Whole Story

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Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen

Each of our six of our finalists for the Food Blogger Budget Recipe Challenge will be featured in a blog post here. Read about them and check out their featured recipe. By posting a comment on their recipe page, you help determine the winner in our Challenge AND you'll be entered in a drawing to win a $500 gift card! Jaden Hair is a self taught cooking teacher, food writer and food photographer. Her blog specializes in modern Asian cooking, and is designed to teach people how easy it is to cook Asian meals at home. Started in February 2007, Steamy Kitchen launched Jaden’s cooking career; she now has monthly guest appearances on local television and she writes a weekly food column for the Tampa Tribune. Don’t lie: what did you have for dinner last night?
Last night I was LAZY! I turned leftover rice into fried rice. I had shrimp and frozen peas/carrots in the freezer, cold jasmine rice in the fridge. 15 minutes later, a one-wok dinner was ready, plopped the entire wok right on the dinner table and chowed down.
Remember: Don’t comment here if you want to support Jaden in our contest. You have to comment on her recipe page. We turned comments off to help you remember! Can you give us 3 to 5 of your favorite money-saving tips when it comes to cooking and eating?
The most expensive things on my grocery list is meat and seafood. Well, and wine too, but let’s not count that. If you shop at a good market like Whole Foods, don’t be shy to ask the butcher to break packages for you. If you only need 1/2 pound of ground beef for a recipe and all the packages are much bigger, ask for just 1/2 pound. They’ll happily sell you exactly what you need. Sure, you could freeze the rest, but if you don’t need it, why buy it? Same with seafood. It could save you $3-5 each trip. Don’t underestimate the stir-fry. You can stretch a half-pound of chicken meat to feed 4 in a stir-fry! Start with marinating the bite-sized pieces of meat in soy, rice wine, pinch of sugar and a bit of cornstarch. Fry the meat until mostly done, remove. Fry garlic and ginger until fragrant, add whatever vegetables you want and then add the meat back into the pan. A touch of oyster sauce, sesame oil and you’re done. The meat gets cooked first to ensure that it has the room and enough heat in the pan to get a nice sear all around. If you try to cook everything in the pan at the same time, either the meat will get overcooked or it will end up being “steamed’ with so many watery vegetables in the pan. Have a few good sauce recipes. With a tasty sauce, simple steamed vegetables go from plain to divine. Search your cookbooks and online for a tickly tangy sauce, a luscious creamy sauce and a fresh herb sauce. The recipes should be simple and made with everyday ingredients that you normally have on hand. Grow your own herbs. Why pay $3.99 for a bunch of herbs when your recipe might only call for 1 tablespoon of chopped herbs? I’m a horrible gardener, but I discovered the Earthbox, which lets me have a thriving container garden year round, even as an absent-minded gardener. I plant Thai basil, cilantro, mint, green onions and parsley. If I need just a sprig of cilantro, I go right outside and pick it myself. No waste and gardening is good for the soul.
How do you continue to come up with fresh ideas to share with readers?
I use Twitter a lot – since I work out of my home, my Twitter friends are my “co-workers” and often I’ll throw out questions and polls out. Within minutes, I’ll get a dozen of responses, ideas and opinion back from the community. It’s more fun than email, less intrusive than instant messaging and faster than blogging. Twitter is like my home office water cooler. Except, like totally more awesome, since you get to choose who hangs out at your water cooler!
What’s your favorite comfort food?
BREAD! There are days when all I want to do is rip open a loaf of fresh-out-of-the-oven bread and just snuggle up inside the warm, pillowy soft interior. Oh, yes, on those days when comfort is needed, off to a local bakery I go. The other type of comfort food for me is just plain white Jasmine rice. It always reminds me of home, of Mom’s cooking and just makes me so happy. Do you see a starchy theme here and why the Atkins diet never worked for me?
If you could host a potluck dinner with any three people, who would you invite and what dish would each person bring along?
Wow, just three? I think I’d like to have a dinner party full of music and laughter. If I invited a member of Duran Duran, we could rock out to their 80’s music. Bring a guitar shaped cake and hottie Simon LeBon can jump out of it. Then, I would request from the angels above to bring back my fav comedian, George Carlin, for an evening – he can just bring the booze. Lastly, since I doubt neither Simon nor George cook, and with those kind of dinner guests, who would want to slave away and hide out in the kitchen? I’d probably have to invite someone who COULD cook, like rock ‘n roll chef Kerry Simon. He can bring his signature dish, a Bone-in Ribeye Cowboy Steak…one for each of us pleeeeeeaaaazzzz. But then who would wash the dishes?
Wonton Noodle Soup is a favorite in our home because the kids get involved – even my 3 year old is a wonton folding master now! I’ve found that if my kids help me in the kitchen, cooking is so much more fun and the kids actually eat whatever it is they help cook. If you think wontons are difficult to make, nope – these wontons were made by my kids. Remember: Don’t comment here if you want to support Jaden in our contest. You have to comment on her recipe page. We turned comments off to help you remember!