I can’t believe it’s 2013… or more accurately, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I got around to posting! We were on the road in the far northern reaches of Montana and Idaho for about a week when we decided that for Christmas this year we were headed over the river and through the woods to the Grandparents farm. It was a bit crazy with the roads and weather, but it was such a wonderful trip and just exactly the break that we needed.
I hope you’ll bear with me for a minute while I play a bit of catch up before I come back to my pick for this month’s Secret Recipe Club from Lisa’s site, Parsley, Sage & Sweet. I loved going through Lisa’s archives and had several ideas bookmarked, but kept coming back to this. We’ll get back to it again in just a minute!
After all my holiday posting rush I inadvertently took the rest of the holidays off and have so much to tell you about! When we drive to the Grandparents near Sandpoint, Idaho, we quite literally drive over the river (Clark Fork) and through many, many woods (technically, their farm is pretty much in the woods, so there you go).
Kayla spent a good part of the trip taking various naps, most of them in the truck while we were driving. She is an amazing little traveler when she has to be, thank goodness!! She loved Christmas at Grandma’s and it was fun to watch her get excited about her presents. She still isn’t speaking very much that is really understandable, but she is certainly trying. Either way, she knows how to get her point across!
We had a fun little night, just me and the kids, for New Year’s, then it was on to our new 2013 brand of crazy. There was a really good reason I ended up taking so much time off though. Aside from the 26 total hours of driving, Christmas for three kids away from home, husband heading to Cali for New Year’s and all the usual wildness we ended up adding a new member to our family!
Meet Benny the Bulldog! The newest member of the Hanks Family (here he is at 8 weeks old when he came home to us on New Year’s Day)!
Needless to say, things have been a bit wild around here with the new adjustment. It has been many, many years since Dusty or I have had a pet, and Benny is the very first pet for our kids. Usually at this point I’m asked what kind of dog he is. Benny (aka Bently Hamilton) is a Alapaha Blue-Blood Bulldog – his coloring is called Blue Merle. We have a wonderful friend who has a two year old of the same breed and he is amazing. We are already in love with this little guy and know he is super smart (we’ve had him for just a few days and he is pretty much potty trained). I’m sure Benny will be a regular feature around here on the blog, as well as the kiddos.
With all the holidays behind us I started considering what I wanted to accomplish this year. One of the things was to start eating healthier for me. The kids do pretty well, but I am a snacker and a grazer and a caffeinated mama. I really want to make better choices, just so that I can have better energy and feel better. For me that means eating better, as well as *gasp* exercise! It has been more years than I want to admit to since I’ve really exercised at all other than chasing the kids. Bottom line, I need more energy and was thrilled to have the chance to try out the workout program from LeanMoms.com (they have many recipes and menu plans as well, but were kind enough to understand that following a recipe plan of someone else’s for a food blogger is probably going to be really hit and miss for me. While I plan to make better choices and review their information, I also plan to work it into my ‘realistic’ life. That said, I believe whole heartedly that my results in the program (which I’m starting today) would probably happen better and faster if I stuck to their plan. I’ll be happy to see results at any rate though and want this to be a lifestyle change I can maintain, so that’s me.
As for the LeanMom’s program, I’ll be writing more about that after my first week and should even have a surprise giveaway for you!
In light of my choice to make a change I’m going to be implementing healthier choices in some recipes. I was excited to find a ‘skinny’ recipe for cheesecake I could try out. Lisa’s skinny cheesecake recipe is absolutely gorgeous and I want to try it her way as well, but she mentioned wanting to try making it with yogurt cheese and I was intrigued. I could make ‘cream cheese’ out of nonfat yogurt. And the recipe I found was certainly easy, it just took some patience. I just chose my favorite vanilla yogurt in this case, lined a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth, placed it over a bowl with plenty of space and poured the yogurt in to the cheesecloth. I left enough cheesecloth over the side to fold over the top of the yogurt to cover it, then placed the whole thing in the refrigerator and waited… and waited, and waited. It took a good 12 hours at least and I had to pour off the whey that drained into the bowl about halfway through so the bottom of the strainer wasn’t touching it. I think I ended up with almost a full two cups of whey. I should have measured or saved it for something else I imagine, but I wasn’t thinking that far ahead at the time.
Anyway, the yogurt cheese was easy and really good. It ends up being very thick and basically the texture of cream cheese.
You could use it in place of cream cheese on toast, bagels, or where ever else you want to make the switch.
As for the cheesecake itself I decided to practice a little portion control by making mini cheesecakes in my muffin tin. The strawberry topping was a take on Lisa’s recipe from her post here. I wanted mine to ‘gel’ more but reduced the amounts of sugar significantly in this recipe so that didn’t work as well. The strawberry topping was still easy to make and tasted wonderful.
The overall cheesecake is more on the tangy and very slightly sweet side since I reduced the sugar amounts throughout the entire recipe. I know myself well enough to know there is no way I’ll be cutting sugar completely out of my diet, but I can certainly attempt to reduce it! I also replaced the sugar in the cheesecake itself with honey and used only 1 egg instead of two in an attempt to lighten it up a bit more.
Be sure to follow the linky below to visit the other SRC Members today for lots of great recipes! Happy New Year!
Skinny Yogurt Strawberry Mini Cheesecakes
A graham cracker crust layered with a cheesecake filling made from yogurt cheese, sweetened with honey then topped with a strawberry puree.
Makes: 12 muffin sized portions
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 15 hours approximately (wait time for making cheese and chilling the cheesecakes after baking). This recipe requires a few steps including chilling. The yogurt cheese should be started a day ahead so please plan accordingly.
To make the Yogurt Cheese:
1 32 oz container of nonfat vanilla yogurt
1 piece of cheesecloth, folded into at least 2 layers
1 fine mesh strainer
1 large bowl
- Place the fine mesh strainer over the bowl and line it with the doubled cheesecloth.
- Pour the yogurt into the center of the cheesecloth and cover the yogurt with the overlapping corners of cheesecloth.
- Cover the top of the bowl and strainer with plastic wrap and place the entire setup into the refrigerator to allow the liquid to drain from the yogurt into the bowl.
- Chill the cheese until thick and drained completely, about 10-12 hours. It’s easiest to do this the night before you want to make the cheesecake, but could be done a couple of days in advance.
- Once it is drained completely you can lift the cheese out of the strainer in the cheesecloth and turn it out into your bowl. It will be thick and creamy.
To make the Crust:
3 oz (about 1 cup) finely ground graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon cane sugar
12 Foil cupcake liners
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Line 1 12-cup muffin tin with foil liners (paper liners will tear and break from the moisture in the strawberry topping).
- Stir the ingredients together in a small bowl until all the crumbs are moistened from the butter.
- Divide the crust evenly between the cupcake liners – approximately 1 generous tablespoon per cup.
- Press the crumbs tightly and evenly into the bottom of the liners.
- Place the muffin tin in the freezer while preparing the filling.
To make the Cheesecake Filling:
1 batch of yogurt cheese (from above)
1 large egg
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- In a large bowl beat together the ingredients with a hand mixer until light and a little fluffy.
- Remove the cheesecake crust from the freezer.
- Divide the cheesecake filling evenly between the cups – approximately 1/4 cup of filling each (they will be about 2/3 full).
- Place the cheesecakes in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cheesecakes are set and cracking slightly.
- Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool while you prepare the strawberry topping.
To make the Strawberry Topping:
1 16 oz package of frozen strawberries, thawed slightly
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons cane sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder (more if you want a more ‘gelatin’ textured topping)
- Place the strawberries in a food processor and chop into small pieces and chunks.
- Add the strawberries to a small saucepan with the lemon juice, water and sugar and bring to a boil.
- Add the gelatin to the mixture and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and pepper if using.
- Allow to cool slightly before adding the tops of the cheesecakes, dividing evenly to fill to almost the tops of each one. There will probably be a little of the topping left over.
- Place the cheesecakes into the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours before serving.