Living without gluten, casein, soy, eggs and peanuts. Living with ASD and ADHD. Life is good!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Homemade Laundry Detergent and Other Money Saving Strategies

So, we've been in our new house for almost 4 months. Our expenses have gone up while DH's net income has not. I'm looking for ways to trim the budget, which is really hard to do in the face of our food sensitivities and allergies. You'd think that eliminating certain foods from our diet would be easier on our budget, but it's not. Quite the opposite, in fact. Eliminating gluten, casein, soy, corn, eggs and nuts has made our grocery bills skyrocket. And that's even with me making almost absolutely everything at home in my own kitchen. We've also moved toward eliminating food dyes and nitrates and I've been buying meat from animals that have not been pumped with hormones and antibiotics. It's expensive, but I want my children to be healthy. And thankfully they are much healthier, which cuts back on doctor visits, medications, trips to the hospital and ill-health related expenses both now and later on down the road. Looking at it that way, maybe it all evens out in the end, no?

With the silliness that has become our grocery bills, I've been trimming any luxury I can find. We already don't eat out, don't have a babysitter and don't take vacations (aside from occasional family-funded trips home). Twice a year I get Anna's seasonal wardrobe almost completely at consignment sales and I shop the used uniform closet at her school for her uniforms (one of these days I'm going to fall down and kiss the feet of whoever at her school thought up that idea). Megan gets Anna's hand-me-downs and I sell whatever they don't use anymore. There's not a lot of fat to trim. So what's left? Cleaning products. All those fancy packaged products that line the cleaning aisles in the local stores - they are next. If I can make food from scratch, I bet it's not so hard to make cleaning products from scratch, too.

So far I've replaced scouring products with baking soda and vinegar, which do a fabulous job of cleaning counters, sinks, stoves, dishwashers, tubs, pots and pans...almost everything. Baking soda and vinegar also gets rid of stinky kitchen sink smells and it clears clogs in the sink too. I've also made laundry detergent, and I love it! It works just as well as anything you can buy, the only difference being the price per load (~.30/load vs. ~.02/load). The clothes come out clean and smelling...well, clean. They don't smell like perfume, which is really a nice change.

Then to save more money I throw the wet clothes into the dryer for a couple of minutes to get out the wrinkles, and I hang them up on the clothesline outside. This makes the clothes smell really nice. Happily I don't even have to iron the clothes after they come off the line. The neighbors must think I'm nuts - I'm the only person in this neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods who is hanging clothes on the line. But I don't care. It saves money, it makes the clothes smell nice, and the kids like to play among the rows of drying clothes. That's cheap entertainment right there.

One thing I tried that didn't work so well was homemade dishwasher powder. Maybe it's because our water is hard, but our dishes didn't get clean in the least and the powder ended up all caked on the bottom of the dishwasher and did a nice job of clogging the line. Thankfully baking soda and vinegar cleared the line. But one thing I won't skimp on is dishwasher detergent. I use half the amount that is recommended and the dishes come out perfectly clean.

The other thing I won't replace is bleach. DH hates it when I use bleach, he thinks I'm a little too cavalier with the stuff. But I think it's magic. It cleans and disinfects and a little goes a long way. It will even sanitize water should the need arise. Bleach is inexpensive and I think it's a good thing to keep in the house. Well, away from the kids of course. But handy all the same.

I've only done away with a few cleaning products to save money, but I plan to do more soon, using recipes and tips gleaned from Gayle at The Grocery Cart Challenge. Head on over there and check out recipes for all these homemade products: oven cleaner, dishwasher detergent, dryer sheets, Chlorox wipes, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, fabric softener, baby wipes, drain cleaner, Oxyclean, linen spray, Windex, laundry pre-wash spray, dryer sheets (I use Dryer Balls instead), liquid hand soap, carpet freshener, all-purpose cleaner and laundry detergent!

I'll share the laundry detergent recipe here. It's the same one that can be found at Grocery Cart Challenge, just scaled back to fit into a 2 gallon bucket. You'll need laundry bar soap - Zote Soap or Fels Naptha, whichever you can find. I found pink Zote at my local Walmart, hopefully next time I can get the white soap with no dyes or perfumes. You'll also need Borax (I found this at my local Target) and Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (I found this at my local Ace Hardware). You could buy all these online but it's much cheaper to buy them locally (and being cheap is the whole point!).

Homemade Laundry Soap
2 gallon bucket
6 quarts water (1.5 gallons)
2 cups of water
1/6 bar of Zote Soap or Fels Naptha, grated
1/4 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1/4 cup Borax

Pour the 6 quarts of water into the 2 gallon bucket, set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the 2 cups of water and the grated soap over low heat. Stir until the soap dissolves. Pour the soap mixture into the bucket of water. Add the Washing Soda and the Borax and stir until slightly thickened. Let this mixture sit for 24 hours - it will thicken into a gel. Some of it will be a little watery, but it all works the same.

I use 1/2 cup of this laundry detergent for most loads - add the detergent to the washer while the basin is filling with water, swish the water a bit with the measuring cup to break up the soap, then add the clothes. It has been a month and I've only gone through half of the detergent, so I'm guessing it will take 15 minutes every other month to make a batch of laundry detergent - that's no skin off my back at all! And these days, every penny saved really does count.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Crock Pot Chicken with Wild Rice

I love my crock pot. It sees a fair bit of use even in the summertime when days get filled with pools, parks and play dates (or those days where I'm too lazy to do much of anything). Turkey tenderloins work just as well as chicken. One of these I might try rabbit, too. The meat is best brined for a couple of hours before placing in the crock pot, if you can manage it.*

1 1/2 cups wild rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. rubbed sage
3 or 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (or about 1 pound)
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 lemon, washed and thinly sliced

Coat the inside of your crock pot with cooking spray. Add the rice through the sage and stir to combine. Lay the chicken on top of the rice mixture. Pour the chicken broth over all. Lay the lemon rounds on top of the chicken. Cover and cook on low 4 -6 hours or until the chicken is cooked through (165 degrees). Take the chicken out of the crock pot and place on a serving dish. Stir the rice that is in the crock pot - if there is a little extra liquid, leave the lid off for several minutes to allow the rice to absorb the liquid. Place the rice in a serving bowl. Serve hot with a green salad on the side.

*To brine the chicken breasts before cooking it, stir 1/2 cup kosher salt into 4 cups cold water until the salt is dissolved. Add the chicken and let soak 1 - 2 hours in the refrigerator. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse and pat dry before placing in the crock pot. Proceed with the recipe as described above.

Friday, July 23, 2010

GFCF Coleslaw

My mom's coleslaw is really good. She does not have an official recipe, she makes it by memory every time. While she was visiting we went over the basics and I wrote them down. Since the coconut milk in my homemade vegan mayo makes it slightly sweeter than traditional mayo, I increased the vinegar in the coleslaw and cut back on the sugar slightly. It came quite close to the coleslaw that I remember growing up with, and everyone at our little barbecue loved it.

1 small green cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, shredded
1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, halved and thinly sliced (or use a few scallions)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. canola or grapeseed oil
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, carrot and leek. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise through the pepper. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

GFCF Eggplant "Lasagna"

Eggplant has been on sale recently. Inspired by the success of Spaghetti Squash Lasagna, I bought an eggplant and decided to make lasagna out of it, too. Predictably, the girls won't go near this, but DH and a friend thought it was great!

1 medium eggplant, washed
3 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp. olive oil
prepared spaghetti sauce, such as Bertolli
Daiya shredded mozzarella
pine nuts
Italian seasoning blend (such as Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle)

Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds. Place a layer of eggplant on the bottom of a large colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Place another layer of eggplant on top of that and sprinkle it generously with salt. Continue layering with the remaining eggplant. Set a heavy plate on top of the eggplant. Let the eggplant sit for at least 30 minutes. The salt will sweat out the bitterness in the eggplant.

Rinse the eggplant and pat dry. Combine the balsamic vinegar and the oil, whisking to emulsify. Dip the eggplant in the dressing. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat and brown each side of the eggplant slices.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of an 8 inch baking dish. Place one layer of eggplant on top of the sauce in the dish. Sprinkle with a thin layer of Daiya and 2 tbsp. pine nuts. Spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce over this. Repeat layers until all the eggplant has been used, ending with the cheese and pine nuts. Sprinkle a little Italian seasoning over the top. Bake about 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let sit for several minutes before slicing and serving. Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, July 11, 2010

GFCF Cake Brownies (Egg Free)

I've been dying to make brownies for a long time but have been hesitant to make them egg free, afraid they'd turn out gummy and heavy. I really need to get over that fear, because my recent gluten free vegan baking is turning out really well. It's true that there is a learning curve but once you get the hang of it and can anticipate how a baked good will turn out based on experience, knowledge of how your flours work and how much moisture you'll need, things get better and better. Not to jinx myself, but I'm starting to finally get comfortable baking without eggs and can modify recipes to suit our needs fairly reliably. Such as these brownies. For guidance I looked at the Chocolate Cake Brownie recipe in Mommy and Me Gluten Free and had these Rich Fudgy Brownies in mind when I came up with these cakey, fudgy egg free beauties. I don't think anyone would be able to tell they are gluten free and vegan. I love stealth baking!

Cake Brownies
2 cups GF flour blend (I used this one)
3 tbsp. flax seed meal

2 tsp. xanthan gum

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

6 squares unsweetened baking chocolate

1 cup sugar

1 cup canola oil

1 1/4 cups rice milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour through the salt, set aside.

Place the chocolate squares in a small bowl. Microwave the chocolate on high for 1 minute. Remove the chocolate from the microwave and stir with a fork until melted completely, about a minute. Pour the chocolate into a large bowl, add the sugar and beat with a fork until combined. Add the oil, stir until well mixed. Add the rice milk and vanilla and stir to combine. Add the flour mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely before frosting.

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

4 tbsp. melted coconut oil

rice milk

splash of vanilla extract

shaved chocolate or mini chocolate chips, if desired

With a fork, combine the powdered sugar and coconut oil. Add the rice milk a little at a time, beating until a smooth thick frosting is achieved. Add a splash of vanilla and stir well to combine. Frost when the brownies are completely completely cooled. Decorate with shaved chocolate or mini chocolate chips, if desired. Cut brownies into 24 squares and serve. Store brownies in the refrigerator. Yield: 24 brownies.

Monday, July 5, 2010

GFCF Skillet Cake

I ran across this recipe for Skillet Cake in the latest Penzey's catalog and was intrigued. I love using my cast iron skillet for just about everything, but cake? I had to try it. It converted to being gluten free easily, it's already egg free, and it's delicious.

The kids were so excited to have cake in a nifty skillet that they were falling over themselves in excitement. "Mommy, is that cake for us? Whose birthday is it?"

"It's nobody's birthday! It's a JUST BECAUSE cake!" I made the cake as a last minute afterthought (one of those "oh yeah, we're having guests for dinner, I should make dessert" thoughts) and everybody loved it. It's fast, it's fuss-free, and it's
really good. With a cake this easy to make, I might just make cake more often instead of just on birthdays. Which will delight the girls of course!

Chocolate Skillet Cake
1 1/2 cups All Purpose GF flour blend
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder (not dutch)
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Smear a little canola on the bottom and up the sides of a 10" cast iron skillet to coat, set aside.

In a large bowl sift together the flour through the baking powder. Make a well in the center and set aside. In a separate bowl combine the sugar , oil, vinegar and vanilla, beating to combine. Add the water and stir well. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Beat until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet. Place the skillet in the oven and bake about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wrap a potholder around the skillet handle to remove from the oven. Let the cake cool in the skillet. When the cake is cool, frost with Chocolate Frosting. Cut into wedges to serve. Yield: 8 servings.

Chocolate Frosting
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp. natural cocoa powder
3 tbsp. palm shortening
2 tbsp. rice milk

Sift together the powdered sugar and the cocoa powder. Beat in the palm shortening. Beat in the rice milk until smooth. Makes enough to spread over the cooled Skillet Cake with no leftovers.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Black Bean Dip

Anna has been on her elimination diet for over two weeks now. One of the things she cannot eat is sesame seeds. This is a problem since hummus has been one of the staples of her diet. Lately I've been making White Bean Dip with Sage, and for variety I made this Black Bean Dip last night (original recipe here, with minor changes). I'm happy to say that Anna really likes this dip and it has now entered her safe foods rotation. Yay, safe foods!

In all honesty, I'm really cranky about Anna's new food sensitivities. I try hard to feed my children well and to find out that what Anna has been eating has been making her feel sick is a little much. I thought we'd taken care of the food issue with the elimination of the gluten/casein/soy/peanut over two years ago. I'm really feeling angry that new sensitivities have popped up like some deranged bogeyman. I'm afraid that there's some sort of immune system issue underneath all of this we don't know about, and that's scary. I'm really pissed that I can't figure out what's going on. Just sayin'.

At least the black bean dip is good.

3 cups cooked black beans*
3 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup salsa
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. lime juice
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground chipotle
2 green onions, white and pale green parts only

In a food processor place the black beans through the chipotle. Process until smooth. Adjust salsa and seasonings to taste. Transfer the dip to a bowl. Slice the green onions and fold them into the dip by hand before serving.

*Or you can use 2 cans of drained black beans.