Cheesecake for Two

Even after the Molten Lava Cakes for Two and the Tiramisu for Two, you are still looking for dessert ideas for you and your valentine? Okay....how about Cheesecake for Two? These two little cheesecakes come together in less than 5 minutes before baking. It couldn't be any easier. Please don't buy one of those bad generic frozen cheesecakes! Making it yourself is so much more delicious, not to mention less expensive!


2 Golden Oreos
1 tsp butter
1/4 C (2 oz) cream cheese
1 egg white
1 Tblsp sugar
pinch of salt
splash of vanilla

Crush Oreos. Melt butter and combine with cookie crumbs. Press firmly into the bottom of  2 lined muffin tins. Beat remaining ingredients very well until smooth. Divide between the two muffin tins. Bake at 325` for 20-25 minutes or until almost set. Allow to cool to room temperature before chilling. Top as desired with fruit, chocolate, caramel, chopped chocolate bars, etc. Use different crumbs for the crust to change the flavours further. The possibilities are endless!

Tiramisu for Two

Your response to the Molten Cakes for Two was fantastic! It made me think you must be hungry for desserts made for two, so I thought I'd give you another idea before Valentine's Day.

My husband doesn't like coffee, but he loves tiramisu. Go figure. The recipe below is scaled down from the tiramisu recipe that I shared a few years ago, a deliciously inauthentic recipe that is less expensive than traditional tiramisu but still has the same great flavours. I've omitted the egg here, as some folks are really hesitant to consume raw eggs. (For the record, I'm not one of them. Hello? Cookie dough?). This version still sets up well, and you won't miss the egg from the larger version of this recipe.


1 C ricotta cheese
1/3 C white sugar
1 tsp spiced rum
8 Lady Finger biscuits
1/2 C espresso or strong coffee
cocoa, for dusting (optional)

Combine ricotta, sugar, and rum until smooth. (A food processor or an immersion blender is perfect for this.) One at a time, dip Lady Fingers in coffee and lay in cross-wise in a loaf pan. Lay four coffee soaked lady fingers across the bottom of the pan. Top with half of the ricotta mixture. Repeat with remaining 4 lady fingers. Top with remaining ricotta mixture. Dust with cocoa, if desired. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours before serving. Preparing this the day before serving is ideal.



Lava Cakes For Two

Valentines Day is coming. If you are planning a nice dinner at home, don't forget about dessert! An impressive dessert doesn't mean making a huge cake (that you will eat for days) or spending hours of your time. These molten cakes for two take about 5 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to bake. They are rich and decadent, and the perfect Valentine's Day dessert. Either using the recipes below or changing the flavours with different baking chips, surely you can find one to suit you and your sweetheart.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Molten Cakes

2 eggs, divided
2 Tblsp white sugar, divided
4 Tblsp butter (plus more for greasing)
3 Tblsp chocolate chips
3 Tblsp peanut butter chips
4 tsp flour, divided (plus more for dusting)

Grease and flour two 3-inch ramekins. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.

Whisk one egg with 1 Tblsp white sugar. Combine very well until light in colour. Place chocolate chips and 2 Tblsp butter in a microwave safe bowl, and heat for 20 seconds. Stir well to combine and melt chocolate. Heat longer if necessary to completely melt the chocolate. Add chocolate/butter and 2 tsp flour to the egg/sugar mixture. Whisk to combine. Divide between the two prepared ramekins.

Repeat this process to make the peanut butter layer. Whisk one egg with 1 Tblsp white sugar. Combine very well until light in colour. Place peanut butter chips and remaining 2 Tblsp butter in a microwave safe bowl, and heat for 20 seconds. Stir well to combine and melt chips. Heat longer if necessary to completely melt. Add melted peanut butter chips and remaining 2 tsp flour to the egg/sugar mixture. Whisk to combine. Divide between the two ramekins, pouring on top of the chocolate layer.

Bake at 450` for 8-10 minutes. The sides will be set, but you want to center to still appear sunken and jiggly. To serve, invert ramekin on serving dish. Dust with icing sugar or serve with a scoop of ice cream. Serve immediately.




Butterscotch Molten Cakes

2 eggs
2 Tblsp white sugar
4 Tblsp butter (plus more for greasing)
1/3 C butterscotch chips
4 tsp flour, divided (plus more for dusting)

Grease and flour two 3-inch ramekins. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.

Whisk eggs with white sugar. Combine very well until light in colour. Place butterscotch chips butter in a microwave safe bowl, and heat for 20 seconds. Stir well to combine and melt chips. Heat longer if necessary to melt completely. Add melted chips and flour to the egg/sugar mixture. Whisk to combine. Divide between the two prepared ramekins.

Bake at 450` for 8-10 minutes. The sides will be set, but you want to center to still appear sunken and jiggly. To serve, invert ramekin on serving dish. Dust with icing sugar or serve with a scoop of ice cream. Serve immediately.


Bean Salad for Days!

I have been eating bean salad every day for 2 weeks straight. I'm not kidding. Every day. I make a big batch to have in the fridge, and then it is SO easy to throw together a quick and healthy lunch or snack each day. This bean salad is an example of something very easy to play with and serve in many different ways, and it is SO inexpensive! Having delicious and healthy options ready in the fridge makes it a lot easier to eat a proper meal when the days are busy.

1 can chickpeas
1 can white kidney beans
1 can lentils
1 1/2 C hot salsa (I use Pioneer Woman's recipe)
Chopped peppers and/or green onion (optional)

Drain and rinse all canned beans. Stir all ingredients to combine in a large food storage container. Store in the fridge.

Alter this recipe to suit your tastes or what you have in the pantry. Add more vegetables or change the type of beans as desired. If you add an additional can of beans, add an additional 1/2 C of salsa. (I occasionally add a can of black beans to stretch this salad a little further)


This bean salad can be used in so any ways! Here's how I've enjoyed it this week:

Bean Salad



Twice Baked Bean-y Sweet Potato 

Piece sweet potato all over with a knife. Microwave on high for 6 minutes, turn over, and mircrowave 6 minutes more. Once cool enough to touch, cut in half  and scoop out the flesh. Mash flesh and mix with some bean salad. Refill the potato skins. Top with shredded cheese, if desired. Bake at 375` for 15 minutes or until hot.



Speedy Bean Soup

Combine 3/4 C stock or broth with some bean salad to make a super quick and hearty soup. Season as desired.



Three-Bean Quesadilla

Spoon some bean salad on one half of a tortilla. Top with shredded cheese. Fold over tortilla and place in a hot frying pan for several minutes until browned, turning to brown both sides.



Spinach and Bean Pizza

Using naan or pita bread as your crust, top with bean salad, baby spinach, and cheese. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Turn on the broiler for 1 minute to cause the cheese to bubble.



Three-Bean Nachos

Place tortilla chips on a single layer on a baking sheet. Top with bean salad and shredded cheese. Bake at 3751 for 10 minutes. Turn on broiler for 1 minute to bubble cheese and brown a few chips.




What are your favourite tricks to renew your leftovers? What do you keep prepared or on-hand to  help meals come together in a hurry? I'd love to hear your favourite strategies, or your feedback if you try this bean salad!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Squares

This recipe is so nostalgic for me. These squares were a regular recipe for my Nana, and we had them at just about every party growing up. When I posted on my Facebook page asking for suggestions using peanut butter, some of my cousins brought up the idea of this recipe. Once the seed was planted in my mind, I absolutely had to have them!

1/2 C margarine (not the spreadable kind)
1 1/2 C peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 C icing sugar
2 C Rice Krispies
1 bag (approx 2 cups) chocolate chips
2 Tblsp shortening

Melt margarine. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla until well mixed. Add icing sugar and stir until evenly combined. Fold in Rice Krispies until distributed. Press mixture into a 8X8 pan, lined with greased foil. Press very firmly.

Melt chocolate chips and shortening and stir until smooth. (I find this easiest to do in the microwave. Heat for 30 seconds. Stir, then heat at 15 second intervals, stirring after each, until fully melted.) Spread melted chocolate over peanut butter mixture. Chill until set. Cut into squares and store in the fridge, fighting the urge to eat a cold one each time you open the fridge.




Budgeting for Better Life

I interrupt all the recipe sharing to post about budgeting. I have shared before how I keep our grocery budget on track, but grocery spending is only a small piece of the pie (and because of this spreadsheet I know our groceries are 12.27% of the pie). After some prompting from friends, I'm sharing how I budget for our family.

Let me begin by saying that budget isn't a bad word! Having a budget (or a spending plan) can actually be very liberating! When you have planned to spend and you have the money in hand, spending is so much more enjoyable. Budgeting doesn't mean you don't take vacations....it means you pay for vacations with cash. Budgeting doesn't mean that you can't go out for dinner, it just means you are a little more selective of when you go out. Our lives have absolutely changed for the better since we started budgeting. Who knew we could actually live a more comfortable and fulfilling lifestyle on one income? I am a firm believer than you can have it all, you just can't have it all at once

We are a single-income family. After my second maternity leave, I didn't return to work. Being a stay-at-home mom is something we always had in mind as part of my role in our family, but the timing wasn't carved in stone. We worked hard to pay off my student loan and our consumer debt before reducing our income. We also took a long hard look at what we were spending. For example, we drove an older vehicle at the time. It was paid for, but we weren't aware of how much we had been spending on maintenance & mileage. Once we added up 6 months of repairs, maintenance, and gas, we realized that we could be driving a new and more fuel-efficient vehicle for the same monthly costs! Our housing situation was similar. We lived in a home on the outskirts of the city, which meant our mileage was higher and our sense of community was lacking. The home itself also had significant costs in maintenance and repairs. We ended up building an efficient home in our ideal neighbourhood, close to friends, family, and Josh's workplace. Our daily life improved, and money was saved. We never would have made those big changes if we hadn't taken a good look at the numbers. 



The first page is the overall budget or master plan. 

This budget is based on 2 biweekly paycheques a month, even though there are 26 biweeklies in a year. We put those extra 2 payments directly into savings. It helps boost our savings, and it is easier to budget based on a regular income every month. Similarly, we don't include overtime, commissions, or incentives in our budget. Those incomes can also boost savings or be used for "extra" spending.

  • Step 1: Fill in your income. 
  • Step 2: Fill in your fixed expenses.  It automatically will calculate what percentage of your income is being spent on each category. 
  • Step 3: Note the "difference" (under net income). That's how much money you have left after your fixed expenses to fill in your variable expenses. 
  • Step 4: To begin figuring where you want to set those variable budgets, you should go back through the past several months to figure out what you have been spending. If you don't have the receipts, check your credit card or banks statements and look at your transactions in different categories. Once you add up these totals, ask yourself how often you think you've used cash at those stores and add a guesstimate of that amount. Likely, this total will scare you. That's okay - things will get better! And if you didn't know where you were coming from, how could you look back pleased with how far you have come? 
  • Step 5: If you want to have a real TV/Gail Vaz-Oxlade moment, put the amounts you have been spending into your budget sheet temporarily. Does it balance? Are you shocked by the percentage of your income that you spend in some categories?
  • Step 6: As you look at the figures from past months, decide if you are comfortable putting those numbers in your budget or if you want to reduce some categories. Again, as you fill in your budgeted amounts,  it will calculate what percentage of your income is being spent on each category.  Keep watching the "difference"...your budget has to balance!

Note: There is only so much you can do to cut back your fixed expenses, but I've been pleasantly surprised by how much we have been able to trim down our variable expenses just by putting it all on paper and being conscious of it.


The second page is where I track our variable spending. 

We bring home all of our receipts and every day or two I put the amounts in the tracker, so any given time we know month-to-date where we stand (groceries, entertainment, etc). This also allows us to know how much money we have left in categories that we budget for monthly, but only pay for a few times a year (hobbies/membership, Christmas, etc). For instance, when Josh goes to his basketball provincials, that expense will come out of hobbies/memberships. Most months we don't spend anything in that category, but the money sits in our account earmarked for those expenses when they come up, and that variable tracking sheet shows us how much we are supposed to be spending on it. If there are multiple receipts in a week to track in one category (and there always is with groceries), I just open a comment to list the totals, then add them up and put them in the cell.

The third page is net worth. 

This sheet is pretty self-explanatory. Fill in the amounts of what you own and what you owe. It is easy to feel like you are ahead of the game if you aren't living paycheque to paycheque or if you are looking at a pile of cash in the bank...but if you owe a lot of money, things aren't as great as they appear. Being realistic and looking at the cold hard facts is important if you want to live the good life and plan for your future.


This all may sound more complicated than it really is. Don't get overwhelmed! Once your sheets are set up, if doesn't take more than a couple of minutes here and there to input expenses on the receipt tracker. All you have to do is begin, and take one little step at a time. I started doing this practice out of necessity, but it has become a way of life that I really enjoy. I hope you find the same thing. I welcome any of your questions or comments below or via Email. Bring it on! :)


Italian Wedding Soup

I scored a great deal on lean ground pork the day before it expired ($0.99/Lb!). I put a few pounds in the freezer, but I wanted to use one my meal plan right away. A bit of searching on Pinterest lead me to this recipe from She's Cookin'. I adapted the recipe for both the meatballs and the soup to use what I had in the house, and the results were fantastic. I will be repeating the meatball recipe again as a stand-alone recipe  They were excellent!

Meatballs
1 Lb ground beef
1 Lb ground pork
1/2 C parmesan cheese
1/2 C dry breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried parsley
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced

Place Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, parsley and paprika in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add ground beef and ground pork to the bowl. Beat egg with minced garlic, and pour over meat. Combine all ingredients until well mixed. (Working with your hands is easiest for this.) Form into balls (using a cookie scoop makes for even sizes) and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350' for about 30 minutes.

Soup
1 Tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp thyme
8 cups chicken stock
1 bunch kale, torn into pieces
2 cups egg noodles (or other quick cooking pasta)
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions and celery in olive oil until softened. Add carrots and cook for approximately 3-5 minutes. Add garlic, cayenne, and thyme and stir until fragrant. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and  simmer for 15 minutes. Add cooked meatballs.  Add kale and pasta, and cook until they are tender (approximately 6-7 minutes).

**To save time, you can prepare the meatballs in advance and freeze cooked meatballs. To use frozen meatballs in this soup, add when the stock comes to a boil and allow them too warm in the sauce while it simmers for 15 minutes before adding the kale and pasta.**

 

Popcorn Indiana Review and Giveaway

Peanut Butter. Chocolate. Sweet. Salty. 
If you are anything like me, you don't need to hear any more than than that. But for anyone who needs a little bit more information, let me tell you about this great new product I had the chance to sample... 

This indulgent popcorn is the ultimate choice for those who, like me, love a sweet and salty combination. The large puffy popcorn pieces are generously drizzled with peanut butter and chocolate, and are unbelievably delicious. Having a child with a peanut allergy means that my husband and I had to devour the whole bag in one evening while the kids were sleeping...It was the only responsible thing to do, right?! Or maybe we couldn't stop ourselves!

Unlike many popcorn products, it uses Non-GMO corn. And unlike so many of the most popular treats, it contains no artificial flavours, no artificial preservatives, no artificial colours, no high-fructose corn syrup, and zero grams of trans fats. I challenge to to show you me another decadent, affordable goodie that can compare! You know what else? This treat is kosher and gluten-free!  

I would love to give you the chance to try it too! Enter below to win 6 bags of Popcorn Indiana's Chocolate Peanut Butter Drizzlecorn. How popular would you be if you brought it to a holiday party?!

*This is a sponsored posts. I have received free product and/or compensation for this post. The opinions featured here are always honest and my own.*

Pear Bread

For the second year in a row, I hit Country Harvest (a local produce stand) on the day they were closing for the season. Once again, I bought an obscene amount of pears. Like, 44 Lbs worth. And in case you are wondering what 44 Lbs of pears looks like...


Do you want to know how much I paid? $15! $15 for 44 Lbs of pears...$0.34 per pound for fresh local pears! Since pears are my kids' favourite fruit, this deal was extra exciting for me.

Like last year, I canned most of them (as described here) and froze some slices for snacks, smoothies, and baking. Of course, I have been stocking up on new pear recipes to try. Out of all the new recipes I tried this fall, I think this one (which I've adapted slightly) was our favourite. It makes two loaves, which is great for our hungry family, but you could always freeze one or share with a neighbour. This bread has a lovely crust, a subtly sweet flavour, and a a perfect texture. If you don't have an abundance of pears or if they aren't your personal favourite, simply make this an apple bread using apple sauce and chopped apples in lieu of the pear.

1/2 C oil
1/2 C pureed pear 
3 eggs
1 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 C chopped pears
1 Tblsp sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Mix oil, pureed pear, eggs, sugar, and vanilla until smooth and uniform. In a separate bowl, whisk all dry ingredients to combine. Stir dry ingredients into wet mixture until just combined. Gently fold in chopped pears. Spread into two greased loaf pans and sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Bake at 325' for 55-65 minutes, or until tests done. Allow to cool completely before slicing.



Looking for some more great pear recipes? Try this Vanilla Pear Coffee Cake or these Chicken, Pear, and Baby Kale Quesedillas

Caprese Breakfast Bake

This post is part of the YummyMummyClub.ca and Kraft Cheesefest #KraftComfortCheese sponsored program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors. 

My brother in law is a great cook. No one ever expects the handsome mechanic to show up to a dinner party with a cheesecake he made for the host, or to steal the show at a potluck with something he whipped up....but I love watching people's surprise when it happens!

This easy dish is my take on one of my brother-in-law's standards, which makes an appearance on Christmas morning and lazy long weekends. You really can't go wrong with a dish of comfort food that uses three cheeses. And a leisurely pyjama-clad family breakfast on a lazy holiday morning? Can't beat it! What's your comfort cheese? Find some great recipes and inspiration at the Kraft Cheesefest Comfort Zone!


6 eggs
1/2 C flour
1 C milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 C cottage cheese
2 C Kraft Creamy Mozza Shredded Cheese with a Touch-of-Philadelphia
3 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese, cubed
1/2 C sliced grape tomatoes
1/4 C julienned basil

Combine eggs, milk, baking powder, and cottage cheese. Beat very well. Stir in Kraft Creamy Mozza Shredded Cheese with a Touch-of-Philadelphia. Pour mixture into greased 9X13 pan. Drop cubed cream cheese, grape tomatoes, and basil on top. Bake at 350` for 45 minutes or until set and lightly golden around the edges.

**If you have kids who will turn up their noses at tomato and basil, omit them for a simple Cheesy Egg Bake that pleases anyone.





If you love cheese, join us for the @KraftCanada #KraftComfortCheese Twitter Party on September 29th where we’ll be giving away ten $50 President’s Choice gift cards! Get all the details here.

Then you can use your gift card to get the ingredients needed to create the mouth-watering, cheese-inspired dishes at Kraft Comfort Zone. It’s a page filled with ooey gooey goodness.  
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