Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Cooking with Kids, Building Confidence

I've mentioned the volunteer work I do with the Junior League of Peoria's Kids in the Kitchen program a few times on this blog.

Today, I'm sharing a post from the Fischer & Wieser Culinary Adventure blog that explains in more detail the importance of teaching kids of all ages how to cook and prepare healthy meals and snacks for themselves and their family.

Fischer & Wieser makes gourmet foods and is a Kids in the Kitchen partner. They asked us to talk about what the children and our volunteers gain from cooking together.

It's amazing to see children expand their horizons when they try a new dish, like Sweet Potatoes Topped with Spicy Black Beans & Tomatoes, or to watch their confidence rise when they see how easy it can be to bake healthy One Bowl Banana Chip Muffins.

Support from partners like Fisher & Wieser means we can do more. Our younger cooks crafted sandwiches using whole grain waffles, sunbutter, fruit and Fischer & Wieser pear preserves — surprising themselves with how much they liked the snack!

And our older junior chefs recently made cheese lasagna, using the jars of tomato sauce we received.

If you cook with your own kids, you know how much fun it can be, and how it strengthens feelings of emotional well being.

When we volunteer our time to teach children how to safely chop vegetables and prepare a meal for others, we are giving them lifelong skills and showing them we care.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Garden Zucchini Tomato Bake

My boys and I just returned from a visit to New York to see my family. When we got home we found 4 giant zucchini and many Roma tomatoes ready to eat from our garden.

Nothing tastes quite as good as a fresh tomato, IMO. And as I've shared here before, I love zucchini for its versatility in everything from baked goods to side dishes.

I threw together this combo because it was easy and quick and we had all the ingredients on hand. How do you do zucchini?

Mangia! Mangia!

Garden Zucchini Tomato Bake

1 large zucchini (about 2 pounds), thinly sliced into rounds
6 medium Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced into rounds
6 tablespoons bread crumbs, divided
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Fresh ground pepper
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously spray bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, mix garlic powder, dried basil and dried oregano. Set aside.

Place slices of zucchini in bottom of pan. Top with tomato slices. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons bread crumbs and 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of seasoning mixture.

Repeat steps to make 2 more layers. To top the last layer, use 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, then add Parmesan cheese. Finish with a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until vegetables soften. Remove foil and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly browned on top.

Let cool and slice to serve. Top with fresh basil. Yum!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

S'mores Pizza

Happy July 4th! Here's a summer dessert your kids will love.

As soon as I took it out of the oven, my boys starting grabbing the gooey marshmallows off the top.

This recipe makes enough for a crowd and would be great at a holiday picnic or pot luck.

Mangia! Mangia!

S'mores Pizza
Inspired by this recipe from Six Sisters' Stuff

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 12 ounce package chocolate chips
4 cups mini marshmallows
1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a large (13 inch) circular pizza pan or a large rectangular baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine.

Add 1/3 of dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture and blend until combined. Repeat two more times until you incorporate all of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

*This dough was a bit sticky, so I rolled mine out on top of parchment paper, to make it easier to transfer to the pan.

**There will be a lot of dough. You might want to use less than you have, depending on the size of your pan, or if you prefer a thinner crust.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to fit the pan you are using. Transfer dough to pan. Press into place and press together any pieces that break or fall apart.

Bake for 12 minutes or until just beginning to brown and set in the middle. Remove for oven and set on a work surface. Sprinkle crust with most of the chocolate chips, then top with marshmallows.

Return to oven and cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until marshmallows are browned on top. Melt the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and stir until smooth while marshmallows brown.

Drizzle melted chocolate on top of s'mores pizza. Slice and serve warm. Also tastes great at room temperature.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

BLT Pasta Salad

Hey gang, I'm finally able to write a post because:

  • We had no baseball games last night!
  • I actually cooked something for dinner!

Yes, it's been one of those summers. Last week, I grilled a bunch of salmon at 10 am on a Tuesday and made a bowl of Ramen & Boy Choy Salad so that we'd have something to eat after my boys' games.

My husband and I ate the dinner I pre-made. My boys opted for frozen pizza.

This week I made some pasta salad. Genius, I thought. A hearty, cold salad that will be ready when we are! And since my boys eat bacon almost every morning, on a bagel with cream cheese, surely they would like this BLT Pasta Salad, right?

Sam took a big bowl for lunch yesterday, then told me later on that he threw it out and made a sandwich instead. Max hasn't tried it, but Bob and I enjoyed it.

How do you feed your family during these crazy days of summer? Please share!

Mangia! Mangia!

BLT Pasta Salad
Inspired by this recipe from The Kitchen.

1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup mayo
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
16 bacon slices, cooked crispy and diced
1 pound pasta, cooked to package directions (rotini or ziti) and cooled
3 ounces baby spinach leaves
1 pint curry tomatoes, halved
Salt & pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine first 5 ingredients and combine with a whisk until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix cooked pasta, bacon, spinach and tomatoes. Pour dressing on top and mix until pasta is coated in dressing.

Serve right away or refrigerate for 1 hour before serving, to let flavors combine.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Yogurt and Cherry Peach Pie

Need to use up some Greek yogurt? Make this pie. It's a fun breakfast treat for summer or a nice dessert.

This recipe is pretty versatile, too. You can make the crust from scratch or use granola from your pantry.

And the topping? Use whatever jam or preserves you have on hand.

I came across this recipe when I made Fudgy Greek Yogurt Brownies the last time I had half a container of yogurt waiting in the fridge.

Mangia! Mangia!

Yogurt and Cherry Peach Pie
Inspired by this recipe from Food & Wine

2 tablespoons butter
2 cups prepared granola, crushed
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup warmed cherry-peach preserves (or substitute another flavor like apricot)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet melt the butter in the oil.

Add the crushed granola and stir until coated in the butter-oil mixture and heated through. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and let cool.

Use a flat-bottom glass to press the granola evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Put pie plate in the freezer for about 10 minutes, to completely cool the crust.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla until smooth. Pour into chilled pie crust.

Bake the pie for 25 minutes. Filling will be set but a little jiggly in the center. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

Spread the warmed preserves onto of the pie.

Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Kale, Brussels Sprouts & Cherry Salad

One of my favorite childhood stories about my husband is the time he filled his plate with Brussels sprouts because he thought they were cute, only to be taken aback by their less-than-pleasant taste.

Despite his disappointment, he knew he had to follow his family's rule of "take what you want, but eat what you take." So he "tried to swallow one whole to get them off my plate. And I choked and almost died!"

Instead, he sneakily stuffed the Brussels sprouts into his pants pockets. Later that night, he launched his dirty clothes down the laundry shoot — Brussels sprouts and all. They were only discovered days later when my mother-in-law did the laundry.

While Brussels sprouts may be an acquired taste for some (my husband enjoys them now) my boys are not big fans — yet.

This salad, which is from a Six Sisters Stuff menu plan, is my latest attempt to win them over. Alas, I still have some work to do.

I and my husband, on the other hand, loved this side dish. It has subtle sweet and savory flavors and holds up very well for a few days in the fridge.

Mangia! Mangia!

Kale, Brussels Sprouts & Cherry Salad
Inspired by this recipe from Six Sisters Stuff

1 bunch purple kale, finely chopped
1 pound Brussels sprouts, finely chopped
1 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 green onions, finely diced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese

Mix kale, Brussels sprouts, cherries and almonds in a large bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil and salt and pepper until blended and smooth. Stir in green onions.

Pour dressing over greens and stir to combine. Sprinkle with cheese and serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fudgy Greek Yogurt Brownies

When we have a large container of plain Greek yogurt sitting in the fridge, I usually put it in smoothies for my kids to use it up.

Recently I started looking around for other ways to use Greek yogurt. Thankfully, Bon Appetit has compiled a round-up of easy dessert recipes with yogurt.

I haven't made brownies from scratch in a while, so that's what I decided to try. These are dense, chocolatey and well worth the little bit of effort the recipe requires. Bonus: Your kids will tell you they love you when you present them as an after-school snack.

Need more brownie inspiration? Try our Double Peanut Butter Cup Brownies or Mo's ROLO-ver and Die Good Brownies.

Mangia! Mangia!

Fudgy Greek Yogurt Brownies
Inspired by a recipe from Bon Appetit

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet, dark or milk chocolate chips, divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plain Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Set a saucepan of water to simmer on the stove. Combine butter and 1/2 cup chocolate chips in a medium stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan and stir the butter and chocolate until melted and smooth.

Remove bowl from heat. Whisk in sugar, cocoa, vanilla and yogurt until smooth.

Add wet ingredients to the bowl of flour and fold in until incorporated. Add remaining chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of browning comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.

Let cool completely before cutting into squares.