the baker upstairs: February 2015

2.27.2015

berry chicken salad + easy candied almonds

Yum

So, this is (I think) the second salad recipe I've ever posted on the blog! It's not because we never eat salad, it's just that our salads are usually so boring that they're not worth posting on the blog. This berry chicken salad is definitely head and shoulders above the salads I usually make! This time of year, I'm always craving fresh fruit. Last week I found strawberries for $2.49/lb (boo yah!) and blueberries for $3.99/lb, and I knew this salad was meant to be. I always order berry salads whenever I find them on the menu at restaurants, and they are my favorite! I also whipped up some quick and easy candied almonds to make this salad extra special.


As a warning, these candied almonds are incredibly addictive, so be warned that you should probably make twice as many as you need if you want any of them to make it to your salad. I had never even thought of making them myself, but when I saw them on my friend Jamielyn's blog and realized how easy they were, I decided to give them a try. They were seriously so easy to make (although they do require a little supervision) and unbelievably delicious. They give the salad such a nice crunch, too!

This salad is perfect for a quick and easy lunch or a light dinner!

Berry Chicken Salad and Easy Candied Almonds

for the candied almonds:
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

for the salads:
spring mix or baby lettuce mix
chopped cooked chicken (I used rotisserie and added about 1/4 cup per salad)
sliced strawberries
blueberries
strawberry poppyseed dressing

To make the candied almonds, add the almonds and sugar to a small skillet. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar begins to melt. Continue to stir constantly until all of the sugar is melted and coats the almonds. Remove from heat and toss with the cinnamon. Spread the almonds on a sheet of foil and allow them to cool completely before serving. To make the salads, layer spring mix, chicken, berries, and almonds, and top with dressing. Enjoy!

candied almond recipe via I Heart Naptime



2.25.2015

strawberry poppyseed vinaigrette

Yum

I found this super adorable cruet at World Market a few weeks ago, and just had to have it. Unfortunately, I pretty much never make my own salad dressings, so it has been sitting lonely (and super cute!) on the shelf since then. Last week I saw this strawberry poppyseed vinaigrette on Pinterest and knew it had to happen in my kitchen post haste. This dressing is incredibly flavorful and so, so good! It took about ten minutes to make, and it seriously the prettiest color. I was a little skeptical about mixing garlic and strawberries (when does that ever happen?) but the combination of flavors is really delicious. I definitely recommend chilling it for a while before serving to let all the flavors mix and mingle. It was great when I sampled it just after making it, but fantastic after a few hours in the fridge. I think this is honestly one of the best salad dressings I've ever tasted (and I can't believe I made it myself!).

Strawberry Poppyseed Vinaigrette

1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (I get mine at Trader Joe's)
2 tablespoons coconut oil (liquid)
1 teaspoon stevia (can substitute 1-2 tablespoons sugar)
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon poppyseeds

Combine all ingredients except the poppyseeds in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Whisk in the poppyseeds. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

adapted from Skinny Mom

Stay tuned later this week for the delicious salad I made with this dressing!

2.23.2015

coconut lime cupcakes

Yum

Okay, so, funny story with these cupcakes. Every year on my birthday I have a big cake struggle. I don't really like grocery store cakes, and usually can't afford bakery cakes. I've been trying for years to get my husband Geoff to bake me a birthday cake, to no avail. (He says it's like if Van Gogh asked you to paint a picture for him.) So usually, I just end up making my own cake and calling it good. These coconut lime cupcakes are what I chose this year, in remembrance of the margarita cupcakes I made for my twenty-ninth birthday a few years ago (please don't hurt yourself laughing at my picture). And then, after I had already made the cupcakes, the miracle happened... Geoff made me a cake! He made a double layer cake using this awesome recipe, and it was seriously one of the best cakes I've ever eaten in my life. So now we pretty much just have cake coming out of our ears.


These coconut lime cupcakes are super delicious! I took my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe (the one I've made so many times now that I have it totally memorized and could make it in my sleep) and added shredded coconut, lime zest, lime juice, and coconut extract. I then made my new favorite buttercream with some added coconut extract, and sprinkled the tops with coconut and lime zest. Yum! I got a little heavy handed adding half and half to the frosting and was too lazy to fix it, so my frosting was a little soft, but I kind of liked it that way.

I know it's the polar vortex or whatever around the east coast, but here in Utah it's been warm and sunny and in the 50s and 60s for weeks now, and it just feels like spring is in the air! I love that these cupcakes are so bright and fresh, and perfect for spring. Even if it's not looking like spring yet where you live, these will definitely give you a taste of spring!

Coconut Lime Cupcakes

for the cupcakes:
zest of two limes
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) butter, cold, cut into pieces
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut

for the frosting:
1 7 ounce container marshmallow cream
4 ounces (1/2 cup) butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1-2 tablespoons half and half or milk (more or less as needed)
lime zest and shredded coconut (for sprinkling on top)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 24 wells of a muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the lime zest and sugar and rub with your fingers to release the oils in the zest. Add the cake flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to combine. Mix in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Combine the milk, vanilla extract, coconut extract, and lime juice in a small bowl or measuring cup, and add half of the milk mixture to the batter. Mix until smooth, then add the other half of the milk mixture. Mix in the shredded coconut. Scoop into prepared muffin tin, filling 1/2-2/3 full. Bake 20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched lightly and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove and let cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat together the marshmallow cream and butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and the coconut extract, and mix until combined. Add the half and half until desired consistency is reached. Spread or pipe on cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with lime zest and shredded coconut.


2.19.2015

chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes

Yum

Well, folks, today is my thirty-second birthday! To celebrate, I've baked you some delicious chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes. These are some of my favorite cupcakes that I have ever baked, so it seems fitting to share them on my birthday. I started with a dark, not overly sweet, moist chocolate cupcake, and topped it with the deliciously light and sweet strawberry marshmallow buttercream I shared last week. The finishing touch is a homemade chocolate strawberry, making these both beautiful and decadent.


I love making my own chocolate covered strawberries because they look so impressive but come together in a snap. I shared a tutorial for them on I Heart Naptime earlier this month, so please go check them out if you haven't yet! I made these ones a little more fancy by using pink candy melts on top instead of my go-to white chocolate chips. I love how pretty they are!


These cupcakes are totally to die for!
Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cupcakes

for the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (1 cup) cold butter, cut into pieces
4 eggs
1 cup greek yogurt or sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

for the frosting:
4 ounces butter, room temperature
7 ounce container marshmallow cream
3 - 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons strawberry puree (from 3-4 berries)
1 teaspoon vanilla
chocolate covered strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 24 wells of a muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the sugar, flour, cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the greek yogurt and vanilla, and mix well. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling wells 1/2 - 2/3 full. Bake 15 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove and let cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat together the butter and marshmallow cream until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, strawberry puree, and vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy. Add additional powdered sugar as needed to make a smooth, pipeable frosting. Frost cupcakes as desired and top with strawberries. Store in the refrigerator.

cupcakes adapted from Baking a Moment


2.18.2015

chocolate hazelnut brownies

Yum

It is my opinion that one can never have too much chocolate-hazelnut spread. I keep thinking that one day I'll run out of ways to use it, but so far, no dice. I use it in all the basic ways, like spread on toast and topped with bananas (one of my favorite snacks - yum!) or on crepes, but I also really enjoy baking with it. It makes a great substitute for peanut butter in pretty much any of my recipes, and I like that it's a little more subtle and sophisticated than peanut butter. These chocolate hazelnut brownies are one of my new favorite uses for it, and they are delicious!

I've tried just about every brand of chocolate-hazelnut spread out there, and I've loved everything I've tried. I usually stick to Nutella, since I can buy it in bulk at Costco, but I also really like the World Market brand, particularly the vanilla swirl kind. These brownies were my first time trying Nocciolata spread, and it was delicious! It's definitely a little different than Nutella, but it tastes great and made for a tasty frosting. If you hate chocolate-hazelnut spread (I know there are plenty of haters out there!) please feel free to substitute peanut butter in the frosting, or just leave off the frosting altogether. The brownies are pretty great just by themselves!


This is my favorite basic brownie recipe, and it’s the one I use the majority of the time. I love that it’s super easy to mix up even without a mixer, and the brownies come out rich and moist and delicious. The only way to make them better is to add some awesome chocolate hazelnut frosting! This frosting is pretty much the best thing ever, and it’s all I can do to stop myself from just eating it with a spoon. Yum!

Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

for the brownies:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

for the frosting:
12 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (like Nutella or Nocciolata)

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare a 9 x 9 or 8 x 8 baking dish by lining with foil or parchment paper. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs and mix until combined. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt, and stir until combined. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted two inches away from the side of the pan comes out clean. Let cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla until combined. Add the chocolate hazelnut spread and beat until light and fluffy. Spread on the cooled brownies and enjoy!

2.16.2015

southwest chicken and rice bowls

Yum

Because sometimes you just need a delicious, quick, healthy one-pot meal. These southwest chicken and rice bowls are bursting with flavor and super easy to make. I love when comfort food meets healthy food in a delicious bowl of goodness! These are also fun because they're so customizable. You can add pretty much whatever you like to the top, and they'll taste awesome. We topped ours with avocado, sour cream, fresh salsa, and cilantro (for those that swing that way - I picked that single leaf off mine as soon as I took the picture...). I think they would also be delicious with chopped olives, green chilies, jalapeƱos, crumbled queso fresco... you name it! This recipe also makes a ton, so my little family had plenty of leftovers for lunches and for the freezer. This is a meal that I make frequently because it's so much payout for so little effort. Yum!
Southwest Chicken and Rice Bowls

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn
4 ounces cheese (I used a combination of Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar)
toppings of your choice: cilantro, salsa, sour cream, avocados, green chilies, chopped olives, etc.

Cut each piece of chicken in half lengthwise and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove the chicken to a plate (it will cook more in a subsequent step). Add the other tablespoon of oil to the skillet and add the onions and garlic. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the chili powder, cumin, and rice, and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is slightly translucent. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken back to the skillet, cover, and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook 20-25 minutes, or until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Stir in the black beans, corn, and cheese, and cook until heated through. Serve with toppings of your choice and enjoy!

adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe 


2.09.2015

strawberry marshmallow cupcakes

Yum

It's Valentine's week! I'm pretty excited about making my second grader's valentines (and valentine box) with her this week. She's decided that she wants a box that looks like our cat, Hazel, so we'll see how that turns out. :) She's very clever with paper crafting, so I'm sure it will be adorable. Anyway, these strawberry marshmallow cupcakes are pretty much just the essence of sticky, gooey, sweet, adorable Valentine's Day. I shared some of these cupcakes with a friend and she said, "It's like eating your second grade class Valentine's party." Exactly!


I started with my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, filled them with sweet and sticky marshmallow cream, and topped them with a light and fluffy strawberry marshmallow buttercream and a cute marshmallow heart.  My kids were completely entranced by these and couldn't wait to take that first sweet bite. I think these are honestly the most adorable cupcakes I've ever made. So sweet and cute! Even though it looks like a lot of ingredients/steps, these cupcakes are really easy to make and so delicious!

Strawberry Marshmallow 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 cup butter, cold, cut into small pieces
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for filling:
7 ounce container marshmallow cream

for frosting:
4 ounces butter, room temperature
7 ounce container marshmallow cream
3 - 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons strawberry puree (from 3-4 berries)
1 teaspoon vanilla
marshmallow hearts (I couldn't find them, so I made my own with a fondant cutter and s'mores mallows)

Preheat the 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, and salt. 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 milk and vanilla in a measuring cup, and add about half of the milk mixture to the flour mixture. Beat until well blended and smooth. Add the other half of the milk 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 the tin for a few minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

When the cupcakes have cooled, use a sharp knife to cut out the core of each cupcake and add a spoonful of marshmallow cream to the center. Replace the tops. To make the frosting, beat together the butter and marshmallow cream until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, strawberry puree, and vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy. Add additional powdered sugar as needed to make a smooth, pipeable frosting. Frost cupcakes as desired and top with hearts. Sprinkle with powdered sugar for an extra fun touch. Enjoy!

inspired by and frosting adapted from these gorgeous cupcakes on Pizzazzerie


2.02.2015

toasted marshmallow s'mores cookies

Yum

I can't remember the last time I've been so excited about a cookie recipe! I mean, the soft frosted sugar cookies I posted last week were really delicious and pretty much the best possible version of sugar cookies. But these toasted marshmallow s'mores cookies... well, they are something new and completely different. And they are so delicious and gooey and full of s'mores flavor that just biting into them is an amazing experience. I brought these to work to share with everyone, and now I'm wishing that I hadn't, because I NEED one to shove in my mouth right now, and they are all gone. I'm just going to have to make another batch. 


I was really skeptical about adding crushed graham crackers to cookie dough, because it just seems a little weird. But honestly, I was amazed by how much flavor the graham crackers added! These cookies are just slightly undercooked, which means that the edges are lightly crisp and the middle is soft. They're definitely best served warm, with the marshmallows soft and melted, and the chocolate chips gooey and luscious. Yum! Just go make these right now.


Toasted Marshmallow S'mores Cookies

6 ounces (12 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 375. Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment or silicone liners. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour, graham cracker crumbs, salt, and baking soda, and mix until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake 8 minutes, then remove and let cool for 10 minutes. Preheat the broiler. Press marshmallows into the top of each cookie, and broil 1-2 minutes or until golden brown (don't walk away from the broiler or they will burn!). Let cool slightly and enjoy!

adapted from Carlsbad Cravings


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