Cream Cheese Brownies

American Favorites
Not Greek, yet still delicious! 

Originally, I planned on making these to take to someone’s house, but since the weather was terrible I ended up staying home. Luckily for me and my husband, I only made a small batch that we finished over the weekend. 
In the Greek culture you never show up empty handed, anywhere. Whether you are just dropping in or have a set date with someone, you should always come bearing a small gift. This is traditionally sweets, wine, or flowers. I wanted to bring something a bit more American to my Greek/Australian friend, but it looks like she will be getting something else. So, these brownies will be to share with you now, they are the perfect combination of fudgey and cakey all topped with a light cream cheese flavor. 

Cream Cheese Brownies
1/4 cup AP flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup instant oats, slightly blended 
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
Dash of cinnamon or instant espresso
Dash of salt
175 g. baking chocolate bar (~ 6-8 small pieces), chopped
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 -3/4 cup sugar

Melt the butter and chocolate in a large bowl over water (or double boiler), in a separate bowl sift flours, oats, cocoa, and salt together. Once the butter and chocolate are melted, add the sugar and continue to stir. Once smooth and consistent, remove from heat and cool slightly. Begin whisking the chocolate mix while slowing adding the beaten eggs, vanilla, and espresso or cinnamon. Fold in the dry mixture and stir until just moistened. Pour into prepared pan and top with cream cheese, using a knife to make swirls. ake 35-40 minutes. If you prefer a more fudgey brownie, remove when toothpick has slight batter; if you prefer more cakey, cook until toothpick is removed clean.

Cream Cheese Swirl Recipe
6 oz Cream Cheese, softened
1/4 -1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla 
1 egg (optional) 
Cream together and pour over brownies, using a knife or small edge to create a swirl pattern. 

Make these next time you are meeting with some friends or family and see how they light up at the sight of chocolate and cream cheese brownies! And try your best not to take a bit out of them before sharing :)

Apples, Apples everywhere!

American Favorites
Winter is here. Along with it brings a delightful array of wonderful apples! So many recipes to try… the possibilities are endless.
Recipe #1 – Applesauce
Homemade applesauce is unbeatable and ever so easy. Once you try it, you will never buy store bought applesauce again. Even the process of canning the extra will make you feel all Martha Stewart without breaking sweat.
This is a good amount for us (since we are only two), but if you have a family you will definitely want to double, triple, or quadruple this recipe. Enjoy!
Homemade Applesauce

4-5 Apples, peeled-cored-chopped
3/4 cup filtered water
1/2 Lemon, juiced (and zest if you have bitter apples)
1 Tbsp. Apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar* (I only use 1-2 Tbsp. – I prefer a more natural taste)
1-2 tsp. cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick (and/or clove, allspice, ect)

Place apples, water, cider, and lemon in a saucepan on medium – medium high heat, simmer until apples are extremely soft, stirring occasionally to ensure they do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Mash the apples to desired consistency and continue to simmer until all water is evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and spices. From here, you can use a food mill for smoother texture or leave as is for more natural consistency.
While the applesauce is still hot, prepare your jars and fill with sauce leaving more or less than 1″ at the top to ensure a good seal. If you have leftover sauce and like apple butter, then you can continue to cook it down, adding more water, sugar, and spices as necessary.
Recipe #2 – Apple Cake
Being an American from the South, I know all about some apple pies. Now, since living in Greece, I have been introduced to apple cake.
I must admit that I whole-heartedly prefer it! It is unbeatable fresh out of the oven with a cold glass of milk in hand. It is extremely easy to make, and with this recipe you don’t have to feel guilty about going back for seconds or thirds. The cake is full of sweet apples, so you hardly need to add much sugar; by using half applesauce and half olive oil, the fat content is also not a factor. Win/win situation here!
Apple Cake Recipe

1/2 cup EVOO*
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Apple sauce
2 Eggs
4 cups Apples (About 4-5 apples, peeled-cored-chopped)
2-3 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 cup White Sugar / or Honey
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 cup All Purpose Flour (or sub. White Whole Wheat Flour if you have that luxury :)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Baking Soda

Preheat the oven to 350°/180° and butter well the pan you will be using. Begin beating the brown sugar and oil. Gradually add the applesauce, then the eggs one at a time, beating well. In a separate bowl, prepare your apples and mix with the white sugar or honey, vanilla, and cinnamon, set aside. Sift together the remaining dry ingredients and add to the liquid mixture by hand. The batter will be very thick, do not add any water, but instead fold in the apples thoroughly. Pour into prepared pan and bake in oven for 40-45 minutes or 55 minutes if using a bunt pan. Check to make sure a knife or toothpick removes cleanly before removing from oven. Cool slightly on rack for 10 minutes, and then serve warm.

I also have a great Applesauce Spice Cake that is pretty scrumptious too! I will share that with you another time. Enjoy your apples and remember, “When the apple is ripe, it will fall” – Irish Proverb and life lesson for today!

Banana Bread …and low fat too!!!

American Favorites
Oh, glorious banana bread!

I think everyone has a good banana bread recipe they love, as well as they should! But, does everyone have a low fat banana bread recipe that is probably better than that other one?

Next time you are in the kitchen, try my recipe for banana bread and don’t forget to let me know what you think.

Banana Bread Recipe  (Makes 1 loaf or 6 mini loaves)
1 cup bananas (~2 cups), mashed
1/2 cup yogurt (I use strained Greek yogurt)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 oil (canola or olive oil is best)
1/2 – 3/4 cup sugars (I use 1/4 brown, 1/4 cup white)
1 lg, egg or 2 egg whites, beaten
1-2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour (I use 1 c. whole wheat, 1/2 cup AP)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350° (180° C), and line or butter your loaf pan. In a small bowl, mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, and baking soda, then set aside. In a larger bowl, beat oil and sugars, slowly adding egg, then vanilla. I use a sifter, adding all of my dry ingredients and slowly adding 1/3 of the mix to the sugar mixture. Next, fold in 1/2 of the yogurt/banana mix, alternating with flour until everything is just moistened. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for about 35-45 minutes, watching carefully not to burn the top. If the top begins to burn, use a foil tent to cover and continue baking. Cool on wire rack in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan, continuing to cool completely.

I bet you are wondering how all those “healthier” ingredients change the flavor?! Well, I think it is just as wonderful, if not better than other similar recipes. I guess you will just have to judge for yourself, but until then just imagine eating a piece with a little butter.

Banana bread is one of those foods that just by the smell takes you all the way back to childhood. It is great to eat for breakfast or an afternoon snack. There is nothing better than biting into a fresh piece that is still warm and slightly melts in your mouth. Banana bread also freezes very well too, and you might as well go ahead and make 2 loaves while you have everything out, just double the recipe and freeze once cooled completely.

Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls.

American Favorites
To be completely honest, there is nothing Greek about these… it is ALL-American!
These were also my substitute this year to a Thanksgiving lunch, and I am quite confident that I achieved my calorie quota for the day.

THE Cinnamon Roll Recipe: For 1 pan of Ooey-Gooey Rolls
Printable Recipe Here
1 cup warm milk (110° F/45° C)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup butter or oil, softened
4 cups bread flour
1 T. sugar or honey, optional
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant dry yeast

I used a bread maker to actually knead the dough and rise, but I have also done this by hand. The secret here is to work the dough until you can actually feel it change into a soft, pliable texture. If you have a bread maker to use, simply add the liquid first then the dry and set to “dough” setting. If you are doing it the old fashioned way, set to “by hand” and start with a large bowl. First, add all of the dry ingredients (minus 3/4 cups of your flour, waiting to add at the end) to your bowl and stir. Warm the milk to 110-115° or to where it is very warm to the touch, but not burning. Slowly add the oil and eggs and give a couple of turns with a wooden spoon. Slowly add the milk and stir into a dough until it becomes too difficult to keep using a spoon.

Flour your hands and begin to shape the dough, add the remaining flour by the tablespoon to keep the dough from sticking. You can knead the dough inside your bowl or onto a floured counter; I usually knead inside the bowl for a few minutes, and when it stops being sticky I turn it out onto the counter. To form or shape the dough, you want to push the heel of your dominant hand (just above your wrist, not your foot) into the dough while turning the dough over with your other hand, repeat for 8-10 minutes until the dough is not sticky and it feels very pliable!
Spray the cleaned, big bowl with oil and turn to coat your dough ball, cover tightly with kitchen plastic and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour! I turn on my oven to low for a few minutes and then leave on the light while the dough rises, this works like a charm for rising anytime of the year!

1 – 1 1/2 cups sugar (white and/or light brown)
2-3 T. cinnamon
1/3 – 2/3 cup butter, melted slightly

Remove your dough out onto a floured surface and roll out into as uniform of a rectangle as you can :) Mix cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl, spread the butter all over your dough and then top generously with the sugar mix. The key here is to not be stingy. I actually don’t even measure this part of the recipe, I usually wing it and am quite liberal. Let’s face it, can a cinnamon roll really ever be healthy? I think that if you do get it “healthy” it will always be sub-par to every other cinnamon roll out there, and that is at the sacrifice of a few calories that you will probably just eat somewhere else anyway! My philosophy when making these, GO BIG OR GO HOME!!!

Roll up length-wise and cut into about 1″ rolls with either kitchen scissors or dental floss (works well if you make a loop and both both ends). Arrange in a lightly buttered pan of your choice, I used a spring form round and it works great. Bake in a preheated oven of 400 F./200 C. for around 12-15 minutes, checking for them to be golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, glaze or frost or drizzle to your preference, and serve warm with coffee or milk!

1 (3 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar, powdered
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt

I usually have a batch of this icing made up and in the freezer for the spontaneous occasion I am craving something that needs a little sweet drizzle. I generally only drizzle, rather than actually frosting them but you can do whatever your heart desires! It is even wonderful to add a few drops of milk and make a glaze to pour on top while they are hot out of the oven too!

These are an easy and sure to be favorite weekend treat for all lovers of cinnamon like me! These pictures are from my first days as a food blogger so be sure to check out this similar recipe with slight alterations HERE!

Kali Orexi!