The Baker Upstairs: December 2014

12.30.2014

perfect pot roast

Yum

Are you ready my friends? This is the first (and likely to be the only) beef recipe I've posted on the blog! We eat beef pretty rarely, and I almost never cook it at home, so I've never had any recipes to share. However, for Christmas this year, Geoff gave me this cast iron dutch oven from World Market, and I thought it was fitting that I make a pot roast in it to break in the pot! I know pretty much nothing about cooking with beef, so I ended up buying a roast that was pretty small relative to my pot, but it still turned out fantastic!

I've heard other people rave about The Pioneer Woman's recipe, so I knew it was the one to try. The meat was juicy and flavorful and the pan sauce was rich and savory. My kids (who turn up their noses at new things routinely) tried it and loved it! It's a pretty basic recipe and super easy to make. I know it's not a major accomplishment to make a tasty pot roast, but I'm pretty proud of myself all the same. The only change I made to the original recipe was to leave out the carrots (because I forgot to get them at the store), but I'm sure it would be delicious with them! We served ours over baked potatoes, drizzled with the pan sauce. Yum!

Perfect Pot Roast

1 4-5 pound chuck roast (mine was only 2 pounds and it worked fine)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole onions, peeled and cut into quarters
6 whole carrots, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
4 cups beef broth (I used low sodium canned beef broth)
3 sprigs fresh rosemary (okay to substitute dried)

Preheat the oven to 275. Sprinkle both sides of the roast liberally with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy (oven safe) pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions to the pot and cook them for a few minutes on each side, until browned. Remove them from the pot, then add the carrots and cook a few minutes, tossing to brown. Add the seasoned roast to the pan, and cook 2-3 minutes on each side, until browned. Remove the roast from the pan and pour about 1 cup of broth into the pan. Use a whisk to loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the roast, onions, carrots, remaining broth, and rosemary. Cover and cook in preheated oven for about one hour per pound of roast (mine was perfect after 2 hours).

The Pioneer Woman

12.24.2014

eggnog cupcakes

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It's Christmas Eve! Are you ready for the big day tomorrow? We're trying really hard to be a little more minimalist this year, since our girls already have so many toys, so we decided on a few simple gifts for each of them, and we've stuck to that pretty well. I think it's fun to give them a few extra things to open, so I usually also wrap up a few little things like fruit snacks and new socks for them (I know, how exciting!). I'm excited to spend time with both our families this week, and just relax and enjoy the holiday. Anyway, these eggnog cupcakes are perfect for the holiday! If you're looking to do some last minute Christmas baking, these would work great. They're really easy to make, have the perfect texture, and have such a delicious eggnog flavor. They're a variation on my favorite cupcake recipe, and I love that they give me consistently good results. This recipe is definitely a keeper!
Eggnog Cupcakes

for the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup butter, cold, cut into small cubes
4 eggs
1 cup eggnog
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the frosting:
2 sticks butter, softened
pinch of salt
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons eggnog (or enough to reach desired consistency)

Preheat oven to 350. Line two muffin tins with paper liners. In a large bowl or a the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add the butter and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the eggnog, milk, and vanilla in a measuring cup, and add about half of the eggnog mixture to the flour mixture. Beat until well blended and smooth. Add the other half of the eggnog mixture, and beat until smooth. Fill paper liners 2/3 full and bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for a few minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. To make the frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the salt, powdered sugar, and nutmeg and mix until combined. Add the vanilla and eggnog and beat until light and fluffy. Frost cupcakes as desired.

12.15.2014

salted caramel chocolate thumbprint cookies

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Happy Monday! I have such a great cookie recipe to share today! These salted caramel chocolate thumbprint cookies are so decadent and delicious, not to mention elegant and beautiful as well. I actually made these a couple of weeks ago as part of The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, and shipped them out to some new blog friends across the country. If you haven't heard of it before, the cookie swap is a really awesome way to connect with other bloggers and support cancer research for kids. It was super fun being part of it this year!


These cookies have a rich and buttery chocolate cookie base, a luscious caramel center, and are topped with drizzled chocolate and sea salt. I love how many different tastes and textures are in each bite! These are so fun and would be perfect for a Christmas party or cookie exchange!
Salted Caramel Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

for the cookies:
18 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

for topping:
6 ounces Kraft caramel bits (about 1/2 bag)
1 tablespoon cream
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil or shortening
1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment or spraying with cooking spray. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder until blended. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, and mix to form a thick dough. Scoop the dough into small balls (about 3/4 inch) and place on the baking sheet. Press your thumb into the center of each cookie to make a well. Bake 7-8 minutes, then remove. Use a small spoon (I used a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon) or your finger to deepen the well of each cookie. Let cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, melt the caramel and cream in the microwave at 50% power, stirring every thirty seconds. Spoon a small amount of caramel into each cookie to fill the well. Allow to cool. Once the cookies have cooled, melt the chocolate chips and the coconut oil together in the microwave at 50% power, stirring every thirty seconds. Place the chocolate in a pastry bag (or ziploc bag) and snip a small hole in the corner. Drizzle the chocolate over the cookies and sprinkle with sea salt. Enjoy!


12.09.2014

bacon and egg toast cups

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Okay, are you ready for the best breakfast ever? I've seen these bacon and egg toast cups on Pinterest for a while now, and finally got around to making them last week… and then made them again a few days later, because they are just that good! They are super flavorful and delicious, and so much more portable and less messy than regular bacon and eggs. They got a definitely stamp of approval from both my kids, and Geoff is asking if we can have them for breakfast pretty much every morning.

It took me a few tries to get the hang of wrapping the bacon around the bread, but once I figured out to press the bread into the cups first and get the shape, it was pretty straightforward and easy to make a bunch. Six servings is perfect for my little family, but it's really easy to adjust the recipe up or down depending on the number of servings. I'm excited to try some other variations on these, like adding salsa or using turkey bacon. They are so good that we're definitely going to be making them often!


Bacon and Egg Toast Cups

6 slices bacon
6 eggs
6 slices bread (I used sunflower whole wheat bread and it was delish)
1/4 cup grated cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and cook the bacon for a few minutes on each side, until slightly crispy but not cooked through. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and let cool slightly. Prepare a muffin tin by spraying with cooking spray. Cut the bread into circles using a large round cutter (mine was about 3.5 inches) or a small bowl. Press the circles of bread into the muffin tin to form cups. Wrap a piece of bacon around each bread cup and return them to the muffin tin. Sprinkle some grated cheese into the bottom of each cup. Crack each of the eggs over a bowl, discarding about half of the egg white from each egg (save them for another recipe!), then pour the remaining white and the yolk into the bread cups. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 15-17 minutes, depending on how runny you like your yolks. (I did 18 minutes because I don't like mine runny at all.) Enjoy!


12.05.2014

easy chicken empanadas

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I'm just going to come out and say that I have no idea how authentic these empanadas are. (I'm guessing not at all.) I've never had a real empanada (which is terribly sad, of course), but what I can say about these particular empanadas is that they are incredibly delicious! A tasty and flavorful cheesy chicken filling stuffed into homemade pastry dough and baked until golden - what more could you want? We had these as a light dinner with a side salad, but I think they would also make perfect little appetizers for a party. This pastry recipe is one of my favorites because it's basically foolproof. I like that the pastry gets its moisture from cream cheese and butter instead of ice water, which means there's no fine tuning involved. The filling mixture is super easy to put together as well, and is so good that I wanted to eat it on crackers. Authentic or no, I'm definitely going to keep making and enjoying these empanadas!
Easy Chicken Empanadas 

for the crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
8 tablespoons butter, diced
8 ounces cream cheese, cold, cut into pieces

for the filling:
2 cups cooked shredded or chopped chicken (I used rotisserie)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup enchilada sauce
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced (optional)
1 egg, beaten

To make the crust, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or two knives, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the cream cheese until a dough forms. Knead until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Roll out the dough and cut it into large circles (I used a 3 7/8 inch biscuit cutter, but you could use a small bowl instead). In a medium bowl, mix together the chicken, cream cheese, shredded cheese, enchilada sauce, and jalapeño. Place a tablespoon-sized scoop of filling on each of the circles of dough, and fold the edges together. Crimp the edges with a fork or twist them together to seal the dough. Place on the prepared baking sheets and cut a slit in the top of each empanada, or pierce each with a fork a few times. Brush each empanada with the beaten egg. Bake in preheated oven 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

12.03.2014

slow cooker pulled chicken sandwiches

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Oh, man, these sandwiches are good! I first posted them a few years ago, but I decided they needed an update post with some new pictures! It was the perfect excuse to make them again, and I had forgotten how delicious they are. The homemade barbecue sauce is sweet and tangy, and the chicken comes out juicy and super flavorful. I love that it's so low key and easy, too. It just takes a minute to whisk the sauce together and spread it over the chicken, and then it cooks on its own all afternoon and is delicious by dinnertime. It's the perfect hearty dinner for a busy night!
Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

1 small to medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (I used 3 breasts)
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt

Scatter the onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the chicken breasts on top. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the ketchup, vinegar, mustard, molasses, onion powder, cumin, garlic powder, Tabasco, and salt. Pour the sauce over the chicken, spreading to cover the chicken. Cook on low 5-6 hours. Shred the chicken with two forks and mix well with the sauce.  Serve on rolls and enjoy!

12.01.2014

giant monster cookies

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So… if you like cookies that have pretty much everything but the kitchen sink in them, these ones are for you! These giant monster cookies are soft oatmeal peanut butter cookies with M&M's, chocolate chips, and coconut mixed in. What's not to love, right? They're perfect with a big glass of cold milk as an after-school snack or afternoon pick-me-up (both of which seem to be heavily in demand at my house). These cookies are really fun because you really can throw in whatever you like: dried fruit, nuts, any kind of baking chips… the possibilities are endless! My kids loved the M&M's in these cookies are were really excited that I let them mix cookies and candy together. :)


Giant Monster Cookies

12 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup M&M's
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment or spray with cooking spray. 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 peanut butter, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and oats, and mix until combined. Fold in the M&M's, chocolate chips, and coconut. Scoop into golf ball-sized balls and space 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes, or until very lightly brown on the bottom. Let cool on the baking sheet before removing to cooling rack. Enjoy!

adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

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