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.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Ham, Asparagus & Gruyere Quiche

This is my all-time favorite quiche recipe. I've been using it ever since we moved to Peoria. I discovered it one Easter while looking for recipes for left-over ham.

It reminded me of the quiche Lorraine my mom made a few times when I was in elementary school and studying different cultures. I was reporting on France and had to bring a dish from that country.

In many ways, this meal also reminds me of an Italian "pizza rustica" that my family makes for Easter. It is filled with sausage, prosciutto, eggs and mozzarella cheese.

This quiche has a rich flavor from Gruyere cheese but a light, airy texture. I was craving it recently so I bought a small spiral sliced ham and some asparagus. You can use store-bought refrigerated pie crusts or make your own from scratch. Both work equally well, but be sure to pre-bake the crust so that it doesn't get soggy.

Mangia! Mangia!

Ham, Asparagus & Gruyere Quiche
Inspired by this recipe from Simply Recipes.

1 pie crust
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
10 ounces asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups (about 8 ounces) Gruyere cheese, grated and divided
1/2 pound ham, diced
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
Fresh ground pepper

Roll out pie dough and fit into a 10-inch pie plate. Press down into bottom. Chill in freezer while oven preheats to 350 degrees.

Line pie crust with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, cool for 5 minutes and then remove weights and parchment. Poke bottom of crust all over with a fork and return to oven for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.

Transfer pie plate to a wire rack to cool while you make the quiche filling. Raise oven temperature for 375 degrees.

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet. Add shallots and cook, stirring often, until shallots are translucent but not brown. Add asparagus and cook and stir for another 10 minutes, or until asparagus begin to brown.

Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Sprinkle 1 cup of the cheese into bottom of pie pan. Spread asparagus and shallot mixture on top of the cheese. Sprinkle ham evenly over the vegetables. Top with the remaining 1 cup cheese.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, cream and eggs. Season with ground pepper. Slowly pour egg mixture into pie plate, evenly covering the cheese.

Place quiche into oven. Position a baking sheet on the rack below the quiche to catch any drippings. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until quiche is set in center and lightly browned on top. Cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

Wrap leftovers in plastic wrap and refrigerate. This tastes delicious served warm or cold.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

One Bowl Banana Chip Muffins

If you like to bake with your kiddos as much as I do, you know how nice it can be to use a recipe that only needs one bowl and a wooden mixing spoon.

My boys and I came up with this recipe to satisfy their craving for a "good snack" (i.e., something with chocolate in it) after school and to meet my goal of giving them something healthier than store-bought granola bars.

These muffins use apple sauce instead of oil or butter. After a few positive in-home tests, I decided to see what the middle school students we work with through the Junior League of Peoria's Kids in the Kitchen program thought of these treats.

The goal of Kids in the Kitchen is to empower kids to make healthy meals and snacks on their own, like these sweet potatoes topped with black bean and tomato salad. So a bowl and a spoon was as complicated as we wanted to get with our foray into baking.

As you guys know, I love to bake with bananas and I knew the pre-teens in our cooking group liked banana bread. This recipe was a hit with them. You can read more about it and see photos here.

The muffins are moist and flavorful and they freeze well.

Mangia! Mangia!

One Bowl Banana Chip Muffins

2 medium ripe bananas
1 cup apple sauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with liners or coat with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mash the banana with a fork. Add applesauce, vanilla, cinnamon and egg. Mix until smooth.

Add sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine. Add chocolate chips and mix well to incorporate.

Using a 1/4 cup measuring up, scoop mixture into muffin cups.

Bake for 15 minutes or until muffins rise and are golden brown on top. You also can test for doneness by using a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin. It should come out clean.

Remove muffins from oven and let cool 15 minutes before eating.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Greek Vegetable Bean Soup

The ingredients here are pretty traditional for a veggie bean soup, but the addition of lemon and olive oil to the broth takes this dish to another level — one the Greeks call Fasolada.

I found the recipe in a Costco member magazine and made 3 big batches all at once, so that I could share it with two other families.

And that's how I ended up tweaking the recipe. Because when I got to making the pot for my house, I ran out of a few things.

The end result is a delicious lunch or dinner. You'll have amazing leftovers or enough to freeze for a second meal.

Mangia! Mangia!

Greek Vegetable Bean Soup
Inspired by this recipe from Costco

3 cans white beans (like Northern), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium-large white onions, diced
4 celery stalks with leaves, diced
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into half moons
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
24 ounces diced tomatoes, with juice
6 cups water
1 large lemon, cut in half
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
Juice of 1/2 a large lemon
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Crumbled feta cheese for topping

Place a stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Sauté until onion is translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add drained beans, tomatoes, water, olive oil, halved lemon and salt and pepper to pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1 hour. Add lemon juice and parsley.

Ladle into bowls and top with feta cheese. Serve with a chunk of crusty bread.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

Here's a warm dinner (because spring is taking her sweet time arriving) that is easy to prep.

Set it up in your slow cooker before heading out to work or a busy day of running errands and come home to a slightly spicy, delicious meal.

The leftovers taste even better the next day.

Mangia! Mangia!

Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice
Inspired by this recipe from the Food Network

1 pound Italian sausage, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
4 cups chicken stock (or broth)
1 smoked ham hock
Sliced green onions for serving
4-6 cups cooked rice for serving

Cook sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat until each piece is nicely browned. (Sausage does not need to be cooked through.)

Drain and transfer sausage to bowl of slow cooker. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, beans, spices and brown sugar. Stir to combine. Add chicken stock and mix well. Nestle ham hock into center of crock.

Cook on low for about 7-8 hours. Alternatively, cook on high for 2 hours, then cook on low for another 3-4 hours or until ready to serve.

Serve in bowls with rice. Top with a sprinkle of sliced green onions.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Green Chile Turkey Quesadillas

I roasted a small turkey over the weekend. Winter's still clinging on here in Peoria so why not keep the oven going?

Now we have lots of leftover turkey. (Of course, you can easily sub leftover roasted chicken in this recipe.) I'll likely be making a batch of Cajun Turkey Jambalaya on Friday.

Last night, we had these quesadillas for dinner. I made them ahead and my boys warmed them up to eat while I headed out to a meeting. Nothing was left when I got home, so yay!

The recipe took about an hour from start to finish and made enough of two meals, so I froze 4 of the quesadillas. That's a win in my book.

Mangia! Mangia!

Green Chile Turkey Quesadilla

2-3 cups chopped cooked turkey (or chicken)
1 10 ounce can green enchilada sauce
1 4 ounce can diced green chilies
8 large (10 inch) flour tortillas
3 to 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
Cooking spray
For topping: salsa, sour cream, guacamole, sliced green onions

In a medium bowl, combine turkey, enchilada sauce and chilies. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spread pan with cooking spray. Place one tortilla in pan. Sprinkle cheese (scant 1/4 cup) on one half of tortilla. Top cheese with about 1/3 cup turkey mixture. Sprinkle more cheese on top.

(Note: I just eye balled the amounts of cheese and turkey mixture when I made these, so use an amount that seems best to you.)

Fold other half of tortilla over mixture and press down with a large spatula. Cook until cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute. Then flip quesadilla over to brown the other side, cooking for another minute.

Place on plate and cover to keep warm, or place on a baking sheet and hold in an oven warmed to 250 degrees.

Repeat process with remaining ingredients. You may need to lower the heat on the pan. You may also need to wipe out the pan once or twice to remove any blackened bits.

Serve warm with sour cream, salsa, guacamole and/or sliced green onions.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Connor's Chocolate Chip Muffins

My sister and her family are visiting this week and my nephew Connor needs at least one breakfast with chocolate chip muffins. And there can be no banana mixed into the muffins.

So Connor and my niece Layne helped me whip up a big batch of buttermilk chocolate chip muffins. We made large ones and some mini muffins, so that everyone could taste-test them.

Layne made a list to make sure everyone got a sample. Her Uncle Bob tried to refuse, but eventually ate 3 of them.

My boys, Layne and Connor say these muffins go great with bacon, hard boiled eggs and fruit for breakfast. Connor, who last appeared here when he inspired this cucumber salad recipe, also likes these muffins for dessert.

What's your favorite chocolate chip muffin recipe? Let us know!

Mangia! Mangia!

Connor's Chocolate Chip Muffins
Inspired by this recipe from

2 /12 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips (mini or regular size)
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or spread with coking spray. (This recipe makes a bit more than 12 muffins, unless you use an extra large muffin tray.)

Melt the butter in a microwave-safe dish and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking power, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture in the large bowl. Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry flour and gently stir to combine.

Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tins. Fill about 3/4 of the way to the top.

Layne filling the muffin cups.
Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes. Then lower the heat and bake for about 12-14 minutes or until the muffins are browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Mini muffins will cook faster.

Mini muffins.
Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes before enjoying with cousins for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack or dessert!

Connor tested and approved.