the baker upstairs: July 2017

7.26.2017

Perfect Pie Crust

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Homemade pie crust is simple, quick, and easy to make with this fantastic recipe!

Homemade pie crust is simple, quick, and easy to make with this fantastic recipe!

One of the (many) frustrations of my life is that I've never been able to make a good pie crust. I've tried many times, and have always failed. It ends up too thick, or has terrible flavor, or is hard and brittle instead of flaky and tender. I have a lot of recipes on the blog that call for pie crust, and I always use a store-bought crust. They do the job, but they never taste as good as a homemade crust. This summer, I made it my goal to find the perfect homemade pie crust recipe, and this, my friends, is it! I've made it multiple times now, and it always comes out perfectly. It's buttery and flaky, light and tender, and it doesn't get soggy while baking. Best of all, it comes together in just a few minutes and takes almost zero effort to make. It's easy enough for beginners, but tastes better than any pie crust I've had at a fancy bakery. The recipe makes enough for two pie crusts, but you can easily halve or double the recipe if you're making a single crust pie, or more than one pie. I can't sing this pie crust's praises enough!

Perfect Pie Crust

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter
1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk plus a splash of vinegar)

In a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the flour and salt. Grate the cold butter into the flour mixture, and cut in using a pastry blender or the paddle attachment, until the pieces of butter are no larger than pea sized. Add the buttermilk, and mix until the dough just starts to come together. Turn out onto a floured surface and gently work into a ball, handling as little as possible. Divide the dough in half and shape into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least twenty minutes, or until ready to use. Use within 2-3 days.

adapted slightly from Baking with Blondie

7.24.2017

Strawberry Freezer Pops

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These healthy and delicious strawberry freezer pops have only three ingredients, and are full of strawberry flavor. They're so simple to make, and the kids will love them!

These healthy and delicious strawberry freezer pops have only three ingredients, and are full of strawberry flavor. They're so simple to make, and the kids will love them!

I've mentioned before that my mom didn't give us a lot of sweets when I was growing up. She tried really hard to get us to eat healthy food, which is awesome, although I think that it may account for my overconsumption of sweets as an adult. :) One of the few exceptions was that every summer we would buy several large boxes of Otter Pops. Those artificially colored and flavored frozen popsicles were one of my favorite things about summer vacation! My little brother and sister were born at the end of July, and they often asked for Otter Pops for one of their birthday gifts. We all loved them that much!

Now that I'm an adult, and not quite as thrilled about those artificial flavors, I thought it would be fun to make a healthy homemade version that's just as delicious. These strawberry freezer pops are every bit as tasty as those Otter Pops from my childhood, but way more healthy! They're made with fresh fruit, apple juice, and yogurt, and they are the perfect refreshing summer treat. My kids love these, and actually prefer them to store-bought freezer pops. That's a win, in my book!
Strawberry Freezer Pops

2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries
1 cup apple juice
6 ounces vanilla yogurt
ice pop bags (or popsicle molds)

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into ice pop bags, filling to fill line. Close the bags, lay them flat on a baking sheet, and freeze at least two hours.
These healthy and delicious strawberry freezer pops have only three ingredients, and are full of strawberry flavor. They're so simple to make, and the kids will love them!

7.21.2017

Thai Peanut Chicken Skewers

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These thai peanut chicken skewers are so delicious and flavorful! They are a quick and easy weeknight dinner that everyone will love!

These thai peanut chicken skewers are so delicious and flavorful! They are a quick and easy weeknight dinner that everyone will love!

If I want my kids to eat something, all I have to do is smother it in thai peanut sauce. Everyone in my family is crazy about that sauce! We use it to make thai chicken pizza, thai peanut noodles, and drizzle it over steamed vegetables for an easy and healthy dinner. These thai peanut chicken skewers are another fantastic way to enjoy that amazing sauce, and they are fantastic! They're super easy to make, and everyone in my family loved them. I served them with some coconut rice on the side, and they went perfectly together!
Thai Peanut Chicken Skewers

1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon sriracha (more or less to taste)
3 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
juice of 1/2 lime
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into one inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts

Whisk together the chicken broth, peanut butter, sriracha, honey, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and lime juice in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened and starting to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Place the chicken in a large ziplock bag and pour half of the peanut sauce over the top of the chicken. Close the bag and toss to coat the chicken in the sauce. Refrigerate 30 minutes, or until ready to cook. When you're ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 400. Stack the chicken pieces on wooden or metal skewers, and place them on a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes, flip, and bake another 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Brush with remaining peanut sauce and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.
These thai peanut chicken skewers are so delicious and flavorful! They are a quick and easy weeknight dinner that everyone will love!

7.19.2017

17 Magical Unicorn Treats

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17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

My kids are obsessed with unicorns. Like, Agnes from Despicable Me-level obsessed. They've been known to make horns out of paper and tie them around their stuffed animals' heads with curling ribbon. As such, they are also completely obsessed with this new unicorn dessert trend. If it has sprinkles and rainbow colors, they are in! I've been seeing unicorn desserts all over Pinterest, and thought it was high time to make a list of all the amazing recipes I've seen. (And who knows, maybe I will actually be a good mom and make a unicorn dessert or two for my kiddos!) Hope you find something fun to make as well!

Unicorn Frappe from Cheeky Kitchen

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Fudge from Kara's Party Ideas

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Banana Bread from Deliciously Sprinkled

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Cupcakes from Best Friends for Frosting

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Magical Unicorn Donuts from Savvy Saving Couple

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Horns from A Bajillian Recipes

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Hot Chocolate from Favorite Family Recipes

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Ice Cream from Bread Booze Bacon

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Ice Cream Cones from Just a Taste

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Macarons from Southern Fatty

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Marshmallow Pops from The Decorated Cookie

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Milkshakes from Sugar Hero

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Popcorn from Life Love Liz

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Pretzels from Lady Behind the Curtain

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Meringues from MomDot

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Muddy Buddies from The Baker Upstairs

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Unicorn Angel Cake from Sweetapolita

17 magical and whimsical unicorn desserts. All things unicorn, from macarons to muddy buddies!

Have a magical baking day!

7.17.2017

Crusty Artisan Bread

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This homemade crusty artisan bread is better than the bakery, and so easy to make!

This homemade crusty artisan bread is better than the bakery, and so easy to make!

If there is anything better than a hot slice of bread, fresh out of the oven, and spread with butter and honey, I haven't found it! I bake bread all the time, and this bread recipe is one of my favorites. It has a crisp and chewy crust, a tender, soft middle, and the perfect texture throughout. It's the perfect loaf to make when you want to impress your guests, or bring something special to a dinner party, but it's incredibly easy to make, too! You just stir all the ingredients together, let it rise, then bake, and it comes out perfect. I love a bread recipe that doesn't require kneading!  

This homemade crusty artisan bread is better than the bakery, and so easy to make!
Crusty Artisan Bread

1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
3 cups warm water
1 tablespoon salt
6 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting dough

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Mix in the salt and flour, stirring until there are no dry patches. The dough will be very soft and not like a typical bread dough. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours. After rising, divide dough into two pieces and shape each into a round ball. Place each ball of dough on a piece of parchment paper, and let rest 40 minutes.

During the second rise, preheat oven to 450. Place a baking stone or overturned baking sheet on the upper oven rack, and a broiler pan or metal cake pan on the lower shelf. Heat the baking stone at least 20 minutes before baking. When the dough is ready to bake, dust it with flour and cut three deep slashes across the top. Slide the dough on the parchment paper onto the baking stone using a pizza peel (or a thin cutting board). Pour a cup of water into the broiler pan/cake pan and shut the oven door quickly. Bake until golden brown, 24-28 minutes.
This homemade crusty artisan bread is better than the bakery, and so easy to make!

7.12.2017

Garlic Scape and White Cheddar Biscuits

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These buttery and flaky garlic scape and white cheddar biscuits are so savory and delicious!

These buttery and flaky garlic scape and white cheddar biscuits are so savory and delicious!

I've wanted to buy a CSA share for years now, and this summer I finally did! If you're not familiar with a CSA, basically you buy a share of a farm's harvest at the beginning of a season, and then get a regular delivery of produce throughout the season. CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture, and it's a great way to support local farms and local produce. (Psst... If you're a Portland area local, I joined the Hood River Organics CSA and I've been really pleased with the quality so far!) Not only do I get a regular delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables, I've also had the opportunity to try some new things that I wouldn't normally have tried, like garlic scapes!

Garlic scapes are the sprouts of the garlic bulbs that the farmers cut off just before the garlic is ready to harvest, and I'll confess that I had never heard of them before I got them in my produce box. They have a nice garlic flavor that's much milder than eating a garlic bulb, and a raw texture that's similar to green beans. You can add them to stir fry, scrambled eggs, or hummus, and they add a nice garlic flavor that's not overwhelming. I'm planning to use most of my bunch to make some garlic scape pesto (I'll keep you posted on that!), but I used a few scapes to make these gorgeous biscuits. If you don't have access to garlic scapes, you could substitute chives or green onions, and I'm sure they'd be equally delicious that way. These biscuits are so buttery and flaky, and the garlic scapes and white cheddar are a delicious combination!
Garlic Scape and White Cheddar Biscuits

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter
1/4 cup chopped garlic scapes (or chives or green onions)
3/4 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
3/4 cup buttermilk (or milk with a splash of white vinegar)

Preheat the oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Grate the cold butter into the flour mixture, and toss to coat. Add the garlic scapes and cheddar cheese, and toss to combine. Pour in the buttermilk and mix just until the dough comes together. (Be careful not to over-mix!) Pat the dough out to an even layer, about one inch thick, on a lightly floured surface. Fold the dough into thirds, as though you are folding a letter. Pat the dough out again until it is about one inch thick. Turn the dough 90 degrees and fold it in thirds again. Pat it out into a rectangle that is approximately one inch thick. Cut into circles using a biscuit cutter or small cup. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

These buttery and flaky garlic scape and white cheddar biscuits are so savory and delicious!

7.10.2017

Piña Colada Cupcakes + 13 Tropical Piña Colada Recipes

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These piña colada cupcakes have the perfect combination of flavors, and a light and tender crumb. So delicious and easy to make too!


These piña colada cupcakes have the perfect combination of flavors, and a light and tender crumb. So delicious and easy to make too!

Today is National Piña Colada day! I have to say, piña colada is not usually my favorite flavor. I don't drink alcohol, so I've never had a piña colada mixed drink, but everything I've tried with that flavor (candy, smoothies, ice cream, etc.) has been disappointing. It always just seems to tastes syrupy sweet and fake and over the top to me. These cupcakes, though.... well, they are delicious enough to win even me over! I started with a light and tender pineapple and coconut cupcake base, then added a sweet and fluffy coconut frosting on top. A maraschino cherry on top is the perfect finishing touch!

These piña colada cupcakes have the perfect combination of flavors, and a light and tender crumb. So delicious and easy to make too!

I made these for our Fourth of July celebration, and shared some with our neighbors. They were a huge hit all around! I think my husband ate four cupcakes over the course of the evening. :) I wasn't sure if I would like the pineapple in the cupcakes, since I tend to only like fresh pineapple, but it added a really nice touch without being overwhelming. I will definitely make these cupcakes again!

These piña colada cupcakes have the perfect combination of flavors, and a light and tender crumb. So delicious and easy to make too!
Piña Colada Cupcakes

for the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, cold, grated
4 eggs
1 cups sour cream or greek yogurt
1/2 cup pineapple juice (reserved from crushed pineapple)
1 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons coconut extract
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained

for the frosting:
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons coconut extract
2-3 tablespoons half and half or milk
3/4 cup shredded coconut, plus additional for sprinkling on top
24 maraschino cherries

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 the 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 sour cream, pineapple juice, vanilla, and coconut extract in a measuring cup, and add about half of the sour cream mixture to the flour mixture. Beat until well blended and smooth. Add the other half of the sour cream mixture, and beat until smooth. Mix in the crushed pineapple. 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 powered sugar and mix to combine. Add the coconut extract and enough half and half to make the frosting come together. Beat on high speed for 4-6 minutes, until light and fluffy. Fold in the shredded coconut. Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes, sprinkle with additional shredded coconut, and top with a maraschino cherry.
These piña colada cupcakes have the perfect combination of flavors, and a light and tender crumb. So delicious and easy to make too!

For more delicious piña colada recipes, check out these posts from some of my favorite bloggers below!

13 amazing piña colada recipes from your favorite food bloggers!

Piña Colada Ice Cream from Ashlee Marie
Tropical Piña Colada Cupcakes from Life Made Simple
Piña Colada Bread from Creations by Kara
Vegan Piña Colada Cocktail from Namely Marly
Piña Colada Tembleque from Foodie with Family
Piña Colada Pie from Real Mom Kitchen
Piña Colada Grilled Pineapple from Hey Grill Hey
Piña Colada Popsicles from Gather for Bread
Virgin Piña Coladas from Real Mom Kitchen
Tropical Cinnamon Rolls from Life Made Simple
Piña Colada Quick Bread from Gather for Bread
Piña Colada Ice Cream from Baked by Rachel

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7.07.2017

Fresh Raspberry Jam

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This low sugar fresh raspberry jam has way less sugar than regular jam, but is just as delicious. It's so easy to make, too!

This low sugar fresh raspberry jam has way less sugar than regular jam, but is just as delicious. It's so easy to make, too!

It's berry season here in the Pacific Northwest, and we have been having a fabulous time berry picking over the last month or so. We picked strawberries a few weeks ago, and raspberries last week. I'm excited for blackberry and blueberry picking in the next few weeks as well! My kids have had so much fun picking berries (and surprisingly few berries have made their way into their mouths while picking, which is always a win). Our favorite local place to pick is Smith Berry Barn, and it is the cutest place! They have fields and fields of berries, but also goats and chickens the kids can feed, and a cute little market full of treats and cute kitchen items. If you're in the area, definitely check it out!

This low sugar fresh raspberry jam has way less sugar than regular jam, but is just as delicious. It's so easy to make, too!

My favorite way to preserve all those fresh berries is by making them into jam! I used to make jam the traditional way, with roughly equal parts sugar and fresh fruit, but I hated that the jam was so sweet and didn't even really taste like real fruit. I switched to using low sugar pectin a few years ago, and I love it! The fruit flavor comes through so much better, and it's still plenty sweet, without being overwhelming. I will warn you that the recipe below won't work with regular pectin, so be sure to find the low sugar pectin if you want to make it. 

This low sugar fresh raspberry jam has way less sugar than regular jam, but is just as delicious. It's so easy to make, too!

Since I like my little jam jars to be as cute as possible, I found these adorable jam labels online and printed them out for the tops of the jars. So cute and easy peasy, too! This fresh raspberry jam is seriously the best, and my family has been eating it on everything from toast to pancakes to PB&J's. Yum!

This low sugar fresh raspberry jam has way less sugar than regular jam, but is just as delicious. It's so easy to make, too!
Fresh Raspberry Jam

4 cups crushed fresh raspberries
1 cup unsweetened apple juice
4 1/2 tablespoons low sugar pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter
1 1/2 cups sugar

Add the raspberries, apple juice, and pectin to a large pot and stir to combine until the pectin is dissolved. Add the butter to the pot. Bring the mixture to a full roiling boil over medium heat, then stir in the sugar. Return the mixture to a full rolling boil and boil one minute. Remove from heat and ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch space at the top of the jar. Wipe the rims of the jars clean, then place sterilized lids and bands on the jars.

For freezer jam, allow the jam to cool completely, then freeze. For shelf-stable processed jam, place the jars in a canning pot, fill with water to 1-2 inches above the lids of the jars, then bring to a boil. Cover and process for 10 minutes, adjusting processing time as needed for altitude. When the processing time is finished, remove the lid, turn off the heat, and let stand five minutes. Carefully remove the jars from the canner and let cool. Check that all the jars have sealed after 24 hours by pressing on the lids to see if any move up and down when pressed. Store in a cool dry place and use within 12 months.

adapted from freshpreserving.com
This low sugar fresh raspberry jam has way less sugar than regular jam, but is just as delicious. It's so easy to make, too!

7.05.2017

Brazilian Lemonade

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This Brazilian lemonade is amazingly refreshing, and so simple and delicious!

This Brazilian lemonade is amazingly refreshing, and so simple and delicious!

Hey friends! How was your Fourth of July? Holidays are always a little hard for me because I miss my family, friends, and traditions back in Utah, but we're trying to start up some new fun traditions here in Portland. We went for a hike in the afternoon (which ended up being much steeper and hotter than we had anticipated), then had a nice dinner as a family. Our neighbors invited us over to do some fireworks with them in the driveway, and we had a great time with them! It ended up being a fun holiday, although it was a little different than our traditional Fourth of July celebration with my family. My husband made guacamole bacon cheeseburgers (which were every bit as delicious as they sound!) and we had fries, watermelon, and fresh cherries on the side. To drink, we had this amazing Brazilian lemonade, and it was a huge hit with everyone in my family!

This lemonade (which is actually made with limes) is so easy to make, and doesn't require any squeezing! The sweetened condensed milk adds the perfect touch of sweetness, and makes it an irresistible treat. I seriously can't think of a more refreshing drink than this lemonade. It is so so good. I also love that it's so simple and easy to make that we can enjoy it whenever the craving strikes, all summer long!

This Brazilian lemonade is amazingly refreshing, and so simple and delicious!
Brazilian Lemonade

6 cups cold water
1 cup sugar
4 limes, washed and cut into eighths
6 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
ice

Stir the sugar into the cold water and let sit until dissolved. Add half of the limes and half of the sugar water to a blender. Pulse 6-8 times, then pour through a strainer into a large pitcher. Repeat with remaining limes and sugar water. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk. Serve immediately over ice.

adapted from Our Best Bites
This Brazilian lemonade is amazingly refreshing, and so simple and delicious!

7.03.2017

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

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These simple and delicious baked creamy chicken taquitos take just a few minutes to make, and are the perfect quick lunch or snack!

These simple and delicious baked creamy chicken taquitos take just a few minutes to make, and are the perfect quick lunch or snack!

With the kiddos home for the summer, I have been quickly running out of ideas for lunch! We've been eating some variation of either mac and cheese, turkey and crackers, or tuna fish sandwiches for a few weeks now. As much as the kids love it, I need a little more variety than that in my meals. These baked creamy chicken taquitos were the perfect solution! I made them using ingredients I already had on hand, and they were incredibly quick to make. They're also super delicious! My kids both loved them too, so it was a win all around. I dipped mine in some spicy salsa (which the kids skipped) and it was a quick and easy lunch. These taquitos would also make a perfect appetizer or snack!

These simple and delicious baked creamy chicken taquitos take just a few minutes to make, and are the perfect quick lunch or snack!
Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
12 corn tortillas, warmed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment or spray with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, mix together the chicken, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Add the cream cheese and cheddar cheese, and mix to combine. Spoon the mixture in a line in the center of each tortilla and roll up. Place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
These simple and delicious baked creamy chicken taquitos take just a few minutes to make, and are the perfect quick lunch or snack!

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