The Baker Upstairs: August 2014

8.28.2014

cheesy chicken and broccoli pasta

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It's back to school time at our house! My daughter Abby started on Monday, my husband Geoff started Tuesday, and my little Lizzy started yesterday. I'm really excited to get back to our usual routine after a summer of chaos and constantly changing schedules, but it was a little hard to send Abby off to school and realize she's so big now! Lizzy spent the whole day Monday moping that her playmate was off at school, and kept asking me if it was time to pick up Abby yet. To celebrate the new milestone of second grade (I can't even believe it!) on Sunday night I made some of Abby's favorites for dinner. This cheesy chicken and broccoli pasta was a hit (as always)! I make some version of homemade mac and cheese for the girls at least once a week, and this is one of my favorite variations. It has so much going for it: it's a super easy, flavorful, one-pot meal that's ready in less than 30 minutes! Plus it's a good way to make those veggies a little more enticing (what doesn't taste better covered in cheese sauce?).

Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

1/2 pound dry pasta (I used gemelli, but pretty much any shape would work great)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 -1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
3/4 - 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (I used rotisserie)
1 cup broccoli, cut into bite size pieces

Cook pasta according to package directions. Add the broccoli during the last few minutes of cooking time. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted, whisk in the flour to form a paste. Let cook 2-3 minutes until golden. Gradually add the milk, whisking so there are no lumps. Let cook for a few minutes until thickened, then gradually add the chicken broth, continuing to whisk constantly. Whisk in the salt and pepper, then let the mixture cook for a few minutes, until thickened to desired consistency. Remove from heat and whisk in the cheese until melted. Toss with the drained pasta and broccoli and the chicken. Return to heat and cook, stirring frequently, until heated through.


8.19.2014

homemade instant oatmeal packets

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Hello again! If you follow me on instagram (which you totally should…) then you'll know that I spent last week in Portland on vacation with my family. It was an awesome trip and we had an amazing time. The best part (of course!) was all the food, and I'm planning to share a post with some of our favorite places we visited. My three year old Lizzy's favorite part of our trip was that we all ate breakfast together as a family. She cried when it was time to go home, because she said she would miss eating breakfast together (yes, that made me sniffle a little). It's been really hard to coordinate our schedules so that we all eat meals at the same time, and mornings are always crazy (mostly because I want to stay in bed as long as possible, so I always end up rushing around).

With the new school year starting on Monday, I've really been thinking about how we can make our morning routine a little smoother, so we can actually sit down together and enjoy breakfast. I happened across these homemade instant oatmeal packets on Pinterest, and knew they'd be perfect for that goal!


My kids both really like oatmeal, but I don't end up making it that often (mostly because I'm lazy). I like the convenience of the little packets from the grocery store, but I always feel like the texture is a little lacking, and the packets are tiny too! These homemade packets are so full of flavor, and are a big enough serving to keep those little tummies full while they're at school. The texture from the old fashioned rolled oats is perfect, and I love that they are so customizable and fun!


It took me just a few minutes to put each packet together, and I love that I can control everything that's in them. I added a good amount of brown sugar (because I like my oatmeal embarrassingly sweet) but you can obviously add less if you're not as crazy as I am. Feel free to go nuts with toppings! The best part of these oatmeal packets is that they actually taste really good. Yum!

Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets

for each packet you will need:
1/3 cup old fashioned oats
1 tablespoon powdered milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar (or less, to taste)
pinch of salt

for each cherry almond packet:
1-2 tablespoons dried cherries
1 tablespoon chopped almonds

for each mango coconut packet:
1-2 tablespoons chopped dried mango
1 tablespoon shredded coconut

for each apple cinnamon packet:
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons chopped dried apples
1 tablespoon raisins
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts

To cook the oatmeal, add the contents of one packet and 2/3 cup water to a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high 3-4 minutes, or until oats are softened and water is absorbed. (As a side note, my microwave was too hot the first time I made these, and my oatmeal totally exploded all over the microwave. I've found that cooking mine at 70-80% power works better, but it will definitely depend on your microwave. Just keep an eye on it the first few times and make sure you don't have an oatmeal explosion!)

adapted from Super Healthy Kids


8.11.2014

coconut-crusted tilapia with fresh peach salsa

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Hi friends! I have another super easy dinner idea to share with you! I don't know about you, but we love fish at our house. My girls (who certainly have their food preferences and their share of pickiness) both love salmon and tilapia, so they are on the menu regularly. Usually I just pan fry our tilapia in a little butter with some lemon pepper, but I wanted to try something new this time. I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and noticed some super ripe peaches on my counter, and voila! A super easy and flavorful dinner, ready in just a few minutes. The peach-coconut flavor combo is super delicious, and I love the contrast in textures between the juicy peaches and the crunchy coconut. Awesome!

Coconut-Crusted Tilapia with Fresh Peach Salsa

for the salsa:
2 medium ripe peaches, diced
1 tablespoon finely diced onion (I used white, but red would be better)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
juice of one lime

for the fish:
4 tilapia fillets
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon flour, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
2 eggs
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 tablespoon butter

To make the salsa, combine the peaches, onion, cilantro, and lime juice in a small bowl. Mix well and refrigerate while the fish is cooking. To make the fish, set up a dredging station with three shallow dishes. To the first dish, add 1/4 cup flour and the salt and pepper. To the second, add the eggs. To the third, add the coconut tossed with 1 tablespoon of flour. Dip each filet into the flour, then the eggs, and finally the coconut mixture.

When all the fish has been dipped, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the filets and cook 5-7 minutes on each side, or until the coconut is golden and crispy and the fish is cooked through. Serve the fish warm with salsa spooned over the top.


8.08.2014

super easy taco soup

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Remember how I mentioned last week that I had a goal to stick to my menu every night during the week? Well, guess what? I did it! I know, it's a small accomplishment, but it's one I'm proud of nonetheless. I made a new menu on Sunday and so far we've been great at following it, even with some unexpected bumps in the road (a killer sinus infection for me and a tummy bug for poor Lizzy). I think what I've realized lately is that I've been failing because I'm setting the bar too high. We're better off eating simple, healthy meals instead of trying to shoot for the moon and not having time to cook the 3-hour gourmet dinner I had planned.

With my menu for this week and last week, I've tried really hard to focus on quick meals (usually under 30 minutes) and adding more fruits and vegetables. I've also realized that right now cooking 7 dinners a week is just too much for me, so I've been letting Geoff (who actually really likes to cook) plan and cook 2 meals a week, and that's been doing a lot for my sanity. I had forgotten how nice it is to have someone else cook a meal for me! This taco soup is so quick and easy, and my kids love it. It's not super gourmet, but it's healthy and delicious and filling. Perfect for a busy weeknight!

Super Easy Taco Soup

1 pound ground turkey
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup salsa
1 cup corn (I used leftover corn on the cob, but frozen corn would work great)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
toppings of your choice (we like sour cream or greek yogurt, tortilla strips, and grated cheese)

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Brown the ground turkey with the onion until no longer pink. Add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, pinto beans, black beans, salsa, and corn, and stir to combine. Heat until nearly at a simmer, then add the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. Heat 5-10 minutes more, then serve.


8.06.2014

nutella banana waffle sandwiches

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This is one of those incredibly easy, "why didn't I think of this before?" recipes. I had the day off yesterday and was planning to make a nice breakfast for Geoff and the girls, only to discover that we were completely out of eggs. About ten minutes of scheming later, I came up with these lovely little Nutella banana waffle sandwiches, and they ended up being a new favorite for everyone in my little family! They're so easy they hardly even need a recipe, but they are way too good not to share immediately. Obviously you could make any variation on these you can imagine… peanut butter, cookie butter, etc., but I absolutely love Nutella and bananas on toast, so this seemed like the way to go! Each bite is deliciously crunchy and gooey and chocolatey… what more could you want? I can't wait to make these again!

Nutella Banana Waffle Sandwiches

8 slices bread (I used a soft white bread and it was great)
butter
2 bananas, sliced
Nutella

Preheat a waffle iron. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of Nutella on four of the slices of bread, then top with sliced bananas and the remaining slices of bread to form sandwiches. Lightly butter both sides of the sandwich and place in the waffle iron. Cook 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown, and serve warm.

8.04.2014

mexican street corn

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Happy Monday! I'm finally back to share the delicious side dish we had with those amazing honey lime chicken skewers I posted last week, and this one is a keeper! I had heard of this corn for a long time but hadn't actually tried it until last March when we were in San Diego. We went to a super yummy restaurant that specialized in tortas (which, sadly, I just found out is now out of business) and I chose street corn as my side along with my delicious sandwich. It was amazing! I know the ingredients seem a little weird, but once you taste the combination of flavors, you'll totally be sold! I went a little light on the toppings, because I absolutely love corn on the cob, and wanted a lot of the sweet corn flavor to come through, but feel free to coat the corn with toppings to your heart's content. Both of my girls loved this and could not get enough, and keep asking when we can have it again. It's already on the menu again for this week! :)

Mexican Street Corn

4 ears of corn
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese (can also use queso fresco or even parmesan cheese)
chili powder
one lime
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Cook corn according to preferred method. (I like to grill it but since I don't have access to a grill right now I've been just throwing the whole husk into the oven for 30-45 minutes, and that works really well!) Mix the butter and mayonnaise until well blended. Brush the butter mixture over each ear of corn, then sprinkle with cheese and chili powder. Squeeze fresh lime juice over each ear of corn and sprinkle with cilantro. Eat warm and enjoy!

adapted from Lauren's Latest
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