Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mixed Berry Lemon Cheese Cake Bars

Continuning my week of lemon based recipes, this idea I found on another blog but modified it to fit what I had handy.  I had just made a batch of blueberry, cherry, apple, and strawberry jam a few nights earlier - it's my favorite way to use up over ripe fruit and clean out the fridge - and I came across this recipe.  With a few quick alterations, it was ready to go.


4 T. butter, softened ($.25)
1/3 C. light brown sugar ($.10)
1 C. flour ($.05)
1/4 C. finely chopped hazelnuts ($.10)
2/3 C. sugar ($.10)
1 (8 oz.) pkg. light cream cheese, softened (free after coupons)
1 egg ($.10)
1 T. milk ($.05)
2 T. lemon juice ($.05)
1/2 tsp. vanilla ($.05)
1 1/3 C. fresh mixed berry jam ($.30)


Heat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl blend thoroughly butter, brown sugar and flour with a fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in chopped hazelnuts.  Put 1 cup of the mixture aside for topping. Press remaining mixture into an 8" square inch greased baking dish.

Bake for 15 minutes. After cooling for a few minutes, spread the jam on top.

In a separate bowl, combine sugar and cream cheese, mixing until smooth. Thoroughly beat in egg, milk, lemon juice and vanilla. Spread over the baked crust and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar mixture.  Top with additional chopped hazelnuts, if desired.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes
Let cool, then chill for at least 1 hour.

Yields: 12-16 servings
Cost: $1.15
Cost per serving: $.10

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Raspberry Lemonade Cake

I found an adorable recipe online for a pink lemonade cake.  Perfect for summer and perfectly sweet and tart....but it needed.....something.  So what do I like in pink lemonade - RASPBERRIES.  Yup, that's the way I roll, fresh and fruity, and definitely with an extra hint of flavor.

There is nothing better than a cake that combines 2 things I love.  The fresh flavor of lemon and raspberries.  We live somewhat near (less than an hour drive) several you pick it farms that have raspberries so I always have a few pounds of them tucked in my freezer.  This was just the excuse I needed to get them out and into a yummy dessert.

My husband is not especially fond of lemon desserts (though he loves lemonade, so go figure - actually if you do figure it out, please let me know, I'm curious as hell), but found the flavors here to be balanced and not too, well, lemony.  The fresh berries folded in gives this cake alot of extra flavor and it looks absolutely beautiful when you slice into it.

Always handle berries carefully - this rule goes double for frozen berries, as they can lose their shape easily.

1 French vanilla cake mix ($.75)
3 eggs ($.30)
1 ¼ cup water (free)
1/2 tsp. raspberry extract ($.15)
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce ($.15)
2 tbsp raspberry lemonade mix ($.05)
A few drops of red food coloring, if desired
1/3 C. raspberries (fresh or frozen) ($.35)

1 container of butter cream frosting ($.85)
1-2 T. raspberry lemonade mix ($.15)
1 tsp. milk ($.05)
12-14 small fresh raspberries, for garnish if desired
1 lemon, sliced in half and into thin slices, for additional garnish as desired

Mix all the cake ingredients except raspberries until well incorporated.  Gently fold raspberries into cake batter.

Pour batter into two greased 8" or 9" round pans. Bake for 30 minutes on 350 degrees, or until lightly golden on top and toothpick in center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, dissolve lemonade mix in either water or milk, then combine this with the store bought frosting.  I know I could make it from scratch, but I was lazy and tired of being in the kitchen.  It all of us.  Or that's what I tell myself when I feel that way. If you don't get this way, then keep it to your self, leave me my subtle delusions.  When the cake is gone, that may very well be all I have.  Until inspiration strikes again, anyway.  Sorry for the tangent, it's just one of those days.

Place one cake on plate and frost the top. Add the second cake and frost the whole thing. This is where it gets a little dicey, I never am neat at frosting anything and this was no exception.  If it looked less sloppy I would have been excited to take a picture, but alas...such is not my life.

Keep covered in fridge and serve chilled and topped with fresh berries and thin slices of lemon.  A side note: garnishing the cake helps hide less than pretty frosting application, at least it does for me.  Never be afraid of garnishing a cake well, it looks fancy and people instantly think you are amazing - which is great for the ego.

Yields: 16 servings
Cost: $2.80
Cost per serving: $.18

Friday, June 15, 2012

Easy Chicken and Veggie Empanadas

Easy Entertaining with Empanadas

I was looking for some new ways to use leftover roasted chicken - a staple of my diet, especially when the weather is cool enough for me to use the oven.  One of the ways I discovered to use leftover chicken is in the appetizer course.  From BBQ chicken pizza or any kind of flatbread pizza to creamy croquettes, to it being a common topping for tostada, a main ingredient in my Italian style chicken salad sammies, to making a pulled chicken BBQ sandwich, and a great way to give grilled cheese a hearty protein boost, I'm exploring every possible way to use the delicous roasted chicken that I tend to have in my fridge.

After a second great dinner of empanadas, I cannot wait to serve these to friends and family when I host my monthly Sunday lunch.  The filling for these is a total do-ahead and the dough comes together quickly and effortlessly so this will be an ideal appetizer for entertaining.  I love any recipe for entertaining that I can do all or part of ahead of time and this is definitely my latest go-to and they pair well with cocktails, beer, or a pitcher of my classic mango sangria with moscato.

1 C. self rising flour ($.25)
1/2 T. sugar ($.05)
1/2 T. shortening ($.10)
1/4 C. warm water (free)

1 egg white, whisked with 1 tsp water ($.10)
Frying oil

1 T. olive oil ($.10)
1 T. butter ($.10)
1 small white onion, minced ($.05)
1/4 medium bell pepper, minced (any color, I used orange) ($.10)
6 white button mushrooms or 1 portabella, rough chopped ($.25)
pinch of Mexican oregano
salt and pepper to taste ($.05)
3/4 C. roasted chicken ($.30)
1 T. parmesan ($.05)
1/4 C. shredded sharp cheddar ($.20)
To Make the Dough:
Combine the sugar and water til sugar is dissolved.
Cut shortening into the flour, then combine the water with the flour, working until a soft dough starts to form.
Roll out on floured surface and roll dough to 1/4" thickness.

Use your smallest biscuit cutter (2" size) and cut out 20-24 circles. Dust the circles again with flour and roll out to roughly double their original size.

To Make the Filling - note that this filling is similar to making the filling for croquettes, the recipes can be swapped out easily, just be lighter on the seasonings with the empanadas:

Heat olive oil in a medium sized pan over low heat, add in butter and melt completely.  Stir in minced onion and sweat 3-5 minutes.  Stir in pepper and mushroom, season well with salt and pepper.
Lightly shred the chicken and add this to the sautee veggie blend, heating through.  Stir in parmesan and Mexican oregano, another pinch of salt and pepper, to taste.  Cool 10-15 minutes before using the filling in the empanadas.  Filling that is too warm makes the dough harder to work with.

Assemble the Empanadas:
Brush the dough with egg wash, add 1/2 T. each cheese and chicken, fold in half and press edges together using a fork to seal completely.

Fry in oil at 350 for 1-2 minutes per side, until the dough is golden and the empanadas are puffed and firm.  Drain on paper towel and serve with guacamole and sour cream.

Yields: 20 mini empanadas
Cost: $1.70
Cost per empanada: $.09

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cilantro Lime Pork Steaks

A fun take on Mexican dining, this refreshing recipe makes an inexpensive cut of meat - the pork steak - take center stage and the bold flavor of lime and cilantro marry well with inexpensive sides like tortillas (36 ct. for $1.09), rice (pennies per serving), and refried beans ($.69 a pound), and all your favorite taco toppings.

Super easy to entertain with, this looks and tastes like you've slaved over the meal while keeping your energy, and money, safe for another day!
Serve with your favorite Margaritas for a refreshing end to a hot day.

4 pork steaks, approximately 1 3/4 to 2 pounds ($3.20)
juice of 3 limes ($.15)
3-4 T. olive oil ($.25)
1 1/2 T. minced garlic (about 3-4 large cloves) ($.20)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder ($.05)
1 1/2 tsp. salt ($.05)
2 T. finely chopped cilantro ($.10)

Zest 2 of the limes, then juice yur limes into a large bowl.

Combine all ingredients except pork steaks and whisk well until a thick marinade comes together. Marinade pork in this mixture for 2-3 hours. Grill or pan fry over medium heat until seared on one side and turn over, cook another 3-4 minutes to sear the other side.

Serve with tortillas, beans, rice, fresh salsa, shredded lettuce, black olives, and sour cream.

Yields: 4 servings
Cost: $4.00
Cost per serving: $1.00

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Accidental Empanada

When trying to make a batch of beignets, my husband and I accidentally discovered a great recipe for empanadas. Let me explain...the dough for the beignets didn't puff, wasn't sweet, and fried up slightly puffed, but it wasn't winnning any prizes. After frying the second batch (of 5 small batches), my huband was ready to toss the remaining dough in the garbage. Since we had some roasted chicken in the fridge that was leftover and needed to be used, I asked if he'd mind if I tried a little experiment.

I shredded up a little chicken, rolled the dough even thinner and stuffed it with chicken. I tried 3 with simple, leftover roasted chicken and I knew we were on to something. Though the filling was a little dry, we were inspired. My husband marched back into the kitchen with me hot on his heels, he asked me to get out the shredded cheese and leftover ground turkey (from our enchilada night a few days ago) and he started rolling out the beignet circles and brushing them with butter.

I just jumped in and started filling and sealing them and a recipe was born. We had found the perfect dough for empanadas, which are a huge favorite of mine, but few restaurants in the area make them well or offer them at all. This is my new go-to treat, the dough is tender and flaky, the filling was full of flavor and the cheese made everything bind together beautifully. The butter didn't hold as well as hoped, but a simple egg wash did the trick beautifully and we finally had the empanadas I've always dreamed of, flaky, tender, delicious....and now, with my favorite taco filling (browned ground turkey and veggies) with melted, gooey cheese.

Here is the recipe:

2 C. self rising flour ($.50)
1 T. sugar ($.05)
1 T. shortening ($.20)
1/2 C. warm water (free)

1 egg white, whisked with 1 tsp water ($.10)
Frying oil


1/2 C. roasted chicken, browned ground beef or turkey, leftover taco filling, or shredded pork ($.25)
1/2 C. shredded cheese, any Mexican or cheddar blend - I used munster and colby jack ($.25)

Combine the sugar and water til sugar is dissolved.
Cut shortening into the flour, then combine the water with the flour, working until a soft dough starts to form.
Roll out on floured surface and roll dough to 1/4" thickness.

Use your smallest biscuit cutter (2" size) and cut out 20-24 circles. Dust the circles again with flour and roll out to roughly double their original size.

Brush edges with egg wash and fill with 1 1/2 tsp. each cheese and meat filling of your choice. Seal edges with a fork, pressing firmly to seal.

Fry in 1" oil at 325F in a medium sized pan, frying 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels before serving.
Serve with salsa, sour cream, or guacamole.

Yields: 20-24 mini empanadas
Cost: $1.40
Cost per empanada: $.07