All posts by Life of a Frugal Wife - Going Back to Basics

Make Your Own Homemade Flavored Vinegar From Fresh Herbs

Hello Lovelies,

It has been a long time!  Our family has been dealing with some health issues, but God is great! We are healing and on the up and up.  About a month ago, I started drying most all of the herbs that we grew in our garden.  I couldn’t let them to go to waste, but couldn’t use the fresh version up in enough time.  Due to lacking freezer space, I tried another alternative such as making flavored vinegar.  After the herbs were cut down to just stems, the purple basil started regrowing leaves and eventually flowered.  But what I didn’t know, was that you can use the entire plant and make flavored vinegar!  I had heard about it in books and online, but never gave it a try.  It is a great way to use most all of the plant to get the most out of it.  Here is how to make it.

Purple Basil Vinegar

-Cleaned and drained basil leaves and flowers

-Sterilized Mason jar

-White Distilled Vinegar

20170729_190942Fill the bottom of the mason jar with freshly cut leaves and flowers of whatever herb you are wanting.  In this post, it is purple basil.

20170729_191210_001Pour over white distilled vinegar and cover tightly.  Shake gently and put in the refrigerator.  Let it sit in the refrigerator and in two weeks you will have flavored vinegar.  Simply strain the leaves and flowers and keep in the fridge.


You can make any flavor you’d like with any herb you’d like.  The vinegar has a pretty strong fragrance and can be used in so many recipes for a boost in flavor.  First thought that comes to mind is spaghetti sauce and chicken! Other ways to incorporate vinegar is in sauces, canning, or even in pickled vegetables.  The two pictures to the left and right are what the vinegar looks like after two weeks.  It smells soo good ya’ll!


Other Flavorful Ideas

  • Parsley
  • Tarragon
  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Lemongrass
  • Combinations such as a sprig of rosemary, basil, and oregano

Total Cost:  An estimated .50 cents for the vinegar to fill a quart jar and my 3rd round of basil.  Store bought version on average for flavored vinegar is $5-$6 with no guarantee it is made from fresh herbs.



Want a Healthy Snack? Try Roasted Chickpeas!



Hello Lovelies,

Chickpeas are an amazing legume with endless possibilities.  Not only do they provide us with yummy hummus and are absolutely delicious in soups, they also roast really well. By spending a long period of time in the oven, they get very crunchy throughout, even more so than chips. You wouldn’t think legumes would be very tasty any other way then treated like a bean, but they actually are pretty good when you think outside of the box. They contain a ton of fiber which is great during a busy day or when it is too hot outside to cook.  Make a big batch and store in mason jars. You’ll have a readily available snack to just grab which in my opinion is key as a mama.  A half cup of roasted chickpeas is around 150 calories, contains tons of protein and insoluble fiber making them fantastic for the digestive system.  I’ve had these a few times before and I loved them!  You can put any seasoning under the sun on them and they will be amazing.

You will need:

  • Dry chickpeas
  • Salt to taste
  • Any seasoning to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil

For the seasoning shown in the pictures:

  • Garlic powder
  • Chili powder
  • Cracked  black pepper
  • Kosher salt

I didn’t list exact measurements because this isn’t a science.  It truly is season as you wish and roast.  You can add seasoning completely to taste and change up according to time of day, sweet or salty, spicy or savory, the sky is the limit.

To get started, soak the dry chickpeas overnight in a container full of water.



Drain the chickpeas and pat dry with a towel. Spread out over a flat baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast at 350 degrees. Start at just 30 minutes and increase by 10 minute intervals making sure to taste one in between.  Our oven took about 50 minutes. They should be very crunchy with no raw smooth inside.  It should be crunchy all the way through. If you would like softer chickpeas, you can roast a little less.


I really hope you give this recipe a try!  It is a great way to snack all day and grab something that is actually healthy for you. You can try hundreds of different spice blends to come up with different flavors.  This recipe is our favorite go to but we’ve also tried cinnamon and sugar by roasting in just olive oil and adding the cinnamon and sugar at the very end.  The sugar will dissolve a little bit from the heat of the chickpeas. It is simple to make that even the kiddos can help!

Total Cost: 60 cents for a bag of chickpeas and the rest from pantry



7 Easy Steps to Make Homemade Fermented Sauerkraut

Fermenting food is a lost art, but gaining momentum recently.  It is one of the original ways of preserving food.  Yet most do not realize that we already eat some fermented foods.  Coffee, olives, and soy sauce to name a few.

Vegetables though, are fantastic when they are fermented.  Why? The nutrition within that vegetable is kept, enhanced, and preserved by the fermentation process.  It allows some of the nutrients to become digestible when they would not be raw.

Natural bacteria produces vitamins and enzymes that are very beneficial for digestion and a variety of other things.  But I am not a doctor or a fermentation expert, so I cannot tell you all it can do, but I can tell you this…PROBIOTICS! The best natural bacteria ever. It is found in supplements and more commonly within yogurt, but eating naturally fermented and or cultured foods, gives the highest level of probiotics and is more beneficial than store bought remedies because of the natural process. Everything is better homemade!

Basic fermentation is nothing more than a brine of filtered water and salt.  We know that salt draws out moisture, but it also aids in the development of lactic acid, the main component of fermentation. One of the easiest foods to get started with is sauerkraut.  It is tangy, vinegary, cabbage goodness that you can put on hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches like hot reubens, or eat on the side.  In my opinion, the homemade version tastes nothing like the stuff in a jar.

Making sauerkraut is ridiculously easy!  Trust me!  It takes less than 10 minutes to start and 4 weeks to finish.  What is easier than that? This recipe is tailored for a quart jar.  A rule of thumb is for every 5lbs of vegetable, you would use 3 tablespoons of salt.  So adjust it according to the vessel you are using.


Step 1: Take a head of cabbage, any will do, and shred it into bite size pieces.

Step 2: Take 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt and sprinkle over the shredded cabbage.

Step 3: Smoosh, squeeze, squish the cabbage and the salt together. This releases a lot of the natural water within the cabbage itself creating its own brine.

Step 4:  When the cabbage is wilted enough (not smooshed so much that it looks like overcooked cabbage) transfer into a quart glass mason jar.


Step 5:  With the back of a wooden spoon, pack in the cabbage as tightly as you can! Keep pushing!  Pack it some more.  As you pack the cabbage you are eliminating air bubbles and pushing out all of the water still left within the cabbage.

Step 6: Get a sandwich size ziplock bag and fill a quarter of it with water.  Zip it tight and push into the opening of the mason jar pushing it down over the cabbage.  You should have enough brine on top of the cabbage to completely submerge the cabbage.  Push the baggie into the brine creating a barrier.  This will keep the cabbage submerged so oxygen cannot get in causing it to spoil. Oxygen is the enemy in some fermented foods, sauerkraut is anaerobic.  Meaning without oxygen.

Step 7: Leave the cabbage out of the sun and in dark corner somewhere. As it ferments, more water will be released possibly overflowing your jar, so be sure to check on it frequently.  The process takes about 4 weeks, but if you like the flavor stronger, you can ferment it longer.  Taste as you go and as it ferments because you may like it at 2 weeks.  Some like it at over a month or two.  The longer it sits, the stronger it will be.

After a few days you will start to see bubbles forming and rising to the top of the jar.   The bubbles are releasing carbon dioxide. This is completely normal and proof that it is working.  When the mixture starts getting a little cloudy,  this is what is called lactic acid. It is the main component in this type of fermentation.

Note: Watch out for any mold on the surface as that is caused from oxygen.  Scoop it off and rinse the baggy, and reposition over the cabbage. If a little mold is on top and you can’t get it all, do not worry. It is safe, just mix in the sauerkraut as once it is below the surface it cannot live.  It will die from lack of oxygen.  Too much mold, throw the batch away and start again. This means you didn’t completely submerge the cabbage and mold developed or you went too long before checking it.

Total Cost: $.89 for a head of cabbage.



Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder (Pernil) -Getting the Most Out of Your Meat

Hello Lovelies,

As always, I’ve been cooking my fool head off!  One meal we cook often is Pernil.  My family loves Pernil and it is so easy to make especially since I didn’t grow up with this type of cuisine. For those who aren’t aware, my darling babydoll is Puerto Rican. It is a marinated pork shoulder that is slow roasted in its own juices and is commonly made during Christmas time.  It is traditionally served with a side of arroz con gondules which is rice with pigeon peas. The pork shoulder is used as a whole piece, with the skin and the bone. Now recipes will differ per family and by region in Puerto Rico. Every grandma and mother has their own way of making it and is the kind of recipe that sets them apart.  Try asking for their recipe and you will find they will take it to the grave. I adapted this recipe for my families tastes but the basic concept is very much the same.

You will need:

  • 8-12lbs of Pork Shoulder
  • 2 Packets of Sazon or 2-3 tsps of homemade Sazon (recipe below or store bought)
  • Sofrito to taste (recipe here or store bought)
  • Fresh whole garlic peeled
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (to wash the pork)

The pork shoulder will come with a thick layer of fat on one side that offers “the best” flavor.  Puerto Ricans use every part of their meat which in this case includes the fat. This fat after the Pernil is done, is a form of chicharron or crispy pork skin that is popular among the Spanish and Latin Americas. Once the meat is cooked, it can be used a major component in a lot of Spanish cooking in things like empanadas, tacos, breakfast burritos, and pressed Cuban sandwiches. 

Rinse the pork shoulder with cold water.  Splash apple cider vinegar all over the meat to cleanse and kill any surface bacteria. Dry the meat thoroughly so the seasonings will stick. Cut the thick layer of fat separating it from the actual meat being careful to leave one side attached.  This flap of fat will turn into chicharron.

Stab the meat (not the fat) with a sharp knife to enable the Sazon and Sofrito to penetrate.  This is a fantastic step if you have had a hard day! Stab away! In these holes, put whole cloves of garlic.  

Rub on Sofrito to taste.  If you love strong flavors of cilantro and garlic simply add more.  Next, rub 2 envelopes of Sazon or make the recipe below and use 2-3 tsps. Massage the meat, getting in all of the nooks and crannies and put in a large baking pan.

You can use a disposable aluminum pan or a large roasting pan.  It will generate its own juices so there is no need to add additional liquid.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate for two days. There is a lot of meat to penetrate, so marinating for two days will give the most flavor.

Bake at 350 degrees on a lower rack for 3 hours covered and 3 hours uncovered. You can gauge cooking time after this point depending on the size of the pork shoulder.  If you want crispy skin, it may or may not need a few extra minutes to make it really crispy.  You will know when the Pernil is properly cooked if the meat falls from the bone without effort.  It will shred.

Homemade Sazon Seasoning

  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground annatto seeds (a.k.a. achiote seeds) or turmeric
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp kosher or sea salt
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

If you love Spanish flavors, you cannot go wrong with this seasoning blend.  They do sell Sazon in the store, but this homemade version is free of preservatives and added ingredients.  Add exact measurements or heaping spoonfuls and I do, it depends on your taste.  Mix completely in a mason jar.

Bottom Line:

This Pernil costs less than $20 and will feed about 8 people or more depending on the size. It will last you for several different dishes. The ingredients were all things we normally keep on hand.  If you don’t have some of the ingredients, find those plastic envelopes of spices that you can find in the Spanish aisle hanging on the shelf.  The envelopes are much cheaper than buying a whole container in the normal spice section. They normally are around a dollar per plastic envelope.

Our Pernil was 11.62lbs and gave us

  • Chicharron (snacking)
  • 9 pints of stock (the bone simmered with onion, carrots, and garlic)
  • 2 full portions for dinner
  • 3 medium tupperware container fulls of meat (to make tacos, empanadas, sandwiches, burritos, and other future meals)
  • 3 cups of pan juice which was strained from the oils/liquid fat. You can use this to make gravy or use as broth.
  • 1 cup oil/liquid fat to flavor dishes like rice

Happy Cooking!


Growing an Avocado Tree From an Avocado Seed

Hello Lovelies,

Fruit trees are amazing!  Especially, avocados.  I must say they taste a lot better than store bought and who can afford to eat solely organic?  It gets pricey.  No matter how you look at it, growing your own is best and it is so easy too. Simply save your seeds!

You Will Need:

  • One avocado seed
  • Small glass jar or glass
  • 3 tooth picks
  • Moderate sunlight
  • Water

You will need to first eat an avocado! I used organic so get the best seed. Save the seed and wash it really well, making sure to get off all the flesh. Dry thoroughly with a paper towel.  That brown skin around the seed needs to come off.  Using your nails or a knife, peel back the skin. It isn’t so easy to get off so a little bit will not hurt.  Next, locate the bottom which looks like a pucker or faint circle with a teensie nub in the middle.  This side you want submerged in the water as that is where the roots will come out.  Place 3 toothpicks to make a holder for the seed on top of the glass as seen below.

Avocado’s take a long time to root. Around day 10-14 the seed will start to crack.  Within this crack a small root will form from the center of the seed.  Around day 20-22, the root is seen growing from the bottom of the seed.

I mentioned day ranges because I started four different seeds at one time. Depending on the size of the seed, growth will differ. One of the seeds was rather small at around 1/2 inch in diameter did not do so well.  The bigger the seed, the better.

Day 1 May 1, 2017


Day 31 June 1, 2017

It will take about 80 days or so to fully develop good roots before it is able to be transplanted into soil.  The colder the climate, the longer it may take as plants tend to slow down in colder weather.  Be sure to always keep the bottom of the seed submerged in water until it is ready to plant.  You can also replace the water when it starts to look cloudy.

I will post more pictures as the seed grows!  Stay Tuned…