the baker upstairs: December 2015

12.31.2015

How to Bake Perfect Chicken Breasts

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The easiest way to bake the most tender, juicy chicken breasts every time! Perfect for using in any recipe calling for cooked chicken!

If you've read the blog before, then you know how I love a good rotisserie chicken. I buy them frequently and use them for a wide variety of recipes, from tostadas to chicken caesar sandwiches to cheesy chicken and broccoli pasta. However, the closest Costco to me is about fifteen minutes away, and sometimes I don't want to make the trek there for just a chicken. That's where this recipe comes in handy! It's super easy, mostly hands off, and gets perfect results every time! I've made this chicken multiple times now, and every single time I'm amazed at how flavorful and juicy it is. It is seriously the best and easiest way to cook chicken!

The easiest way to bake the most tender, juicy chicken breasts every time! Perfect for using in any recipe calling for cooked chicken!

How to Bake Perfect Chicken Breasts

chicken breasts
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400. Spread a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish. Add the chicken breasts, and drizzle with additional olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the chicken breasts with a sheet of parchment paper, pressing it down around the chicken to make a pouch around it. Bake 30-40 minutes, or until cooked through.

method via The Kitchn

12.29.2015

Green Breakfast Smoothie

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This easy and delicious dairy free green breakfast smoothie is the perfect energizing start to your day!

If you, like me, are in that post-Christmas I-ate-too-many-sweets haze, this green breakfast smoothie is for you! It takes only a few minutes to make, is packed full of vitamins, and is super delicious to boot. I've been making it for years, and it's perpetually a favorite. Even the kids love it! My four year old, who abhors anything green, drained her cup in all of five seconds and asked for more. Pretty amazing for a green drink, right?

This easy and delicious dairy free green breakfast smoothie is the perfect energizing start to your day!

If you haven't made a green smoothie before, this is the perfect easy recipe to start with. Believe it or not, it doesn't taste like spinach at all. Even my supertaster eight year old told me that it just tasted like bananas and almond milk and kept begging me to tell her what was making the smoothie green, since she couldn't taste anything "weird." I did finally tell her that it had spinach in it, to which she replied, "That's the best spinach I've ever had!" I can't help but agree. :)

This easy and delicious dairy free green breakfast smoothie is the perfect energizing start to your day!

Green Breakfast Smoothie

1 cup almond milk or soy milk (I like vanilla flavor)
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach
1 banana
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 teaspoon honey (more or less to taste)
5-6 ice cubes

Add the almond milk, spinach, banana, peanut butter, and honey to a blender and blend until smooth. Add the ice cubes and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

This easy and delicious dairy free green breakfast smoothie is the perfect energizing start to your day!

12.21.2015

Basic Gingerbread

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These basic gingerbread cookies are soft but sturdy and perfect for decorating!

It's Christmas week! I'm suddenly being hit with the weight of all the things I have to do this week, and getting a little panicked. :) I would much rather hide under the covers with a big mug of hot chocolate and some of these delicious gingerbread cookies. They're the perfect easy and festive holiday recipe, and super adaptable. They're sturdy enough for building gingerbread houses but still soft and tender.

These basic gingerbread cookies are soft but sturdy and perfect for decorating!

I've made gingerbread many times before, but this recipe really is a perfect basic version. The spice is subtle and not overwhelming, which makes it perfect for the kiddos. The cookies are easy to roll out and keep their shape nicely while baking. My kids and I made these together for a fun Christmas break activity, and it was the perfect family-friendly recipe.

These basic gingerbread cookies are soft but sturdy and perfect for decorating!

I'm trying hard to be less neurotic and perfectionistic and just let the kids decorate their cookies however they want, and this was definitely a success in that regard. I let them choose their cookie cutters (they both really wanted ninja-bread men) and let them go through my sprinkle drawer and candy drawer (yes I have both of those) to choose whatever they wanted to use. It was super fun to see what they came up with! I decided to keep my own cookies simple and did some cute little houses and reindeer. For the houses, I piped the outline and the snow on the roof, sprinkled with white sanding sugar, and added a mini M&M for a door and a heart sprinkle to make it cute. For the reindeer, I stuck on candy noses and eyes with icing, then piped on some antlers with chocolate candy melts. Both super easy and really cute!

These basic gingerbread cookies are soft but sturdy and perfect for decorating!

Basic Gingerbread Cookies

1/2 cup (4 ounces) butter, softened
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves

for decorating:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
assorted candies and sprinkles

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, molasses, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and mix until combined. The dough should be firm and not sticky; add an additional 1/4 flour if needed. Shape the dough into two discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze thirty minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment or spray with cooking spray. On a lightly floured surface, roll each disc of the dough out to desired thickness (mine were about 1/4 inch thick). Cut with desired cookie cutters and carefully move to baking sheet. Bake 9-12 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom and cooked through. Allow to cool before decorating.

To make the icing, whisk together the butter and powdered sugar. Add milk until the mixture reaches a good consistency for piping. Decorate as desired.

adapted from Glorious Treats
Just for fun, here are the cookies my kids made. My four year old is always great at decorating cookies... and the table... and floor...

These basic gingerbread cookies are soft but sturdy and perfect for decorating!

My eight year old did a great job decorating hers! Her ninja-bread men crack me up.

These basic gingerbread cookies are soft but sturdy and perfect for decorating!

Such a fun Christmas activity!

12.16.2015

Honey Lavender Shortbread Cookies

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These honey lavender shortbread cookies are rich and buttery, and unique and flavorful!

Hooray for cookies! These honey lavender shortbread cookies are sophisticated and delicious. They're rich and buttery, and so flavorful. I love that they're made with just a few simple ingredients. This was my first time baking with lavender, and it added a really nice subtle flavor to the cookies. I think these are some of my most grown-up cookies ever, and I love them!


I made these cookies as part of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, and sent cookies out to some new blogging friends all around the country. It was my second year participating and so fun! All of the proceeds go to the Cookies for Kids' Cancer, which provides research grants to leading pediatric cancer centers. As much as I love baking, it's even better when I can do it for a good cause!

These honey lavender shortbread cookies are rich and buttery, and unique and flavorful!

Honey Lavender Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons honey
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons dried lavender (I bought mine at World Market)

In a large bowl of the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and honey until light and fluffy. Add the flour, salt, and lavender and mix until combined. Place two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment on the counter and divide the dough in half between the sheets. Using the wrap, shape the dough into 2 logs that are approximately 1 1/4 inches in diameter.  Shape the logs into squares if desired by pressing gently on the top with a cookie sheet to flatten the log slightly, then turning the log on its side and pressing again. Freeze thirty minutes or refrigerate 2+ hours, or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 325. Remove the dough from the fridge or freezer and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Place 1-2 inches apart on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until light golden brown. Let cool completely before serving.

adapted from Little Market Kitchen

These honey lavender shortbread cookies are rich and buttery, and unique and flavorful!

12.15.2015

Bacon and Corn Chowder

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This bacon and corn chowder is perfect for a cold winter night! It's hearty and filling, and so easy to make!

This week the winter weather finally caught up with us! It snowed all day and night yesterday and we have something like 12 inches of fresh snow. We ended up having a snow day with the kids and stayed inside watching Star Wars and eating popcorn. In the afternoon, we took the kids sledding on the little hill next to our house and they had a blast! It was one of those perfect days that come along every now and then, and I loved every minute. :) With the sudden change in the weather, I'm craving soup for every meal. This bacon and corn chowder is an old favorite that deserved some updated pictures to reflect its deliciousness! It's quick and tasty (who doesn't love a sprinkle of bacon?) and the perfect hearty meal for a cold winter night!
Bacon and Corn Chowder

4 slices of bacon
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup half and half
4 cups chicken broth
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
12 ounces frozen corn
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2-4 drops of Sriracha

Fry the bacon until crisp. Set on paper towels to drain. Dice the cooled bacon and set aside. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the flour to form a paste. Cook 1-2 minutes, until golden. Slowly add the half and half, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth. Add the potatoes and bring the soup to a simmer. Simmer 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the frozen corn and cook 2-3 minutes, or until heated through. Remove from heat and add the cheese, salt, pepper, and Sriracha to taste (2 drops was perfect for my wimpy kiddos). Serve hot sprinkled with additional cheese and bacon.

adapted from Life Made Simple

This bacon and corn chowder is perfect for a cold winter night! It's hearty and filling, and so easy to make!
This bacon and corn chowder is perfect for a cold winter night! It's hearty and filling, and so easy to make!

12.14.2015

Bacon Bleu Cheese Omelette

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Omelettes are one of my favorite breakfasts to make! I love that they keep me full and give me energy for the day, and that they're so easy to change up when I want to try something new. This bacon bleu cheese omelette is my favorite omelette to date. It is incredibly flavorful due to a combination of gorgonzola and crispy bacon, and I love all the savory flavors and fun textures. It is pretty much just omelette perfection!

I thought it would be fun to show you my omelette making step by step, so here we go:

Start by generously buttering the pan, and heating the pan over medium heat until the butter no longer sizzles. Make sure your eggs are well beaten before you add them to the pan. Pour them in all at once, and start pushing the eggs from the sides to the middle of the pan using a rubber spatula.


Keep pushing the eggs to the middle, rotating your spatula around the pan, until the eggs are no longer runny. (It may help to tilt the pan to the side to let the runny parts run to the outside.) The process should only take a minute or two. Your omelette is ready for toppings when the middle is still slightly wet but not ready, and the outside is dry.


Add your delicious toppings to the middle of the omelette...


... then fold the edges of the omelette over the toppings, and slide onto a plate. I like to let my omelette sit for a few minutes to let the cheese get melty and gooey. Easy peasy and so delicious!

Bacon Bleu Cheese Omelette

2 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 tablespoon butter
2 large eggs, well beaten
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons crumbled gorgonzola

Heat a 9-10 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until crisp. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Pour off the excess bacon grease, reserving about a teaspoon in the button of the pan. Return the skillet to medium heat and melt the butter. Whisk the salt and pepper into the eggs. When the skillet is not and the butter is no longer sizzling, pour the eggs into the skillet. Using a rubber spatula, push the eggs from the outside of the pan to the inside. Tilt the pan gently to allow the runnier eggs to run to the outside of the pan. When the outside edges of the omelette look dry and the inside is still wet but not runny, add the bacon and gorgonzola to the center of the omelette. Fold the edges over the toppings and slide the omelette from the skillet onto a plate. Let sit for a few minutes before enjoying.


12.11.2015

One Hour Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Glaze

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That's right, friends... cinnamon rolls! In one hour! Pretty amazing, right? I'm not going to claim that they are the lightest, airiest cinnamon rolls you've ever had, but they are super delicious. I felt like they were really similar to Ikea cinnamon rolls... super cinnamony, and soft and gooey. Perfect!


I really wasn't sure if these rolls would rise as well as they did, but they puffed up beautifully in the oven. I usually bake my cinnamon rolls in a 9 x 9 or 9 x 13 baking dish, but they are so much more beautiful baked in a pie dish!


The filling is exceptional in these rolls and I love that it oozes out a little and coats the bottom of the rolls, so each bite is gooey and full of flavor.


The star, though, is this vanilla bean cream cheese glaze on top! It is fantastic and so delicious that I couldn't stop sneaking little tastes from the bowl. Yum!


One Hour Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Glaze

for the rolls:
1/3 cup very warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 - 2 1/2 cups flour

for the filling:
4 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

for the glaze:
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (you could also substitute vanilla extract)
1 - 2 teaspoons milk or half and half (depending on desired consistency)
1 - 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (depending on desired consistency)

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit 5 minutes, or until foamy and bubbly. While the yeast mixture is resting, combine the butter, milk, salt, and 1/4 cup sugar in a measuring cup. Heat on high for 45 seconds, or until the butter is melted and the milk is warm. Pour the milk mixture into the yeast mixture and stir. Add one cup of flour and stir until combined. Add additional flour, 1/4 cup at a time, to form a soft dough that is only slightly sticky and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 20 minutes in a warm place. While the dough is resting, mix together the butter, brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon for the filling.

Preheat the oven to 350. After the dough has rested, roll it out into a 10 x 12 rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread the filling over the top of the dough, leaving about one inch at the bottom without any filling. Roll up tightly and pinch the edges to seal. Cut the dough into 8 rolls and place in a lightly greased pie dish. Cover and let rest 10-15 minutes. After the dough has rested, bake 20-22 minutes, or until light golden brown on top. Let cool 5-10 minutes. While the roll are cooling, whisk together the glaze ingredients, adding milk or powdered sugar as needed to adjust the consistency. Spread over the warm rolls and enjoy!

adapted slightly from I Heart Naptime

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