The Baker Upstairs

7.04.2018

Patriotic Cookie Cake

Yum
This patriotic cookie cake is so easy to make, and so festive for the 4th of July!

This patriotic cookie cake is so easy to make, and so festive for the 4th of July!

Happy Fourth of July everyone! My family has an extra reason to celebrate this year - we closed on our first home yesterday! We've had our share of twists and turns in our home buying journey (including an earlier purchase that fell through and pretty much broke my heart). The house we ended up buying is right down the street from our kids' school, close to my husband's work, and in a great area overall. It's in really good shape, but still has enough projects to do to keep us busy. I can't wait to make it my own! We've been working toward this goal for years now, and it feels totally amazing to have finally accomplished it, especially considering how competitive and crazy the housing market is in Portland right now. Hooray!

This patriotic cookie cake is so easy to make, and so festive for the 4th of July!

We won't move in for another few weeks, but we're planning to head over this evening to sit on the porch and watch the kids do sparklers. We haven't had a yard for the kids to play in since we moved to Portland, and I'm so excited to just watch them run around for a little while. How exciting is that? We'll also be celebrating with this delicious and fun patriotic cookie cake. It's super simple and quick to make, and tastes fantastic! It's loaded with chocolate chips and M&M's, with a soft and moist cookie base. I added a little bit of buttercream on top (mostly so I could decorate it with some fun sprinkles!) but it's delicious with or without the frosting. This cookie cake is the perfect way to celebrate today, and is easily adaptable for any holiday by changing out the M&M's. It's definitely one to add to your list!

This patriotic cookie cake is so easy to make, and so festive for the 4th of July!
Patriotic Cookie Cake

for the cookie cake:
12 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups red, white, and blue M&M candies, divided
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, divided

for the frosting:
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 teaspoons half and half or milk
red, white, and blue sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 10 inch quiche pan or springform pan and set aside. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the flour, corn starch, baking soda, and salt, and mix until just combined, being careful not to over-mix. Fold in 1 1/4 cups M&M's candies and 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips. Press the batter into the prepared pan in an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining M&M's and chocolate chips. Bake 22-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool completely.

When the cake has cooled, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon half and half. Beat until smooth, adding additional half and half as needed to make a light and fluffy frosting. Pipe the frosting around the edges of the cake, then add sprinkles.

adapted from Baking a Moment
This patriotic cookie cake is so easy to make, and so festive for the 4th of July!

7.02.2018

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

Yum
This savory and flavorful pasta e fagioli soup is easy to make, and super delicious!

This savory and flavorful pasta e fagioli soup is easy to make, and super delicious!

I know, right? It's July, and here I am posting a soup recipe. I'm clearly insane. It's one of my quirks that I love soup so much that I eat it frequently year round, regardless of how hot it is outside. This particular soup, though, I actually made several months ago during the winter. It was during a time that I was really busy with lots of projects, and I think I made it on a day when I had cooked and photographed 4 or 5 other recipes. We had it for dinner, and I was so worn out that I just didn't think much about it one way or the other. The recipe made a lot, so I saved the leftovers in the freezer for another day, and we pulled it out to have for dinner last week on a lazy evening. I took one bite, turned to my husband, and said, "Oh my gosh! This is fantastic! Was it this fantastic the first time?" He claims that it was, and that I just didn't notice its brilliance because I was so exhausted.

Having (re)discovered how incredibly tasty this soup is, I couldn't wait to share it with you! It has amazing depth of flavor, considering that its simmer time is not all that long, and it's loaded with tasty veggies, savory sausage, and tender pasta. It's hearty and filling, but still feels like a light meal. I served it with some of these yummy Olive Garden copycat breadsticks, and they were so delicious together. This soup is definitely worth heating the kitchen up for! 

This savory and flavorful pasta e fagioli soup is easy to make, and super delicious!

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

1 pound mild Italian sausage
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced
3/4 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 cups chicken broth
1 (16 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 pound ditalini or macaroni pasta, cooked according to package directions

In a large pot, brown the sausage until cooked through. Drain the excess fat, leaving about 1-2 teaspoons in the pot. Add the garlic, onion, carrots and celery, and cook until slightly softened. Add the chicken broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Simmer 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the beans and cooked pasta, and serve immediately.

*If you are making this recipe ahead of time, keep the cooked pasta separate from the soup until ready to serve. The soup can also be frozen, with the cooked pasta frozen in a separate container and stirred into the soup when reheated.

adapted from Damn Delicious
This savory and flavorful pasta e fagioli soup is easy to make, and super delicious!

6.27.2018

Fresh and Tasty Brown Rice Bowls

Yum
These fresh and tasty brown rice bowls are super delicious, packed with protein, and loaded with fresh toppings!

These fresh and tasty brown rice bowls are super delicious, packed with protein, and loaded with fresh toppings!

Okay, Oregon locals, who here loves Cafe Yumm? A friend recommended them to me right after we moved here, and it took me a long time to finally try them out. I was pretty skeptical about their whole concept, until I tasted my first Yumm Bowl and it was love at first bite. If you're not local and haven't tried them, they are bowls with brown rice and black bean at the base, smothered with an amazing and flavorful sauce, then topped with a protein (I always choose chicken) and fresh toppings like tomato, avocado, grated cheese, sliced olives, sour cream, and salsa. They're healthy and fresh and delicious, and are totally filling while still feeling light. Once we discovered how good they were, my husband and I couldn't get enough and visited Cafe Yumm for lunch at least every other week. Pretty soon, though, the cost of all those bowls started to add up and our bank account wasn't very happy. We decided to try our hand at making them at home, and came up with this fun copycat recipe.  I'm still working on the sauce a little bit, because it doesn't taste EXACTLY like the Cafe Yumm sauce, but it's super delicious all the same!

These fresh and tasty brown rice bowls are super delicious, packed with protein, and loaded with fresh toppings!

We make these brown rice bowls at home at least once a week (and sometimes as often as 2-3 times per week) and we love them every time! They're so fresh and filling, and it's easy to customize them depending on what I have in the house. I've made them with barbecue chicken, taco-seasoned chicken, rotisserie chicken, and grilled chicken, and they're delicious each way. I always have cooked chicken in the freezer, and I like to make a big batch of brown rice and portion it out into meal-sized servings, then freeze it. I also buy cans of olives and black beans in bulk just to have them on hand for these bowls. Having the two main ingredients already cooked, and keeping most of what I need on hand really helps to make these bowls quick and easy to prepare. I definitely recommend using brown rice, because it adds some great texture and doesn't get soggy with all the toppings. We like ours with black beans, but you could easily substitute any beans you like. The most important part is to pile on the fresh toppings! My favorite way to serve them is with avocado, tomato, olives, sour cream, salsa, and grated cheddar cheese. Soooooo delicious!
Brown Rice Bowls

for the sauce:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (I used this brand)

for the bowls:
cooked brown rice (I like to use this recipe)
black beans, drained and rinsed
protein of your choice (chicken, tofu, steak, etc.)
fresh toppings: tomato, avocado, chopped olives, corn, cilantro, grated cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc.

To make the sauce, add the oil, almonds, beans, and coconut milk to a blender and blend until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate for one hour or until ready to use. To make the bowls, layer about 1/2 cup of brown rice in the bottom of a bowl. Top with 1/4 cup black beans, then spread a generous layer of sauce on top. Top with protein and fresh toppings of your choice, then enjoy.

sauce adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
These fresh and tasty brown rice bowls are super delicious, packed with protein, and loaded with fresh toppings!
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