The Baker Upstairs: 2019

9.19.2019

Banana Bread Muffins

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These tender and sweet banana bread muffins have the BEST banana flavor, and they're so easy to make!

These tender and sweet banana bread muffins have the BEST banana flavor, and they're so easy to make!

When I was little, my mom had a Better Homes & Gardens bread cookbook (copyright 1973), and one of my favorite pastimes was looking through the book at all of the bread pictures. She didn't own a lot of cookbooks, since she's a mostly intuitive cook and doesn't often use recipes, so the books she did own were fascinating to me. Some of the first recipes I ever learned to bake (biscuits and muffins) were from that cookbook, and I made them over and over. Those first attempts were rock hard and dry and pretty much awful, but I kept at it and got better with time. I probably made the basic muffin recipe from that book hundreds of times over the years, and it cemented my love of muffins for life!

These days I've moved on to baking different recipes, but the love of muffins remains. They're one of my favorites to make for weekend breakfasts, and my kids share my love of muffins too. These banana bread muffins are one of our most frequently baked recipes (along with these delightful blueberry buttermilk muffins). These muffins are a slight variation on my favorite banana bread recipe, and it turns out that it's extra delicious in muffin form. They have just the right amount of banana flavor, and they're so sweet and buttery and delicious!

These tender and sweet banana bread muffins have the BEST banana flavor, and they're so easy to make!
Banana Bread Muffins

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons milk
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 overripe bananas, mashed

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and milk, and mix until smooth. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, and mix until just combined. Fold in the mashed bananas and mix until combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling 3/4 full. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until light golden brown on top and cooked through.
These tender and sweet banana bread muffins have the BEST banana flavor, and they're so easy to make!

9.17.2019

Fresh Salsa

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This delicious and flavorful salsa is made with fresh tomatoes and peppers. It's the perfect way to use up those garden tomatoes!

This delicious and flavorful salsa is made with fresh tomatoes and peppers. It's the perfect way to use up those garden tomatoes!

We moved into our house at the end of last summer, so this year was our first full summer in our own house, and I was really excited to plant a garden this year! We've had a few small gardening experiences in our various rentals, but this was our first time growing a garden on our own (tiny) patch of land. We're planning to do some major landscaping in the next year or two, but this year we just used the raised garden beds that were already there. I don't have a lot of experience with gardening, and I probably did everything wrong, but I managed to actually grow some things this year! I'm so proud of myself. I kept up with watering religiously all summer, and we managed to grow a ton of cherry tomatoes, a variety of full sized tomatoes, as well as bell peppers, jalapeños, and zucchini. It's not much, but it makes me so proud to eat food that I grew myself!

We planted our garden pretty late this year (because I was reading so many conflicting resources about the best time to plant in our area), so we didn't get very many ripe tomatoes until the middle of August, and then they all turned ripe at once! I have a big basket of tomatoes on the counter that are ready to be used in recipes, and another little basket full of cherry tomatoes that I've been sending in my daughter's lunches every day. Since we are huge fans of chips and salsa at our house, it was only fitting to use some of our tomatoes to make some fresh salsa. It turned out super delicious, and we've all been snacking on it constantly! The fresh tomatoes add a ton of flavor, and I love that we were able to use jalapeños from the garden as well. I added one jalapeño and the salsa was pretty mild, but add two if you like a little more of a kick. This salsa is delicious!

This delicious and flavorful salsa is made with fresh tomatoes and peppers. It's the perfect way to use up those garden tomatoes!

Fresh Salsa

4-5 small to medium tomatoes (I used Roma tomatoes)
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1 - 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor. Pulse until the salsa is the desired consistency, but be careful not to over-process. Chill for at least one hour before serving.

adapted slightly from Cooking Classy

This delicious and flavorful salsa is made with fresh tomatoes and peppers. It's the perfect way to use up those garden tomatoes!

9.15.2019

20 Awesome Apple Recipes to Make This Fall

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It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!

It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!

The fall weather is finally here in Oregon, and I am thrilled! I've been wearing fleeces and rain jackets all week, and I'm so excited for all things cozy and warm. One of my family's goals for the fall is to pick apples at a local orchard and make our own apple sauce, so I've got apples on the brain lately. I thought it would be fun to round up some of my favorite apple recipes for you! I've included a wide variety of delicious apple recipes, from apple pecan chicken salad wraps, to dried cinnamon apple chips, to my favorite tropical green smoothie featuring green apples. Savory and sweet recipes, breakfast and main courses, desserts and drinks - this list has it all!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!


It's apple season again, and here are 20 amazing apple recipes you'll LOVE to make this fall!

Happy apple season!

9.13.2019

Homemade Cheez-It Crackers

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These homemade Cheez-It crackers are so deliciously cheesy, and even better than store-bought!

These homemade cheez-it crackers are so deliciously cheesy, and even better than store-bought!

Have you ever made homemade crackers before? Somehow I always thought they would be difficult or time-consuming to make, but they are surprisingly easy! I love making things from scratch that I usually buy at the store, and these homemade Cheez-It crackers are one of the best I've made. We make them often for after school snacks, or adding to lunchboxes, and they are always a kid favorite. They're crunchy and cheesy and completely addicting!

These homemade cheez-it crackers are so deliciously cheesy, and even better than store-bought!

The dough is quick and easy to mix together (only five ingredients!), and once it's mixed you'll let it chill for a little while before rolling it out very thin. The thinner you can get the dough, the better the crackers will be in the end. Make sure the thickness is consistent throughout, so you don't have thinner crackers that get burned and thicker crackers that don't crisp up in the oven. Cut them into squares (as you can see mine aren't exactly perfect!) and then make a hole in the middle of each cracker with a toothpick or skewer. My kids especially love to help with that part. Finally, sprinkle them with some coarse salt before baking. My favorite is this Jacobsen salt that tastes amazing.

These homemade cheez-it crackers are so deliciously cheesy, and even better than store-bought!

Bake the crackers until they're crisp and lightly browned on the bottom. They will puff up a little as they bake, but they don't spread very much, so it's okay to place them pretty close together on the baking sheet. Let them cool completely, then store them in an airtight container for up to a week. They have the most delicious cheesy flavor, and are completely irresistible. Yum!

These homemade cheez-it crackers are so deliciously cheesy, and even better than store-bought!
Homemade Cheez-It Crackers

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons cold water
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium bowl using a handheld mixer, cream together the cheese, butter, and salt. Add the flour and water and mix until the dough is smooth. Shape into two discs, and chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking sheets. Roll each disc out to 1/8 inch thickness, and, using a ruler, cut into 1 inch squares. Transfer squares to baking sheets, using a skewer or toothpick to poke a hole in the center of each one. Sprinkle with coarse salt and bake 10-15 minutes, depending on desired level of crispiness. Store in an airtight container.

adapted from Baked By Rachel

These homemade cheez-it crackers are so deliciously cheesy, and even better than store-bought!

9.11.2019

Cheesy Taco Pockets

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These tiny and delicious cheesy taco pockets are perfect for school lunches, and so easy to make!

These tiny and delicious cheesy taco pockets are perfect for school lunches, and so easy to make!

I know we're only a few weeks into the new school year, but I am already pretty much over it. The getting up early, the frantic rush in the morning, sorting out the mountains of papers that come home with the kids, running to catch the bus... I'm kind of just done with all of it! I could probably use a good attitude adjustment, but I'm hoping that things will get easier over time if we just continue in our routine. We've been packing healthy lunches every day, keeping up with homework, doing our nightly reading practice, and working through all of those big emotions that come with being at school with other kids all day. It's exhausting, but I'm hoping eventually we'll get used to it and things won't feel as difficult.

One thing we've been doing pretty well at is having a variety of delicious choices for my girls' lunches. These cheesy taco pockets are always a favorite, and I love that they are so simple and quick to make. I used my favorite homemade pizza dough recipe to make things quick and easy, then added some taco-seasoned ground beef and shredded cheese to give them a delicious taco flavor. Brush them with olive oil and bake them in the oven until they're light golden brown. Easy peasy!

These tiny and delicious cheesy taco pockets are perfect for school lunches, and so easy to make!

I like to serve them with sour cream and salsa for dipping (although I pack the condiments in small leakproof containers if I'm sending them in my kids' lunches), with some fresh fruits and vegetables on the side. My kids love them, and I like that I can make a big batch at the beginning of the week and portion them out throughout the week for lunches. They're simple, but totally delicious!

These tiny and delicious cheesy taco pockets are perfect for school lunches, and so easy to make!
Cheesy Taco Pockets

1 ball of pizza dough (make your own with this recipe)
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cheddar cheese
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375. In a medium skillet, cook the ground beef, breaking apart with a spatula, until cooked through. Add the garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, and salt, and mix well. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Roll out the pizza dough into a large rectangle. Using a 2 inch biscuit cutter or a drinking glass, cut the dough into circles. Place a spoonful of the taco meat in the middle of each circle, then sprinkle with cheese. Fold each dough round in half to close it, and crimp the edges with your fingers to seal it.
Place the taco pockets on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet, and brush with olive oil. Bake 15-18 minutes, until lightly browned.

These tiny and delicious cheesy taco pockets are perfect for school lunches, and so easy to make!

8.30.2019

Pepperoni Pizza Rolls

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These cheesy and delicious pepperoni pizza rolls are kid-friendly, and so easy to make!

These cheesy and delicious pepperoni pizza rolls are kid-friendly, and so easy to make!

Is there any more iconic kid food than pepperoni pizza? My kids are pizza fanatics and would eat it every day (probably twice a day) if they could. These pepperoni pizza rolls are a fun twist on pepperoni pizza, and they're perfect for lunchboxes! I love that I can make a batch at the beginning of the week and portion them out so that lunch is taken care of all week long. My kids are always thrilled to see them in their lunches, and I love when their lunchboxes come home empty. They're super easy to make, and I almost always have the ingredients on hand, so they're perfect for when I'm running low on groceries and don't know what to send for lunch.

I started by rolling out my favorite pizza dough, then spreading marinara sauce all over the dough, leaving a margin of about an inch around the edges. Leaving a little space will help the dough stick together after it's rolled.

These cheesy and delicious pepperoni pizza rolls are kid-friendly, and so easy to make!

Next, spread your cheese and chopped up pepperoni over the dough, then sprinkle parmesan over the top.

These cheesy and delicious pepperoni pizza rolls are kid-friendly, and so easy to make!

Roll the dough up, starting at the long edge. Be gentle and don't roll too tightly, or you will push all of the filling out.

These cheesy and delicious pepperoni pizza rolls are kid-friendly, and so easy to make!

Cut the dough into one inch slices and place them cut side up in a greased baking dish. Bake until the rolls are golden brown.

These cheesy and delicious pepperoni pizza rolls are kid-friendly, and so easy to make!

These pizza rolls are delicious served hot or cold, and will keep in the fridge for several days. If you're not a pepperoni fan, you can easily substitute any of your favorite pizza toppings instead. These pizza rolls are the perfect way to jazz up your lunchbox!
Pepperoni Pizza Rolls

1 ball (about 1 pound) pizza dough
1/2 cup marinara sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
12 slices pepperoni, chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided

Preheat the oven to 375. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Roll the pizza dough out into a large rectangle and spread with the marinara sauce, leaving a margin of one inch around the edges. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly over the dough, then top with the pepperoni. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese over the top. Roll up the dough gently, starting at the long edge. Cut dough into one inch slices. Place cut side up in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on top.

These cheesy and delicious pepperoni pizza rolls are kid-friendly, and so easy to make!

8.28.2019

Homemade Nilla Wafers

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These homemade nilla wafers are way easier to make than you might think, and even more delicious than the original!

These homemade nilla wafers are way easier to make than you might think, and even more delicious than the original!

Who doesn't love a good nilla wafer? They were one of my favorite treats as a kid, and I still love them as an adult! They're so simple and sweet and comforting, and remind me of happy childhood memories. As I've been gathering ideas for school lunches for my kids, I stumbled across a recipe for homemade nilla wafers, and knew that I need to make them immediately. They turned out even better than I was hoping. They have the same crunch and sweet vanilla flavor of the store-bought cookies, but they taste even better! A couple of these sweet little cookies would be the perfect addition to any lunchbox.

These homemade nilla wafers are way easier to make than you might think, and even more delicious than the original!

I scooped my cookies using a 1 tablespoon scoop, filled halfway, and I still feel like they were a little big. Next time I'll use a teaspoon for my cookies so they're the same size as the original nilla wafers. These cookies are pretty sturdy and will stay fresh for quite some time if stored in an airtight container, so you could easily make a big batch and portion them out over a few weeks for lunches or snacks. I will warn you that the recipe below is fairly small, so you may want to double or triple it if you love these cookies like I do!

These homemade nilla wafers are way easier to make than you might think, and even more delicious than the original!
Homemade Nilla Wafers

4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with a parchment or silicone liner and set aside. In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until combined. Chill for 20-30 minutes, until firm. Using a teaspoon or a small cookie scoop, roll the dough into small balls. Flatten slightly and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 15-17 minutes, until golden brown.

adapted slightly from Well Floured

These homemade nilla wafers are way easier to make than you might think, and even more delicious than the original!
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