the baker upstairs: January 2017

1.18.2017

Chicken Asparagus Pasta

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This flavorful and delicious chicken and asparagus pasta is the perfect light dinner or lunch for a busy day!

This flavorful and delicious chicken and asparagus pasta is the perfect light dinner or lunch for a busy day!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am the laziest dinner cook ever. I know you would think that since I'm a food blogger, I probably spend all day cooking some amazing and gourmet dinner, but you would be wrong. I put off cooking dinner pretty much every night until the last minute, and even though I usually have a menu plan in place, I almost always go for the easiest option available. Most of what we eat is boring and easy and repetitive, like tacos, sandwiches, or soup from the freezer. One thing my kids love and will always eat happily is pasta. I've even found that I can get them to try new vegetables (such as asparagus) if I serve them in a warm and creamy pasta dish.

This flavorful and delicious chicken and asparagus pasta is the perfect light dinner or lunch for a busy day!

This chicken and asparagus pasta satisfies pretty much all of my criteria for dinner: it's quick, it's easy, it's tasty, it's not terribly unhealthy, and everyone likes it! I love the creamy sauce with the tender asparagus and juicy chunks of chicken. It's perfect for a busy night, since it only takes about thirty minutes to make, and it's one we'll make again and again!
Chicken Asparagus Pasta

1/2 pound rotini pasta
2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into pieces
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/4 cup half and half or greek yogurt
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cook the pasta according to package directions, then drain and set aside. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until golden brown and cooked through. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add the asparagus to the skillet and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Saute until bright green and tender, then remove from the skillet.

Return the skillet to the heat and add the remaining three tablespoons of butter. When the butter has melted, whisk in the flour to form a paste. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until golden. Slowly add the chicken broth, whisking constantly, followed by the milk and half and half. Let cook until thickened and starting to bubble. Remove from heat and whisk in the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, until the parmesan is melted. Return the skillet to the heat and stir in the chicken and asparagus, until heated through. Serve hot and enjoy!
This flavorful and delicious chicken and asparagus pasta is the perfect light dinner or lunch for a busy day!

Originally published on Somewhat Simple

1.16.2017

Golden Butter Waffles

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These amazing homemade golden butter waffles are crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and so delicious!

These amazing homemade golden butter waffles are crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and so delicious!

Did anyone else get a waffle maker for Christmas? I've been looking for the perfect waffle maker pretty much the entire time I've been married, and have been through quite the series of so-so waffle makers. They always seem to heat unevenly, and the waffles never turn out the way I want. This year I got my sister in law Codie's name in our family gift exchange, and she had a waffle maker on her wish list. I decided it was time to do some actual research and buy a waffle maker with good reviews, instead of just buying whatever cheap crap I came across at Target. After a lot of searching, I found this waffle maker with great reviews on Amazon and bought it for Codie. And then I was immediately jealous that I didn't have one for myself!  Needless to say, I remedied that situation quickly. (Lest you think I'm just very selfish, my husband actually likes it when I choose my own Christmas gifts, because then he knows I get what I really want.) 

These amazing homemade golden butter waffles are crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and so delicious!

These golden butter waffles were my first crack at using the new waffle maker, and they turned out awesome! The edges are crisp, the insides are fluffy, and the flavor is perfect. Add a little butter and syrup on the top, and you've got breakfast perfection! I'm sure they would work well in whatever waffle maker you have and love, so don't feel like you need to rush out and buy the one I like if you have one you love instead. I'm just sharing to give you a little tip-off if you, like me, have struggled to find a good waffle maker for nearly fourteen years now. :)
Golden Butter Waffles

1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Add the butter and milk to a small bowl or measuring cup, and heat in the microwave for one minute and thirty seconds, or until the butter is melted. whisk in the vanilla and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until fluffy. Add the milk mixture and stir to combine. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar, and mix until just combined (small lumps are ok). Let sit five minutes.

While the batter is resting, preheat your waffle iron. Add the batter and cook according to your waffle maker's directions. For my belgian waffle maker, 1 cup of batter cooked for 4 minutes was perfect.

adapted from Like Mother Like Daughter
These amazing homemade golden butter waffles are crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and so delicious!

1.13.2017

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

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These luscious and delicious Boston cream pie cupcakes are so fun to make, and gorgeous too!

These luscious and delicious Boston cream pie cupcakes are so fun to make, and gorgeous too!

I know most people don't start spring cleaning until it's actually spring, but for me, January is the time to declutter. I love putting away the Christmas decorations and then cleaning the house top to bottom, giving away or selling anything that doesn't fit or is no longer needed. Sometimes it feels like such a big job, but the reward is so awesome that it's worth the effort. So far this year, I've cleaned out both of the kids' closets and packed away the too-small clothes, organized all of their toys and added correct labels to the toy bins, and organized my pantry. I've also been working on organizing my laptop, which sadly is kind of a mess. In organizing my photos, I came across these photos of these amazing Boston cream pie cupcakes I made forever ago, and I realized I never posted about the deliciousness. It would be a shame not to share, so here they are!

I started with a tender and sweet vanilla cupcake, added a luscious vanilla custard filling, then dipped the whole thing in a silky smooth ganache. They are such a fun combination of flavors and textures, and I love how pretty they look too. They're the perfect treat to cheer you up during these horrible gray winter days. I know it looks like a lot of steps, but I promise they're all pretty easy. If you want to make things even easier, you could fill them with store-bought vanilla pudding instead of the homemade custard (although the homemade custard is amazing!). What's most important is that you make these cupcakes, post haste!
Boston Cream Pie 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, cut into small cubes
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream or greek yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla

for the filling/topping:
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, warm
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Line two muffin tins with paper liners. In a large bowl or a the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the sour cream and vanilla 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. 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 custard filling, in a medium saucepan off the heat, whisk together the vanilla, egg yolks, and sugar, until the mixture is light yellow. Add the flour and mix to combine, making sure there are no lumps. Add the warm milk slowly, whisking constantly. Heat the saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble. Cook one minute, continuing to whisk, then remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the custard and cool to room temperature.

To make the ganache, add the chocolate chips to a medium bowl. Heat the cream to boiling on the stove or in the microwave, and pour over the chocolate chips. Let sit five minutes, then stir until smooth. To assemble the cupcakes, 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). Add a spoonful of custard filling, then replace the top. Dip the top of the cupcake into the ganache, then let cool until set.
These luscious and delicious Boston cream pie cupcakes are so fun to make, and gorgeous too!

1.12.2017

Instant Pot Pinto Beans + Easy Refried Beans

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These delicious Instant Pot pinto beans are so easy to make, and make amazing refried beans too!

These delicious Instant Pot pinto beans are so easy to make, and make amazing refried beans too!

Yay! Another Instant Pot recipe! I totally doubted all the people singing Instant Pot's praises when it first came out, but I really do use my Instant Pot at least three or four times per week. So many things are so much easier and faster to make, from mashed potatoes to basic chicken breast to chicken tortilla soup. Since I got my Instant Pot about six months ago, I've only used my slow cooker once, which is totally crazy. I just can't bring myself to wait longer than thirty minutes to cook anything. :)

I've been making homemade pinto beans and refried beans for several years in the slow cooker, and I love that they taste so much better than canned. The texture is way better than canned, too. I wasn't sure if they would come out equally well in the Instant Pot, but... I think I like them even better! They're silky smooth, flavorful, and delicious. They're also perfect for freezing, so you can make a big batch and save some for later. You can easily double the recipe and have even more to freeze. My family uses them for tostadas, or as a side with enchiladas and tacos. Yum!
Instant Pot Pinto Beans

1/2 small onion, diced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 pound dried pinto beans, rinsed
6 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
splash of white vinegar

Add all ingredients to the Instant Pot and mix gently. Set the Instant Pot to high pressure for 30 minutes. When the cook time is finished, let the pressure release naturally. Remove the excess liquid from the beans and set aside. Mash the beans using a potato masher or immersion blender to your liking, adding more liquid as needed to make the beans smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
These delicious Instant Pot pinto beans are so easy to make, and make amazing refried beans too!

1.10.2017

Game Day Party Plan

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Happy January friends! Football playoffs are in full swing and Game Day parties are too. Grab your friends and get together to watch the BIG GAME because we've got you covered! We have 12 bloggers sharing their favorite game day snacks, meals, and desserts, plus printables and decorating ideas for your party!

(In case you're wondering, we'll be doing this with a different theme each month, so be sure to check them all out...hint - Valentine's Day is up next!)

Everything you need for game day, all in one place! Amazing recipes, fantastic printables, and fun party ideas to boot!

Check out all of these fun Game Day recipes and ideas!

Everything you need for game day, all in one place! Amazing recipes, fantastic printables, and fun party ideas to boot!

Everything you need for game day, all in one place! Amazing recipes, fantastic printables, and fun party ideas to boot!
Baked Honey Lime Chicken Taquitos from The Baker Upstairs


Everything you need for game day, all in one place! Amazing recipes, fantastic printables, and fun party ideas to boot!
Chicken Satay from Your Homebased Mom


Everything you need for game day, all in one place! Amazing recipes, fantastic printables, and fun party ideas to boot!
Buffalo Chicken French Bread Pizza from Yellow Bliss Road


Everything you need for game day, all in one place! Amazing recipes, fantastic printables, and fun party ideas to boot!
Chicken Fajitas from Honey and Birch


Everything you need for game day, all in one place! Amazing recipes, fantastic printables, and fun party ideas to boot!
Football Scotcheroos from Julie's Eats & Treats


Everything you need for game day, all in one place! Amazing recipes, fantastic printables, and fun party ideas to boot!
Rolo Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies from A Dash of Sanity


Everything you need for game day, all in one place! Amazing recipes, fantastic printables, and fun party ideas to boot!
Drink Caddy from Fun-Squared

Everything you need for game day, all in one place! Amazing recipes, fantastic printables, and fun party ideas to boot!
Game Day Party from Celebrations At Home


Everything you need for game day, all in one place! Amazing recipes, fantastic printables, and fun party ideas to boot!
Easy Entertaining for Game Day from Balancing Home

Be sure to join us next month when we'll be sharing our favorite VALENTINE'S DAY food and decorating. Don't forget to pin this post so you can use all of the ideas for game party success!

Everything you need for game day, all in one place! Amazing recipes, fantastic printables, and fun party ideas to boot!

1.05.2017

Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

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This Instant Pot chicken tortilla soup is incredibly flavorful, and has just a thirty minute cook time! A savory and delicious dinner that's perfect for a busy night.

This Instant Pot chicken tortilla soup is incredibly flavorful, and has just a thirty minute cook time! A savory and delicious dinner that's perfect for a busy night.

Okay, I have to ask: what temperature do you keep your thermostat at during the winter? This year, my husband is insisting that it stay at 67 at all times, and I feel like I spend the whole day freezing! You can find me wearing a jacket, long sleeved shirt, socks, and slippers at all times, and any time I'm sitting down, you can bet there's a blanket over me. (Oh, and probably a cat on my lap, too.) Am I just a big wimp? Or is 67 degrees colder than any reasonable person should keep their home? I'd love to hear what you think. :)

One way I've been warming myself up (besides dragging out the exercise bike and doing a mile or two, until I have feeling in my fingers and toes again) is by making soup frequently. This chicken tortilla soup is so quick and easy to make, using the Instant Pot, and it is one of my favorite meals! It's easy to make, super flavorful, and a favorite with the whole family. It's quite healthy, too, especially if you leave out all the toppings (although where's the fun in that?). My five year old helped me make some homemade flour tortillas to go with our soup, and it was the perfect cozy winter meal!

This Instant Pot chicken tortilla soup is incredibly flavorful, and has just a thirty minute cook time! A savory and delicious dinner that's perfect for a busy night.


Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (frozen works fine)
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups frozen corn
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
5 cups chicken broth
for topping: tortilla strips, shredded cheese, sour cream, fresh lime juice

Add the chicken breasts to the Instant Pot. Add the tomatoes, corn, green pepper, and onion. Add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, and chili powder. Pour the chicken broth over the top. Secure the lid on the pot. Cook at high pressure for 30 minutes. Allow the pressure to release for ten minutes, then use the manual release. Pull out the chicken breasts and shred using two forks, then return to the pot. Serve hot, topped with tortilla strips, shredded cheese, sour cream, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

*Note: If you don't have an Instant Pot, this recipe could easily be made in a slow cooker. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker in the order listed, then cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours or high heat for 4 hours.

This Instant Pot chicken tortilla soup is incredibly flavorful, and has just a thirty minute cook time! A savory and delicious dinner that's perfect for a busy night.

1.02.2017

Hot Cocoa Cookies

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These rich and gooey hot cocoa cookies are the perfect treat for a cold day!

These rich and gooey hot cocoa cookies are the perfect treat for a cold day!

Happy New Year! I still in denial that it can possibly be 2017 already. I was definitely ready to see the back of 2016, though, so I'm glad for a fresh start in the new year. This is our first winter in Portland, and I'm still getting used to the difference in weather. Coming from Utah, I'm used to having a thick blanket of snow on the ground nonstop from late November until March or so. Here in Portland, it has already snowed a couple of times this year (which I'm told is fairly unusual) but never more than an inch or two in our area. Most of the time, it's just overcast and periodically rainy.

As excited as I am about not having to bundle the kids up in their snow clothes and dig the car out every time we go outside, it's a little weird not having snow to play in! I'm used to sending the kids out to make snow angels and throw snowballs, and having a warm cup of hot chocolate and some cookies to warm up those little tummies when they're all done playing. These hot cocoa cookies would be perfect for a snow day, especially with a warm drink on the side. I think we'll plan to just enjoy ours while staring out the window at the rain. :)

These rich and gooey hot cocoa cookies are the perfect treat for a cold day!

These cookies are pretty fantastic! They start with a rich, thick chocolate cookie, then are top with melty chocolate bar pieces and marshmallows, and toasted until the marshmallows are fluffy and soft.  Each bite is ooey-gooey and totally delicious, and I love the combination of chocolate, marshmallow, and cookie. Yum!

These rich and gooey hot cocoa cookies are the perfect treat for a cold day!
Hot Cocoa Cookies

1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
12-16 marshmallows, cut in half
1 large Hershey bar, broken into squares.

In a small microwave safe bowl, combine the butter and chocolate chips. Heat at 50% power for thirty second intervals, stirring in between, until melted. Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the brown sugar, and mix until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix until smooth.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix to combine. Refrigerate the dough for thirty minutes. During the last ten minutes of chilling time, preheat the oven to 325 and line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners.

Roll the dough into one inch balls and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake 10 minutes, or until the cookies start to crack. Remove from the oven and top each with a square of chocolate and a marshmallow half. Return to the oven and bake 3-4 minutes, or until the marshmallows have puffed. Let cool completely before serving.

adapted from Like Mother Like Daughter
These rich and gooey hot cocoa cookies are the perfect treat for a cold day!
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