. I've had my kids come to me and tell me that this YouTuber they were watching used an inappropriate word and therefore they won't be watching their shows anymore. I'm not worried about them sneaking things behind my back because I see how responsibly they act with the technology I allow them to use.

When I was contacted by OurPact, a company whose mission is to "empower parents to guide their children through the balanced use of technology", and in practice is an app that you install on your child's devices (Android or iOS) which allows the parents to manage them remotely, allowing them to turn on or off access to their children's devices with a push of a button, at first I had to think about whether what they do is in line with my values enough to promote it on my blog. You see, I support the thought behind it, that we should spend time with each other building memories, not just glued to technology, and that is something I try to teach my kids. But I tend to try and avoid head to head confrontations with my kids, making them do things my way by force, and instead aim to get them to see things my way and want to do what I'm saying instead of being forced into it. So the idea of installing a program onto their devices to force them to listen to me rather than them making the right choice didn't sit so well with me.

However, I discussed OurPact with my husband, and he made me realize quite a few different ways in which using OurPact would go hand in hand with my parenting style. On top of that, I also respect that not everyone has the same parenting style that I do, and even if I'd rather discuss things with my kids first instead of just enforcing rules, most parents do not have my parenting style exactly, and many parenting styles can benefit from use of OurPact.

At first I was thinking that I'd use this to turn off the devices from bed time until it was time to get up in the morning. My kids don't need so much sleep, I've found, but if they're really excited about something in the morning they'll wake up super early and not get as much sleep as they need. If they knew that their devices wouldn't be usable before 6 am they might be more willing to try to sleep a little more.
My husband also suggested that I use it to turn devices off when guests come over if my kids don't willingly put it aside when asked, because those are times we feel strongly about not using tech.

One thing I like though, as I checked out OurPact, is that while it can be used as a punishment, OurPact, as the name implies, is about trust and making agreements between parents and kids regarding their devices, and encourages discussions, negotiations, etc... regarding using their tech, and even has a downloadable family contract that they encourage every family to discuss and sign with their children. I think if just blocking devices is the only tool in your arsenal to teach your kids healthy screen time management, you're not doing it right, but having it there as a backup for when discussions, etc... don't work, is a boon.

Additionally, in the past short while, I realized that while I am not opposed to my children's use of their tablets, sometimes using their devices stops them from doing things that they'd otherwise be doing, as time often slips through your fingers as the digital world sucks you in. We decided as a family to make certain hours in our home tech free, recently. I do plan on discussing with my kids when it is time to put away their devices, but if they have a harder time listening, its nice to have this ability to turn off their access to their devices in my back pocket, a trump card of sorts...

Installing OurPact onto my children's tablets was very easy to do. Once I did that and synchronized their devices with my account, I now can set a schedule (daily or weekly) to turn on or off their access to the internet and third party apps. Alternatively, I can override the schedule in place and turn it on or off at the click of a button.

OurPact is free for parents and easy to use. If you think it is something that you'd find beneficial in your family, here's how you can download it to use.

See my disclaimer.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Super Frugal Fun Painting Date

My husband and I generally go on two dates a year. Once for our anniversary, and once for our shared birthday.
I'm feeling it isn't enough. I would like to have more one on one time only with him, time where we aren't just at home taking care of household things and getting distracted by cell phones, etc... But babysitting isn't so easy to find, and it adds up.
I'm still interested in dates "going out" and all, but last night hubby and I had a nice stay at home date after the kids went to bed (early-ish, thankfully!) that was fun and super cheap too!

I'd heard of these painting dates that are done around here, where couples paint together, and I don't know the specifics of it, but know that couples come home with two paintings, one that each person did, even people that had never painted before in their lives.
I wanted to try that with Mike.

I love painting, but wouldn't say that I'm particularly artistic. I just enjoy stroking the brush across canvas, and creating things. I have taken art lessons, some private, but mainly through my school, and I've learned some basic techniques and I'm able to get things done. Mike, on the other hand, is super artistic and has pure raw talent. He doesn't know any techniques, he hasn't ever learned how to draw, paint, sculpt, or whatnot, he just has a gift.
I knew that he'd love painting- but he never painted before in his life, he said. (Other than a Scooby Doo thing one time when he was a kid.)

So I decided that we'd have a stay at home paint date. Originally I thought we'd paint two halves of the same scene, but in the end we went with other things...

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Delicious Healthy Blue Cheese Cashew Cherry Cheesecake Recipe- Paleo, GAPS Legal, Egg Free

I love cheesecake, but, for the most part, it doesn't exactly love me. That is why I've made many versions of cashew based non dairy cheesecakes over the years. The thing is- sometimes I want a dairy dessert, but there aren't many dairy items I can eat without them bothering my stomach. The list is limited to blue cheese, camembert, kashkaval, brie, Parmesan and Swiss cheeses. I figured out a delicious recipe for a fruit tart with blue cheese, but I still wanted to figure out a cheesecake I could eat, despite not being able to eat the standard cheesecake ingredients.

Googling, I discovered that there is such a thing as blue cheese cheesecake, but since blue cheese is so strong, there is a minimal amount of blue cheese used and the bulk of the cheesecake is ingredients I can't eat- cream cheese, eggs, and sugar. However, that did give me the idea to use my standard cheesecake base- cashews- and use blue cheese as the flavor addition, so I experimented with this idea, taking a gamble, and yowza- it paid off big time! This blue cheese cashew cheesecake was so delicious that I will certainly be making it again and again, for special occasions anyhow.
To make it extra special I decided to top it with some pure cherry puree that I'd made and had in my freezer, but it can be left off or replaced with any other thick fruit puree or pie filling.

This recipe is paleo (for those that allow certain aged cheeses on the paleo diet) and by using honey instead of jaggery syrup, is GAPS legal as well.
In terms of health- well, its certainly healthier than your run of the mill cheesecake, not super high in carbs, and no unhealthy processed ingredients. But it is very high in fat so you don't want to be eating too much of this in one go. I made this in a muffin tin with six compartments, but in the future, I think I'll make this in mini muffin tins so that there will be more servings.
As for cost? I added up how much this cost me to make, and it works out to be less than $5 for the batch so really not bad at all!

This has to be kept in the freezer up until you eat it, but the texture is so perfect that it has the right consistency just out of the freezer, and doesn't need to soften up first at all.

I highly recommend this cheesecake recipe, if you like blue cheese. My husband compared this cheesecake and a standard cheesecake side by side and said this one was tastier by far, so that's just really cool.

Delicious Healthy Blue Cheese Cashew Cherry Cheesecake Recipe- Paleo, GAPS Legal, Egg Free

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Evolution of Our Family's Finances and Daring to Dream Big and Make Plans

Photo credit- Kenneth Cratty
This blog has evolved a lot over time, as it has been a reflection of our finances that, too, have evolved a lot over time. When I first started out we literally were penniless, not making it through the month, insanely frugal by necessity, and basically pinching pennies so hard they screamed, and even with that, having a hard time managing financially. There were so many frugal things that I knew would help us out but couldn't afford the initial outlay (such as bulk buying, for example). I was in a bad place financially and while my hopes were to get out of that bad financial place we were in, I didn't really know how to do it.

A friend told me that there's only so far we can pinch our pennies; at some point we'd need to earn more, as you can't save money that you didn't bring in already. But I didn't know how to raise our income. Once I calculated how much money I'd be able to bring in each month by working full time at a minimum wage job (the only type of job I was qualified for) and then subtracted work related expenses such as childcare and saw that I'd bring in so little that it would be offset by the amount I could do to save money if I were home so I wrote off going to work as pointless.

I did manage to find some part time jobs, some working from home (started off with childcare, but then switched to writing jobs, primarily), and some part time jobs out of the home -- cleaning jobs, predominantly, and did some occasional gigs here and there to bring in some money, such as teaching foraging classes, and selling homemade food products.

In addition to that, gradually my penny pinching ways gained popularity and I started to be able to earn a little bit of money from this blog, in addition to some other frugality themed writing jobs. Slowly but surely we were inching our way forward and I started to be able to do the things I wanted to do to save money, and we got out of that rut of being insanely frugal and still spending more than we were bringing in, and instead we were just very frugal and generally not spending more than we were bringing in...

When I first started this blog, I'll admit that it was in the hopes of bringing in an income from it, and joked that hopefully one day I'll be able to rename it Penniless to Millionaire. While that is no where near the truth for us, I can say that our financial situation at the moment is worlds apart from how it was 6 years ago. We have up months and down months, but we've had more ups than downs lately, especially since I kicked my butt into gear and started teaching more classes, selling more homemade soaps, writing some books, etc...

Friday, June 10, 2016

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Making Wild Greens Yuca Gnocchi

In April, I bought yuca root for the first time. It's rather expensive round these parts, about $3.90 a pound, but I wanted to give it a try and attempt to cook with it, as I heard it was a very versatile cooking ingredient, that it allows you to make a large variety of paleo foods, without any grains, without any potatoes, and even without any eggs.

I was great fun to try out this new ingredient, and of my first three experiments with yuca, one was an amazing success, yuca dough garlic knots, one was mainly a flop- strawberry swirls, and the third was ok, but could have been better- yuca crust pizza.

Then I bought yuca again, because I wanted to try to make gnocchi with them. But I was feeling really lazy and it just sat and sat and sat in my fridge until it was nearly going off. Today I said that I needed to use them up before I had to throw them out and waste all that money, so I put it to use. Not one way, but many!

You see, I really wanted to include a gnocchi recipe in my foraging cookbook, but I wanted to make it accessible for people on all sorts of different diets, and I thought including a foraged greens gnocchi made with yuca so it is both paleo and vegan would just hit the spot... but since I was already making the gnocchi as is, I decided to try it out a few different ways.

Actual recipe will have to come another day, maybe tomorrow, but for now, pics and descriptions:

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mexican Cactus Salad Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Sugar Free

If I had to suggest one recipe to try to everyone who was skeptical about cactus paddles, who didn't want anything "weird tasting", this would be the recipe I'd suggest. Everyone I know that has tried it, other than olive haters, has loved it. It by far is my favorite recipe for cactus paddles. 
This Mexican cactus salad, to be honest, isn't a traditional Mexican recipe, as far as I know, but is based on Mexican vegetables and ingredients, from nopalitos, the Spanish name for cactus paddles, to tomatoes and cumin, etc, and it fits the flavor profile I and many other people associate with Mexican cuisine.
I've made it with purslane, called portulaca in Mexico, and without, and both ways it is terrific. I'll be honest -- I don't always have olives at home; though I don't promote shopping specifically for recipes, just using what is on hand, this is one recipe that is so worth it that I will buy ingredients specifically for it.
If you don't eat legumes, feel free to leave the chickpeas out of this recipe, and adjust the rest of the ingredients to taste. I suggest making sure to include the purslane if you don't include chickpeas.

Mexican Cactus Salad Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free

Monday, June 6, 2016

Making A Bi-Weekly Menu Plan To Save Money and Sanity

Today's lunch on the bi-weekly menu plan

If you've read my blog for a while or know me in person for any length of time, you'd know that organization is big challenge of mine, and my struggles with that plays out in many ways in my life, often causing issues, and many times costing me extra money, either by forgetting to take care of things so I get charged late fees or things get ruined, or being so scatterbrained that I forgot to be prepared with something more frugal and end up spending more on getting or making things last minute that are more expensive...

I don't think I can transform myself overnight from messy, disorganized, and absentminded to an organized, orderly person, as I think this is part of my intrinsic personality, for good or for bad, and goes hand in hand with my ability to multitask and be creative and spontaneous. However, I think it is possible for me to do certain organized things, if I work hard at it, and maybe that organization will help me in the long run, and eventually make me a slightly more organized person... or at least I can hope.

I love cooking, and I like creativity, and I like coming up with new ideas in the kitchen, but I've been busy lately and haven't really been in the mood of cooking three meals a day for my family, and then another three meals a day for myself, since my kids won't agree to eat the foods I eat and I can't eat the foods they eat. So usually what happens is the kids come up to me and say "Mommy, I'm hungry! What's for lunch?" And then I have to start thinking about what to feed them, and then it usually involves something super fast and easy to make because there isn't time to cook something lengthy since they already are hungry by the time I start cooking. So suppers end up being more expensive because that's what is faster to make. Discussing my grocery bills with my friend, she was saying that she isn't particularly frugal at all, and spends pretty much the same as I do on groceries. (Mind you, I am making gluten free for everyone and paleo for myself, so that ups the cost, but still.) Which kind of makes me realize that I need to do something about my grocery bill, stat.
I also want to try to eliminate some of the stress that ends up around meal time because of this lack of organization and forethought on my part.
On top of everything else, there's not much more frustrating than taking the time and energy to cook up a meal for my family and then have them say that they don't like it, and don't want to eat it.

So, I decided to do some interventions.

Time for disorganized me to get organized, and make a standard weekly menu plan, with a focus on foods that are not difficult to make, inexpensive, and the kids agree to eat.

Using To Save Money

I love shopping online, because I find it saves me a lot of time and money (more on that in a future post), especially if you know the right stores to shop to get the very best deals. But I always just was happy enough with the deals I was already getting on my favorite sites, didn't know that there was even more that I could do to save money.

I was recently contacted by a representative from to check out their website, and I'm so glad I did. In general, I have this attitude of "Appreciate what you have" and don't look to make things better if they're already good, but in this case, I should have.

 You see, PromoPro takes online shopping, which already can be such a money saver, and makes it even cheaper! No needing to sign up, no fees or whatever, just convenience.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Artichoke Stem Salad Recipe, Cheapskate Cooking, Vegan, Paleo

One of my favorite vegetables out there is artichoke, but unfortunately they are only available for a short season locally, but unfortunately it is now over, and from my research, it seems that peak season for artichoke in the US is over by now as well. However, I couldn't wait a whole year more before I shared this recipe with you, so just bookmark it for next time you see them being sold inexpensively!

Many people are aware of canned artichokes, or stuffed artichoke hearts, and others know how to eat a whole artichoke, as well. Most, people, though, don't know that you can eat artichoke stems; they cut off the stems of the artichoke before boiling, steaming, or baking,

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Summer Foraging and Meeting the Other Expat Foragers in the Neighborhood

In the past, I felt foraging locally was predominantly a winter thing, to the extent that I didn't even offer any foraging classes in the summer, only the winter. Then I started realizing that I could forage year round; I was lucky enough to live in a place where year round foraging is possible, and started teaching classes on that as well.
But though I was teaching in the summer and foraging here and there, I didn't think foraging could be a staple then, to the point of lowering my grocery bills by replacing what I generally buy with foraged plants, as much as it was in the winter. It was more in terms of spices- some seeds, some fruit (many summer ripening fruit here, but not many wild ones, nearly all people's private trees in their yards), some nuts, but not many veggies other than purslane, when I was actually lucky enough to find it.

Slowly but surely, I learned about the edible veggies that can be foraged in the summer, and now I think that with properly planned foraging, I can forage, if not as much as during the winter, close to the amount of veggies I do then, also significantly lowering my produce bill.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How I Preserved A Bunch of Past Prime Cherries


I try my best to stick to only buying produce in season, other than some very rare occasions, and even when they are in season, I wait till the peak of the season so prices are reasonable. Therefore, I had cherries for the first time this year the other day.

I got a bunch of cherries, and it was so exciting... but they were past prime, and I knew they wouldn't last long at all.

Nothing like waiting so long for a taste of these delicious fruit and have them spoil on you! So I decided that, while I'd save some fresh to have as is, the rest I'd process so that I can use them at a later date, even if that later date is only in a few more days, without them spoiling first.