Sunday, November 22, 2009

One wat to save money easily: Home Haircuts

At about $15 a piece for a basic trim, the money can add up rapidly.  Given the $15 estimate (with no long hair extra fees), we just saved $45 and never had to leave the house!  If you have never thought about doing haircuts at home, give it a try, it is not difficult once you know the tricks.

Some tips for haircuts:
  • Wash and then cut hair when it is wet
  • Comb hair out from the scalp and cut to an even length
    • this makes hair lengths look more natural and any unevenness when cutting isn't visible
  • Use sharp scissors, and a fine toothed comb to get best results
  • Expect to touch up a few stray hairs after the initial cut.
  • For short cuts, buy a basic hair trimmer (around $20) and use the guides for ease
So far I have had better results from haircuts at home than I have had at basic hair stylists for one main reason: I know what I want to end up with after the cut.  I don't have to tip, don't feel pressured to buy "product", and overall spend less time on the cuts doing them myself.

Hmm... $45... that can buy a lot of chocolate.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gluten-Free Fish and ...not chips

I recently went up to my parent's house and was given a free-for-all pass to their freezer... including the seafood!  Not just any seafood, but real, hand caught, wild Alaskan goodies--most of which were caught by my family.  Once I thought of it, I realized that most of this fish had been in the bottom of the deep freeze for over five years. It had been that long since any of us had been fishing or since we last begged our family up there to send us a care package of the fishy variety.

I didn't care. I wanted fish and I wanted a lot of it!

My Fishy Goodness! ... With Freezer-burn
I now have slightly fewer vaccuum packed bricks of salmon (smoked and raw) and halibut than I orginally stole from the parental units. The main reason: Fish and not-chips. It would have been fish and chips, but I was too focused on eating freshly fried halibut to worry about sides. I am proud to say that I did finally manage to add some microwaved peas to my plate full of fish, but that was really an afterthought.

This is a great recipe to use freezer-burned or older fish because frying makes the texture less of an issue. It also is a great way to fix fish for anyone who is not a fan of "fishy" fish, and a really economical way to fix other fish (cod or tillapia) if your child can't have gluten.  You can even take frozen individual fillets of thin fish, batter them, and refreeze them on a cookie sheet so that you can take them out and cook pieces like ready made fish sticks.  It is much tastier and healthier (higher fish to batter ratio) than the frozen boxed variety... and cheaper too! So here is an all purpose fish fry recipe, catering to halibut, but usable for any fryable fish.

If you need to defrost your fish, either let it thaw in the fridge, or defrost in the microwave. If some of it gets a little cooked in the process of microwaving, don't worry, as it won't really affect the end tastyness.  If you are using another type of fish that is thinner than 1/2" you can even batter and fry while they are still frozen! (All the easier!)

Now you can:

Turn These Frozen Lifeless Chunks

Into Noms. Quite Tasty Noms.
(see, I even have something healthy tossed in there for good measure)

Gluten-Free Deep Fried Halibut:


2 to 2 1/2 lbs Halibut Fillets, defrosted or fresh, skin removed
Oil for frying
Thermometer for oil (or just cheat and use a deep fryer machine like my little one)

Batter-dry mix:
1/2 c. cornstarch (aka corn flour)
1/2 c. gf flour of your choice (I used a blend from Arrowhead Mills)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1-2 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. salt

3 large eggs, separated--whites in a large bowl, yolks in a small bowl
2 Tbs. lemon juice

Tartar Sauce :
3/4 c. Mayonnaise
1/4 c. Sweet Pickle Relish (yes, dig it out of the back of the fridge)
1/2 Tbs. Onion Powder
1 tsp. Cider Vinegar
1 tsp. Lemon Juice

  1. Prepare fish by cutting into large chunks (mine were about 2" by 1 1/2" strips depending on the fish shape).
  2. Mix dry ingredients for batter in a medium bowl.
  3. Beat egg whites in a large bowl till soft peaks form.
  4. Lightly beat egg yolks with lemon juice then combine with whites in the large bowl.
  5. Heat oil in pan or electric fryer (aim for 375 to 400 degrees ideally).
  6. Meanwhile prepare tartar sauce by mixing all ingredients and adjusting seasoning to taste.
  7. Batter the fish and put in heated oil--first coat in flour mixture, then in egg goop, then put in oil. (Don't crowd the pan, or the fish won't cook nicely)
  8. Cook the fish until golden brown and crispy all around then drain on a rack or paper towels before devouring with tartar sauce. (Thicker pieces will take longer to cook, my 2"x1"x1 1/2" pieces took about 5 minutes to cook through, and yes, if you find a piece not quite cooked all the way, you can add more batter and fry a bit more)
Golden Brown Goodness

You can use any firm fish with this recipe--cod, tillapia, swordfish, you name it.  My husband and I were spending so much time making happy munching noises in the kitchen that we never actually made it to sitting down to dinner. It was that good. Well, that and the fact that it has been over ten years since either of us had a good platter of fried halibut. We had no need for the chips with all that fish!

If you happen to have leftovers, like we did since there were only two of us and two pounds of fish, you can either heat up remaining fried fish in the oven on a rack and eat. Or, make a batch of fish chowder and break up the chunks into the soup, letting the breading add to the thickener in the soup.  I think our leftovers will be topping a pizza with garlic-olive-oil sauce and capers.  Lots of options.

So there you have it, deep-fat-fried gluten-free goodness. Much better than anything you can buy in your pre-breaded frozen food aisle--for much cheaper and healthier (if you can call anything fried healthy).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chai update

Alright, I think I have the recipe down for a tasty chai--even caffeine free now (since my husband can't do caffeiene)

Chai Concentrate (8-9 cups):
3 inches (or more) fresh ginger--sliced very thinly

1g cardamom seeds (may be known as cilantro seeds depending on where you are)
.6g cloves
.3g black peppercorns
3 sticks cinnamon
1 bay leaf
around a gallon of water (normally a little less)
OPTIONAL--about 1/3c. loose black tea if you like (darjeeling or other)

  1. Coarsely grind cardamom, cloves, and peppercorns with a mortar and pestle (or crush with a heavy object with spices in a plastic baggy).
  2. Combine ginger, cinnamon, bay leaf, and water in a large stockpot and turn to high heat.
  3. Place cracked spices either in a tea ball, herb strainer, or directly into the pot with the rest.
  4. Cook for about an hour at a steady boil or until the level reduces by about half. 
  5. Turn off heat
  6. If using tea, place in a tea ball/piece of cloth tied closed and steep in pot during last 5 minutes of cooking.
  7. Strain liquid through cheesecloth, a fine strainer, or a large strainer with a layer of papertowels (replace the towel when it gets too slow).
  8. Store in a jug in the fridge for up to a month, best if used in first two weeks.
Now that you have the chai mix:

Chai Tea: 
  1. Fill a microwaveable mug 1/2 to 2/3  full of the chai mix.
  2. Add milk or milk substitute to almost fill the mug (leave room for honey and cream).
  3. Add in a splash of cream to fill.
  4. Microwave for a few minutes to warm the chai.
  5. Add honey to taste and stir well
  6. Enjoy!
So there you have it, one recipe for chai in easy-to-make large quantity. I keep a supply in the fridge at all times now that it has gotten cool outside (and inside for that matter).  Yes, you can scale down the recipe and make it cup by cup, but it tastes so much better if it has time to sit and concentrate...and it is much easier to make a big batch.

If you are wondering where you can buy ginger, I suggest looking in your neighborhood grocery store's vegetable section, hidden amongst bulk items and herbs.  Failing that, you can go to Whole Paycheck or other natural food stores (which I lack here in the middle of nowhere) and ask there.

As far as using dried ground spices... you can technically make it work, but it is a pain in the arse and makes straining the liquid very difficult. The flavors also do not come out well, if at all, especially in the case of the cardamom and ginger.

And lastly, this is a chai recipe that is only a suggestion for you to start with and alter as you see fit. Many people add in fennel for a licorice flavor, or omit the bay leaf, or add in vanilla, or sweeten during cooking, or add milk during cooking. This is only a place to start and is the easiest form of tasty chai that I have found so far that fits both my tastes and those of my household... and my budget.

If these spices start to smell familiar to those who eat curry, they should. I take a small amount of the same spices and toast them in a dry pan before sauteeing my onions and garlic when making a vat'o'curry. Very tasty.

Hope you all have a nice safe and tasty Thanksgiving Day soon! I hope to post a few times on various GF desserts or sides that I am making for our local get-together, with pictures...but that depends on how much time, energy, and overall usefulness I have.  I intend to try out a new flour that I just bought: Modified Tapioca Starch. It is supposed to give GF foods a texture like gluten--minus all those nasty gastro-intestinal side effects of gluten.