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1  Polenta fries ... move over French fried potatoes! in Recipes and Cooking Tips by hardyjenni on: May 11, 2011 11:56:27 AM
I know its hard to believe, but I really do not like French fries.  I dont like any sort of greasy or cheesy potato concoction.  I hate hash browns.  Fried taters and onions are not for me.  I just like my potatoes baked and served with a little bit of spicy mustard.

My husband, however, likes fries.  I try to keep him from eating them so they dont go to his waistline and his arteries!

To compromise, I make fries out of other ingredients.  One of my favorites is made from polenta.  Basically, you take precooked polenta, cut it into strips, brush with olive oil, and bake until crispy and golden.  You can serve these fries with ketchup, or even with marinara. 

As a bonus, if you make the polenta yourself, then these are budget friendly. ( Premade polenta seems too expensive to me.)

For more info, visit my site:  http://www.examiner.com/budget-meals-in-st-louis/side-dish-polenta-fries

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2  Egg replacer: Flaxseed vs. Chia seed in Recipes and Cooking Tips by hardyjenni on: May 02, 2011 04:05:27 PM
My little niece has very bad food allergies.  She's allergic to egg, wheat, milk, nuts, beef, and pork.  And she's not even 5!  Poor little thing!  My sister does a great job buying and cooking allergen-free foods, but I want to help.  So I've been researching food allergies for quite some time.  I've decided to run a bunch of food experiments, eliminating only one of the allergens at a time, so there can be a control.  My first experiment involves my search for a perfect egg replacer--which has turned into a difficult search.

Personally, I do not think there is a single perfect egg substitute.  I think different substitutes work in different types of food.  For example, a mixture of tapioca starch, potato starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, and oil works best in light and delicate foods, like vanilla cake.  Ground flaxseeds do not work in light foods since they impart too much of a nutty flavor to vanilla-flavored items.  Ground flaxseeds work better in things like pancakes, whole grain items, and brownies.  Blended silken tofu works well in really dense, rich items.
To test out egg substitutes, I have used very basic recipes.  The first test I did was on egg replacers made out of ground seedsspecifically flaxseed and chia seeds.  I used my favorite, go-to pancake recipe.  The only modification I made was substituting ground seeds and water for the eggs.  I ground 1 TBSP of seeds in the blender.  After the seeds were thoroughly ground, I added 1/4 cup water to the blender and pulsed to combine.  I let this mixture sit for 5 minutes before blending for 30 seconds at a medium blender setting.   This mixture substituted easily for one whole egg.
Overall, the pancakes were comparable to regular pancakes.  Each seed-based egg replacer worked well, and they both had their pros and cons. 
My husband and I both liked the chia seed pancakes better, though the flaxseed pancakes were acceptable.  The chia seed pancakes were fluffier and more porous than the flaxseed pancakes.  While hot, they did not have that raw, nutty flavor that the flaxseed pancakes had, so I liked them better than the flaxseed pancakes.  After they cooled, though, the chia seed pancakes tasted a little bitter.   They were definitely better served fresh and hot.  But they were more expensive than the flaxseed pancakes since chia seeds are not readily available at all grocery stores.  I bought mine in the vitamin and supplement section of the Whole Foods in Brentwood.

If you want more information about the flaxseed pancakes and stuff, feel free to see them on my website. http://www.examiner.com/budget-meals-in-st-louis/egg-replacers-using-flaxseeds-and-chia-seeds-to-replace-eggs-pancakes

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3  citrus bundt cake in Dessert by hardyjenni on: April 27, 2011 01:51:01 PM
So, I have been buying bags of Trader Joe's organic navel oranges.  But inevitably, one of the oranges rots before I have a chance to eat it.  This has led me to make a bundt cake every time I buy a bag.  I have a yummy recipe for a citrus bundt cake.  Using a fresh navel orange or two, and a fresh lemon, I make this cake.  It's moist because it has a full stick of butter.  But it's also airy since beaten egg whites are folded into the batter.

It's very easy to make such a cake.  It's very basic--cream together sugar and butter; beat in egg yolks and zests; slowly mix in dry ingredients, alternating with orange and lemon juices; fold in egg whites; bake.  It's that easy.

It stays nice and moist because it's glazed when warm.  Half of the glaze, made of orange juice, honey, and sugar, is brushed on when the cake is warm.  The other half is drizzled on the cake after it has cooled. 

For the full recipe, see my website http://www.examiner.com/budget-meals-in-st-louis/desserts-citrus-bundt-cake

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4  Ostrich rider in Halloween Costumes by hardyjenni on: November 02, 2010 05:39:10 PM
Since I was running in a Halloween race, I wanted a costume that would be fun to run in.  After brainstorming a bit, I thought about making a horse and jockey costume.  Only problem--horses have 4 legs, and I have two.  So what has two legs and runs?  An ostrich!

This is made out of polar fleece, batting, two wire hangers, and 6 feather boas.  The pants were a Goodwill find, and the tights came from Target.  The hat is my hubby's old mowing hat.  It was kind of a last minute costume (my hubby and I were going to go as a matador and a bull, but he had to go out of town).  But it was a lot of fun to make!  Some trial and error, but still fun!

I had a lot of fun wearing this and running in it!  All along the course, kids would yell, "Look Mom, she's riding an ostrich!"  Seeing them excited made my day!

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5  Ice noodles - a delicious Japanese dinner in Recipes and Cooking Tips by hardyjenni on: June 07, 2010 11:13:38 PM
In Japan, during warm summers, chilled noodle dishes are very popular.  I generally forget about cold noodles until I visit my mother or my little Japanese grandmother on a hot day.  When I visit either of them in the summer, I am stuffed with large amounts of my grandmother's ice noodles. 

There are many different ways to make ice noodles or chilled noodles in Japanese cuisine, although most dishes involve some sort of noodle (somen, udon, chukamen, etc.) that is cooked and then rinsed in cold water until it is cool.  My grandmother uses regular boxed spaghetti noodles, and rinses them.  I use whole wheat noodle, and do not rinse them.  I like to save as many nutrients as I can, so I let them chill in the refrigerator.  Also, by letting them cool in the refrigerator, I can make them a day in advance.

Ice noodles also generally have some sort of savory sauce.  Our family makes one that is slightly sweet and heavily flavored with soy sauce.  But other chilled noodle dishes sometimes use a sesame sauce or a dashi sauce.  Some use a splash of rice wine vinegar.  I think my grandmother's original recipe might have used sesame oil and rice wine vinegar.  But since she married a poor American, I think she kind of gave up on using these more expensive ingredients and started using just chicken broth, water, soy sauce, and sugar.

Anyway, sorry for the family history!  My favorite way to eat ice noodles is to drench them in sauce and put thin sliced cucumber, green onions, and egg on top.  Very yummy.  For more detailed instructions, you can see the recipe on my website.  But I'll warn you, this is one of those dishes that doesn't have a set recipe.  We've always just made it by eyeballing the ingredients, then tasting and smelling to see if the ratios are right.  It's a fun recipe to play around with and experiment with.  http://www.examiner.com/x-24872-St-Louis-Budget-Meals-Examiner~y2010m6d7-Dinner--Ice-noodles

The picture is a little blurry.  Sorry. 
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6  It's National Barbecue Month--What's your favorite way to barbecue? in Recipes and Cooking Tips by hardyjenni on: May 14, 2010 02:28:12 PM
There are so many styles of barbecue--so many different types of sauce.  What's your favorite way to barbecue?

Personally, I like a slightly sweet and tangy bourbon barbecue sauce.  It's yummy on salmon grilled on a cedar plank!

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7  dirty rice revised in Recipes and Cooking Tips by hardyjenni on: May 11, 2010 01:47:29 AM
DH loves all things spicy and fattening.  I'm trying to get him to eat healthier, and have introduced him to a lot of healthy vegetable-filled dishes.  But he still like Cajun and southern dishes that are traditionally made with fatback and other fatty animal parts.  I do not like hamhocks or fatback, so I usually don't cook with them.  And I'm satisfied with the flavor of less fattening foods.  But DH is not.  So when I cook for him, I have to find a way to keep the dish very flavorful for him while using lower-fat ingredients. 

My dirty rice recipe uses just a touch of olive oil for fat.  I've omitted the traditional fatback.  For flavor, I add different vegetables and a touch of vegetable broth with the seasonings.  Instead of pork sausage, I use lean smoked chicken sausage from Trader Joe's.  Also, since dirty rice looks kind of reddish brown, I swapped in brown rice for the white rice.  Aside from the slightly nutty flavor of brown rice, it's really hard to tell the difference in this dish.  It just looks the same.

I must warn you, I use a lot of Tony's seasoning since DH likes things really spicy.  If you don't like the feeling of your throat and tongue being on fire, reduce the amount of Tony's and omit the red pepper.  Reduce the black pepper by half.

Also, I use dried red beans because I like the flavor you get when you cook and season them yourself.  But if you are in a hurry and don't have the 3 hours to cook the beans, then substitute canned beans.  They work just as well.

The recipe and a slide show of the beans cooking can be found on my webpage:  http://www.examiner.com/x-24872-St-Louis-Budget-Meals-Examiner~y2010m5d10-Dinner--Dirty-rice

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8  vanilla sponge cake in Dessert by hardyjenni on: May 07, 2010 04:49:17 PM
So, my hubby and I are having a "real" wedding in August (we eloped this past June).  We were planning on buying cupcakes from a little hometown grocery that had the best bakery ever!  Unfortunately, the grocery store just couldn't compete with super walmart and Kroger, and went out of business  Angry  We were given our deposit back for our cupcakes  Sad

I've decided to make most of the cupcakes myself.  Since I won't be having a bachelorette party, my bridal party is going to be icing and decorating cupcakes the day before the wedding!  Everyone is excited.  I'll be making cupcakes a month in advance and freezing them (I learned how to wrap them well before freezing when I worked in a bakery).  Anyway, that means I have to experiment with cake recipes.

My mother loves tiramisu, so I looked up tiramisu cupcakes.  Martha Stewart has a recipe that i tried, and they turned out well.  But her spongy cake was too dense for a good syrup soaking. Therefore, I decided that I'll try my own vanilla sponge cake.  I LOVE my vanilla sponge cake recipe!  It's soft and springy!  It's so light and airy that it will mop up the coffee syrup!  So, I made some cupcakes to test freeze.  But since I was making cupcakes, I might as well make a cake for myself to eat now  Grin  It was yummy topped with chocolate syrup.

The recipe and a slide show of the steps can be found on my website:

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9  Thai pasta with peanut sauce in Recipes and Cooking Tips by hardyjenni on: April 18, 2010 01:03:34 PM
I love to run.  It makes me feel alive.  It also gives me an excuse to carbo-load.  I've become a pasta master!  I've experimented with all different types of post-race pasta dishes.  Thai pasta with peanut sauce is probably one of my favorites because it has a good balance of carbs, which I need for running, protein, and healthy fats.  I usually throw in fresh (sometimes frozen) vegetables to make it even healthier. 

But it's one of those dishes that I don't have a set recipe for.  And after posting about egg drop soup recently, I received several email requests for the Thai pasta with peanut sauce recipe.  It took me about a week of experimenting and retracing my steps before I could write anything definitive down.  Basically, I just add spices until is smells right, and add whatever vegetables we have on hand.  I almost always add pineapple--sometimes fresh, sometimes canned.  I love the way the sweetness of the pineapple contrasts with the spicy sauce and the salty peanuts.  It's a very flavorful dish.

Anyway, it's one of those recipes that you can have fun with.  Experiment with it and make it your own!  And share with me what changes you make, please!  I'm always one for trying new things Smiley

The recipe can be found on my webpage:

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10  Easy egg drop soup - only 4 ingredients needed! in Recipes and Cooking Tips by hardyjenni on: April 12, 2010 04:32:09 PM
I love simple foods.  For some odd reason, they bring me joy. 

Egg drop soup is one of those simple foods.  To make basic egg drop soup, you only need 4 ingredients (chicken broth, cornstarch, soy sauce, egg).  It's so easy. 

Admittedly, I have made mistakes before when making this.  Once, when I was younger, I added too much cornstarch and made egg drop gravy instead.  And we had company that night for dinner!  They graciously spooned the gravy into their mouths, but I could tell by the look on their faces that they didn't like the thickness!  Oops!

But after that, my mother, who is 1/2 Asian, taught me how to use less cornstarch.  She also taught me to fully incorporate it so I didn't end up with lumps of cornstarch in the soup.

But even with it being so easy, until Saturday night, I hadn't made it for about 6 months.  But Saturday night I wanted something salty to go with our pasta dinner (we were carbo-loading for a 1/2 marathon on Sunday).  Since I was making Thai peanut pasta, egg drop soup seemed like the perfect salty complement to the slightly sweet spice of the pasta sauce.  It was so easy and delicious--I forgot how pleasant a nice warm bowl of egg drop soup can be!

The recipe is posted at my webpage:  http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-24872-St-Louis-Budget-Meals-Examiner~y2010m4d12-Soup--Easy-egg-drop-soup

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