the baker upstairs: May 2015

5.30.2015

our tonsillectomy experience + our favorite healthy smoothie recipes!

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Hey friends! I have a post that's a little different to share with you today. I know I usually stick to just the food posts, but I was asked to share some information about our experience at Riverton Hospital and thought it might be helpful for any Utah locals (or really anyone who's looking into a tonsillectomy for their young child).

Our daughter Abby had been snoring loudly pretty much since birth. When she was almost five, she was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea due to her enlarged tonsils. Her doctor recommended a tonsillectomy, and it was scheduled at the Primary Children's Outpatient Center at Intermountain Healthcare Riverton Hospital. I had never been there before and really had no idea what to expect, and I was very pleasantly surprised!

A few days before the surgery, Abby and I went to a special class at Primary Children's, where they walked us through all the steps of the surgery. They let Abby touch and handle some of the equipment used and gave us a quick tour of an operating room. I absolutely loved that they offered the class, and I felt like it did wonders for helping with Abby's anxiety about her surgery. Everyone was so kind and patient with her and made her feel really comfortable.

The day of the surgery, we checked into Riverton Hospital and had a quick history and physical. Abby changed into her cute little hospital pajamas and thought they were hilarious!


After she was all set, we hung out in the waiting room. I loved that everything was set up with children in mind and it was a happy, comfortable space. Abby colored a little "surgery buddy" and loved watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. The staff were so helpful and came to check on us several times while we waited. When it came time to go back to the operating room, Abby absolutely refused to ride in the wagon they usually use to transport kids. The anesthesiologist asked if she could carry Abby back to the room instead, and Abby cheerfully agreed. It meant a lot to me that she took the time to make sure Abby was comfortable instead of just insisting that Abby ride in the wagon. I got a little teary saying goodbye to her before surgery, but I knew she was in great hands!


It was only about 30 minutes later that they came to get me and told me Abby's surgery went great! After about another 15 minutes, I was able to come see her in the PACU. She looked so little and vulnerable, but the nurses were amazingly sweet with her.


From about the second she woke up, she was mad about the IV in her foot, but they quickly got her smiling and giggling. She was thrilled that after we moved over to the post-op unit, she got to have an orange slushy! (I know she doesn't look all that thrilled, but she still talks about that slushy to this day, so obviously it was the highlight of her life.) Again, I loved that everyone was so patient and understanding with her. I really liked that they explained to her everything they were doing and used age-appropriate language.


Pretty soon, we were ready to head home! The staff helped us find a compounding pharmacy close by so we could pick up her medications, and we were off! We were only at the hospital for about four hours total, but it was definitely a great experience for us. Every step along the way, the staff were so helpful and kind, and I really appreciated that the experience was streamlined so we could move through as quickly as possible. I would definitely recommend their services to anyone!

One thing that Abby could not get enough of while she was recovering was smoothies! I made a smoothie for her at least once a day and they were the perfect treat for her sore throat. I also liked that I could pack in some vitamins and nutrients when she wasn't very interested in solid food. Here are a few of our favorite healthy smoothie recipes:



Tropical Green Smoothie

Thanks for reading and click here for more information about Intermountain Healthcare Riverton Hospital!

Disclaimer: I was compensated for my time by Today's Mama and Intermountain Healthcare
but all opinions are my own.

5.29.2015

biscuit chicken pot pie

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I fully recognize that I should probably be sharing delightful summer recipes by this point in the year, but the weather has been so weird this year that I'm kind of stuck on the warm comfort food recipes. It has been rainy for the last week or so, and all I want at the end of the day is something creamy and delicious. This biscuit chicken pot pie is comfort food at its best! It’s completely from-scratch and so full of delicious flavor. It’s a delicious dinner that comes together quickly, but tastes like you worked on it all day long. It’s full of juicy chicken and vegetables, all smothered in a creamy homemade sauce and topped with light and fluffy biscuits. This pot pie is totally family friendly and sure to become a new favorite!


Seriously, though, it doesn't get any better than delicious buttery biscuits layered over a creamy sauce with juicy chunks of chicken and vegetables. Yum!


Biscuit Chicken Pot Pie

for the creamy chicken mixture:
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup carrots, diced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used rotisserie)
salt and pepper to taste

for the biscuits:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk (or milk plus a splash of vinegar)

Preheat the oven to 350. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the carrots and potatoes. Cook 10-15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Drain and set aside. While the vegetables are 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. Slowly add the chicken broth, followed by the milk, whisking constantly and adding a little at a time to form a smooth sauce. Stir in the shredded chicken, frozen peas, and cooked vegetables and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the biscuits, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and cut in using a pastry cutter or two knives, until the butter is about pea-sized and smaller. Add the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a rectangle that is about 6 x 9 inches. Fold each side of the dough over the middle (like you’re folding a letter) and pat out again to about 6 x 9 inches. Cut biscuits out of the dough using desired size of biscuit cutter (I usually use a 2 inch cutter).

Pour the chicken mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 9 baking dish. Top with biscuit cutouts. Place in preheated oven and bake 30-35 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden on top and cooked through. Let sit for a few minutes before serving to allow the sauce to thicken.


5.27.2015

the best banana bread

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Have I told you about my best friend Cort? She's pretty much just awesome in every way. She's one of the only people I know who loves food with the same intensity that I do and can discuss the minute characteristics of various foods all day long. Even though she and I are the same age, I totally look up to her as a role model. She makes being a busy mom of four look easy, and she's amazing at everything she does. Recently (after a little nagging from me) she started her own cute blog, Little Red Hen, and she's starting to share some of her delicious recipes! She's a brilliant baker and a clever writer, and I have been loving her posts so far. When I saw her post about this banana bread, I knew it had to make its way into my life, and soon!


I'm not exaggerating when I say this banana bread is the best I've had! It's simple and easy, perfectly flavored, super moist, and delicious. It's really just everything you could ask for in a banana bread. You could easily jazz it up with chocolate chips or nuts (though I am against nuts in banana bread on principle), but it's pretty great just as it is. My only regret is that I didn't double the recipe so I would have enough for banana bread french toast the next day!

The Best Banana Bread

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons milk
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 overripe bananas, mashed

Preheat the oven to 325. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan and set aside. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and milk, and mix until smooth. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, and mix until just combined. Fold in the mashed bananas and pour into the prepared loaf pan. Bake 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

adapted slightly from Little Red Hen


5.25.2015

guacamole white bean dip

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Lately I just can't get enough avocados! I recently discovered the joy that is avocado toast, and I'm obsessed. My kids don't really like avocados, which means that I get to enjoy the abundance of avocados I've been buying without two little people asking me for bites and stealing food off my plate. Sweet! I found myself with an abundance of avocados this week and whipped up this delicious guacamole white bean dip in less than five minutes. It is so incredibly easy to make and delicious too! It uses just a few very simple ingredients, plus it's gluten free, dairy free, and vegan!

Click here to read more!

5.15.2015

giant peanut butter stuffed chocolate cookies

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If there's one flavor combo that my husband Geoff loves more than anything in the world, it's peanut butter and chocolate. He loves them in pretty much any incarnation, but I think these giant peanut butter stuffed chocolate cookies are some of his favorites ever! I started making them while I was in nursing school and needed some stress relief, and they have been a big hit every time I've made them since!

As cookies go, these are pretty much just awesome in every way… a rich and flavorful chocolate cookie with a hint of peanut butter, filled with a delicious soft peanut butter center. I love to eat these cookies warm, with the peanut butter soft and gooey, and I love the contrast of salty and sweet. These cookies are definitely on the indulgent side, but they’re perfect for special occasions! (And isn’t any time that you get to eat a cookie this great a special occasion?)


Because you have to stuff each cookie individually, they are a little more labor intensive than your average cookie, but once you get into your groove they go pretty fast. I think the trick is to make sure your chocolate dough is soft enough to work with. If it’s a little on the crumbly side, be sure to add a teaspoon or two of milk to make it into a smooth dough, and it will be much easier to wrap it around the peanut butter centers. I’m sure the extra sugar on top isn’t strictly necessary, but I love that it adds a little fun crunch to the texture. If you love chocolate and peanut butter, you definitely have to give these a try!

Giant Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

for the cookies:
1/2 cup sugar, plus a little extra for dipping
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-2 teaspoons milk, as needed

for the filling:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter

Preheat the oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners and set aside. To make the filling, cream together the peanut butter and powdered sugar until well blended. Refrigerate the mixture while you mix up the dough to make it easier to handle.

To make the cookie dough, in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the sugar, brown sugar, butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda, and mix until a thick dough forms. If the dough is crumbly, add 1-2 teaspoons milk.

Divide the dough into twenty pieces that are roughly equal in size. I did this by dividing the dough into halves, then fourths, then dividing each fourth into five equal sized pieces (they don't have to be exact, but try to make them as close as possible). Remove the chilled filling from the fridge and divide it into 20 equally sized pieces, then roll them into balls and set aside.

Place a piece of dough in the palm of your hand and flatten it out. Place a filling ball in the middle of the dough and wrap the dough around it, rolling it into a ball to seal it. Dip the top of the ball into sugar, place it on the baking sheet, and flatten it lightly with your hand. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing it out on the cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until the cookies are set and slightly cracked around the edges. Enjoy!

adapted from This Week for Dinner
{originally posted on I Heart Naptime}

5.13.2015

lemon and garlic tuna burgers

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We are all about the burgers around here lately! They're so quick and easy, and everyone likes them. We usually buy a big package of turkey burgers to keep in the freezer and pull out on busy nights, but sometimes it's fun to change things up a little. These lemon and garlic tuna burgers were a delicious twist and the whole family loved them! They took only a few minutes to mix together and were super flavorful. We served them on buns with a little tartar sauce on top, but I think they'd also be delicious on top of a salad. Yum!

Lemon and Garlic Tuna Burgers

2 cans (12 ounces total) tuna, drained and flaked
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped chives
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
juice of half a lemon
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400. In a medium bowl, mix together the tuna, bread crumbs, green onions, parsley, garlic, salt and paper, lemon juice, and sour cream. Add the egg and mix well to combine. Divide the tuna into four equal portions and pat each portion into a patty. Place on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Serve on toasted buns with fresh lemon wedges. Enjoy!

recipe via Can You Stay for Dinner?

5.11.2015

cheesy cauliflower soup

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This soup is the bomb! I would say that of all the soups I make, this cheesy cauliflower soup is definitely in the top three. I've been making it for a few years now and every time I make it, I swear it gets better. If you've ever been to Cafe Zupas and had their Wisconsin cauliflower soup, I would say that this soup is very similar, although not exactly the same. They're both incredibly delicious, though! It's smooth and creamy and has a delicious cheesy flavor, but is packed with cauliflower and reasonably healthy. I served mine with some delicious avocado toast on multigrain bread, and they were so good together. This is definitely a must-try recipe!


Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup half and half
1 cup milk
3 1/2 cups water + 1 tablespoon chicken base (or 28 ounces chicken broth)
2 1/2 pounds cauliflower, cut into florets
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Whisk in the flour, salt, and pepper to form a paste, and cook two to three minutes. Slowly add the half and half, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Slowly add the milk and chicken broth while continuing to whisk. Add the cauliflower and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender. Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender, or blend in batches with a regular blender (removing the center part of the blender to allow steam to escape). After the soup is pureed, stir in the dijon mustard and cheddar cheese. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

adapted from Chef in Training


5.04.2015

bee cupcakes + tips for packaging cupcakes

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Just try and tell me these are not the cutest little cupcakes you've ever seen. Can't do it, can you? I'm finding myself obsessed with all things bee-related lately, so I was thrilled when one of my co-workers asked me to make bee cupcakes for her daughter's birthday party. Apparently her daughter is a big fan of The Hive (which I had never heard of before) and so bees were only fitting.


These bee cupcakes took a little time to make but were overall pretty easy and straightforward. I used my favorite chocolate cupcakes as the base, and whipped up some marshmallow buttercream to go on top. For the bees themselves, I was inspired by these cute bees on Girl. Inspired. I found yellow jordan almonds, black jelly beans, and decorating gel at my local party store, but they are all available online as well. I didn't have wafer paper like Stef used, so I used Wilton Sugar Sheet instead, and it worked out great.


This was also my first time using a grass tip (Wilton tip #233) and it took a little bit of practice to make it perfect, but it was really fun to learn a new technique!


Bee Cupcakes

24 yellow jordan almonds
12 black jelly beans (I used Jelly Bellies)
Wilton black decorating gel
Wilton Sugar Sheet
24 chocolate cupcakes (I baked mine using this recipe)
1 7 ounce container marshmallow fluff
8 ounces butter, room temperature
6 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 teaspoons half and half or cream
1/4 teaspoon green gel food color, more or less as needed (I used this kind)

To make the bees, cut the jellybeans in half. Stick each half onto the front of a jordan almond to form the bee's head. Using the decorating gel, pipe stripes onto the back of each jordan almond. Cut wings from the sugar sheet and place on top of the almonds. I found that the easiest way to make wings was to cut rectangles that were approximately 1/2 inch by 1 inch, then gently fold in half and cut out a half circle shape. If you are very gentle with them, the sugar sheet won't break in half and then the wings will stand up nicely on the back of the bees. Let the bees sit out for a while so the decorating gel will firm up.

To make the frosting, beat the marshmallow fluff and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and one teaspoon half and half, and mix until smooth. Add more half and half as needed to form a smooth frosting. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the green food coloring and beat until well distributed. Pipe onto the cupcakes using a grass tip (Wilton tip #233). Top each cupcake with a bee and enjoy!

And now for my packaging tips! I find myself making cupcakes for parties more and more often lately, so I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite tips for packaging them. I love to use disposable foil baking pans with lids for transporting them. 12 cupcakes fit perfectly inside and the lids are tall enough that you can pile the frosting high and it won't get smushed. They're also very inexpensive (I paid $2.50 for a two-pack) and reusable as well.


I always line the inside with a coordinating napkin to make it a little more fun and festive, and they are good to go. How cute is that?


Just for fun, here's the small Buzz Bee cake I made for my friend's daughter:


I'm definitely way more comfortable decorating cupcakes than full-on cakes, but I felt like it turned out reasonably well. I used two 3 inch chocolate cakes for the body and cut down one side to make it lie flat, then frosted with yellow buttercream and made stripes with black buttercream. I pressed black sprinkles into the black buttercream to add a little fun texture contrast. The antennae are licorice wheels and the eyes are chocolate chips and slices cut from marshmallows. The mouth is sugar sheet that I colored with food coloring markers. Cute, right? I still get pretty nervous whenever I'm asked to make cakes for other people, but so far they've all turned out well. Hope you enjoyed the bee inspiration!
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