the baker upstairs: 2012

12.31.2012

buttery pretzel bites

Yum

These pretzel bites are to die for. I've made them dozens of times now, and they are so delicious and soft and buttery. And I probably shouldn't admit this, but Geoff and I polished off an entire batch between the two of us in one evening. They're just that good! I followed the recipe pretty much exactly, except that I only used a tablespoon of baking soda in the water, and tossed them in 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a plastic bag. Also, at least when I make them, they really want to stick to the pan, so I baked them on a silicone mat sprayed liberally with cooking spray, and that seemed to do the trick. If you're looking for an awesome (and easy!) appetizer for your New Year's Eve party tonight, these are it!
Pretzel Bites
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Dough:
2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) very warm water

Topping:
1/2 cup (4 ounces) warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse salt (optional)
3 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix to just combine. Add the water and mix well, adding more flour, as needed, a bit at a time to form a soft, smooth dough that clears the sides and bottom of the bowl. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it is soft and smooth. Lightly flour the dough and place it in a plastic bag; close the bag, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest for 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with a silicone mat or parchment paper and lightly greasing it. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into four strips of equal length. Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda in a liquid measuring cup (deep enough to dip the pretzel bites into).

Cut each strip of dough into about 6-8 pieces, about 1 to 1 ½ inches in width. Dip each pretzel bite in the baking soda solution, and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Bake the pretzels for 7-8 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you’ve used it all up. Eat the pretzels warm and enjoy!

12.28.2012

snickerdoodle blondies

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This year for Christmas I had the brilliant idea of giving an assortment of homemade treats as gifts. It was a smooth sailing until the morning before Geoff's family's party, when I flew around the kitchen like a crazy person, trying to get everything ready at once! I ended up making almond joy macaroons (recipe coming soon!), caramel popcorn, slow cooker cinnamon almonds, and these delicious snickerdoodle blondies. I'm always a big fan of snickerdoodles, and I'm loving making bars and brownies lately! These blondies had a really great texture... dense and moist on the inside and just slightly crunchy on the outside. I loved the cinnamon sugar sprinkled over the top, too! They're simple and easy to make, and I love that they have no unusual ingredients, so I have everything I need to make them in the house pretty much all the time.
Snickerdoodle Blondies
adapted from Lovin from the Oven

2 2/3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup softened butter
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan. Combine flour baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar for 3-5 minutes. Add in the eggs and the vanilla, and beat until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted two inches from the side of the pan comes out clean. Cool before cutting. Makes 20-24 bars.

12.27.2012

andes creme de menthe cream cheese cookies

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Hi everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I spent most of Christmas day feeling sick, but still managed to squeeze in some wonderful time with my family. My girls were spoiled (as usual) by their aunts, uncles, and grandparents, and got so many fun gifts! Geoff got a table saw from my parents (to his everlasting delight) and I got a gift certificate for a new pair of glasses, which I desperately need! I think the best part of all, though, was having my whole family together. We've had some ups and downs in the past few years, and it was so nice that everyone could come together to celebrate and enjoy each others' company. I feel so blessed to have so many good things in my life this Christmas... two gorgeous little girls, a loving husband, a wonderful and supportive extended family, and a new job that I love! And I'm grateful for the opportunity to share a little bit of my life (and a lot of my food!) with all of you readers. I love each and every comment, and I'm so glad you come around here and check out my corner of the blogging world!

I have a delicious cookie to share with you today! Last week I realized that it was the night before Abby's Christmas party at school, and I didn't have a gift for her teacher! I had pinned these cookies a long time ago, and it seemed like the perfect time to make them. I love Andes creme de menthe chips, and the cookie dough is creamy and moist because of the cream cheese. Judging from the super nice thank you note Abby's teacher sent home, I think the cookies were a hit!
Andes Creme de Menthe Cream Cheese Cookies
adapted from Sweet Treats & More

1/2 c. cream cheese, soft
1/2 c. butter, soft
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 c. flour
1 pkg Andes creme de menthe baking chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter together. Gradually beat in sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and salt. Whisk together baking powder and flour in a small bowl and add to cream cheese mixture. Stir in 1/2 of the bag of Andes creme de menthe baking chips.  Let chill in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto baking sheet, spaced 2 inches apart. The cookies will spread quite a bit when they cook. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes, until bottom edges barely turns brown. Remove cookies and let cool.

In a small bowl, microwave the remaining creme de menthe chips until melted.  Drizzle the chocolate over the cookies and let cool.

12.25.2012

merry christmas!

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From my kitchen to yours, best wishes for a beautiful holiday season!

With love from The Baker Upstairs

12.24.2012

challah french toast & peppered bacon

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This last weekend was pretty much the best weekend ever! My sister in law watched both girls for us overnight (squee!) so we could go to a Christmas concert by my favorite singer, Peter Breinholt. I've been his biggest fan since I was 13 (almost 17 years now), and his Christmas concert has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions! We had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants (Red Rock Brewery), and delicious belgian waffles from Bruges for dessert. The concert was amazing (I laughed, I cried, etc.) and we had a wonderful evening. But I think the best part of the weekend was being able to sleep in on Sunday morning! It seems like forever since I've been able to get out of bed when I want to, as opposed to when some little person needs me.

Along with our luxurious sleep-in, we had an amazing breakfast together, just the two of us! We picked up some awesome challah bread at our favorite grocery store the night before, and made it into delicious buttery french toast. And some tasty caramelized peppered bacon was the perfect accompaniment! I have to confess that Geoff is the bacon maker in our family... I'm always worried that it's not cooked enough, and it's so hard to get the pieces to cook evenly. When I saw this method from Martha Stewart, I decided it was worth a try, and it blew my mind! It was so easy to make, even easier to clean up, and the bacon was crispy and evenly cooked and delicious! To make things extra special, I sprinkled on a little freshly ground black pepper and brown sugar, and it took the bacon over the top!


I think this was the most delicious breakfast we've had in ages. I'm already wishing we could make it again for Christmas breakfast tomorrow!
Challah French Toast

3 large eggs
2 T milk (I used whole milk)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
8 slices challah bread (or you could use french bread, brioche, etc.)

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt in a shallow dish until well combined. Lightly butter the skillet, and quickly dip each slice of bread into the egg mixture, coating both sides. Add to skillet and cook 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Top with powdered sugar and syrup (or whatever your heart desires).

Peppered Bacon

bacon (I made 6 slices total)
ground black pepper
brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with heavy duty foil, or use a double layer of regular foil. Arrange bacon pieces on baking sheet. Sprinkle with black pepper and brown sugar. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until desired level of doneness. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain excess grease.

12.20.2012

cookie butter rice krispy treats

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The big news around here lately is that a Trader Joe's finally opened, and only a mile or two away from my house! We visited one in Arizona last year, and finally got to try the famed Joe Joe's (they did not disappoint!). Last week Geoff and I finally had the opportunity to visit our local TJ's on our date night, and had a great time looking around and trying out samples. It was hard to narrow down our purchases, but we finally settled on some Peppermint Joe Joe's, s'mores ice cream sandwiches, Dubliner cheese (our favorite), and Speculoos Cookie Butter. I've seen so many fun recipes using cookie butter lately, and I was excited to try it out! From what I've heard, it's very similar to Biscoff spread, so if you don't have a Trader Joe's in your area, feel free to substitute Biscoff instead.

As I've said before, Geoff is the undisputed master of rice krispy treats at our house, although he does accept suggestions from me as to flavorings. I begged him to throw in some cookie butter, and it made for some awesome treats, especially with a little chocolate drizzled on top. The gingerbread-y cookie butter flavor was subtle but tasty, and the treats had a perfect chewy and crunchy texture. I'm looking forward to experimenting with more cookie butter recipes!
Cookie Butter Rice Krispy Treats

4 T butter
1 10 ounce package marshmallows
1/2 cup cookie butter
6 cups rice krispies (more or less as desired)
1/2 cup chopped chocolate of your choice (you could use chocolate chips, candy melts, etc.)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan, and add marshmallows. Stir until marshmallows are melted, then add cookie butter. Stir until melted and consistent throughout, then add rice krispies to taste. Press into a 9 x 9 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and allow to cool. In a small microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate by heating on half power for 1 minute, stirring, and then heating in 30 second intervals on half power until melted. Drizzle over rice krispy treats, and allow to harden. Enjoy!

12.19.2012

slow cooker chicken tortilla soup

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I posted this a few weeks ago on High Heels & Grills, and I'm excited to share it here too! This recipe is completely amazing! I've made it twice now, and we have loved it both times. I love that it's quick and easy to throw together in the morning, and then it cooks in the slow cooker all day and makes the house smell delicious. This recipe makes a lot, so be prepared to share with friends or freeze the rest for later. We ended up eating it two different nights this, and still had enough left over for two meals' worth in the freezer. I topped my soup with some vintage white cheddar and storebought tortilla strips, and it was divine! I think next time I'll throw in a little guacamole on top, and reach soup nirvana. Enjoy!
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Baked by Rachel

1 lb chicken breast, trimmed
15 oz can sweet whole corn kernels, drained
15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
5 C chicken stock
3/4 C onion, chopped
3/4 C green pepper, chopped
1 serrano pepper, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp ground pepper, divided
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Seasoned tortilla strips

To your slow cooker add first 9 ingredients plus 1 tsp salt and 3/4 tsp ground pepper. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Prior to serving, remove chicken breasts. Transfer chicken to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for easy shredding. Alternately you may shred chicken by hand. Season chicken with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Return shredded seasoned chicken to slow cooker bowl. Stir gently. If serving immediately, divide among bowls. Top off with a generous helping of shredded cheese and seasoned tortilla strips. Soup may be stored in the fridge for up to several days. If freezing, label containers well with soup name and date.

12.18.2012

blueberry coconut cake with warm lemon sauce

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A little over a week ago, my best friend Cort turned thirty! (I'm trying to ignore the fact that that means I will be turning thirty in about two months...) In any case it seemed like a great idea to bring her some cake to celebrate. I pinned this cake several months ago, and kept looking longingly at the picture, but it took me forever to get around to making it. It was definitely worth the wait. The combination of coconut, lemon, and blueberry is just outstanding! The cake itself is light and moist, and the addition of the lemon sauce is amazing. I served it with a little freshly whipped cream on the side, and it was a perfect accompaniment. Even better, the cake is so easy and quick to make that you can have it ready in no time! Along with my favorite strawberry summer cake, this is a perfect recipe to have in your back pocket for any occasion.
Blueberry Coconut Cake with Warm Lemon Sauce
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (unthawed)
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut

For the sauce:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch aluminum baking dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and oil. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula just until moistened. Toss the fresh or frozen blueberries with the 2 tablespoons flour and fold them in very gently to the batter. Don’t overmix or the batter will start take on a blue-ish tinge.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the coconut and bake for 18-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack.

For the sauce, in a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and grated lemon zest. Gradually whisk in the water until blended. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking often, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes at a boil until the mixture is thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice. The sauce can be used warm or at room temperature. Cut the cake into squares and drizzle each piece with the lemon sauce. Serve.

12.17.2012

quick & easy pizza pockets

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A couple years ago, I attempted pizza pockets for the first time, and it was a disaster! The crust ended up soggy and gross, the fillings spilled out, and they looked like unappetizing blobs. In the last year or so, I've gotten pretty good at making homemade pizza, but I was wary of attempting pizza pockets again. When I saw this recipe on Pinterest a few weeks ago, I decided to give them another try, and I'm so glad I did! These pizza pockets were delicious, and super duper easy to make. It was even easy to customize them for the different members of our family. Geoff and I had them with turkey pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, and green peppers, and the girls just had cheese in theirs. I'm excited about all the possibilities for fillings... I think my next experiment is definitely going to be chicken, broccoli, and cheddar. Yum! These would be perfect to throw in the freezer and reheat in the microwave for a quick meal. The variations are endless!
Easy Pizza Pockets
adapted from Your Homebased Mom

1 cup warm water
3 tsp yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Pizza fillings: we used turkey pepperoni, olives, green peppers, and mushrooms with mozzarella and marinara, but the possibilities are endless!

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine yeast and sugar with warm water and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until bubbly. Add flour, salt, and oil to yeast mixture. Combine wet ingredients in dry ingredients into mixer and knead for 5 minutes until dough is smooth and just slightly sticky. Allow to rise for at least one hour. Divide dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece of dough into circle. Layer one half of each piece of dough with desired toppings. If you are using marinara or other sauce, be sure to keep it at least an inch away from the edges, or they will be difficult to seal. Pull the other half of the dough over the top of filling and seal the edges closed. Bake at 450 until golden brown - about 12-15 minutes. I brushed mine with a little olive oil to help with browning, and baked them on a pizza stone. Pizza pocket perfection!

12.13.2012

slow cooker cinnamon almonds

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My friend Alyssa posted about these a couple of months ago, and I've been dying to try them since then. She actually shared some of them with me when she made them, and they were completely heavenly! I really had no idea they could be so easy to make! I did have a moment when I feared I had completely ruined them, with no hope of redemption, but they turned out just perfect. And from the way none of us can stop snacking on them, I'm sure it will be necessary to make another batch before Christmas. Seriously, these almonds are the greatest!
Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds
adapted from The Recipe Critic

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups almonds
3 tablespoons water

In a large bowl, whisk together egg white and vanilla until frothy. Add almonds and toss thoroughly to coat. Whisk together sugars, cinnamon, and salt, and sprinkle over almond mixture. Toss to coat.

Spray a slow cooker with cooking spray, and add the cinnamon almond mixture. Cover and heat on low for two hours, stirring every twenty minutes. After two hours, add water and stir well. Cook for another 40 minutes to 1 hour, continuing to stir every twenty minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the almonds on the sheet to cool. Separate the almonds as much as possible so they don't stick together. At this point, the coating may look very dark and slimy, and not at all what you were imagining! Never fear, when it cools it will turn into a delicious crunchy coating!

When the almonds have cooled, break apart any almonds that are stuck together, and store in an airtight container. I found that letting mine sit out overnight before I put them in a container actually helped them achieve the level of crunchiness that I liked best, but it's completely up to you!

12.12.2012

cheddar & scallion waffles

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I know what you're thinking. And trust me, I was skeptical too. That is, until my first bite, when I realized how amazingly delicious these waffles are! I don't think I ever imagined that I could enjoy cheddar and scallions on the same plate as maple syrup, but here we are. These waffles are the perfect combination of savory and sweet, and taste very sophisticated, even though they are incredibly simple to make. Just looking at the picture is making me want to make them again! They are definitely a new favorite for weekend breakfasts!
Cheddar & Scallion Waffles
Lauren's Latest

1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 whole scallion, chopped finely (white and green parts)

In large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. Gently stir in all wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in cheese and scallions. Pour batter onto greased, preheated waffle iron. Serve hot with butter and syrup.

12.11.2012

pumpkin chocolate chip pudding cookies

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I have my very favorite cookie recipe here that I know backwards and forwards, and could make in my sleep. But sometimes a pudding cookie is just where it's at! The other night I was craving that soft pudding cookie texture, and who better to turn to than the queen of pudding cookies, Chef In Training?  Luckily I happened to have a box of pumpkin spice pudding in the cupboard, and in no time I was stuffing my face with deliciousness! Since these turned out so well, I'm excited to try some of her other varieties, like root beer pudding cookies and s'more pudding cookies.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies
Chef in Training

3/4 cup butter softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 small pkg. pumpkin spice instant pudding mix
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/4 cup flour
1-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter, brown sugar and sugar together in a large bowl. Add in dry pumpkin spice instant pudding mix and beat until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add flour and baking soda and beat until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Roll dough into 1" balls. Place them on a greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes.

12.10.2012

brazilian black bean soup and pão de queijo

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I think I've firmly established what a soup lover I am, but just in case... here's another soup recipe! This one's a little unusual, but still delicious and easy to make. It has a hint of spiciness, but is still mild enough for the kids. Or in my case, kid. Abby wanted nothing to do with it, but Lizzy eagerly slurped up every spoonful. One thing everybody could get behind, though, were the little bites of cheesy heaven known as pão de queijo! They're cheesy rolls made with tapioca flour, and pretty much just melt in your mouth. Yum!
Black Bean Soup
Our Best Bites

1 T olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3/4 C diced carrots (about 2 med carrots)
3/4 C diced celery (about 2 ribs)
1 C diced onion (about 1 sm-med onion)
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 3.5oz can green chilies
2 cans low-sodium beef broth (I used chicken broth instead)
1 t kosher salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 t chili powder
1/4 t cumin
1/2 t dry oregano leaves
1 bay leaf
Optional Toppings: sour cream, tortilla chips, grated cheese, chopped cilantro, etc.

Place a large stock pot on the stove-top and set to medium-high heat.  When pan is warm, add olive oil.  Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and saute 4-5 minutes. Add in the black beans, chilies, and beef broth. Stir to combine and then add the salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and bay leaf. Simmer uncovered for about 20-25 minutes or until carrots are tender. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf from soup. Place soup in a blender. (You could use an immersion blender in place of this step) Place lid on blender, but remove the stopper in the lid to let heat escape. Place a paper towel over the hole to avoid splatters. Puree soup until completely smooth.  Optionally you could pulse until a semi-chunky soup is achieved. Squeeze in the juice from one lime and pulse to combine. Ladle into bowls and top with desired toppings. Serve with extra lime wedges.

Pão de Queijo
The Kitchn

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (10 ounces) tapioca flour or sour cassava flour (I used Bob's Red Mill Brand)
2 eggs
1 - 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese (I used cheddar instead, because I was out)

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking pan with parchment and set aside. Combine the milk, oil, and salt in the saucepan, and whisking occasionally, bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove from heat as soon as you see big bubbles coming through the milk. Add all of the tapioca flour to the saucepan and stir until you see no more dry tapioca flour. The dough will be grainy and gelatinous at this point.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the dough for a few minutes at medium speed until it smooths out and has cooled enough that you can hold your finger against the dough for several seconds.

Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl. With the mixer on medium, beat the eggs into the dough in two additions. Wait until the first addition has been fully incorporated into the dough before adding the second. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on medium, beat in the cheese until fully incorporated. The resulting dough will be very sticky, stretchy, and soft with a consistency between cake batter and cookie dough.

Using an ice cream scoop, a tablespoon measure, or a dinner spoon, scoop rounded portions of the dough into mounds on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Space the mounds an inch or two apart. Dip your scoop in water to prevent sticking.

Transfer the sheet with the puffs to the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 350°F. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the puffs have puffed, the outsides are dry, and they are just starting to color. Cool briefly and eat. Leftover puffs can be kept in an airtight container for up to a week and re-crisped in a warm oven or toaster oven.

12.07.2012

buttery crescent rolls

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Somehow whenever I'm stressed, baking seems to be the best way to release all of my pent-up emotions. Last week when I was waiting on pins and needles to hear back about my new job, I decided to whip up some crescent rolls (you know, just 4 dozen or so) to calm my nerves. It worked (at least temporarily)! I had seen these rolls pinned a million times on Pinterest, and decided to give them a shot. They gave my Kitchenaid a bit of a workout, with all the flour, but they ended up being soft and buttery and delicious! Geoff ate a few, and then turned to me and said, "These are good." I said, "I know!" and he said, "No, I mean they're REALLY good." So they definitely have the Geoff stamp of approval!
Buttery Crescent Rolls
adapted from How Does She?

1 1/2 cups of milk
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces, plus 1 cup melted butter
3/4 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons yeast
2 cups of warm water
about 9-10 cups of all purpose flour

In a measuring cup, dissolve 2 tablespoons yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar in 2 cups of warm water. Let sit until yeast has proofed and is bubbly. Heat 1 1/2 cups of milk, 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup of butter in a microwave safe bowl for about 2 minutes. Stir in order to melt remaining lumps of butter. Add to a stand mixer bowl (or use a large mixing bowl) and mix in 1-2 cups of flour. Add 1 egg and 1 Tablespoon of salt. Add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture, and mix. Gradually add remaining flour, 2 cups at a time, mixing between each addition. Be careful not to over-flour the dough. It is ready when it cleans the sides of the bowl and is slightly sticky to the touch. Smooth the dough into a ball, and place in a lightly sprayed bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1-2 hours.

Prepare baking sheets by spraying with cooking spray. Punch down dough and separate into four equal-sized balls. Roll each ball out into a circle on a floured countertop, about 1/4 inch thick. Cut each circle into 12 wedges, then roll up each wedge starting at the wide end to form a crescent shape. Arrange rolls 1 inch apart on baking sheets and cover with plastic wrap.

Preheat oven to 350. When the rolls have risen so that they are touching, bake sheets of rolls, one at a time, for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm with butter and jam, and enjoy!

12.06.2012

cheesy taco pasta

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Another easy (and totally tasty!) dinner for you today! When I was growing up, my mom occasionally made a meal we called macaroni and cheeseburger, and I loved it! It was just basic macaroni and cheese (from a box) with a little ground turkey thrown in, but somehow the ground turkey made it extra special. When Geoff and I were first married, I used to make it for him all the time, until finally he admitted that he kind of hated it. I was shocked that my beloved meal could be met with such disdain! I've tried making it for Abby too, and she's said things like, "Next time you make my noodles, can you not put hamburgers in them?" Hmph. Anyway, when I saw this recipe, I decided it would be an excellent compromise. It has the cheesy noodly hamburgery goodness that I'm always craving, but it's a little more sophisticated, and probably healthier and more wholesome, since it doesn't come from a box!

I used medium salsa, and it ended up being a little spicy for Abby (though Lizzy gobbled it down like nobody's business). Geoff said he loved it and would be happy to have it any time, so I'm going to count it as a win! This is definitely a great meal for a busy weeknight!
Cheesy Taco Pasta
adapted from Lauren's Latest

1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 taco seasoning packet
1 1/2 cups southwest salsa
1/2 cup water
1/2 lb. pasta
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup cream
salt & pepper, to taste

Bring water to boil to cook the pasta. Cook pasta until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, cook ground turkey, breaking apart as you go. When the turkey is cooked, add taco seasoning, salsa and water. Simmer until pasta is finished cooking.

Once pasta is cooked, drain well and pour into skillet. Top with cheese, cream, salt and pepper. Stir until cheese melts and noodles are coated in sauce. Serve immediately.

12.05.2012

easy chocolate-covered caramels

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Even with all my reluctance towards sweets lately (seriously... what's up with that?) I never get sick of caramel. I could eat my body weight in caramel and still want more! I try to limit myself to only making caramels once a year, at Christmas, but when I do make them, they're spectacular! This year I decided to go all out and add a chocolate drizzle over the top, and it was definitely the way to go! The caramels are soft and buttery while still firm enough to hold their shape, and the chocolate just adds a little sweetness and charm. I'm planning to give these out as gifts to my neighbors, and I'm guessing we'll be the most popular family on the block. :)

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that the caramel is pretty foolproof. You don't even need a candy thermometer! You'll know it's done when it gets to be a rich amber color and has thickened. These caramels are a little lighter than I usually make them, so they're not quite as firm as they should be, but they're delicious either way. I think they're best stored in the fridge and eaten cold. I'm trying to convince myself that I don't need to make another batch before Christmas, but it appears to be a losing battle...
Easy Soft Caramels
adapted from Annie's Eats

1 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
2 (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
4 tablespoons light corn syrup

Prepare a 9 x 9 baking dish by lining with foil, and spraying liberally with cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat until butter is melted, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium high, until the mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring constantly, until caramel has turned a rich amber color and thickened slightly. Pour into prepared pan and refrigerate until completely cooled.

To make the chocolate drizzle, I just used candy melts (available at Michael's, Joann, even Walmart) and melted about 1/4 cup in a microwave safe bowl. I put the melted chocolate into a ziploc bag, snipped a small piece off the corner, drizzled the chocolate over the caramels, and then returned them to the fridge to harden.

12.04.2012

barbecue sloppy joes

Yum
Check out my guest post today on Emma the Joy! I'm sharing a step by step recipe for my crusty artisan bread.


I've only ever seen one episode of The Next Food Network Star, but it will forever be stuck in my mind because of sloppy joes. Martha Stewart was a guest judge for the episode, and she was given a sample of sloppy joe to try. The look on her face was pretty much just priceless. In the end, she refused to eat it. Now, of course I love Martha Stewart (how can you be a foodie blogger and not love her endless supply of recipes?) but come on. Sure, sloppy joes get all over your hands, face, and plate, but they're also totally delicious! Just strap on a bib and dive on in!

These particular sloppy joes are exactly the way I like them. I love the subtle smoky flavor from the barbecue sauce, and the sauce is rich and tangy. I served them on some freshly baked pretzel rolls, and it was a perfect pairing. Even my sloppy joe-hating husband asked for seconds! I'm not going to claim that they are gourmet food, but they're delicious and easy to make, and loved by everyone in our family!
Barbecue Sloppy Joes
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 ½ pounds ground beef (I used ground turkey)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2/3 cup smoky BBQ sauce
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the beef and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat, until it is finely crumbled, the liquid boils off and the meat begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Drain the grease off the meat and onions. Stir in the tomato paste, and keep stirring until the meat is coated. Add the BBQ sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire, soy sauce, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. You can make the sloppy joe meat up to 2 days in advance and reheat it over low heat or in the microwave.
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