The Baker Upstairs: 2018

8.04.2018

Baked Meatball Penne

Yum
This cheesy and savory baked meatball penne is quick and easy to make, and the perfect hearty dinner for a busy night!

This cheesy and savory baked meatball penne is quick and easy to make, and the perfect hearty dinner for a busy night!

Can I just say that moving is kind of the worst? I mean, it's very exciting that we own a home now, and we're in a great location, close to my husband's work and my kids' schools. And it has been really fun to work on projects to make our house the way we want it. But this nonsense of unpacking, and living in chaos, and not knowing where anything is - it totally sucks! I've been unpacking and organizing one room at a time, but I'm coming rapidly to the conclusion that we own WAY too much stuff! I'm thinking that we need to have a major purge shortly, and donate or sell a lot of stuff. With all the chaos from moving, cooking has not been at the top of my priority list, so we've mostly been living off Trader Joe's frozen meals and whatever else I can throw together at dinner time. This baked meatball penne is the perfect easy dinner if you, like me, have very little time, energy, or willpower to cook dinner. 

This cheesy and savory baked meatball penne is quick and easy to make, and the perfect hearty dinner for a busy night!

Since my food options are fairly limited right now, I've been forced to get a little more creative with recipes. I had a bag of meatballs in the freezer, and rummaged around in a few boxes until I found some penne pasta and a jar of marinara sauce. This pasta took maybe 15 minutes of hands-on time, then baked into a big pan of cheesy goodness in about 20 minutes. Easy peasy, and super delicious!

This cheesy and savory baked meatball penne is quick and easy to make, and the perfect hearty dinner for a busy night!

This baked meatball penne seriously could not be easier to make, and everyone in my family loved it!

This cheesy and savory baked meatball penne is quick and easy to make, and the perfect hearty dinner for a busy night!
Baked Meatball Penne

1/2 pound penne pasta
8 ounces frozen meatballs (half of 16 ounce package)
1 16 ounce jar marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, add the meatballs and marinara sauce to a large skillet and heat until the meatballs are warmed through. Stir in the cooked pasta and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Pour the pasta into a 9 x 9 baking dish, and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs. Bake 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted. Serve hot.
This cheesy and savory baked meatball penne is quick and easy to make, and the perfect hearty dinner for a busy night!

7.30.2018

Vanilla Cheesecake Mousse

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This homemade vanilla cheesecake mousse is so luscious and silky smooth. All the taste of cheesecake, without any of the work!

This homemade vanilla cheesecake mousse is so luscious and silky smooth. All the taste of cheesecake, without any of the work!

Hey friends! It's been a minute. :) I posted almost a month ago about our new house, and then haven't posted anything since. The last month has been a blur of painting, packing, floor refinishing, moving, unpacking, and settling into our new place. We are finally 100% moved in (although far from 100% unpacked...) and it's exciting to see our house coming along, bit by bit! Anyway, since it's National Cheesecake Day today, I thought I might as well pop back in with a quick and easy recipe. This vanilla cheesecake mousse is one of my husband's favorite desserts. It takes just a few minutes to mix up, and a little bit of chill time, and then you've got an awesome cheesecake dessert that tastes like a million bucks!

As a rule, I don't like cheesecake very much (I know, I'm super weird that way!) but I do love this cheesecake mousse. It's so incredibly smooth and luscious, and has the perfect light cheesecake flavor. I love it with fresh fruit on top (or even a few spoonfuls of this delicious strawberry sauce or blackberry sauce), but it's delicious all on its own. The recipe makes about four hearty servings, but you could easily double or triple the recipe if you're making it for a crowd. This one is definitely a must-make!

This homemade vanilla cheesecake mousse is so luscious and silky smooth. All the taste of cheesecake, without any of the work!
Vanilla Cheesecake Mousse

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon corn syrup
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or regular vanilla)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the corn syrup and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla until well blended. Add half of the whipped cream to the bowl and mix until smooth. Add the other half of the whipped cream and mix until completely blended. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.

When you're ready to serve, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the mixture into each of four small serving dishes. Pipe or scoop the cheesecake mousse into the serving dishes.
This homemade vanilla cheesecake mousse is so luscious and silky smooth. All the taste of cheesecake, without any of the work!

For more delicious cheesecake recipes, be sure to check out these fantastic posts below from my Celebrating Food blogging friends:

16 mouthwatering cheesecake recipes, perfect for celebrating National Cheesecake Day!

Cheesecake Brownies from Creations by Kara
Mini Raspberry Cheesecakes from Pretty Providence
Coconut Key Lime Cheesecake Bars from Real Mom Kitchen
No Bake Berry Cheesecake Parfait from An Italian in my Kitchen
Dairy Free Cheesecake from Namely Marly
Cappuccino Cheesecake from Simply Stacie
Chocolate Almond Cheesecake in Jars from Premeditated Leftovers
No Bake Strawberry Cheesecake from Super Golden Bakes
Instant Pot Cheesecake from My Mommy Style

and even more tasty cheesecake recipes from The Baker Upstairs:


7.04.2018

Patriotic Cookie Cake

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This patriotic cookie cake is so easy to make, and so festive for the 4th of July!

This patriotic cookie cake is so easy to make, and so festive for the 4th of July!

Happy Fourth of July everyone! My family has an extra reason to celebrate this year - we closed on our first home yesterday! We've had our share of twists and turns in our home buying journey (including an earlier purchase that fell through and pretty much broke my heart). The house we ended up buying is right down the street from our kids' school, close to my husband's work, and in a great area overall. It's in really good shape, but still has enough projects to do to keep us busy. I can't wait to make it my own! We've been working toward this goal for years now, and it feels totally amazing to have finally accomplished it, especially considering how competitive and crazy the housing market is in Portland right now. Hooray!

This patriotic cookie cake is so easy to make, and so festive for the 4th of July!

We won't move in for another few weeks, but we're planning to head over this evening to sit on the porch and watch the kids do sparklers. We haven't had a yard for the kids to play in since we moved to Portland, and I'm so excited to just watch them run around for a little while. How exciting is that? We'll also be celebrating with this delicious and fun patriotic cookie cake. It's super simple and quick to make, and tastes fantastic! It's loaded with chocolate chips and M&M's, with a soft and moist cookie base. I added a little bit of buttercream on top (mostly so I could decorate it with some fun sprinkles!) but it's delicious with or without the frosting. This cookie cake is the perfect way to celebrate today, and is easily adaptable for any holiday by changing out the M&M's. It's definitely one to add to your list!

This patriotic cookie cake is so easy to make, and so festive for the 4th of July!
Patriotic Cookie Cake

for the cookie cake:
12 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups red, white, and blue M&M candies, divided
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, divided

for the frosting:
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 teaspoons half and half or milk
red, white, and blue sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 10 inch quiche pan or springform pan and set aside. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the flour, corn starch, baking soda, and salt, and mix until just combined, being careful not to over-mix. Fold in 1 1/4 cups M&M's candies and 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips. Press the batter into the prepared pan in an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining M&M's and chocolate chips. Bake 22-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool completely.

When the cake has cooled, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon half and half. Beat until smooth, adding additional half and half as needed to make a light and fluffy frosting. Pipe the frosting around the edges of the cake, then add sprinkles.

adapted from Baking a Moment
This patriotic cookie cake is so easy to make, and so festive for the 4th of July!

7.02.2018

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

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This savory and flavorful pasta e fagioli soup is easy to make, and super delicious!

This savory and flavorful pasta e fagioli soup is easy to make, and super delicious!

I know, right? It's July, and here I am posting a soup recipe. I'm clearly insane. It's one of my quirks that I love soup so much that I eat it frequently year round, regardless of how hot it is outside. This particular soup, though, I actually made several months ago during the winter. It was during a time that I was really busy with lots of projects, and I think I made it on a day when I had cooked and photographed 4 or 5 other recipes. We had it for dinner, and I was so worn out that I just didn't think much about it one way or the other. The recipe made a lot, so I saved the leftovers in the freezer for another day, and we pulled it out to have for dinner last week on a lazy evening. I took one bite, turned to my husband, and said, "Oh my gosh! This is fantastic! Was it this fantastic the first time?" He claims that it was, and that I just didn't notice its brilliance because I was so exhausted.

Having (re)discovered how incredibly tasty this soup is, I couldn't wait to share it with you! It has amazing depth of flavor, considering that its simmer time is not all that long, and it's loaded with tasty veggies, savory sausage, and tender pasta. It's hearty and filling, but still feels like a light meal. I served it with some of these yummy Olive Garden copycat breadsticks, and they were so delicious together. This soup is definitely worth heating the kitchen up for! 

This savory and flavorful pasta e fagioli soup is easy to make, and super delicious!

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

1 pound mild Italian sausage
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced
3/4 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 cups chicken broth
1 (16 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 pound ditalini or macaroni pasta, cooked according to package directions

In a large pot, brown the sausage until cooked through. Drain the excess fat, leaving about 1-2 teaspoons in the pot. Add the garlic, onion, carrots and celery, and cook until slightly softened. Add the chicken broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Simmer 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the beans and cooked pasta, and serve immediately.

*If you are making this recipe ahead of time, keep the cooked pasta separate from the soup until ready to serve. The soup can also be frozen, with the cooked pasta frozen in a separate container and stirred into the soup when reheated.

adapted from Damn Delicious
This savory and flavorful pasta e fagioli soup is easy to make, and super delicious!

6.27.2018

Fresh and Tasty Brown Rice Bowls

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These fresh and tasty brown rice bowls are super delicious, packed with protein, and loaded with fresh toppings!

These fresh and tasty brown rice bowls are super delicious, packed with protein, and loaded with fresh toppings!

Okay, Oregon locals, who here loves Cafe Yumm? A friend recommended them to me right after we moved here, and it took me a long time to finally try them out. I was pretty skeptical about their whole concept, until I tasted my first Yumm Bowl and it was love at first bite. If you're not local and haven't tried them, they are bowls with brown rice and black bean at the base, smothered with an amazing and flavorful sauce, then topped with a protein (I always choose chicken) and fresh toppings like tomato, avocado, grated cheese, sliced olives, sour cream, and salsa. They're healthy and fresh and delicious, and are totally filling while still feeling light. Once we discovered how good they were, my husband and I couldn't get enough and visited Cafe Yumm for lunch at least every other week. Pretty soon, though, the cost of all those bowls started to add up and our bank account wasn't very happy. We decided to try our hand at making them at home, and came up with this fun copycat recipe.  I'm still working on the sauce a little bit, because it doesn't taste EXACTLY like the Cafe Yumm sauce, but it's super delicious all the same!

These fresh and tasty brown rice bowls are super delicious, packed with protein, and loaded with fresh toppings!

We make these brown rice bowls at home at least once a week (and sometimes as often as 2-3 times per week) and we love them every time! They're so fresh and filling, and it's easy to customize them depending on what I have in the house. I've made them with barbecue chicken, taco-seasoned chicken, rotisserie chicken, and grilled chicken, and they're delicious each way. I always have cooked chicken in the freezer, and I like to make a big batch of brown rice and portion it out into meal-sized servings, then freeze it. I also buy cans of olives and black beans in bulk just to have them on hand for these bowls. Having the two main ingredients already cooked, and keeping most of what I need on hand really helps to make these bowls quick and easy to prepare. I definitely recommend using brown rice, because it adds some great texture and doesn't get soggy with all the toppings. We like ours with black beans, but you could easily substitute any beans you like. The most important part is to pile on the fresh toppings! My favorite way to serve them is with avocado, tomato, olives, sour cream, salsa, and grated cheddar cheese. Soooooo delicious!
Brown Rice Bowls

for the sauce:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (I used this brand)

for the bowls:
cooked brown rice (I like to use this recipe)
black beans, drained and rinsed
protein of your choice (chicken, tofu, steak, etc.)
fresh toppings: tomato, avocado, chopped olives, corn, cilantro, grated cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc.

To make the sauce, add the oil, almonds, beans, and coconut milk to a blender and blend until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate for one hour or until ready to use. To make the bowls, layer about 1/2 cup of brown rice in the bottom of a bowl. Top with 1/4 cup black beans, then spread a generous layer of sauce on top. Top with protein and fresh toppings of your choice, then enjoy.

sauce adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
These fresh and tasty brown rice bowls are super delicious, packed with protein, and loaded with fresh toppings!

6.25.2018

Biscuits and Gravy

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This delicious biscuits and gravy recipe is so easy to make, and so filling. It's a hearty breakfast that the whole family will love!

This delicious biscuits and gravy recipe is so easy to make, and so filling. It's a hearty breakfast that the whole family will love!

Did you grow up eating biscuits and gravy? It's one of those foods that somehow I never tried until I was well into adulthood. My mom wasn't one for making biscuits, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times that she served pork when I was a kid, so biscuits and gravy were pretty much off the table. I tried them for the first time when my husband and I were on vacation a few years after we were married, and I was shocked by how delicious they were! Since then, they've been something fun that I order occasionally when we go out to eat, but I had never made them at home until now. I used my favorite trusty never-fail biscuit recipe, whipped up a quick sausage gravy, and we were all set!

This delicious biscuits and gravy recipe is so easy to make, and so filling. It's a hearty breakfast that the whole family will love!

Now, if you grew up eating biscuits and gravy, and you have a fantastic family recipe that has been passed down through the generations, this recipe probably can't compete. But if you, like me, are just learning how to make them and need a good solid recipe to start with, this one is perfect! It's simple and quick, and pretty much foolproof. I used a roll of Jimmy Dean pork sausage (mostly because that's what was available at Target), but you could use any type of fresh sausage. I'm sure turkey sausage or even vegetarian sausage would work well. Feel free to adjust the salt and pepper to suit your taste, and you could easily add red pepper flakes if you want to spice it up a little. I was making it for my children, who think breakfast sausage is a little too spicy, so I kept the spice level pretty minimal. These biscuits and gravy are so delicious and filling, and we are definitely going to make them again and again!

This delicious biscuits and gravy recipe is so easy to make, and so filling. It's a hearty breakfast that the whole family will love!
Biscuits and Gravy

for the biscuits:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk

for the gravy:
1 pound pork sausage
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

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. 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. Cut into circles using a biscuit cutter or small cup. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

While the biscuits are cooking, make the gravy. Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and mix to combine. Cook 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring to prevent lumps. Whisk in the salt and pepper, then cook until thickened. To serve, spoon the gravy over the warm biscuits and serve immediately.
This delicious biscuits and gravy recipe is so easy to make, and so filling. It's a hearty breakfast that the whole family will love!

6.20.2018

Strawberry Hand Pies

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These delicious and adorable strawberry hand pies are easy to make, and the perfect summer dessert!

These delicious and adorable strawberry hand pies are easy to make, and the perfect summer dessert!

Who else LOVES strawberries? I mentioned earlier this week that we picked an abundance of fresh strawberries at a local farm, and we have had a great time finding ways to use them! These strawberry hand pies were an instant favorite with everyone in my family, and they've already requested that I make them again with each successive batch of berries that we pick this summer. They're so simple and fun to make, but they look very impressive, too! I love the layers of flaky pie crust, the sweet strawberry filling, and the crisp sugary top. You could definitely substitute another summer fruit, like peaches, apricots, blackberries, or blueberries in these pies, and I'm sure they'd be equally delicious. They're surprisingly sturdy, so they would be great for sending in a lunch box or bringing on a picnic. I served them with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, and my whole family loved them!
Strawberry Hand Pies

2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 recipe homemade pie crust (or 1 package refrigerated pie crust)
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

To make the filling, mix together the strawberries, sugar, corn starch, and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, and simmer 5 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. When the filling has cooled, preheat the oven to 425. Line two baking sheets with silicone or parchment. Roll out the pie crust and cut it into 24 4-inch circles. Cut vents in 12 of the circles (I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter, but you could cut vents with a knife instead if you prefer). Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling onto the 12 remaining circles, then place a vented circle on top of each. Press gently with your fingers to seal, then seal with a fork all the way around. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water. Brush the egg mixture over the top of each pie, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool before serving.
These delicious and adorable strawberry hand pies are easy to make, and the perfect summer dessert!

6.18.2018

Simple Strawberry Jam

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This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!

This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!

It's finally berry season here in Oregon! Since we had such a great time picking and preserving berries last year, I have been looking forward to berry season all through the long cold winter. Our favorite u-pick farm (Smith Berry Barn, for you Portland locals) opened for strawberry picking a couple of weeks ago, and we couldn't wait to go pick some ripe berries. Last year we mostly picked shuksan berries, which I really liked, but they were so small that they were difficult to work with. This year we picked mostly Benton berries, and they were much easier to use for canning and cooking. They're sweet and plump, and we love them!

I ended up making 3 batches of this jam with the berries (for 21 jars total), and had enough leftover for some strawberry hand pies (recipe coming soon!), a batch of strawberry sauce, and some strawberry cream cheese bread. This simple strawberry jam preserves all the flavor of those gorgeous ripe strawberries, and tastes amazing on top of everything! We love to eat it on toast, biscuits, pancakes, and use it in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It has the perfect strawberry flavor, and comes out great every time!

This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!

Last year I discovered the easiest way to wash a big batch of strawberries, and now it's the method I use every time. (It's not exactly brain surgery, but it has made my life easier, so I'll share it with you!) First, add all the strawberries you want to use to a colander, then place the colander in a bowl that is just slightly larger than it. Run cold water over the berries until the water is up to the top of the colander. Gently agitate the strawberries for a few minutes with your hands to shake loose any dirt or grit. Lift the colander out of the water, and they're ready to use. I'm always amazed by how much dirt I find in the bottom of the bowl afterwards!

This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!

I let my kids help me make the jam this time (usually I'm too impatient when I'm canning to let the little ones help) and we had so much fun making it together. They helped me wash and hull the strawberries, and they especially loved mashing them with the potato masher. They got so exuberant that I ended up with some bright red berry juice splattered on the ceiling, but they had such a great time that it was totally worth it. :)

This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!

I will caution you that when the jam is boiling on the stove, it tends to splatter a little, so I would suggest using the longest-handled spoon or spatula you have, and standing back as far as possible. As far as keeping the jam, I've added instructions for freezer jam and canned jam below, so feel free to use whatever works best for you. Either way, you won't be able to get enough!

This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!
Simple Strawberry Jam

around 6 cups fresh strawberries (to make 4 cups mashed berries)
4 1/2 tablespoons regular pectin
1 teaspoon butter
4 cups sugar

To make the jam: Wash the strawberries well to remove any grit. Hull the strawberries (I find it easiest to hull them using a spoon), then place them in a shallow dish. Using a potato masher, lightly mash the strawberries. Pour the strawberries and strawberry juice into a large measuring cup, and fill to 4 cups. Pour the mashed strawberries into a large pot and whisk in the pectin. Add the butter to the pot, and heat over high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches a boil. Pour in the sugar all at once and mix to combine. Return the jam to a boil, then boil three minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let sit five minutes. Skim the foam off the top of the jam, if desired.

Freezer directions: Ladle the jam into clean, freezer-safe containers. Freeze for up to 6 months. When ready to use, place in the fridge for a few hours to thaw.

Canning directions: Before preparing the jam, fill a large pot or canning pot about halfway with warm water. Place 7 half pint sized mason jars into the water and add water to cover completely. Bring the water to a simmer, and simmer until ready to use. Place 7 canning lids in a small pot, add water to cover, and heat over low heat until ready to use. When the jam is done, retrieve the jars from the simmering water, and ladle the jam into the jars, filling to 1/2 inch from the top. Wipe the top of each jar, then place a canning lid on top, and securing with a band (being careful not to twist it too tight). When all the jars are filled, return them to the canning pot and bring the water to a boil. Cover and boil for 10 minutes (adding additional time as needed to adjust for altitude). Remove from the canner and let sit until cool. Check to make sure the lids have sealed (they should not move up and down when you press on the middle of the lid) then store for up to 18 months. Refrigerate any unsealed jars or opened jam jars and use within 1-2 weeks.

adapted slightly from freshpreserving.com
This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!

5.28.2018

Blueberry Muffin Bread

Yum
This blueberry muffin bread is so tender and sweet, and topped with a delicious buttery streusel. Perfect for breakfast or dessert!

This blueberry muffin bread is so tender and sweet, and topped with a delicious buttery streusel. Perfect for breakfast or dessert!

If you haven't noticed from my various Instagram posts, my husband seems to schedule himself to work for every holiday. When we lived in Utah, I didn't mind as much because I could just go hang out with my family while he was working. Since we're in Portland now, and my family is 700+ miles away, it just generally means that holidays are long, boring days for me and the kids. Everything is closed, all of our friends are busy with their own families, and I'm usually too exhausted to think of something fun to do. The holiday pay is nice, don't get me wrong, but it can be a little lonely and disheartening. I'm trying to train my brain to think about things in a more positive way, so lately I've been choosing to see it as something kind that my husband is doing for his co-workers. If he is at work on the holiday, it means another nurse gets to spend the day with his or her family. So it's really a good thing, right? 

Since I know from experience how hard it can be to work holidays as a nurse, I always try to bake a treat to send along with my husband to share with his co-workers. It has earned me (and him, I think) quite a positive reputation on his unit. (Incidentally, I visited his unit a few weeks ago to drop off some treats for nurses week, and found myself with my own little set of groupies. It was pretty awesome!) In celebration of Memorial Day today, I made this delicious blueberry muffin bread to share. It's a fun twist on my favorite blueberry muffins, and it turned out fantastic!

This blueberry muffin bread is so tender and sweet, and topped with a delicious buttery streusel. Perfect for breakfast or dessert!

I don't know which part of this bread is my favorite - the plump and juicy blueberries, the buttery cinnamon streusel on top, or the sweet and tender muffin base. This blueberry muffin bread is perfect for breakfast, brunch, or dessert, or for sharing with co-workers when it's a holiday and you're stuck at work. I hope all those awesome nurses are enjoying their day today, and that a sweet little snack helps the day go by faster!

This blueberry muffin bread is so tender and sweet, and topped with a delicious buttery streusel. Perfect for breakfast or dessert!
Blueberry Muffin Bread

for the bread:
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

for the streusel:
1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the oil, egg, milk, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries. Scoop the batter into the prepared loaf pan, spreading evenly. To make the streusel, whisk together sugar, flour, and cinnamon with a fork. Cut in the butter using a fork or your fingers to form a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the muffins. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
This blueberry muffin bread is so tender and sweet, and topped with a delicious buttery streusel. Perfect for breakfast or dessert!

5.22.2018

Reese's-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

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These Reese's stuffed chocolate chip cookies combine two favorite treats into one decadent cookie!

These Reese's stuffed chocolate chip cookies combine two favorite treats into one decadent cookie!

If you're ever wondering how to make a dessert better, adding some Reese's candies is a pretty safe bet. It certainly worked for these chocolate chip cookies! Seriously, though, who can resist a warm, soft, chewy chocolate chip cookie, stuffed with a melty Reese's mini? Not me, that's for sure!

I made these cookies a few weeks ago when I found a forgotten bag of Reese's minis on the top shelf of the cupboard, behind some mixing bowls. I'm honestly shocked that a forgotten bag of Reese's could even exist in my house, since my kids seem to have an extrasensory ability to find candy, wherever it is hidden. I knew that if I brought the bag of candy down and placed it in one of my usual hiding places, the kids would find it and demolish it within a day or so. I decided the best solution was to bake something with it instead! Chocolate chip cookies are always quick and easy to make, and adding the Reese's just makes them all the more delicious.

These Reese's stuffed chocolate chip cookies combine two favorite treats into one decadent cookie!

Be careful to seal the dough all the way around the candy, to prevent the candy from leaking out the bottom of the dough as they bake. The Reese's chocolate gets very melty and kind of spreads within the cookie, and you don't want to lose any of that deliciousness to the baking sheet.

These Reese's stuffed chocolate chip cookies combine two favorite treats into one decadent cookie!

I liked these cookies best when they were still warm from the oven, although they were totally melty and gooey. Yum! Just eat them with a stack of napkins and a glass of cold milk handy, and you'll be fine. :)

These Reese's stuffed chocolate chip cookies combine two favorite treats into one decadent cookie!

Reese's Stuffed 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
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
26-30 Reese's minis

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners and set aside. 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. Flatten each ball slightly, then place a Reese's mini in the middle of the dough. Wrap the dough around the candy, sealing it closed. Place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 11-13 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly golden brown.
These Reese's stuffed chocolate chip cookies combine two favorite treats into one decadent cookie!
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