Saturday, April 23, 2011

Eating Organic on a Budget: Part 2

I used yesterday to e-a-s-e you into the basics of eating organically on a budget. Today, I'm going to stretch it just a little. Joining a co-op, shopping locally, and growing a garden were among the wonderful suggestions we received, but they weren't the craziest by far. I'm going to save the most extreme suggestion for last!

Today, we're going to go just a bit deeper. After all, eating organically isn't something that happens overnight, is it? Whether you're just starting out on your organic journey, or whether you've been blazing that trail for decades, all of us started somewhere. And I'm going to guess that somewhere didn't include a trip to Whole Foods for every.single.item on the list...at least not the first trip. {smile}

One easy way to save money and still eat organically is to avoid packaged items and make what you can yourself. {Stay tuned for a couple of homemade yogurt recipes!!}

Gem, one of our wise forum friends, pointed out something very important to keep in mind every time you visit the store: Just because a box of Oreos is organic doesn't make it healthy. VERY GOOD REMINDER. My kids in particular seem to think the word 'organic' is a synonym for 'healthy'; and the truth is, it's just not.

Packaged cookies, crackers, cake mixes, and the like can, indeed, be organic. That does give them a benefit over their conventional cousins: Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Zesta, and Betty Crocker. If, however, you rotate that pretty box with the big "ORGANIC" label just 90 degrees and read the nutrition facts and ingredient list, you will certainly find sugar, salt, and a host of other ingredients found in conventional food items.

Making your own snacks, cookies, cakes, crackers, and breads at home gives you the ability to control everything that goes into your food, and subsequently, your body. And, you get the added bonus of paying for real food, not a pretty box or a high-end organic brand name.

Remember, you can take any recipe and make it organic just by buying organic ingredients. If you're an experienced or fearless cook or baker, you can also experiment with your old stand-by recipes to make them dairy-free, gluten-free, yeast-free, or sugar-free. All it takes is a little time and knowing what and how much to substitute.

A few of my favorite sites are listed below. If you're new at all this, I hope these sites will give you a place to jump from. If you're an old pro, I bet these recipes will be excellent additions to your repertoire. {We are a gluten-free family, ergo most of my favorite sites boast GF recipes. If your family isn't GF, either enjoy these recipes anyway or leave us a comment to your favorite DIY snacks, cookies, breads, or cakes.}

Simply Sugar- and Gluten-Free

Silvana's Mousse Cloud Pie from Elana's Pantry

GNOWFGLINS: funny name, seriously good, traditional food

Health, Home, & Happiness

Recipes from Keeper of the Home

P.S. From our family to yours, we pray you have a blessed and exciting Resurrection Sunday!

Written by Lindsey @ Penny-wise

Friday, April 22, 2011

Eating Organic on a Budget: Part 1

Recently, I (Lindsey) asked our SCM forum friends for their wisdom. I wanted to know if they did anything really out-of-the-box to eat organically AND pinch pennies. I did get a few wacky suggestions, but I'll try just about anything once.

So, I'm going to start a series on eating organically on a budget. Our friends at SCM (who, by the way, are not affiliated with Penny-wise directly...they just give us super great writing material, which we use with permission) are all health-conscious, money-saving, home-educating mommas who submitted some fabulous tips, which I am excited to share with you.

Here are just a few very BASIC and easy things you can do to cut your grocery costs but not nutrition or quality:

  1. Join a co-op. We have several recommended co-ops on our site. See if one delivers to your area or can ship your order to you.
  2. Shop local. Find a farmers' market or CSA (community supported agriculture) and invest into your community. With gas prices at over $3.60 across most of the nation, you're paying a high price for those organic apples that came from California or, worse, Chile. 
  3. Grow a garden. You don't have to have 10 acres to grow some of your own food. A family in a condo or apartment can grow enough herbs for their family in a few pots on the balcony. If you have a small yard, even better! Plant a couple of tomatoes or strawberry plants in pots in your backyard, or build a raised bed or two and grow some squash, onions, herbs, and jalepenos. If you are interested in growing your own organic produce, you might find www.organicgardening.com helpful. We also recommend Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening.
And all that is just the beginning. Keep checking back for more posts in this series.

If you do anything out of the ordinary to eat organically and not break the bank, would you share it with us? We'll do our best to share your tips with the world.

Happy Eating!

Written by Lindsey @ Penny-wise

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Breakfast, Brunch, or Supper Dish

I just have to share another recipe from the More-with-Less cookbook. If you haven't figured it out by now, this cookbook is a great investment in any kitchen. I made this Cheese Strata this evening, and it was gobbled up without complaint. It is so simple to make, and I'll bet you already have everything on-hand to throw one together later this week.

Here's how it goes:

Ingredients:

12 slices bread (I used homemade, gluten-free bread, and it was fantastic!)
butter
2 cups cheese
2 2/3 cup milk
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dry mustard

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 baking dish. Lightly butter one side of each slice of bread. Lay six slices in the baking dish. Sprinkle with the cheese. Layer the next six slices of bread next. Then, mix the remaining ingredients well and pour over the bread. Bake 40 minutes, or until puffy and golden.

Adjustments:

  • My homemade, gluten-free bread is smaller than a "regular" loaf. I still used 12 slices, but found that a 8x8 pan was large enough.
  • I sprinkled 2 cups of the cheese between the bread layers and reserved the remaining 2/3 cup for the top of the strata. I topped the strata with the cheese during the last 10 minutes of baking.
  • I also added about 1/4 tsp of black pepper to the milk/egg mixture.
  • I served my Cheese Strata with grilled chicken-apple sausage, and then realized we were having a version of breakfast or brunch for supper. This meal is really versatile. We're saving our small amount of leftovers to have for breakfast tomorrow morning!
  • Make this dish gluten-free and dairy-free by using GF bread and rice milk instead of regular milk.
  • The cookbook gives a variation of adding vegetables along with the cheese between bread layers.
Thank you, More-with-Less, for another wonderfully simple, wonderfully inexpensive meal!

Submitted by Lindsey @ Penny-wise

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Homemade Electrolyte Drink (a.k.a. Pedialyte)

Gaeleen says, "Good thing we've been ill, or I wouldn't have thought to submit this recipe! One thing I have figured out is that eight children and two bathrooms is not a good equation when gastroenteritis strikes the home..."

This recipe is from Gaeleen's family doctor.

Ingredients:

1 liter of water
8 oz. orange juice (must be orange for potassium)
2 Tbsp. corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt

Shake well and use liberally to prevent dehydration.

What a handy recipe! Not only are Pedialyte and its generic forms really expensive, but they also contain high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors. This is a wonderful alternative that is additive-free and inexpensive.

And Gaeleen, we hope your bunch gets to feeling better really soon! 

Submitted by Gaeleen

Monday, April 11, 2011

Golden Potato Bake

At the recommendation of one of our submitters, I purchased the More-with-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. Boy, was that ever a good investment! I am constantly amazed at how I can make simple, but hearty food that's also healthy for our bodies and our budget. Today, I wanted to share a very easy, very inexpensive recipe from that cookbook:

Golden Potato Bake

Ingredients:
2 lbs. potatoes (about 6 medium), peeled
2 cups sliced carrots
1/3 cup dry milk powder
1 Tbsp. butter or Earth's Balance
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated cheese, optional

Cook the potatoes and carrots together in salted water until tender and preheat oven to 350. Drain the veggies, saving some of the liquid, and mash using a beater or hand masher. Add the dry milk, butter, and salt and pepper. Beat together, adding the vegetable liquid a little at a time, until fluffy and creamy. Turn into a 2-quart, greased casserole dish. If using cheese, stir it in just before baking. Bake 25 minutes.

The cookbook suggests making potato cakes with any leftovers. This, I plan to do later in the week (assuming we even have leftovers!).

Recipe from the More-with-Less Cookbook.

Submitted by Lindsey @ Penny-wise

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wheat- and Gluten-free Pancakes

Ingredients:

2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/3 cup white bean flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup fresh buttermilk
1 Tbsp. honey
3 egg whites beaten stiff (this is optional)
2 Tbsp. canola oil (this is optional)
Mix all ingredients except the egg whites for 30 seconds with a whisk or if using electric use low speed. Fold in egg whites gently. Drop by tablespoon onto a lightly oiled griddle. I use a cooking spray, and only re-spray if really necessary. Cook until golden brown over medium to low heat, turn once. This recipe will serve 4 people. If you are using oil in the recipe, then use only 1 egg white.
Submitted by Linda @ Penny-wise

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Made-in-a-Minute Play-Dough

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 Tbsp. cream of Tartar
1 Tbsp. oil
1 cup boiling water, mixed with the food coloring of your choice

Put all dry ingredients in a bowl and add the oil and colored, boiling water. (Mix the boiling water and coloring in a Pyrex bowl before mixing with dry ingredients.) Mix vigorously until well blended. Store in plastic sandwich bags.

Neat Idea: "My nursery school teacher friend who gave us this recipe many years ago also used fruit tea bags mixed with the boiling water to make a lovely scented dough. She often used plum or black currant to give it a gorgeous color."

Submitted by Linda @ Penny-wise

Monday, April 4, 2011

Linda's Favourite Vegetable Stock

This is a versatile stock for a wide variety of dishes, especially homemade soup. Homemade stock is far superior to store-bought, as you can adjust the sodium levels and use the freshest ingredients. Unless I am using chicken stock made from a roasted chicken, this is my main stock for soup. This stock recipe was given to me by an English friend years ago, and it is so easy to make.


Ingredients:


2 leeks, cut into pieces
2 sliced onions
3 celery sticks, chopped
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, if you like that flavor
1 tsp. dried parsley
black pepper to taste
salt to taste, but no more than 1 tsp.
2 litres water
20 grams butter


Melt the butter in your stock pot and add all the vegetables. Cover and sweat the vegetables on low heat for 20 minutes . Add the herbs, pepper and salt and stir in the water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 40-45 minutes. Strain and use immediately, or store in a container or in ice cube trays and freeze as soon as cold. Ice cube-size portions are wonderful for when you just need a little stock for a recipe.


Written and submitted by Linda @ Penny-wise

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Co-op Worth Checking Out

I have to be honest. The first time I ever heard of a "food co-op" was when our friend Rachel sent us information on several food co-ops. In my mind, there were two co-ops in the United States: Sam's and Costco...neither of which appealed to our family much.

And, unfortunately, I live in an area of the country that just isn't in to the whole local/organic/natural/eat-what's-good-for-you craze yet. There are thousands of acres of GMO cornfields and cotton fields, millions of corn-fed cattle on feedlots, and commercial meat processing plants everywhere.

When I heard about Azure Standard, I was quite impressed. I spent several hours browsing their extensive lists of all-natural and organic products. Then I spent a few more hours comparing prices to my local health food store. I was pleased and surprised. Azure Standard's prices beat my local store's prices on many items.

So, my husband and I thought we'd give it a try. Thankfully, Azure just started delivering to our town. We stayed up late one night to "shop" from the comfort of our bedroom. Our first order cost us a little over $100, and we got SO MUCH food!

Carrots, apples, lemons, raw milk cheese, canned pizza sauce, frozen green beans, sprouted grain tortillas...Azure's selection is very broad. They carry non-food items, books, canning supplies, heirloom seeds and organic seedlings. You'll find dairy and non-dairy milks, cheese, yogurts, and ice creams. Deodorant, toothpaste, face moisturizer, feminine hygiene items, and hand soap are also offered.

One of the things I was most excited about was their selection of bulk grains, beans, and rice. They even offer 5-gallon buckets with gamma seals to store those grains and beans in.

Their site is very easy to navigate. Before placing my first order, I spoke with a very friendly and helpful customer service representative.

As much as I enjoy the luxury of this co-op, I am writing a review and must be honest. While many of their prices were less than those of my local store, some aren't. For example, I can get brown sugar for about $2.00 cheaper in the bulk aisle of my local store than through Azure Standard. Just this evening, I was completing my April order and was curious about the flax seed meal. Azure's price seemed fair, but I called my local store, just to check. The local store was about $.65 less. Same with shredded coconut and sesame seeds.

Just a word of advice: either know your local prices before you start shopping with Azure, or call your local stores while you're shopping to compare. That way you can be sure you're getting the best price possible.

It's also very important to know that Azure's delivery rounds are once per month. You MUST have your order in by the order cut-off date to receive your products in that month's delivery. Depending on where you live, the cut-off dates are different. You will have to contact Azure personally to determine your cut-off date, delivery date, and drop point.

So what I am ordering this month???

  • All of our garden seedlings! And they're certified organic. Right now, I have eggplant, squash, zucchini, watermelon, pumpkin, strawberries, rosemary, mint, parsley, basil and a few other plants in my cart.
  • In-season, organic apples for a fabulous price: 3 lbs. for $1.90.
  • Milo for milling.
  • Potato starch and baking powder.
  • Canning jars and lids.
I can recommend, without reservation, Azure Standard to you. I have personally ordered from this co-op. All my items have, thus far, been in good condition upon arrival. The delivery was on time, and I even enjoyed meeting members of my community at the pick-up.

Written and submitted by Lindsey @ Penny-wise

*This review was written independently. This website is not receiving any compensation for reviews given, whether positive or negative.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Meal of Limitless Combinations

Sweet potatoes and greens...not a commonplace combination. The ways you can vary this meal are endless. Plus, it's easy, inexpensive, and very healthy!

Ingredients:

Sweet potatoes
Other potatoes (Russet, red, Yukon gold, whatever you like)
Onions or shallots, if your family enjoys them
Salt and pepper
Rosemary, dill, Parmesan...whatever you like
Salad greens (different lettuces, spinach, kale, whatever you enjoy in your salad), washed and dried

Preheat oven to 375. Cut all potatoes into bite-size pieces and stir together with enough oil to coat. Add salt and pepper, herbs, cheese, whatever you're going to use Roast until potatoes are brownish for about 45 minutes, turning half-way through cooking. When the potatoes are done, spoon them over your green salad.

For a large family, you may want to do two large pans of potatoes: one sweet, the other pan with the other potatoes. A smaller family can get away with half a pan of each type of potato.

You can also substitute potatoes with pumpkin, zucchini, or other squashes. We also enjoy trying different dressings like Italian, vinaigrette, or even hot sauce. The variations are endless!

This meal is the perfect combination of hot and cold, soft and crunchy, sweet and savory!

Submitted by Heather @ Penny-wise

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ready, Set, Garden!

It's almost time!

I think we're going to wait two or three more weeks, and then our garden is going to get planted!

This is our first year to have a backyard garden. Some days I think we're a little too ambitious for first-timers; other days I wonder if we're planting enough.

My husband is going to build raised beds, three of them, eight feet long by four feet wide. In case your math skills are a bit lacking today {as mine usually are}, that's a total of 96 square feet of gardening space!

To help amateurs like us, I heartily recommend Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening


This thick resource is a treasure of information. So far, I've read about everything from composting to companion planting, from basil to eggplant to parsley, from helpful insects to destructive insects, from raised beds to cottage gardening and everything in between. This book really is "the indispensable resource for every gardener"!

This year we've decided to plant squash, zucchini, jalepenos, eggplant, watermelon, pumpkin, spearmint, peppermint, flat-leaf parsley, basil, rosemary, cilantro, strawberries, and a few more I can't recall at the moment. To help with natural pest control, we're going to plant some African and French marigolds.

Our hot compost pile has been going for about three weeks now. It's been a bit of a challenge to find the {right} mix of carbon and nitrogen, and we're still not quite there. There have been a few times when my hubby has to hold his nose when he turns the barrel. So we add more dead leaves and dirt. I just hope the learning curve is generous!

So I have some questions for all you gardeners out there...from amateurs to master gardeners...
  • What are you planting this year?
  • What are you doing right now to prepare for the growing season?
  • What are your favorite companion planting combos?
  • Any advice you can share with the rest of us?
HAPPY GARDENING, PENNY-WISE WOMEN!

Written and submitted by Lindsey @ Penny-wise

Instant Oatmeal {Part 2}

Here's another make-your-own oatmeal recipe from our friend Gaeleen. She says this one is great for camping {or just for those days when you want something quick and easy}.

Ingredients:
3 cups quick oats or fresh rolled
salt (not necessary, but you can add it if you like)

Put 1/2 cup oats in blender and blend at high speed until powdery. Reserve in a small bowl, then process another 1/2 cup oats. Into each bag, put 1/4 cup unchopped oats, 2 Tbsp. powdered oats and 1/4 tsp salt. Seal and store packets in an airtight container.

To serve: Empty packet in bowl and add 3/4 cups boiling water. Stir and let stand 2 minutes.

Flavor options:

Apples & Cinnamon: To each bag add 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon and
2 Tbsp. chopped dried apples.

Cinnamon Spice: To each bag add 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon and
1/8 tsp. nutmeg.

Raisins & Brown Sugar: To each bag add 1 Tbsp. brown sugar and 1 Tbsp. raisins

Fruit & Cream: Powdered milk or coffee creamer with dried fruit in the bags.

Submitted by Gaeleen

Monday, March 21, 2011

Make Your Own Hamburger Buns

This recipe is from Heather's friend Cherie. Heather says, "I shape the buns by hand. Just pinch off a golf ball-size to racquetball-size and stretch and pull it until it looks like a flat bun. You can also use this recipe for hot dog buns."

Ingredients:

4-5 cups flour (white, wheat, or a combo of both)
2 Tbsp. yeast
1 cup milk
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup oil
3 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. salt

Mix 2 cups flour with yeast. Heat milk, water, oil, honey and salt on the stove until very warm. Pour liquid mixture into the flour and beat well. Start adding the rest of the flour until dough is soft. Knead briefly, then let set for 10 minutes.

Next, roll out dough to 1/2 inch thick and cut out buns (or use Heather's method above). You can use the mouth of a large drinking glass or a biscuit cutter too. Let the buns rise for half an hour on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Submitted by Heather @ Penny-wise and Cherie

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Many Uses of Orange Peels

Our family recently purchased a juicer. We have truly enjoyed it and all the health benefits that go along with fresh, raw, untouched juice. It's like milk from the cow...there's really nothing like it.

Obviously, our produce bill has gone up a bit. I decided if juicing was something we were going to do long-term, I was going to utilize every bit of the fruit and veggies, not just the juice. 

For the most part, we're composting the pulp that our juicer spits out. Though I haven't tried it, I would like to add that pulp to our muffins and quick breads for some extra fiber and bulk. 

We made some freshly squeezed orange juice the other day, and it was phenomenal! Then I looked at my cutting board and saw the pile of orange peels. I immediately thought, "I can't throw all that away. Surely there's something I can do with the peels of five oranges that's better than composting."

Turns out, I was right. Orange peels have TONS of uses.

Did you know that you can use an orange peel and a bit of coarse sea salt to scrub coffee rings out of your coffee mugs? You can also run a few orange peels through your garbage disposal to freshen it up. And, you can make your own dried orange peel to use in recipes, which is what I did.


I just used my handy micro-plane grater and went to town. A zester or fine cheese grater would work too, if you don't have a micro-plane grater.


















Once you've gotten all the orange peel off you want, leave it out to dry on your counter top for about 24 hours. Then transfer it to a spice jar or airtight bag. Use it in any recipe calling for orange peels.

But I wasn't finished yet. I have used lemon peels with vanilla extract in boiling water for years to give my home a yummy, refreshing smell. So I tried it with orange peels.

Just place several orange peels in a saucepan with about two cups of water. Add a teaspoon or so of pure vanilla. If you have a rosemary or lavender plant, snip off a bit and add it to the water. Bring it all to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer all day to release a wonderful fragrance throughout your home. Be sure to check the water level every half hour and add more water as needed.

Here are a few other uses for orange peel:
  • Instead of rosemary and vanilla, use cinnamon and cloves during the fall and winter for the perfect autumn scent.
  • Put a piece of orange peel into your brown sugar to keep it soft.
  • Use it to scrub your sink and remove that gunk all sinks seem to accumulate over time.
  • Scatter orange peels in your garden to keep cats from using it as a litter box.
Do you know any other uses for orange peel? If so, please share them with us!


Written and submitted by Lindsey @ Penny-wise

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bread Dough Enhancer

Ingredients:

4 cups powdered milk
3/4 cup lecithin granules
3 heaping Tbsp. Vitamin C powder
2 Tbsp. ground ginger
3 Tbsp. cornstarch

Combine well and store in an airtight container. For each loaf of
bread, add 2 tsp of enhancer to dough with flour (1/4 cup for 6-loaf
bread recipe).

An alternative to lighten up your loaves is to add 2 eggs and 2 Tbsp.
vinegar for every 4 loaves. Add it in with the water to complete the
liquid measurement as defined in the recipe.


Submitted by Gaeleen

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Many Uses of Borax


Not only is Borax a great laundry booster, but it is excellent for many other uses in the household.  Here are a few ideas.

1. Toilet Cleaning
Pour some borax into the toilet bowl before going to bed and then clean with a brush in the morning. You will find it an easy task as the Borax loosens the grime overnight.

2.  Economical Scouring Powder 
Mix together
1 Tbsp. Borax
1 Tbsp. Baking soda
1 Tbsp. Salt
This makes an excellent and economical scouring powder for sinks, tubs, tile, and grout. Remember that Borax is non-abrasive, so it is a wonderful cleaning agent.

3. Diapers
Rinse diapers out immediately and begin soaking in a solution of 6 Tbsp. of borax for each bucket of warm water. When you are ready to wash them, use a warm cycle and add a little amount of white vinegar in place of your usual fabric softener – this will help make the diapers soft and absorbent again.

*Don't forget about our laundry soap recipes in LIQUID and POWDER.
*And our make-it-yourself all-purpose cleaner, which uses essential oils and Borax.

Cautions:  Borax is harmful if ingested and so one should avoid using it around food. It can also irritate the skin and lungs, so use with care. Wear gloves when using and do not inhale the dust.  As with all cleaning supplies, keep out of reach of children and pets. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Borax is best used for heavy duty cleaning and is toxic in high doses so please use caution.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Making a Proper Pot of Tea

Often it is cheaper to buy loose tea leaves than tea bags, so here is the way to make a proper pot of English black tea.
You will need the following:
Tea leaves - 1 tsp. per person plus 1 tsp. for the pot
Boiling water
Sugar to taste
Milk or lemon to taste.

1. Fill your kettle with fresh cold water and bring it to the boil.
2. Meanwhile, swish hot water around in the teapot (preferably china or earthenware). This is an important step as it helps the water remain at the boiling point when it is poured in the pot.
3. Just before the kettle boils, empty the water out of the teapot and put in the tea leaves. Take the teapot to the kettle and fill it with the freshly boiled water.
4. Stir the tea briefly, then put the lid on the pot and leave the tea to brew for 3-6 minutes, depending on how strong you like it. Remember larger leaf teas take longer to brew. You may use a tea cosy to keep the pot warm if you have one.
5. Pour the tea through a strainer into the cup, and then add milk, sugar or lemon.
6. After about 15 minutes the tea will start to stew in the pot and have a nasty bitter taste and so it is better to make a fresh pot at that time.
7. Have some slices of lemon ready for those who would prefer their tea weaker and without milk.
Serve with your favorite tea party fare, little sandwiches and cakes and whatever other things you enjoy. When my daughters were very young they used to share teatime with us, and to accomodate them we made the tea very weak and added a lot of milk. They used to enjoy the ceremony of afternoon tea very much and still enjoy tea today.
Written & submitted by Linda @ Penny-wise 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hot Chocolate...Before it's too late!

I don't know what the weather's been like in your neck of the woods (or desert or island or wherever you're joining us from), but it's been unseasonably warm where we live. Before we start craving freshly squeezed lemonade and popsicles, I wanted to get this recipe for hot chocolate in. This is Linda's favorite hot drink for chilly evenings when she's wanting a treat. She says, "Use the best dark chocolate you can afford."


Ingredients:


1 oz. (25 gm) dark chocolate broken into pieces
A pinch of grated nutmeg
7 fl oz (200 ml) milk
Sugar to taste,
1 Tbsp. heavy cream, whipped
grated chocolate and cinnamon
To Make:
1. Place the chocolate, nutmeg, milk and sugar to taste in a saucepan. Heat gently and stir until the chocolate melts. Do not boil.
2. Serve with whipped cream and the grated chocolate on top. Enjoy!
Submitted by Linda @ Penny-wise

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

G-free, Grain-Free Muffins

Ingredients:
1/2 cup corn flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1 Tbsp. cornmeal
3 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup margarine or butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
3/4 cup skim milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Sift together flours, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt three times. Set aside.  
Cream margarine or butter, then add sugar and vanilla. Cream again. Beat egg yolks and blend into creamed mixture. Mix well. Mix in flour mixture alternately with milk, beating until smooth each time. Fold in well beaten egg whites. Spoon into greased or lined muffin pans to 2/3 full. Sprinkle with streusel. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.

Streusel:1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. rice, potato or corn flour
1 Tbsp. margarine, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix until crumbly.


Dairy-free Adaptations:
Replace butter or margarine with Earth's Balance.
Replace milk with rice or almond milk.

Submitted by Gaeleen

Monday, February 28, 2011

All-Natural & Inexpensive Drain Cleaner

This is an all-natural and inexpensive drain cleaner that really works and is good for the environment.
Ingredients:
¾ cup baking soda
½ cup white vinegar
Several cups boiling water
 Use in the following order to clean your pipes without causing damage:
1. Pour the baking soda down the drain.
2. Immediately follow by pouring the vinegar down the drain. The drain will foam as the reaction occurs.
3. Wait 30 minutes to an hour.
4. Pour the hot or boiling water down the drain, and your drain should be clear, clean and fresh.
If the drain is still slow, repeat the procedure once more.
I do this monthly to keep the drains clean, clear, and sweet smelling.
Here is another recipe that works well and is easy to store in larger, pre-mixed quantities. Use the basic recipe and make as much as you like to store for future use.
1 part baking soda
1 part salt
1/4 part cream of tartar 
Pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup of recipe into the drain and flush with a kettle full of boiling water. Run hot water from the tap for a couple minutes, then turn to cool water and run for another couple minutes. Do this monthly.
Warning: NEVER EVER mix this drain cleaner with commercial drain cleaners like Drain-o. A very nasty chemical reaction will take place which is dangerous. Make sure your drains are clear of commercial product prior to using the homemade cleaner. Once you start using the home made version, you can leave the chemicals on the shelf in the store. If you have a septic tank, you should check before using these cleaners.
Written & submitted by Linda @ Penny-wise

Sunday, February 27, 2011

DIY: Compost Bin & Rain Barrel

It's almost that time of year...time to start seriously thinking about readying our soil for gardening, time to start planning our beds, time to start preparing for a beautiful summer of growing our own produce! We are planting our first vegetable garden in our backyard this year. My husband has already planned out the raised beds, and all we are waiting on is a nice, less windy weekend to get them built. We have our seed source ready, although we are waiting just a bit longer to order seeds. And we have located an organic farmer in our area who is more than willing to share his secrets and his soil with us. 


One thing we've been stumped on is compost. I had in my mind this dreamy compost pile. I scoured the internet for the kind of compost barrel that has its own platform and handle to easily stir the compost. Well, those unfortunately, cost anywhere from $250-$800! Not in the budget this year!


That's why I was relieved when we received this e-mail from Amanda:


I am an avid gardner and have just "discovered" some inexpensive ways to have the garden I have always wanted.
 
I recently made my own rain barrel and compost bin out of inexpensive trash cans. I have always wanted one of those nice compost bins where you add your materials and out comes beautiful compost, but they are so expensive and I thought I would never have one. While looking at some other gardening products, it struck me that surely I could make a composting bin myself for much less. I found a few videos demonsrating how to make a bin out of a trash can that cost around $20-$30. 

Simply drill some holes for air to circulate on the sides, top, and bottom. That's it! Add your kitchen scraps, old plants, and other materials to compost. Once a week, lay the bin on its side and roll around to turn the pile. In a few weeks you will have compost for your garden at the fraction of the cost of purchasing it or buying a premade compost bin. 
 
The same applies to a rain barrel. Why pay $150 for a rain barrel when for $20-$30 you can make one out of  a trash can? I simply set a trash can on some bricks and inserted a spigot near the bottom to attach a hose to or fill up my watering can. 
 
I hope this can help some others who love gardening but don't have the finances to get the fun stuff to help make gardening easier. 

Amanda, thank you for these useful and penny-wise tips! 

Written by Lindsey @ Penny-wise, Submitted by Amanda

Friday, February 25, 2011

Simply Sugar & Gluten Free

About two weeks ago, I (Lindsey) discovered the blog Simply Sugar & Gluten Free. I've been a follower ever since.

Let me tell you what I love about this blog:

  1. Amy, the writer, tells her own personal story of how gluten and sugar controlled her life for so long that she had no freedom and lived a life of shame because of her weight and constant cravings. I love it when people are real about who they are.
  2. I have tried several different recipes, and none of them have been disappointing! In fact, I can heartily recommend the Tomato Basil Pantry Soup, the Shredded Chicken Tortilla Soup, and the Zucchini and Brown Rice Gratin
  3. In addition to fabulous, easy to follow recipes, there are also links to other gluten-free and sugar-free blogs, tutorials on how to blend g-free flours, guest blog posts, and media articles highlighting the gluten-free lifestyle.
If you have a few minutes and a cup of hot tea, take some time to browse this wonderful, helpful site. It's definitely one of the sites we like! I have also linked this site on the right side of this page in the section "THESE MIGHT BE FUN..." 

Written by Lindsey @ Penny-wise

Apple-Cheese Muffins

1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt, if desired
3/4 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup sharp cheese, grated
1/4 cup milk
1 cup apple pie filling, chopped apple, or applesauce,
1/2 cup nuts

Preheat the oven to 375-degrees. Grease or line muffin tins.
In a large bow,l cream the margarine and sugar. Add the eggs and beat well. In another bowl sift the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Then stir into the creamed mixture. Stir in the oats, apple, cheese and nuts, and mix well. Add the
milk last and mix in well. Spoon the batter into prepared pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until done.

Makes approximately18 muffins.

Submitted by Linda @ Penny-wise

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Nit-Picky Checklist

I don't know about you, but I catch a cleaning bug every once in a while. It's not just any cleaning bug; it's more like a rampant virus. I'll start dusting the living room and, before I know it, I'm washing windows, vacuuming curtains, and scrubbing tile grout with a toothbrush. And I had this bad habit of overwhelming my entire family with cleaning checklists, honey-do chores, and slave-driving behavior.

Well, I decided several months ago that I was tired of being overwhelmed {and tired of dragging my husband and kids along for the ride} with all the nit-picky cleaning and organizing tasks around my house. You know the ones I'm talking about: the dust bunnies under the couch, the accumulation of dust on the bathroom light fixtures, or the funny smell coming from the fridge. The every-day chores like vacuuming, sweeping, and laundry are easy. No one has to remind me to do those. It's those nit-picky ones that cause me to become the Wicked Witch of the West, when they all catch up to me.

I created this monthly checklist for myself. It has 30 tasks, one for each day of the month. If a month happens to have 31 days, then I get that 31st day "off" in a sense. February is the only tricky month. I simply try to double-up on tasks for two or three days to make sure everything gets done. My list is printed off and hangs on my fridge, right next to our dry-erase calendar, so I'm sure to see it everyday.

I wanted to share my checklist with you. And please, feel free to adapt it to your own home and family, if you find it useful. It's numbered and each number corresponds with that day of the month.

1. Clean microwave (sometimes I have to do this more than once a month).
2. Clean inside windows and windowsills.
3. Organize pantry.
4. Organize/inventory cleaning supplies.
5. Sweep front porch.
6. Vacuum/dust mop under my bed.
7. Straighten my closet.
8. Dust picture frames throughout the house.
9. Clean oven.
10. Check the linen cabinet.
11. Clean off washer and dryer.
12. Clean out fridge.
13. Go through the junk basket.
14. Straighten a child's closet.
15. Move and dust mop under couches.
16. Iron.
17. Organize/inventory craft closet.
18. Deep clean kitchen sink (I like to make a paste out of Borax and let it sit in the sink for a while, then scrub.)
19. Vacuum curtain tops (we don't have blinds.)
20. Change A/C filter.
21. Dust light fixtures and ceiling fans.
22. Straighten a child's closet.
23. Wipe down couches (we have leather, so I use special leather wipes).
24. Go through the deep freeze.
25. Organize/inventory spice cabinet.
26. Organize school shelves and baskets.
27. Clear and dust computer desk.
28. Straighten my husband's closet.
29. Clean out inside freezer.
30. Clear and dust nightstands.

We are family of four, so everyone's closet gets a good organizing once a month. We also have wood floors throughout our entire house, so there's lots of dust-mopping in our house. And, I should point out that my children are fairly young (5 1/2 and 7). As they get older, many of these tasks, such as straightening their closets, wiping down the couches, and dusting nightstands, will be passed along to them. In fact, my son swept the front porch by himself today, and did a fabulous job!

I share all that, not to make you feel overwhelmed, but hopefully to show how easy it can be to keep all those jobs done that can sometimes go neglected. Most of these tasks, with the exception of cleaning the windows, oven, and light fixtures, take 10 minutes or less. The only one I dread monthly is ironing, but alas, I can no longer ignore it. At least it's not piling up like it used to!

Again, please feel free to adapt this list to your specific needs, if you have found it helpful. 

Written and submitted by Lindsey @ Penny-wise



Mexican Seasoning Mix

Here is a recipe for homemade Mexican seasoning mix. It's much less expensive than buying envelopes of pre-made mixes, and you can make as much as you like to have extra for other meals.

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
1 tsp. onion powder.

Combine everything and store in an airtight container or Ziploc bag. For every pound of ground beef (like for tacos) use 1 Tbsp. mix. The recipe above makes about 1/3 cup.

This recipe is gluten-free, assuming your spices do not contain gluten- or wheat-based additives or preservatives.

Submitted by Heather @ Penny-wise

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mouse Repellent

Here's an interesting one for you: make your own mouse repellent.

I know. I kind of raised one eyebrow too. Who makes their own mouse repellent??

Well, you do. If you're looking for even the weirdest ways to save money, here's one of the most unique we've ever offered. Or, if the thought of your two-year-old accidentally ingesting mouse poison freaks you out like it does me, then this is for you. OR, if the thought of a dead mouse in your house (or elsewhere on your property) gives you the willies, then wouldn't you rather REPEL the mice than trap them, poison them, or worse, find one dead? (Cue horror music from the movie, Psycho.)


{Funny side story: I actually called my husband home from work one day and insisted he, .....er..... dispose of a dead mouse I found in our laundry room. True story.}

So, it's pretty simple:

All you need is peppermint oil. Not peppermint fragrance or extract...peppermint essential oil. The good stuff.

Put 5-10 drops in a spray bottle and fill with water. Thoroughly spray the rodent's access and travel points (ie. that mysterious hole in the sheet rock in your garage counts).

That's it.


Phew. That was easy. And I bet it smells pretty good too.

Submitted by Gaeleen. Written by Lindsey @ Penny-wise.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

G-free Pizza Crust & A Cookbook Review

Learning to cook and bake gluten-free has been a bit challenging. I am sure it's that way for anyone who's used to doing something a certain way all her life, only to have to abruptly change it. Thankfully, the learning curve is generous, and I've had some great friends give me a good handful of g-free resources and recipes.

My sweet friend Linda, who helps tremendously behind the scenes here at Penny-wise, sent me a wonderful cookbook: The Gluten-Free Kitchen. This cookbook, written by Roben Ryberg, doesn't have any recipes in it that might seem daunting or weird. It's just plain ol', simple, cooking...my kind of cooking. I have already made the pizza crust (recipe posted below) and the traditional pie crust; and both were easy and tasty. In fact, I made two pizzas, and there were no leftovers! A few of the recipes contained in this cookbook are:

  • Fried Chicken (YUM!)
  • Hot Cross Buns
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Pancakes
  • Gravy
  • and of course, pies, cakes, and even streusel!
I plan on trying many more recipes. Linda, thank you AGAIN for this invaluable resource!

And now, The GF Pizza Crust (which is, by the way, much less expensive than buying a mix or a pre-made, frozen crust...very penny-wise!):

Ingredients:

1 packet yeast (about 1 Tbsp.)
3/4 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
3/4 cup cornstarch*
1 Tbsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup shortening

Preheat oven to 375.

In a small bowl, combine yeast and milk. Stir to dissolve yeast and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine all other ingredients and mix well. (I used my KitchenAid mixer, and it worked very well.) To these ingredients, slowly add the yeast/milk mixture and mix well. Dough will look wet, thick, and pasty but is quite workable if you spray your hands with nonstick spray or keep your hands damp with water. This is a soft dough.

Roll or pat out dough onto a lightly greased baking tin or pizza pan. For a thick crust, pat out to 1/4 inch thickness. For thin crust, pat out to 1/8 inch thick. A 12-inch circle will produce "hand-tossed" thickness.

Top as desired.

Bake 15-25 minutes, until crust is lightly browned. Use a spatula to lift up the pizza to check for light browning on the bottom of the crust the first time you make it.

This crust is freezable! Bake the crust and freeze it without toppings. Then you only have to thaw, top, and bake briefly.

*Lindsey's Note: I made this crust exactly according to the recipe the first time. Then, I wanted to see if I could add more nutritional value by using other flours in combination with the cornstarch. For my second crust in place of 3/4 cup of cornstarch, I used 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/4 cup brown rice flour, and 1/4 cup sweet white sorghum flour. The taste and consistency were not noticeably different from the original recipe, so I will probably use this method in the future.

Written & submitted by Lindsey @ Penny-wise


Morning Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt, if desired
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup coconut
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 cups grated carrots
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 grated apple
1 cup vegetable oil



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together.
Fill paper lined muffin tins 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 35 minutes. These freeze well.

I like to have these muffins for breakfast or a mid-morning snack. They are delicious and healthy!

Submitted by Linda @ Penny-wise

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hummingbird Feeder Solution

This week has been a beautiful change of scenery and temperatures from last week's Blizzard-fest 2011. We have been out-of-doors everyday this week, playing basketball, going to the park, walking, and cleaning up a little around the outside of the house. 

I couldn't think of a better time to post this recipe for a little snack for our friends, the hummingbirds. I know winter won't be over for another month, but this just makes me giddy for the spring that's right around the corner. Unfortunately, we don't get many hummingbirds here in West Texas, but I'll try this solution anyway and hope for the best!

Here's how it's done:
 
Dissolve 1 part granulated sugar in 4 parts boiling water. Cool. Refrigerate until needed. Red food coloring is not necessary.

*Note from Linda at Penny-wise Women: I use this recipe myself in my feeders and never use food coloring. It works great, and we always have loads of hummingbirds...so neat to watch. I also highly recommend a DVD called First Flight: A Mother Hummingbird's Story. It is a nature documentary by Noriko and Don Carroll based on their book of the same name and published by Andrews McMeel. I highly recommend the hummingbird solution, the documentary, and the book to all you nature lovers.

Written by Lindsey & Linda at Penny-wise. Submitted by Gaeleen.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gluten-free Flour Mixes

Here is a basic Gluten Free Flour Mix that I like to use. This works well for using when a recipe calls for flour. You can mix this up ahead of time and store. You can double or triple it. Then when a recipe calls for flour, just sub in the same amount of your GF flour mix!

Ingredients:

1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca starch or potato starch
1/3 to 1/2 cup almond meal, buckwheat flour, millet flour or quinoa flour (whichever I have on hand)
1 tsp. xanthan gum

If you want a self-rising GF flour mix use this one below! Again, make extra ahead of time and store.

1 cup of the GF flour mix (from above recipe)
1 1/2 TSP baking powder
1/2 TSP salt

Written and submitted by Carrie

Monday, February 14, 2011

Spider Control


Does the ingredient list on your can of spider spray remind you of a horror movie? Ingredients you can't spell or pronounce, chemicals that could possibly wreak havoc on your mind or body--all included in that can of Raid you've got in your garage. And, if you have a chemical-sensitive or autistic child, forget about pest control of any sort. Those chemicals can cause numerous reactions in their little bodies.


Our friend Gaeleen has come to the rescue again with yet another all-natural pest control option:


Soak 1 package chewing or pipe tobacco in 1 gallon boiling water untilcool or overnight.  Strain into container.  Combine 1 cup tobaccojuice with 1/2 cup lemon dish soap.  Pour in spray bottle.  Spray downcorners and dark places.


No scary ingredients. No harmful chemical smells. Just inexpensive, all-natural spider control.


Submitted by Gaeleen