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11  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Easy egg drop soup - only 4 ingredients needed! 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

12  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Orange cranberry walnut bagels! Yum! on: April 07, 2010 09:39:36 PM
First, let me say that I LOVE carbs.  I live for carbs.  I run, so I HAVE to have carbs.  That being said, for some reason, until last weekend, I hadn't had a bagel in about two years!  I don't know why. I love their soft, yet chewy texture.

Anyway, last weekend I ran a half marathon in another state.  (I'm trying to run a marathon or half marathon in every state by 2016 to raise awareness for the Lupus Foundation.)  At the finish line, I grabbed two granola bars, an apple, a powerade, and a banana.  I was about to leave (it was pouring down rain)  when I noticed the bagel station.  They had an everything bagel with cream cheese that was calling my name.  I took it, and headed back to my car where I quickly devoured it.  It was the PERFECT post-race food. 

After returning home, I decided I needed more bagels.  But they are so expensive at the bakery--even in the bakery section of the grocery store.  So, I decided to make my own.  I wanted ones that were slightly--just subtly--sweet.  I decided to play around with orange zest, cranberries, and walnuts.  The results were divine.  My husband even told me they were perfect--a compliment that he doesn't give out lightly! 

If you are intimidated by bagels because of the kettling process, don't be.  It's very easy.

The recipe can be found on my examiner page.  http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-24872-St-Louis-Budget-Meals-Examiner~y2010m4d7-Breakfast--Orange-cranberry-walnut-bagels

Fresh baked bagels on the cooling rack:

A sliced bagel:

13  COOKING / Dessert / Cake doughnuts on: March 31, 2010 04:07:42 PM
When I tell people that I don't like doughnuts, they look at me in disbelief.  But it's true.  I don't like the sort of fried flavor and feel of them, which is weird since I love other fried foods.  There's something about the oily feeling doughnuts leave on the roof of your mouth that just doesn't appeal to me.  But enough about my dislike of doughnuts.  

Unlike me, my husband LOVES doughnuts.  In fact, he often sneaks them home from the grocery store.  And when we go on vacation, he always hunts down the local "mom and pop" doughnut store.  But buying doughnuts from the grocer's adds up (they are 59 cent each).  And since my husband's love of doughnuts is not going to fade anytime soon, I decided to make doughnuts. I wanted to make cake doughnuts since I didn't want to mess with the yeast.

I experimented with a lot of recipes, and ended up making my own.  It has yogurt in it for added moisture.  It produces a dense, no-yeast doughnut that fries to a nice golden brown in about 4 minutes total (2 min on each side).  After they cooled, I shook them in cinnamon and sugar.  My husband loved them!  And they were so much cheaper than buying a dozen at the store!!

I've posted the recipe on my examiner page, along with a few substitutions and tips.

14  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / gluten-free 5 min a day bread?? on: March 20, 2010 07:36:25 PM
Has anyone made the 5 min a day artisan bread with rice or corn flour?  I've used the cookbook and made a few of the all-purpose and whole-wheat flour breads, but my niece is allergic to wheat and I wanted to try to make some bread for her.  If you've made it with rice flour, corn flour, or any other non-wheat flours, please let me know how it turned out!  Thanks!
15  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Horchata on: March 18, 2010 09:30:58 PM
The other night, my husband invited some of his friends over for dinner.  Several of these guys are students from India, and they once made us authentic Indian food.  Being that my husband and I are from Texas, we decided to make good, authentic Tex-Mex for these guys (they had never had anything but Taco Bell).  We live in St Louis, were authentic Mexican food or Tex Mex are both lacking.  So, it took us a while to brainstorm and come up with a menu.  We decided to serve chips and salsa (of course!), refried beans, enchiladas, tamales, and rice.  But I wasn't sure what I was going serve to drink.  I can't drink alcohol right now, and I wanted something I could enjoy.  A lot of the cantinas and restaurants in the Houston area serve horchata, so we decided to make that. 

Horchata is a very delicious and refreshing, slighly sweet drink.  It was brought over by the Spaniards, who originally made it with melon or squash seeds.  Now, it's a Mexican favorite that is usually made with rice and almonds.  It kind of reminds me of a sweeter, almondy rice milk.  Very yummy.

The recipe is very, very easy, but takes a bit of time because it has to sit overnight. I've posted the recipe on my webpage: 


16  OCCASIONS AND HOLIDAYS / Weddings and Bridal Showers / Jen's budget DIY wedding thread - 8.14.10 - very pic heavy! *updated 5/14* on: March 08, 2010 05:53:27 PM
So, in March of 2009, my DH and I got engaged.  We then eloped in June. We've been planning a "real" wedding for August 14, and I just now realized that August is quickly approaching!  Yikes!  I started planning last year (and posted some on the crafty wedding craftalong), but then life got in the way.  Now, I'm working hard to get caught up!  We recently moved to St Louis, but are getting married at the Fort Worth historic YWCA (a BEAUTIFUL venue).  Both the ceremony and reception are at the same site (my grandparents can't get lost!).  

We're pretty poor right now, so no wedding planner and a lot of stuff is being done on a tight budget!  But that's what craftiness is for    So far, I've not completed as many projects as I'd like.  But here's my list.The projects I'm currently planning on doing are:

Save the dates
        We decided to do a mini choose your own adventure book.  DH likes to doodle, so he illustrated most of it.  
        I did the trashcan and the cartoon zombie.  We used clip art for the cover page and the cake.
        It fits our personalities!
        Sorry the photos are so dark!  This is just the prototype.  The real ones had a color cover page.

We also made a simple, more traditional save the date for the grandparents--specifically my Japanese grandmother who would not understand the choose your own adventure one.  It's just a basic photo magnet.

Invites and RSVPs
        I need to get a 220 screen for my yudu so I can screen these and finish them.  Here's the

the map:

The back of the rsvp card (the print will be in black, not blue):

the front of the rsvp:

Hankies for the mothers and grandmothers
Something for the dads (I don't know what, though)
A cupcake stand
Cupcakes and cakeballs - hired a friend to do these
Ring bearer pillow
beaded bouquets for bridesmaids and self
bridesmaids' dresses (got beautiful blue silk from India--a friend brought it back for me!)

beaded boutonnieres (may just do pocket squares)

beaded corsages
Guest "book" (we're having a wish bowl)
favors (undecided on these)
Gifts for bridesmaids
gift for groom
baskets for restrooms

A cake topper (we're having one small tier for the cake cutting part of the reception--see photo below)
        The wires at the bottom stick into the tier.  I tested it out on a loaf of bread and it worked great!  
        They won't be visible at all, which is good since they're ugly!

flower girl basket (got an 80 cent lime green basket after Easter and painted it white.  
        I've included before photos just so you can see the green.  And the photo doesn't do the color justice.  
        It was MUCH brighter!)



Aisle runner--it needs to be painted, but I need some advice (see my comment below):  

****ADDED 5/14:
I started the drink napkins.  I think I might yudu some with silver ink, too.  Any thoughts?

I started the envelopes, but I only have 8 done so far.  I'm cheating!  I'm printing them out in a very pale colored font, and tracing over them with artist ink pens!  Looks hand done!!!

I'll keep updating as I get more stuff done.  Hopefully, posting this thread will keep me motivated and accountable!
17  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Celebrating National Beer Day with beer bread on: February 28, 2010 10:22:41 PM
March 1st is National Beer Day, and although I love a good beer, I cannot drink right now.  So what's the next best thing?  cooking with beer.  I thought about making beer and bacon soup, but was too lazy to dice the veggies.  So I decided on something better--beer bread.  This is probably one of my favorite recipes because it's quick and easy.  It uses only six ingredients and requires very little fussing. 

Surprisingly, my husband, who definitely likes his beer, had never had or even heard of beer bread.  but he loved it.  We ate it with a bowl of spicy black bean soup.  The subtle sweetness of the bread really complemented the hot & spicy soup. 

The bread is the perfect substitute for traditional yeast breads.  It still has that yeast bread flavor without the work.  No kneading, no punching down, no folding.

If you try the recipe, you may want to experiment with the amount of sugar--depending on your tastes.  I like it a bit sweeter.  but I know other people who use less sugar.  And if you really like beer, you might want to use a stronger beer.  i used Bud Light because that's what I had in the pantry.  But any beer should work.

Recipe can be found on my examiner page:  http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-24872-St-Louis-Budget-Meals-Examiner~y2010m3d1-Breads--Beer-bread

18  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Chicken pot pies with a potato crust on: February 19, 2010 12:31:27 AM
The other day, I basically was too cold and lazy to go to the grocery store to get stuff for dinner.  So I hunted for things in our pantry, freezer, and refrigerator that could go together.  I came up with a veggie filled pot pie.  Sometimes when I make pot pie, I make a sweet potato crust.  But we had no sweet potatoes and I had no desire to go get any.  Thus, the regular potato crust.

The recipe is on my examiner page:  http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-24872-St-Louis-Budget-Meals-Examiner~y2010m2d19-Dinner--Chicken-pot-pies-with-a-potato-crust

19  PAPER CRAFTS, SCRAPBOOKING & ATCs (ARTIST TRADING CARDS) / Paper Crafts: Discussion and Questions / guest book ideas please!!! on: February 13, 2010 08:27:23 PM
Does anybody have any outside-the-box wedding guest book ideas that can be made with scrapbooking paper?

20  COOKING / Dessert / Spicy chocolate lava cakes on: February 13, 2010 11:48:12 AM
Since Valentine's Day is tomorrow, I wanted to make something special for my hubby.  We have plans for a wine tasting tomorrow, so I wanted to surprise him with dessert today.  So I made his favorite chocolate lava cakes, but added a tiny bit of heat to them.  Very yummy! 

The recipe is at my examiner page.  Examiner.com does have a pop-up ad, so turn your pop-up blocker on if you don't want to see the ad:  http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-24872-St-Louis-Budget-Meals-Examiner~y2010m2d13-Dessert--Spicy-chocolate-lava-cakes

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