The Baker Upstairs: November 2017

11.28.2017

Decorated Sugar Cookies

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These soft and thick decorated sugar cookies are exactly what a sugar cookie should be! They have the perfect sugar cookie flavor and texture and are so easy to make!

These soft and thick decorated sugar cookies are exactly what a sugar cookie should be! They have the perfect sugar cookie flavor and texture and are so easy to make!

Okay, raise of hands, who decorated their house for Christmas over the weekend? We decked the halls on Saturday as a family, and had a fantastic time. This year I decided to do a donut theme for our Christmas theme, and I hand sewed a bunch of felt donut ornaments to adorn the tree. It's silly and adorable and sweet, all at the same time. :) I made homemade hot chocolate and we cranked up the Christmas tunes, and it was about as perfect an afternoon as it could be!

When it comes to Christmas traditions, decorating cookies as a family is one of our favorites. My kids look forward to it every year, and even though I curse the idea of decorating cookies when I'm picking sprinkles out of the floorboards the next day, the joy on my kids' faces makes it totally worth it. I'm not anywhere close to a professional cookie decorator, and I stick with buttercream frosting instead of the fancier royal icing, but I'm still able to produce adorable cookies. We like to take them around to share with friends and family (and sometimes I can convince my family to sing carols as well). It's a fun way to celebrate the season!

These soft and thick decorated sugar cookies are exactly what a sugar cookie should be! They have the perfect sugar cookie flavor and texture and are so easy to make!

We've done this every year since my oldest was a toddler, and I've figured out a few ways to make things easier over time. First (and I can't believe it took me two years to think of this), give the kids rimmed plates (like the Ikea kids' plates) to decorate their cookies on. That way, there are far fewer sprinkles rolling all over the table (and eventually getting stuck in my creaky old floorboards). 

These soft and thick decorated sugar cookies are exactly what a sugar cookie should be! They have the perfect sugar cookie flavor and texture and are so easy to make!

Second, put the sprinkles into a mini muffin tin to make them easier for little fingers to pinch. I can't tell you the number of times my kids have dumped an entire bottle of sprinkles all over the table because it poured faster than they were expecting. This way they're all easy and accessible. Putting them back into the sprinkle containers is a bit of a pain, but I just make a quick funnel out of a piece of paper, and use a spoon to scoop the sprinkles into it. It's a little tedious but only takes a few minutes.

These soft and thick decorated sugar cookies are exactly what a sugar cookie should be! They have the perfect sugar cookie flavor and texture and are so easy to make!

Third, let the kids get creative. My youngest absolutely has to put candy googly eyes on every cookie she ever makes. Usually her cookies are just a mound of frosting, packed with every kind of sprinkle, and topped with at least ten googly eyes. It used to drive me a little crazy, and then I realized that decorating the cookies that way truly brings her joy, so I decided to just let her be. My ten year old is super creative, and surprises me with all of her fun cookie decorating ideas. It's hard for me, being the control freak that I am, to just let them decorate the way they want, but we get some pretty amazing results!

As far my own cookie ideas, I'm never very original, but they always turn out cute nonetheless.

These soft and thick decorated sugar cookies are exactly what a sugar cookie should be! They have the perfect sugar cookie flavor and texture and are so easy to make!

The recipe I'm sharing below is actually the first cookie recipe I ever learned to bake, back when I was ten or so. It's the one I have used for years and years, and I love it! It's one of those never-fail recipes, and the cookies always come out great. I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I do!

These soft and thick decorated sugar cookies are exactly what a sugar cookie should be! They have the perfect sugar cookie flavor and texture and are so easy to make!
Decorated Sugar Cookies

for the cookies:
12 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

for decorating:
8 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1-2 tablespoons half and half
food coloring
sprinkles and candies, as desired

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and almond extract, and beat until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix to combine. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour. After the dough has chilled, roll it out on a flour-dusted surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters and place on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies are just slightly golden around the bottom. Remove to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat together the butter and powdered sugar. Add the almond extract, and enough half and half to make the frosting come together. Beat the frosting on high for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Separate into bowls and add food coloring to make different frosting colors. Decorate as desired.
These soft and thick decorated sugar cookies are exactly what a sugar cookie should be! They have the perfect sugar cookie flavor and texture and are so easy to make!

11.26.2017

Lemon Curd Cupcakes

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These lemon curd cupcakes are the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and so delicious!

These lemon curd cupcakes are the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and so delicious!

Happy National Cake Day, friends! I shared my new favorite homemade lemon curd recipe with you on Friday, and I'm excited to share these fantastic cupcakes that I made with it today. I am totally in love with all things lemon flavored (I have a whole Pinterest board devoted to lemon here!), and these are some of my favorite cupcakes that I have ever made. They have the perfect lemon flavor, with a sweet and tender cupcake filled with silky smooth, tangy lemon curd.

These lemon curd cupcakes are the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and so delicious!

This was my first time making a lemon curd buttercream, and let me tell you - it is to die for! It has such an amazing lemon flavor, and the perfect light texture. The curd gives the buttercream a little more stability, so it's extra smooth and so easy to pipe onto the cupcakes.

These lemon curd cupcakes are the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and so delicious!

These cupcakes taste just like sunshine. They're the perfect way to brighten up a cold winter day!

These lemon curd cupcakes are the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and so delicious!
Lemon Curd Cupcakes

for the cupcakes:
zest of one lemon
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cake flour
3/4 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cold
2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract

for the frosting/filling:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup lemon curd, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoons half and half or milk

Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until fragrant. Whisk in the cake flour, flour, baking powder, and salt. Grate the cold butter into the flour mixture, and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon extract in a measuring cup. Add the sour cream mixture to the flour mixture, and beat until well blended and 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 pan for a few minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup lemon curd, and vanilla, and beat on medium speed. Pour in the half and half, until the mixture starts to come together. Increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy. Cut a small circle in the center of the top of each cooled cupcake (I used a sharp knife, but you could also use an apple corer or melon baller). Spoon a teaspoon of lemon curd into the center of each cupcake, then replace the top. Pipe the lemon curd frosting onto the top.
These lemon curd cupcakes are the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and so delicious!

For more amazing cake recipes, perfect for National Cake Day, check out these posts from my Celebrating Food blogger friends below:

19 delicious cake recipes, perfect for celebrating National Cake Day!

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cake from Ashlee Marie
Gingerbread Spice Cake from Life Made Simple
Fudgy Grasshopper Cake from Creations by Kara
Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake from Foodie with Family
Cranberry Pound Cake from Real Mom Kitchen
Instant Pot Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake from 365 Days of Slow Cooking

and more delicious cake recipes from The Baker Upstairs:


11.24.2017

Homemade Lemon Curd

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This homemade lemon curd has a bright, sunny flavor, and is the perfect balance of sweet and tart!

This homemade lemon curd has a bright, sunny flavor, and is the perfect balance of sweet and tart!

Happy Black Friday! Whether you're out braving the crowds today, or surfing online deals on the couch in your pajamas like me, I hope you're having a great day! I absolutely love this time of year, but it also seems to go by so unbelievably fast. We've got some really fun plans as a family for the next few weeks, and I'm excited to spend time with my kiddos and husband and build some fun new traditions!

I know lemon isn't traditionally a Christmas food, but I always associate citrus with the holiday season. My brother in law and his wife live in Arizona, and for several years now, they've brought fresh citrus to share with everyone at Christmas. I honestly think citrus tastes even better in the winter! It adds an unexpected bit of sunshine to an otherwise gloomy season. This homemade lemon curd is the perfect way to enjoy that bright and sunny lemon flavor. It's super easy to make, has just a few simple ingredients, and tastes amazing! The texture is silky smooth, and the flavor is the perfect balance of sweet and tart. This lemon curd is fantastic as a spread on toast or freshly baked biscuits or muffins, and it's also awesome for baking. Be sure to come back on Sunday to see what I made with my glorious bounty of lemon curd! 

This homemade lemon curd has a bright, sunny flavor, and is the perfect balance of sweet and tart!
Homemade Lemon Curd

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from approximately 2-3 lemons)
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 whole egg plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

In the top pot of a double boiler (or a small metal or glass bowl that fits atop a small saucepan), whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, eggs, and sugar. Stir in the butter. Add 1 inch of water to the bottom of the double boiler or the saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Place the top pot on the double boiler and cook, stirring frequently, until the butter is melted and the curd thickens and sticks to the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and pour the mixture through a sieve. Refrigerate until cool.
This homemade lemon curd has a bright, sunny flavor, and is the perfect balance of sweet and tart!

11.20.2017

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

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These perfect chocolate chip cookies are the only recipe you need for thick, chewy, luscious cookies! They're super easy to make and amazingly delicious!

These perfect chocolate chip cookies are the only recipe you need for thick, chewy, luscious cookies! They're super easy to make and amazingly delicious!

If I had to choose one cookie recipe to make over and over for the rest of my life, this one is it! I've made these cookies so many times at this point that I could make them in my sleep. They are my go-to cookies for every occasion, and I have become quite well-known for them. I make a batch at least once a week, and they are always cookie perfection! I really have never had a better chocolate chip cookies than these ones. They have the perfect texture - thick and chewy, just slightly undercooked, and crisp around the edges. At this point I can make a batch, start to finish, in about thirty minutes, which means there's no reason I can't have hot and fresh cookies around the clock!

Another fabulous thing about these cookies is that they freeze wonderfully! My family doesn't need to eat two dozen cookies every week, so I usually bake half of the batch and freeze the other half. I scoop the dough into balls using my 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, place the balls on a parchment lined baking sheet, and freeze until solid. Store them in an airtight container, and they're easy to pop out whenever you need a quick cookie. To cook from froze, place the cookie dough on a lined baking sheet in a cold oven, turn the temperature on to 350, and bake 14-16 minutes, or until golden brown. So easy!

These perfect chocolate chip cookies are the only recipe you need for thick, chewy, luscious cookies! They're super easy to make and amazingly delicious!
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

12 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix to form a soft dough. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. Roll the cookie dough into golf ball sized balls. Using your fingers, pinch each ball of dough into two halves. Place one half, rough side down, on the prepared baking sheet, then place the other half, rough side up, on top, to form a double stack. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the bottoms are light golden brown.
These perfect chocolate chip cookies are the only recipe you need for thick, chewy, luscious cookies! They're super easy to make and amazingly delicious!

Check out the video below to see just how easy they are to make!

11.17.2017

Chewy and Fudgy Brownies

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These chewy and fudgy brownies are so rich and decadent, and take just a few minutes to mix up. They're perfect for satisfying those chocolate cravings any time!

These chewy and fudgy brownies are so rich and decadent, and take just a few minutes to mix up. They're perfect for satisfying those chocolate cravings any time!

Can you believe it's Thanksgiving in less than a week? To be honest, I'm having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit. My husband is scheduled to work Wednesday and Thursday all day, so we won't be celebrating until Friday. I'm also still finding it hard to get into the holiday spirit without my family and friends close by. It's fun to build new traditions here in Portland, of course, but sometimes it just feels like a lot of work! I've planned a pretty simple turkey dinner for our family (including this amazing rosemary sage turkey breast), and we'll try to make it a fun day for the kids. My husband has plans to build our first fire of the season in the fireplace and roast marshmallows, which sounds pretty great to me!

When it comes to homesickness, somehow baking is always the best remedy for me. Cookies, brownies, cupcakes, you name it! I always feel better after I bake something fabulous. I made these brownies last week when I was having a rough day, and they were the perfect cure. They take just a few minutes to mix up, but they taste totally amazing! They're super decadent and delicious, but there also made with ingredients I always have on hand, which means that I can make them any time I need them!

These chewy and fudgy brownies are so rich and decadent, and take just a few minutes to mix up. They're perfect for satisfying those chocolate cravings any time!
Chewy and Fudgy Brownies

12 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup cake flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325. Line an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 square pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Add the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spread the brownie mixture in the prepared pan. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted 1 1/2 inches from the side of the pan comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Let cool before slicing and serving.
These chewy and fudgy brownies are so rich and decadent, and take just a few minutes to mix up. They're perfect for satisfying those chocolate cravings any time!

11.12.2017

20 Pantry Staples You Can Easily Make at Home

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20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!

When it comes to saving money on groceries, one of the best things you can do is to make things yourself! Not only are homemade pantry staples a great way to save money, but they also taste way better than store-bought. And because you control the ingredients, you can also make them healthier, too! 

About six years ago, my family was in a pretty tight spot financially. I was staying home with a new baby and a four year old, and my husband was working full time for basically peanuts, and trying to get through school. We've both always loved food, and when our food budget shrank to a tiny fraction of what it had been before, and eating out or buying treats was out of the question, I realized that the only way to have good food was to make it myself. I taught myself to make pretty much anything I wanted to eat from scratch, and we ate like kings on a shoestring budget! That super tight period only lasted about a year and a half, thankfully, and eventually I was able to find a nursing job that I loved and our family had a little more breathing room in our budget. These days, my husband has a great job and I'm able to contribute to our family with my blog, but I still make a lot of our food from scratch, because I love it so much. Everything tastes better when it's homemade!

I'm sharing some of my favorite recipes below for pantry staples you can make yourself. Even if you're not concerned about saving money, they are totally worth checking out, because they taste so much better! 


I love this apple pie filling because I can make a big batch when the apples are in season, and then we can have easy and tasty apple pies all year long. It's also great for making apple crisp, or even stirring into oatmeal. Yum!

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


These chocolate chip cookie granola bars are perfect for lunch boxes and after school snacks. My kids love them!

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


Ditch the Jello and Kozy Shack, and make your own chocolate pudding at home! It tastes so much richer and better than store-bought pudding, and it's super easy to make! 

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


You can use this homemade chocolate syrup any way that you would use Hershey's syrup - it's awesome on ice cream, pancakes, and for making chocolate milk!

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


Homemade pizza dough is so quick and easy to make, and tastes amazing! We make pizza at least twice a month using this recipe, and the whole family loves it! 

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


This is the best french bread ever. It's just as soft as store-bought bread, but the flavor is amazing! 

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


Making your own pesto is simple and quick! I like to buy basil plants at Trader Joe's (they're usually under $3) and make pesto several times from the same plant. It's an awesome money saver! 

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


This homemade buttermilk syrup is heavenly! We love it on pancakes, waffles, french toast, and even ice cream. Yum!

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


Homemade corn tortillas are easier than you think! It helps to have a tortilla press, but you can definitely make them with a rolling pin, too. 

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


Not only is this homemade cranberry sauce way more delicious than canned sauce, you can also make it in advance and freeze it until you're ready to serve. It's so good that I eat it with a spoon! 

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


These flour tortillas are a staple in our family and I make them all. the. time. They're perfect for tacos or enchiladas, and I love serving them alongside chicken tortilla soup!

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


Cooking with dried beans is a great way to save money, and it's way easier than you think! I like to cook a big batch, save them in the freezer in two-cup portions, and then pull them out whenever I need a can of beans for a recipe.

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


Homemade croutons are so delicious and so easy to make! They're great for serving with soups and salads, and have the perfect amount of crunch.

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


These homemade instant oatmeal packets are easy to customize with whatever fruits and nuts you like, and they're way better for you than store-bought packets. My kids like them better than store-bought! 

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


We go through a crazy amount of applesauce at our house because my kids love it so much, and it's so easy to make at home! 

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


Fresh homemade jam is my favorite! I love to use the low-sugar recipe so I can get more of that fruit flavor coming through. We canned a bunch of jam during the summer when berries were at their peak, and I'm loving that we can enjoy those sweet berries all year round! 

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


This marinara sauce has the best flavor and is super easy to make. I love to use it for chicken parmigiana or spaghetti. It also freezes well, so I can make a big batch and save some of it for another day. 

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


This is seriously the best pie crust recipe in the world. It's incredibly easy to make and always comes out perfect! It also tastes way better than store-bought pie crust. 

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


Who knew that homemade salad dressing was so easy to make? This strawberry poppyseed vinaigrette is super delicious and perfect for dressing those summer salads! 

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!


This sandwich bread is probably my favorite bread that I make! I make a batch at least once a month, and freeze the extra loaves for later. We've actually replaced 90% of the store-bought bread that we buy with this bread, and it's always a win. My kids like it better than store-bought bread, and it makes the most amazing grilled cheese sandwiches!

20 pantry staples you can make at home that are way better than store-bought!

Making your own pantry staples is a fun and delicious way to save money. Homemade is always better! 

11.07.2017

Sesame Peanut Noodles

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These flavorful and savory sesame peanut noodles are a simple and delicious dinner that's ready in about thirty minutes!

These flavorful and savory sesame peanut noodles are a simple and delicious dinner that's ready in about thirty minutes!

If you're looking for a meal that crosses off everything on your list, look no further? These sesame peanut noodles have got it going on. Easy: check! Quick: check! Frugal: check! Kid-friendly: check! Delicious: double check! We've been working hard on saving money as a family lately, and that means cleaning out the freezer and cupboards and using up all the food we already have. These delicious noodles came about when I found myself in a pinch at dinnertime, and was brainstorming any and all ideas for a quick meal. I managed to find some leftover boneless pork chops in the freezer, and found all the ingredients for the sauce in the cupboards and the fridge. I sliced and sautéed the pork, cooked the noodles, blended the sauce, and had everything on the table in less than thirty minutes. My kids both cleaned their plates, and my husband and I both agreed that it was just as delicious as takeout from our favorite noodle place. Dinner win!

These flavorful and savory sesame peanut noodles are a simple and delicious dinner that's ready in about thirty minutes!
Sesame Peanut Noodles

8 ounces linguini or spaghetti noodles
1 pound pork or chicken, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons oil
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sriracha or other hot sauce (more or less to taste)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet, add the pork or chicken, and cook, stirring frequently, until coked through. In a blender or food processor, add 1/4 cup sesame seeds, peanut butter, minced garlic, ginger powder, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sriracha, brown sugar, and water, and blend until smooth. Toss together the cooked and drained pasta, the sauce, and the cooked meat. Stir in the chopped peanuts and cilantro and serve hot, sprinkled with the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame seeds.
These flavorful and savory sesame peanut noodles are a simple and delicious dinner that's ready in about thirty minutes!

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