Monday, August 30, 2010

Hawaiian Cheesecake

For my daughter's 22nd birthday this past weekend, she requested that I make Hawaiian Cheesecake. Her oldest sister had made it for us as a dessert a few months ago and it was a recipe we cheesecake lovers knew we wanted again. If you've never made a cheesecake before this is an easy one. There's no pre-baking the crust and everything goes together easily.

We adapted this one from the Better Homes and Gardens website but I have seen similar recipes for this cheesecake on other sites too.

Hawaiian Cheesecake

1 1/3 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted macadamia nuts (I couldn't find these so I used pecans, but you use what you like or eliminate the nuts altogether)
1/3 cup butter
2 (8-oz) packagages cream cheese, softened (don't skip this step-it must be soft or it won't cream together properly)
1 8-oz tub cream cheese with pineapple
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For the crust, crush the vanilla wafers and 1/2 cup nuts, if using. Combine the cookie crumbs, nuts, and coconut together. Melt the butter and combine with the mixture. Press onto the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of an ungreased 9-inch sprinform pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheeses until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the eggs and egg yolk until just combined. Stir in the vanilla and lemon juice. Pour into the crust-lined pan. Place in a shallow baking pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the center appears almost set when gently shaken.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Take a thin-bladed knife and loosen the crust around the sides of the pan and cool for 30 mintues more. Remove the springform pan sides and cool for another hour. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, sprinkle with toasted coconut. Makes 12 servings. We like to serve our cheesecakes with whipped cream, too.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Kitchen Happenings?

I haven't been cooking much this week except for making some Sticky Chicken that I've been making in the crockpot rather than the oven these days, and I did manage to bake a yummy loaf of French bread. My husband has doing most of the cooking these days. But, I will be trying a new to me cheesecake recipe for my daughter's birthday celebration this weekend. My oldest daughter has made it before and it was so good!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Packing Lunches and Cooking for Two

I will be taking my lunch with me to work these days, so having a list of different menus seemed like a good idea. Peanut butter and jelly can get old pretty fast, and since it's back-to-school time, many websites and blogs are focusing on just that subject. I found an extensive list of ideas over at the Hillbilly Housewife website that I will be printing out and hanging up on the side of my refrigerator where I keep my menu plan for easy access.
And, now that it's just my husband and me at home (we just dropped our last child off at college last weekend), and now that I'm working outside of the home, cooking will be a little different. For one thing, we just don't need to make as much food as we used to, and I won't be doing most of the cooking anymore. My husband likes to cook and this is a good time for him to get back into it. The crockpot will be a very valuable tool. I also plan on making double recipes of some of our favorite recipes and freezing the second half for future meals.
What are some of your favorite meals to make for the crockpot, for lunches, or for making ahead and popping into the freezer? This is a big change for us and I could sure use some ideas!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cooking On A Shoestring Budget: Using Substitutions in a Recipe

One of my biggest secrets to keeping grocery cost down is learning to substitute ingredients in recipes. Since I keep my pantry stocked with ingredients rather than mixes and convenience foods this is usually not a problem. For example, for every square of chocolate that is called for in a recipe (an ingredient I don't always have) I can substitute 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa plus 1 tablespoon of shortening or butter (ingredients I always have).

Here's a list of substitutions I have hanging on the inside of my baking cupboard door for easy reference:

1 teaspoon Apple or Pumpkin Pie Spice=1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon Baking Powder=1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup Dry Bread Crumbs=1/4 cup cracker crumbs, 1 slice bread cubed, or 2/3 cup rolled oats
1 cup Buttermilk=1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice plus milk to make 1 cup or 1 cup plain yogurt
1 square (1 oz.) Unsweetened Chocolate=3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa plus 1 tablespoon shorteneing, margarine, or butter
2 oz. Semi-sweet Chocolate=1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 medium ear of Corn=1/2 cup kernels, frozen or canned
1/2 cup Corn Syrup=1/2 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoon liquid
1 tablespoon Cornstarch=2 tablespoon flour or 1 1/3 tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca (used as a thickener)
1 cup Heavy Cream (for baking, not whipping)=3/4 cup whole milk plus 1/4 cup butter
1 cup Light Cream=7/8 cup milk plus 3 tablespoons butter
1 cup Half-and-half=1 1/2 tablespoons butter plus 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon milk
1 Egg=2 egg yolks (in baking, add 1 tablespoon water)
1 Egg (for baking and meatloaf or meatball recipes)=1 tablespoon Soy powder plus 1 tablespoon water*
1 cup Cake Flour=7/8 cup flour plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup Self-Rising Flour=1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Garlic Clove=1/8 teaspoon instant minced garlic or garlic powder or 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
2 tablespoons Green or Red Pepper=1 tablespoon sweet pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Fresh Herbs=1 teaspoon dried herbs
1 teaspoon Lemon or Orange Peel=1/2 teaspoon dried peel
1 cup Whole Milk=1/2 cup evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water
1 cup Whole Milk=1 cup skim or reconstituted nonfat dry milk plus 2 teaspoons butter
1 small Onion (1/4 cup)=1 tablespoon instant minced onion or onion flakes, 1/4 cup frozen chopped onion or 1 teaspoon onion powder
1 package Active Dry Yeast=2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast

Substituting Honey for Sugar in a recipe:
Use 1 cup honey for 1 cup sugar and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup

Tomato Substitutions:
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce=3 large fresh tomatoes cooked
1 cup tomato puree=1 cup cooked tomatoes, pureed in blender or food processor
1 (1-pound) can whole tomatoes=6 large tomatoes cooked in 1/2 cup water or tomato juice
1 (1-pound) can stewed tomatoes=6 large tomatoes cooked in 1/2 cup water with onions, green peppers, salt, pepper, and sugar
6 oz. tomato paste=6 large tomatoes cooked plus omit 1 cup water from recipe
Tomato Juice=Use equal parts cooked pureed tomatoes and water
1 (10 3/4-oz) can tomato soup=3 large tomatoes cooked in 1/2 cup water or tomato juice

I also have a substitute for cream soups that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

*I learned about this trick from Amy Dacyczyn of The Tightwad Gazette. I'm not a big fan of soy products but since we don't eat many convenience foods that are usually loaded with soy (which means soy overload in our systems), I don't mind using this. I got it at my local health food store and it came in a 22-oz bag and cost $3.99. Even though it has a pretty long shelf life, I keep mine in the freezer so I don't have to worry about using it up before it expires.

This is a pretty long list, I know, and I have not used all of these substitutions, but it's nice to know that I have options for a recipe if I need it.

In another post, I will share what I usually have stocked in my pantry.

I'm linking up with Frugal Friday at Life as Mom.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chickpea Salad

This is one of our favorite salads to have when tomatoes and cucumbers are at their peak. Plus it comes together in minutes! I got the recipe from a Better Homes and Gardens magazine several years ago.

Chickpea Salad

3 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes (about 4 medium)
1 15-oz can chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), or 2 cups cooked, rinsed and drained
1/2 of a large cucumber, peeled, quartered, and sliced (about 1 cup)
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup snipped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon sugar

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumber, green pepper, cilantro, and onion. Set aside. In a small bowl or jar with a lid, combine the oil, vinegar, salt, garlic, and sugar and mix (or shake) well. Pour over the vegetables and lightly toss to coat. Cover and chill for a couple of hours and serve. Makes 8-10 servings.

I'm linking up with Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace and Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Bedlam and Beauty.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Soups On!

This is the first in my series of blog posts about how I've learned to shave a few dollars here and there from our grocery budget. I know many are having a hard time financially, including our own family. We recently lost a portion of our income and even though I have considered myself pretty savvy when it comes to being budget-minded in the kitchen, I've been challenged even further and would like to share what I've learned and am learning.

One of the best ways to feed a family on practically no money at all is by making soup with some homemade bread or even just crackers. In the last couple of years, I've started saving little bits of leftovers and putting them into the freezer, you know, the stuff that usually got thrown away because there was so little of it that it wasn't worth keeping. I also go through the refrigerator about once a week to see what needs to eaten up quickly, and if I doubt that it will get eaten, I throw that into the freezer, too.

The pot of soup that is pictured above was made with almost all leftovers that I had stashed in the freezer. I saved some canned tomatoes in their juice, potato water (from boiled potatoes), chicken broth, mixed vegetables, pieces of chicken, and leftover rice. I added some fresh onion, celery, and cabbage that I had in the refrigerator. I really don't know how much it actually cost to make this soup but I'm pretty sure it was under $2 for the whole pot. We had some fresh homemade bread with this soup and it was really good. Of course, every time you make this kind of soup, it's going to be different, but you are using up just about everything that might have been thrown away. It feels good to not waste what God has given to us.
Another thing I do is I always make my own broths-chicken, beef, vegetable, or fish broth. It is so easy, especially if I make it in the crockpot, one of my favorite kitchen appliances. I throw everything in there and leave it all day. Not only is making my own broth cheaper than store-bought, it tastes so much better.
One more trick when it comes to making broths of any kind that I've recently implemented is whenever I cut up an onion, a clove of garlic, a carrot, celery, peel a potato, or any other vegetable, I save the peel, skins, ends, etc. and throw them in a large freezer bag that I keep in the freezer. Then, instead of adding fresh onions, carrots, celery, garlic, etc. to make my broth, I just throw the stuff that I used to throw away into my pot.
I believe anything that we can do to save some money in these leaner times, no matter how small it may seem, is a step in the right direction, even if it means eating Leftover Soup once in awhile :)
I'm linking up with Make It From Scratch

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

With a short reprieve from the 90-degree heat this past weekend (we were a cool 82 degrees on Sunday!), I decided to heat up my oven and make some cookies. We will be going back to extremely humid and high temperatures at least for the next few days, so I will not be turning the oven back on for awhile.

There's just nothing like a homemade cookie, and if you like peanut butter and chocolate, well, this one's for you.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup oats, quick or old-fashioned
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a large bowl beat together the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sift together the flour, oats, salt, and soda in a separate smaller bowl and add to the butter mixture. Add the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 7 minutes or until browned on the edges and bottom of cookies. Cool on a rack.

For crispy cookies-After dropping dough onto baking sheet, flatten with a fork and bake for 10 minutes.
I linking up with Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Bedlam and Beauty and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed With Grace.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hamburger Casserole-Updated

I've blogged about this recipe a couple of other times on my other blog and there's probably a reason or two for that. It's really easy to put together and it's one of those dishes I grew up on, which takes me back to my childhood in my mom's kitchen. I've made this recipe for my daughters more times than I can count but I rarely make it anymore because I hardly ever use the canned cream of mushroom soups. But, now that I know how to make my own cream of "whatever" soups, I can make dishes like this more often. In fact, after making my homemade cream of mushroom soup the other night, I went ahead and made this casserole, too. I've only known this recipe as Hamburger Casserole and I have no idea where my mom got it but here it is, updated from when I was a kid.

Hamburger Casserole

*1 lb. ground beef
1-1 lb. bag of noodles or other pasta shapes
1 can cream of mushroom soup or make your own
2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cook ground beef until browned. Drain or rinse as desired. While that's cooking, start boiling water for the pasta. Add the mushroom soup and tomato sauce to the ground beef. Drain the pasta when cooked al dente and add to the ground beef mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the cheese and combine until the cheese is melted. Serve. OR, you can combine everything except the cheese, spoon into a casserole dish, sprinkle the cheese on top and put in a 375 degree oven until the casserole starts bubbling, about 30 minutes.

*You can use less ground beef here to save on the grocery budget :)

I'm linking up with Foodie Fridays.

Cooking on a Shoestring Budget

I would like to start doing a series on how I have learned to save money in the kitchen. Over the years I've tried to come up with different tricks to getting the most out of our grocery budget, yet still get the most nutritious bang for our buck, so to speak. Lately, I have been challenged even further in this area and I know other people are feeling the squeeze in their budgets, too.

Graphic courtesy of All Posters.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cream of Whatever Soup

This is the perfect substitute for cream of whatever soup you need. I love how you can make this recipe any way you want-cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, cream of celery, whatever-you just swap out or add whatever ingredient you want. Last night for the first time I made the cream of mushroom soup. Just add a few mushrooms. I had some baby portabella mushrooms but you can add whatever kind you have on hand including canned. I also love how flavorful this soup is without the harmful MSG.
Homemade Cream of Whatever Soup
This recipe makes about 2 cans' worth or 3 cups.
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
Dash of paprika
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup ingredient of your choice (mushrooms, celery, etc.)
In a medium size saucepan, heat a couple tablespoons of oil or butter and add your vegetables if using, and saute for a couple of minutes. Otherwise bring to a boil the chicken broth, 1/2 cup of the milk, and the seasonings for a minute or two. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup of milk and flour. Add to boiling mixture and continue whisking brisly until mixture boils and thickens.
Use about 1 1/2 cups for each can of soup called for in a recipe. I like to make bigger batches of it and freeze them in 1 1/2 cup portions.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Perfect Summer Sandwich

Start with two pieces of bread, lightly toasted.
Lay on the mayonnaise.

Add as many slices of beautiful summer tomato as that piece of bread can hold.

Just a little salt.

Put that baby together and cut in half and you have the perfect summer sandwich!
Yes, that is one of my tomatoes, straight from the garden. Delish!