Friday, April 28, 2017

Penniless Foodie in the Wild: Adaptable Recipes for Foragers and Frugalistas is Now Out!!!

Awesome news to share with y'all!!! My new cookbook, Penniless Foodie in the Wild,  Adaptable Recipes for Foragers and Frugalistas, is finally out and available on Amazon!

This has been a work in progress for months (or years, depending on how you look at it), and I'm really excited by it.

It's not a foraging ID book, but that is in the works. Its not even just for foragers- those with no interest in venturing out into the wild will also enjoy this food- it's just low cost good food that can be made with wild edibles or things from the grocery store.

Here's what the blurb at the back of the book says:

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Russian Vinegret Recipe- Root Vegetable Salad

One time, not so long ago, I was at a friend's house and was offered some absolutely delicious salad, a Russian one called vinegret. In American English, and in many other languages, vinaigrette is a type of salad dressing based on vinegar, but Russian vinegret is actually the name of the salad, not just its dressing. There are so many different versions of vinegret, and I posted one a few years back with mayonnaise, but that day at my friend's house, discovered one even tastier and easier, made without mayo.

Last night I made a get together at my house, a belated house-warming party (I was going to do one in December, but we ended up getting sick, and since then, so many things came up that it got pushed off until last night), to show people my new home, and in general, just to have fun with friends and family. (I don't know if house-warming party is the right term for this, since according to Wikipedia gifts are the norm at house-warming parties, but gifts were totally not the point of this party.) I wanted to keep costs down but still serve lots of yummy food to everyone. I made this vinegret and it was enjoyed by all. It was quite easy to make, not to mention frugal, using all seasonal produce that can be purchased cheaply at this time of year.

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The layout of one of the tables at the party, vinegret in the back,. Also shown: sesame spaghetti, quinoa salad, veggie crudites, cabbage salad, lentil salad, tahini dip, beet and carrot salad with mint, and purchased gluten free crackers.

I have made vinegret a few times this way, and each time it tastes slightly different but just as delicious. I don't have an exact recipe, more a general guideline on how to make it, since the recipe is flexible and can be adjusted to taste.

Vinegret traditionally is a cold salad made with potatoes, beets, carrots, and cucumber pickles, but as I generally try to avoid white potatoes, I have made this with sweet potatoes and it is awesome. If I don't have cucumber pickles, I also just use plain cucumbers for this. You can add cooked (but not canned) peas to this as well- baby peas are my favorite, but as I can't usually get them very cheaply (and they aren't paleo) I tend to leave them out.
Apologies about the picture- when it is freshly made you can see the different colors in the dish more distinctly, but as it sits, the color of the beets start overtaking everything, and you get a dish with various shades of pink instead of the original magenta, orange, white, and green.

Russian Vinegret Recipe- Root Vegetable Salad

Monday, April 24, 2017

Getting Air Conditioners and Making a Cardboard Playhouse

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Yesterday, for the first time in our married lives, we got air conditioners for our home. Growing up, we actually never had air conditioners, but just used fans, and were totally fine. A year or two before we moved away from Northeast Ohio, my parents installed central air conditioning in our house to increase its market value.
Then we moved abroad, and again, no air conditioning.

This September, we'll have been married 11 years, and we've never had "real" air conditioning in our house. We started off using fans when necessary, and trying to avoid using fans when those weren't necessary, to keep down our electric bills. One summer we were just so miserably hot that we bought a portable second hand air conditioner for our bedroom (we were co-sleeping at the time, so it was for the entire family). It stood up on the floor, connected to one of the windows with a pipe, and worked... sort of. During times when the fan blowing on you simply felt like a car exhaust blowing on you, this portable air conditioning unit was a welcome relief even if it didn't actually make you comfortable, but it did a terrible job of actually cooling down the room. It just made it marginally better. And we didn't have any air conditioning in the living room/dining room/kitchen. The portable unit we had was barely strong enough for our small bedroom, let alone the bigger living room/dining room/kitchen. And the children's room was built in such a way that we couldn't put any air conditioning there.
So essentially, no AC in our place.
In the winter, we used blow heaters and radiators and halogen heaters...

Yesterday we finally bought real air conditioning units that double as heaters (I think they are called split system heat pumps). The same unit warms the place in the winter as cools it in the summer. It is supposed to be the most cost efficient way to heat your home here. When we designed the layout of our new home, we had them build it with preparations already there for the air conditioning units, so we wouldn't have a large expense to install them (places for pipes and electricity).
But we spent most of the winter here without those units, since I didn't get around to ordering and installing them.

Finally on a price comparison website I found some decent pricing for these AC units. One large one for the living room/dining room/kitchen, and one small one for my bedroom. The kids' room is right near the living room/dining room and should be able to be cooled or heated from the adjacent room, but if not, we may also put the portable AC unit in there. We also put an air conditioning unit in our rental unit's living room. (They brought and installed AC units from their old home into two of the bedrooms.)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Chinese Style Corn Soup Recipe- Without Eggs

This past week has been a very busy one in my house, foraging so many different things, shopping a for frugal groceries, doing a lot of cooking from scratch, and even being filmed by a film student for a "day in the life of" documentary for her documentary making class.
With this film student, I went to the market and while there, got an insane amount of produce for very little. It was 55 lbs of produce for 20 dollars, and that included some great things, like dragon fruit, baby greens, fresh basil, lots of fruit, and a whole lot of ears of corn on the cob. I'm a big fan of corn on the cob, and was so excited about them, since I rarely see them for a price I like, so I don't buy it much.
Unfortunately, I didn't realize that my kids aren't big fans of corn on the cob (but enjoy it just fine off the cob), so after cooking up the lot for dinner, I had quite a bit left over.

I decided to whip up a batch of Chinese restaurant style corn soup, using that corn on the cob and chicken broth (made from my free chicken frames) as the base. I looked at a few different recipes for inspiration, but most had egg in it, which I don't eat, or used canned corn and creamed corn, or just seemed rather bland, so this recipe is entirely my own. If you don't have corn on the cob to use for this recipe, I'm sure it will work just as well with frozen corn or canned corn. Instead of grating the corn, put 1 cup of corn in the food processor instead of grating the two ears.
I used a large amount of ginger and black pepper to give it extra oomph, but feel free to use less ginger and leave out the pepper if you want less bold of a flavor.
While I haven't tried making this vegan, I am sure it would also work fine using vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth.

Chinese Style Corn Soup Recipe- Without Eggs

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Making Your Own Vegetable Sprouter for Microgreens and Sprouts

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Many people are familiar with sprouts, such as bean sprouts or alfalfa sprouts. Generally people purchase these at the grocery store, but it is quite simple to make them at home. (Though I've made mung bean sprouts many times and mine always turn out less sweet and crunchy than the store bought type, and with a bitterness missing in the store bought ones. My alfalfa sprouts come out perfectly.)

In my grocery store, they also sell various microgreens, especially sunflower seed and lentil microgreens, which is like sprouts, but continued a little past the sprouting stage. Microgreens are sprouts taken to the next level. Sprouts generally are eaten when just a sprout starts coming out of a seed, before there are any leaves, and the entire thing is eaten. Microgreens are sprouts that you let continue growing further, so the sprout turns into a root and a stalk, with little leaflets on them. They are packed with nutrients, much more so than a mature plant of the same variety. They are used in many fancy restaurant style/gourmet dishes, and the fact that I can make these myself for next to nothing gives me a thrill.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sweet and Spicy Carrot Medallions Recipe- Easy, Cheap, Paleo and Vegan

Sorry for not having posted so much lately, my husband has been on spring break from work, so we've been spending time as a family and less time on the computer and writing posts on my blog. I'm sorry about that!
So, what's new with me?
My husband has built so many cool things for our house- I posted about a couple of them already, have another few to show, and we're still working on some more projects. That has been really fun.

Since people here are also on spring break from school, I've been taking the opportunity to teach foraging classes when people are available, and that has been great! It's so nice to open people's eyes to new types of food, and help them see the wild edible plants all around them. Yesterday in one of my classes, I had a three year old enthralled by foraging, wanting to taste everything I showed them, and his excitement with the edible plant world reminded me so much of my little daughter, Rose, also three, and also in love with picking her own wild plants to eat (under my supervision, of course, but she's getting very good at identifying them).

My book is due to be released next week via the publisher, Passageway Press, on Amazon and more, and as the clock is ticking down anticipation is building. I've reviewed the final proofs and I think it's going to be really awesome, and can't wait to have a hard copy in my hands after all this time! When I saw the cover photo (not releasing it until the book is released) I was ready to squeal with excitement.

I've been watching a lot of cooking shows lately and getting really inspired by the various techniques I've seen them apply, and am trying to implement them in my kitchen, so that has been fun.

With all that going on, I've been alternating between cooking fancy meals, some with no recipes at all, just made up on the spot but ending up perfect, and some with recipes from this blog (like the musakhan I made the other day), and then some times I just want simple but good.

This carrot recipe has been my go-to carrot recipe lately, because as simple as it is, it is also delicious. My kids and I can finish a whole batch in about one meal. We love snacking on them hot or cold. They have the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and spicy, and our family finds them very addicting. As there have been requests for me to also share my simple recipes here, I decided to share this one with you guys.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Homemade Pallet Spice Rack- DIY Makeover

I wrote in a previous post how many spices I use, and how the little bitty spice racks I see them selling all over doesn't hold nearly enough spices for me, and the few I've seen that seem somewhat large enough are extremely over priced. I was overjoyed when my husband made me a homemade spice rack made entirely out of pallet wood. It was beautiful and rustic and perfect and held so many spices....

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Learning How to Cook Like a True Korean

A friend of mine, Hannah, is a foodie just as I am, and a reader of this blog. When she went to Korea for a business trip, I have to say, I was just the slightest bit envious, since going to Korea one day is a dream of mine, in part because of my fascination with Korean cuisine. Just yesterday while grocery shopping, I met a Korean expat currently living in the city nearest me, and I got so excited about meeting her, because someone else would appreciate my love of all things Korean. 
Hannah told me that while she was in Korea she got to experience a side of Korean cuisine that most tourists don't get to experience- Korean real, home cooking, not the touristy stuff or the foods geared towards restaurant clientele, but every day cooking. I asked Hannah to write up about her experience as a guest post, because it sounded fascinating..

A few weeks ago I had a business trip to Seoul, South Korea. I was excited about the prospect of traveling to a part of the world I had never been to before, meeting new people and seeing new places, but I wasn't too excited about the food. I know Korean food is supposed to be amazing, and I have seen many Korean recipes here on Penny's blog, but I didn't think I'd be able to try much for myself because of my strict dietary requirements. Oh well, I thought, I can enjoy travel even without the food.

 The first day, everything went as planned. Together with friends we went to a food market, the food looked amazing, and I found a stand that sold roasted sweet potatoes- but a different variety than the one I know. I enjoyed the treat, even having two.

But as the days went on my frustration mounted. Finally, on the day before last, I asked a friend of a friend who is Korean-American, living currently in Seoul, if she knew of anyone who could give me a private vegetarian cooking class. She immediately invited me to spend the evening with herself and her parents, and promised me a cooking class with her mom, using only ingredients I could eat. So I set out in the subway from the center of the city to a quiet suburb, as many people in this huge city of 20 million do every day.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Our New Upcycled Guest Bed -- Completely Free and Very Easy!

When we were first married we lived in a two bedroom apartment, one room for us and one for guests. Then we had our first child and while he started off in our room, by a certain point he ended up getting the second bedroom, and we lost our guest bedroom.
When we moved to our smaller apartment nearly 6 years ago, we still had two bedrooms, but one was teeny tiny, and it got filled with two children, my two boys, while my daughters slept in our room.
I enjoy having guests, and one of the hardest things for me about our extra small space was our inability to host anyone - at first we didn't even have a couch in our very small living room/dining room/kitchen.
We managed to find a couch that fit our extra small dimensions and bought an Ikea Solsta couch that opened up into a bed! We could have guests at last, even if it meant them sleeping in our living room. Only the bed that opened up was extremely uncomfortable- two thirds of it was padded but the last third was just wood covered in fabric, not something I'd offer to a guest. We had children over (nephew and niece) who were short enough to fit on the soft 2/3 of the couch bed, but no sleep over adult guests.

One of the things that excited me most about our new and much more spacious house was that it had three bedrooms, one which became my office, but also is intended to double as a guest room. However. while I wanted a guest room for so long, with so many expenses involved in moving and setting up a bigger household and all the new furniture we needed, a guest bedroom just wasn't a priority from a financial perspective. And so, despite our larger home, we still didn't have accommodations for guests.
We do have a spare mattress that was fitting under the triple bunk bed in my kids room, for when my daughters want to sleep in separate beds, and when my little sister Lizzy asked to spend the weekend, I set up that mattress in the guest bedroom, which was OK to sleep on, but honestly, wasn't the nicest accommodations so I wouldn't feel comfortable inviting anyone else to sleep over with the room looking like that.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Homemade Pallet Trash Can

My husband loves building out of pallet wood. I've already shown a couple of projects my husband made out of pallet wood (sometimes with my help, but more often than not without). He likes building out of pallet wood because it's free, easy to find, and you end up with a nice rustic look, of which my husband is fond.
Quite a few times in the past I came home and found my husband with a ready made project built from pallets, waiting for me.

The other day, I came home from teaching a foraging class and saw my husband's latest project- a trash can, or as my South African husband would say, rubbish bin, made from pallet wood. I hadn't known this, but for a long time our garbage can was irritating my husband, as he finds the standard plastic one to be quite ugly, and not space efficient at all. The fact that trash cans are generally either round or trapezoidal makes them leave empty space at the sides, so you can fill up the trash bags less and need to take the garbage out more often.
The covers for most garbage cans tend to be swinging ones, which often get dirtied when you throw in the trash, since even once you pick them up they swing back into place. And at least with our previous one, the hole in which you need to place the garage sometimes isn't big enough, which meant that often when trying to empty the dust pan into the trash can, it didn't fit, and some stuff spilled out onto the floor.

And so, this pallet trash can.