Posts tagged: frugal

Soup of the Day

By , July 13, 2012

This was a delicious little lunch for today. I pulled the beef broth out of the freezer, and the rest is from my own garden! With everything cut into little pieces, it cooked up in just a few minutes.

beef broth

scallions (white part)




…and at the table, I stirred in some raw homemade sauerkraut with some of its juice, which leant a wonderful brightness to the soup!

And I just remembered I have some soaked & cooked lentils, which I think would also go well in this soup.


Low-tech, No-cost, DIY Herb & Food Dehydrator

By , May 4, 2012

Dehydrated chives

I’m all about low-tech, and this dehydrator is as low-tech as it gets.

The idea for it has been knocking ’round the back of my mind for quite a while now, and finally I just did it. It’s simple and slick. I dehydrated some garden chives yesterday, and they came out great. This would also be great for mushrooms and any other food, really.


Cardboard box (shallow with a wide base is nice)

Clean tea towel

Lightweight tablecloth or large scrap of lightweight fabric

A warm day, or an open window with a breeze


1. Lay your tea towel in the bottom of the box.

2. Spread your herbs or food out on the tea towel.

3. Wrap your tablecloth around the top of the box, tucking the ends underneath so it stays secure.

4. Place the box in the sun, or in an open window. The cloth provides shade for the drying items and protection from flies, while also allowing air to flow.




By , May 1, 2012

As I mentioned in this post, I found nettles! This was really very exciting because now I can collect my own instead of continuing to purchase my usual dried nettles for tea. And for the very first time, I had freshly cooked nettles and they’re amazing! A mild and pleasing taste. I cooked them in some salted water, and ended up drinking every last drop of the broth too — it was thick and delicious — almost meaty. They’re so good for you, too. High in protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Cooked nettles

Nettles & white beans

And I love nettles tea because it works better than an antihistamine pill for me. This was an accidental discovery; I’m allergic to bee stings, and I get honeybee and ‘mixed vespids’ venom immunotherapy shots every 6 weeks so that my body gets desensitized to the venom. Normally I get a big, itchy 3″ wide welt on each arm where I get the shot, and I take a Claritin pill the morning of the shots to help counteract that. However one day I had some strong nettles tea before my shots, along with the pill. No welt! No redness! No itchy! At first I didn’t realize it was the nettles, until another time when I’d forgotten to take the antihistamine pill and only had nettles tea, and same thing! No welt. Finally I realized it was the nettles tea, and the pill wasn’t even really necessary. So now I make sure to have nettles tea before my shot, and every day for at least about a week afterward. It’s quite magical. If you have seasonal allergies (mercifully, I don’t), you might try nettles tea!

My favorite nettles tea:

2-3 Tbsp dried nettles

~1/2 Tbsp dried mint

~1/2 Tbsp dried lemongrass

In a mug, pour 8-12 ounces boiling water over herbs, cover, and steep about 15 minutes.

So anyway, back to the fresh nettles. I couldn’t believe my luck with finding patch after patch of them, and while I often travel with an empty plastic bag (you never know what you’ll need it for!), I didn’t have one with me on the walk. However my mom had packed snacks in a bag, and thank goodness she had! Precious, precious bag. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to collect any. Disappointing!

I had an empty little sandwich baggie which I used as a glove to pick them, though still got plenty of stings on my wrists. (The stinging compounds are easily neutralized once the nettles are either boiled or dried to a crisp.) I stuffed the bag full, and also took some plants with roots and have planted those in pots outside, hoping they’ll decide it’s a satisfactory location to grow. I’ve read that nettles are particular about where they grow; you might think you have the ideal location for them — but they have the last word.

Do you cultivate your own nettles? Have any growing tips?


As you can see, the living room was full of nettles for a while. I ended up getting about 3 gallons, dried.


Thrift Store Things

By , April 5, 2012

I do love thrift stores. I love donating old stuff to them, and finding new clothing and treasures to bring home. Here are some recent things that have found a new home at our place:


– A funny little majolica cream pitcher, and a porcelain Easter egg jar which happens to be ‘born’ the same year I was. Not sure why I bought the pitcher, really, cause I don’t need it, but then again I didn’t need the egg either. I liked them though, and I guess that’s reason enough!


– A cast iron muffin pan for $3! I can’t wait to use this… to lift out a steaming muffin, with crispy crust all around!


– And this one’s really cool. It’s probably an equestrian reflector thingy, but I’ve been wearing it while riding my bike in an ongoing and slightly obsessive quest to maximize my visibility to drivers. I say ‘probably’ because the tag is in Norwegian. And how a Norwegian equestrian reflector would have made its way to the racks of a junky Colorado thrift store is a story I’d dearly love to hear.


Have you brought home any fun thrifted items lately?


Easter Branch

Cute huh.

A catalpa branch flew off and landed in the backyard of our apartment-house. I think it makes a nice Easter Branch, to go with the rest of my Easter Shrine.


Classic Tabbouleh

By , April 4, 2012

One of my all-time favorite foods, ever! This is my mom’s famous recipe.


And since my diet has gone essentially low fat vegetarian, which is presently all my body will handle, this stuff is my mainstay. I plow through an entire batch all by myself every 2 or 3 days! And since I can’t eat much oil at all, I change up the dressing to be only a small drizzle of oil, and tons of lemon juice, and I’ve grown to really love it this way!

Also, tabbouleh is normally made with bulghur. I always make it with quinoa now since I love the taste of it and it’s more nutritious and also a complete protein — but bulghur is of course delicious too!


Mom’s Tabbouleh

1/2 cup uncooked bulghur or quinoa*

1-2 cups chopped tomatoes — (2 cups = about 1 lb) (I always make it with 2 cups of tomatoes now, but if you do, you may need to increase the amounts of lemon juice and olive oil slightly)

2 cups finely chopped parsley — chop first and then measure (about 1 medium-large bunch parsley…but do measure it first)

1/2 cup chopped green onion or 1/3 cup finely chopped white onion

1 level Tbsp dried mint, crushed (or 2 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped)

1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt (about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp), or to taste

Pepper to taste


Cook the 1/2 cup bulghur or quinoa* (1/2 cup grain to 1 cup boiling water + dash of salt; cover, simmer till water’s absorbed, about 20 minutes). Cool it to room temperature. If I’m in a hurry, I’ll put the hot quinoa into the freezer to cool it quickly.

Mix everything together in a big bowl. But if you don’t think you’ll eat all of it within a day or two, mix the dressing separately, and add it to the tabbouleh right before you eat a helping of it. That way the tabbouleh will stay fresh several days longer in your fridge.



*Cooking quinoa:

Be sure to rinse the quinoa well to remove bitter saponin residue. The quick way to cook it is to boil your water (ratio of 1 cup grain to scant 2 cups water), add some salt, add quinoa and cover, simmering until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

However, if you’re able to plan ahead enough, it’s much better, healthwise, to soak your quinoa for at least 12 hours to make it more digestible — the way traditional cultures do. Soaking grains neutralizes phytic acid (which binds to essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, and blocks their absorption) as well as enzyme inhibitors in the grain. Soaking also breaks down difficult-to-digest proteins and encourages the production of beneficial enzymes which in turn increases the vitamin (especially B vitamin) content of the grain.


To soak quinoa: Thoroughly rinse 1/2 cup of dry quinoa to remove bitter saponin residue. Put 1 Tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar into a measuring cup and fill to the 1/2 cup mark with warm water, then mix with the quinoa in a bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours, or up to 24. When you’re ready to cook, rinse and drain the quinoa well, and place in a saucepan. Add a scant 1/2 cup of water, and a little salt. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Cool, and proceed with the recipe.


My Mittens Are Done!

By , February 28, 2012


Remember the single felted wool mitten I showed you a couple weeks ago? Well now there are two! They’re finished and I love them. (Just in time for… Spring. Hah! Oh well.)

I still might embellish them a little using the pretty nordic ribbon and buttons from the original sweater they were made from, but I also might just leave them as is. I like their simplicity. Actually, I’m really proud of these mittens. I’ve never made anything like them before so it was a slow project, and one I wouldn’t necessarily care to repeat, but I’m really happy with how they came out. They fit beautifully and they’re so warm! Apart from my time, they cost next to nothing since all the materials came from the thrift store.

They have three layers made from two different felted sweaters plus an inner lining of really soft white fleece. They’re so cozy and luxurious; I wish you could feel them!

They’re made from the sleeves of these sweaters:


Do you ever make stuff from felted wool sweaters? I really like the concept — it’s so easy and cheap — the knitting has been done for you already, and you can so easily get used sweaters from the thrift store for such little money!

If you’ve ever done something like this before, please leave a comment and tell me what you made! I’d love to get some other project ideas — maybe something that’s a little simpler than 3-layer mittens. 😉


No-Cost DIY Art Marker Holder

By , February 27, 2012

I recently expanded my art marker collection and needed something to keep them all organized within a compact space. So I made a holder using materials I had on hand, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. It’s not beautiful, but it does the job perfectly.

Here’s how to make your own without spending a cent!



A small cardboard box (my 10″ x 6.5″ cardboard box fits 140 Prismacolor art markers)

More cardboard, for the dividers

Duct tape or packing tape



 1. Measure your outer box so that you know how big to make the dividers. Measure and cut out one divider and insert it into your box. Trim if necessary. When it’s the right size, use it as a template to cut more dividers.

2. Put a row of markers in place at one end of the box. (Putting the markers in helps you know exactly how wide to make the rows.) It helps to prop up the opposite end of the box so the markers stay in place. Insert the divider up against your row of markers to see if it needs trimming. Then put a strip of duct tape on either side of the divider, as in the photo.

Insert your divider to make sure it fits right; remove and trim if necessary, then apply tape.

3. Tape the divider into place, flush against your markers.

Tip up one end of the box so the markers stay in place.

4. When the divider is taped into place, add another piece of tape to the bottom:

5. Keep adding rows of markers and dividers until you’re finished.



Minestrone Soup

By , February 18, 2012

Minestrone - a variation on the recipe below

This soup is delicious. I sometimes alter the recipe depending on what I have on hand, so feel free to play around.

The recipe makes a pretty large pot. Cut the amounts back if you like!!

Minestrone Soup

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 large carrot, cut into 1/2″ dice

2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2″ slices

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2″ dice

1/2 lb potatoes, cut into 1/2″ dice

4 cups shredded green cabbage

4 – 6 cups chopped kale or swiss chard (1/4 – 1/2 lb)

28 oz canned chopped tomatoes with their juice (or feel free to use fresh tomatoes!)

2 to 3 tsp salt-free Italian herb seasoning

4 1/2 cups vegetable broth (but homemade grassfed beef bone broth is delicious too!)

1 1/2 cups cooked Great Northern beans (or 1 15-oz can, drained)

Salt/pepper to taste


*It helps to have everything chopped and ready before starting*

In a very large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until softened.

Add carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring for 4 minutes.

Add the zucchini and potatoes. Cook, stirring, for another 4 minutes.

Add cabbage and kale (or chard) and cook till cabbage is wilted.

Add the tomatoes with their juice, the veggie broth, and the Italian seasoning.

Simmer, covered, for one hour.

In a blender or food processor, puree half the beans with some liquid from the soup. Stir the puree along with the remaining beans into the soup.

Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Salt + pepper to taste.


The Herbangardener is powered by WordPress