The Baker Upstairs: 2011


german pancake


About 4 years ago, I had my first-ever German pancake. It was at a birthday party for one of Geoff's friends from his German program. The student, who was from northern Germany, was completely confused as to why someone would bring "German" pancakes to her birthday brunch, since she had never seen or heard of such a thing. Authentic or no, I found the pancakes delicious! One of Geoff's co-workers gave me her mom's recipe, and I have followed it faithfully ever since. Lately, though, it seemed like my pancakes were always lumpy and uncooperative, so I decided it was time to switch things up. I found a recipe from Smitten Kitchen and whipped up some pancakes. The difference was amazing! This recipe is seriously awesome and totally perfect! I've already made them twice, and I think Geoff wants them for breakfast every weekend... forever. I'm salivating just thinking about them.

German Pancake
Smitten Kitchen

4 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour, sifted
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons soft butter

Heat oven to 400°F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans well. Put eggs in blender container, cover and process at “stir” until light yellow in color. Push “mix” button, remove cover and add remaining ingredients; process until smooth. Pour into prepared pans and bake 20 minutes; then reduce heat to 350°F and bake 10 minutes. Slide onto hot plates.

linguine with clam sauce


When I saw this recipe on Annie's Eats, I was intrigued but also a little wary. I do like clam chowder, but I'm always a little weirded out by seafood. I was afraid the pasta would taste fishy, and that just seemed gross to me. Still, Annie explained that the recipe was one she had enjoyed as a child, and I figured it was worth a shot. I'm so glad I made it! It was easy and delicious. Abby ate every last noodle on her plate, and even licked up all the clam sauce. The clams were delicious and salty without being fishy, and the dish was light and flavorful. Yum!

Linguine with Clam Sauce
Annie's Eats

12 oz. linguine pasta
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (6.5 oz) cans minced clams, juices reserved
½ cup heavy cream (or half-and-half)
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions until al dente.  Drain well.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat until the butter is completely melted.  Add the garlic to the pan and sauté until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the reserved clam juice to the pan, bring to a simmer, and reduce by about half.  With the heat on medium-low, stir in the clams and the heavy cream.  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Portion the pasta into warmed serving bowls.  Spoon some of the sauce over the pasta and top with grated Parmesan, if desired.  Serve immediately.

quick and easy tomato soup


Geoff is a big fan of tomato soup, but I'm not super excited about the canned Campbell's stuff. I've been looking for a recipe for a long time that was easy to make, and finally I just came up with my own. We love it and have had it several times since!

Tomato Soup

1 can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
1 T chicken bouillon
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper
a splash of cream

Mix all ingredients except cream in a medium pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer over medium heat 15-20 minutes. Puree using a blender, return to pot, and add cream. Continue to cook another few minutes, until soup is thick and creamy.

frosted chocolate cupcake tops


I saw this recipe on Annie's Eats a little while ago and was intrigued enough to make them the same day. They turned out exactly as promised (although the frosting was a little dryer than I expected). Abby helped me decorate them and enjoyed chowing down when we were done. They weren't my favorite cookie of all time (I like cookies a little denser and chewier) but they were fun to make and pretty tasty, too!

Frosted Chocolate Cupcake Tops
Annie's Eats

For the cupcake tops:
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. espresso powder
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup buttermilk (or plain yogurt)

For the frosting:
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. sour cream (reduced fat is fine)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Line baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder.  Whisk to blend, and set aside.  Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt over a pot of simmering water (or in short intervals in the microwave) until smooth.  Set aside and let cool until just barely warm to the touch.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the egg.  Blend in the vanilla.  Beat in the melted chocolate until smooth.  With the mixer on low speed, add in half of the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.  Add in the buttermilk and mix just until smooth.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients.

Drop the dough in spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1½ tablespoons per cookie, spacing each about 2 inches apart.  Bake 8-10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, just until set.  Let cool on the baking sheet about 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl.  Melt over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave in short intervals, stirring until smooth.  Stir in the sour cream.  Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar until the mixture is smooth and glossy.  If necessary adjust the consistency with additional confectioners’ sugar to thicken or sour cream to thin it out.  Frost cookies as desired and decorate with sprinkles (optional).


giant chocolate peanut butter cup cookies


Please tell me we're not the only people who stumbled into Target a few days after Halloween, noticed that the gianormous bags of candy were now 70% off, and bought ten dollars worth of candy. I seem to have developed an obsession with Almond Joys lately, so it was imperative that I buy the huge bag with a mix of Almond Joy, Reese's, Milk Duds, and Hershey's, right? And considering I could get two of them at only $3 each, I would have been a fool not to buy two. In any case, this means that we have an abundance of candy at our house. As I was eating my third Almond Joy of the day, I started pondering how I could combine my two favorite things, candy and cookies, and then I got on the internet and saw that one of my favorite recipe blogs had just posted a recipe for that very thing. I made them that very day, and they were everything the recipe said they would be... amazing! I used an ice cream scoop instead of my usual cookie scoop, and they were gianormous and delicious. We had them with hot chocolate while watching The Walking Dead, and it was an awesome night.

Giant Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
Annie's Eats

1½ cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
6 tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. coarse salt
¾ stick (6 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. milk
2 cups coarsely chopped peanut butter cups, divided

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, peanut butter, and sugars. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add in the egg, vanilla extract, and milk. Blend until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Add in 1½ cups of the chopped peanut butter cups and fold in gently with a spatula.

Use a large dough scoop (about 3 tablespoons) to drop rounds of dough onto the baking sheets, spacing 2-3 inches apart. Gently press a few pieces of the reserved peanut butter cups into the top of each of the dough balls. Bake 12-14 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. (The cookies may seem too soft immediately after coming out of the oven but they will set as they cool. You don’t want to overbake them.) Let cool on the baking sheets about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

spinach and mushroom pizza


You really wouldn't believe it, but having pizza night every week has totally changed our lives. Geoff is pretty much willing to eat whatever I cook for the rest of the week, knowing that Thursday night, we'll all be stuffing our faces with cheesy goodness. In the time since I figured out how to make delicious pizza at home, I think we've had pizza from outside the house only once or twice. It's just that good! I think Geoff and Abby would be happy with our classic combo of one cheese and one turkey pepperoni pizza every week, but I need a little more variety in my life, so I like to experiment a little with my pizza toppings. This week I made spinach and mushroom pizza, and I think it was by far my favorite pizza that I have made so far! One of the benefits of having pizza night on Thursday is that we get to eat the leftovers on Friday for lunch. I like to cut the pizza into little pieces and then dip it in blue cheese or marinara. Yum!

Easy Pizza Crust
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 T yeast
1 T honey or sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Preheat oven (with baking stone) to 500. Mix together water, yeast, sugar, and salt, then add flour. Knead until smooth. Let dough rest 10-15 minutes, then roll out into two crusts. I usually shape my crusts on the preheated pizza stone (sprinkled with cornmeal) or on a sheet of parchment paper.

Spinach and Mushroom Pizza
adapted from Annie's Eats

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fresh spinach, rinsed and dried
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
~1 tsp. dried basil
ground pepper, to taste

Brush olive oil onto pizza crust, covering entire surface. Sprinkle minced garlic evenly over crust. Stack the spinach leaves, then cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips; scatter evenly over crust. Cover pizza with shredded mozzarella, and top with sliced mushrooms. Sprinkle dried basil over the top and season with ground pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and edges are crisp.

pumpkin coconut soup


I know I say this about everything I post, but this soup was delicious. Incredibly delicious. Geoff loved it and was excited to take it to work for lunch the next day. It was creamy and the flavor was amazing. I left out the butternut squash and cilantro (I had an aversion while I was pregnant and still can't stomach either) and doubled the pumpkin, and it was delicious!

Pumpkin Coconut Soup
Just Cook Already

5 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium sized yellow onion
3 cloves minced garlic
1 inch grated fresh ginger (seriously, it's worth buying it fresh)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. chicken base or  2 bouillon cubes
3 cups chicken broth
1 can cooked chicken (or you can use 2 chicken breasts... but canned chicken is easier and i think tastes better in this recipe)
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 14 oz. can coconut  milk
2 tsp. salt (more to taste if you'd like)
1-2 tsp. pepper
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Chop the onion into small, even pieces and grate the ginger with a fine grater.  In a large stock pot, add 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil has heated, add the chopped onion, ginger, and minced garlic to the oil and stir.  Cook for about 5-7 minutes until the onion is mostly cooked through (it will be translucent).

While that's cooking, peel your butternut squash and take 1/2 of it and cut into about 1/2 inch cubes.  In a small glass pyrex dish, add the cubed squash and pour 3 tbsp. olive oil over top. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. mix together so that all the cubes are coated in the olive oil. Make sure the pieces of squash are in one layer (no overlapping) so that they can cook evenly.  Bake in your oven for 25 minutes.

By this point, your onions, ginger, and garlic should be ready.  Add 1 tsp. ground cumin and stir, allowing the cumin to get all toasty and fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Add pumpkin puree, coconut milk, chicken base, chicken stock, and drained canned chicken. Stir together and mix completely.  Bring the soup to a simmer.  Add 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Allow to simmer for 25 minutes so that everything heats through and the chicken becomes very tender.

When your squash is done, remove from the glass dish, making sure to drain away any excess oil, and add to the soup.  Allow to simmer and cook for about 10 more minutes.


this week's menu

Saturday: chicken tortilla soup
Sunday: white bean and chicken chili
Monday: stovetop mac and cheese and steamed broccoli
Tuesday: black bean burgers with homemade buns 
Wednesday: egg and bean burritos
Thursday: spinach and mushroom pizza
Friday: shrimp enchiladas

treats: pumpkin cookies with caramel frosting, pumpkin spice gingersnaps


tasty cauliflower soup


I know what you're thinking... how can cauliflower soup be tasty? I was a little skeptical. And Geoff? He was having a rough day and said he wanted comfort food. When I told him that cauliflower soup was on the docket for the day, his face fell and he started mumbling things like, "Why do we always have to eat healthy food instead of food that tastes good?" However, after a few spoonfuls, he grudgingly said, "You know, for cauliflower soup, it's actually pretty good." And then he ate the whole bowlful and even mopped up the last bits with a biscuit. The soup was creamy and delicious. It tasted pretty similar to potato soup, but with more depth of flavor. The addition of dijon mustard was super tasty. I also liked that the soup was reasonably healthy. I could eat soup for pretty much every meal during the winter, so this one will definitely be added to the rotation.

Cauliflower Soup
Annie's Eats

2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
Kosher or sea salt
1 medium potato, peeled and diced into ¼-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
3½ cups vegetable broth
½ head cauliflower, chopped into small florets
2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes.  Season with salt, then mix in the potato, garlic and vegetable broth.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer, keep covered, and let cook for about 8 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  Add the cauliflower and cook about 5-6 minutes more, until the cauliflower is tender.  Stir in the cheese and mustard.

Puree with an immersion blender (or a food processor, vented to allow the steam to escape).  Mix in additional water or broth if the soup is too thick.  Season with additional salt to taste.  Serve warm topped with additional shredded cheese.

baked donuts


I've been seeing these baked donuts all over Pinterest for a while, but when one of my favorite sites, posted a recipe for them a few days ago, I knew it was time to make some. I made them pretty much exactly the way the recipe suggests. They were a little different than a typical donut, but still very tasty. They ended up being a little more like sweet rolls dipped in butter and cinnamon sugar, but they were still very soft and light and delicious. Yum! We will definitely make these again.

Baked Donuts
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/3 cups warm milk, 95 to 105 degrees
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
A pinch or two of nutmeg, freshly grated
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Place the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the yeast and sugar. Add the butter. Mix the eggs, flour, nutmeg, and salt. Beat the dough with the dough hook attachment (or with a wooden spoon and eventually your hands) for 2-3 minutes at medium speed. Adjust the dough texture by adding flour a few tablespoons at a time or more milk. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and be very soft and smooth but still slightly sticky – don’t overflour! Knead the dough for a few minutes (again, by mixer or by hand) and then transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for about an hour or until it has doubled in size (the exact time will depend on the temperature of your kitchen).

Punch down the dough and roll it out to about 1/2-inch thickness on a lightly floured counter. Using a doughnut cutter or a 2-3 inch circle cookie cutter, cut out circles in the dough. Carefully transfer the circles to a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet and stamp out the smaller inner circles using a smaller cutter. Be sure to make the holes large enough that as the doughnuts rise again and bake, they don’t fill in the doughnut hole with the puffiness of the dough. Cover the tray with lightly greased plastic wrap. (At this point, you can refrigerate the doughnuts overnight or proceed with the recipe.) Let the doughnuts rise for about another 45 minutes, until they are puffed and nearly doubled.

Bake in a 375 degree F oven until the bottoms are just golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Start checking the doughnuts around minute 8. They should still be pale on top, not golden and browned, and just barely baked through.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven and let cool for 1-2 minutes. Dip each one in the melted butter and toss or sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar. Serve immediately.


fluffernutter chocolate cookies


I got the recipe for these delicious cookies from my adorable friend Emma. They are incredibly yummy. I thought my picture looked pretty tasty, too, but when I posted them on my wall on Facebook, the first comment I got was: "It looks like string cheese on a cookie with chocolate sauce." Hmm... not quite the look I was going for. They're actually peanut butter cookies topped with marshmallows and a little chocolate ganache. Geoff has been out of town this weekend, and Abby and I made them to celebrate his homecoming today. I sent him a pic of the cookies, and I'm not sure whether he's more excited to see me or them.

Fluffernutter Chocolate Cookies
The Novice Chef

Peanut Butter Cookies:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Regular marshmallows, sliced in half lengthwise

Chocolate Glaze:
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make peanut butter cookies:
Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter, peanut butter and sugars for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla. Gradually add in the flour mixture on low speed. Chill dough 15 minutes in the refrigerator. Place by rounded spoonfuls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 7-9 minutes, until edges are very lightly browned (cookies will not spread much at all). Do not overbake.

To make chocolate glaze:
In a double boiler over hot, but not boiling water, combine chocolate chips, butter, and corn syrup. Stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth, then add vanilla.

To assemble the cookies:
As soon as the peanut butter cookies come out of the oven, place 1 marshmallow half on the top of each cookie (you may need to flatten the cookies slightly with a spatula first). Place them back in the oven for 2-3 minutes, until the marshmallow is melted. Let cool completely. When completely cooled, spoon a small amount of chocolate glaze over the top of each cookie. Glaze will set slightly upon cooling.


peanut butter fudge pretzel brownies


What can I say? These brownies are amazing. Life changing. So decadent that I thought I could eat two of them, and got sick halfway through the second one, but kept shoving it in my mouth because it just tasted so good. (And because I'm a weirdo.) The worst part is that I ran out of peanut butter when I was making the fudge to go on top, and substituted some Nutella, and it was so delicious I almost died. Seriously, make these and they will change your life. (And make you fat, but you won't care.)

Peanut Butter Fudge Pretzel Brownies
How Sweet It Is

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2/3 cups chocolate chips (optional)
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/3 powdered sugar
1 3/4 cups crushed pretzel pieces
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8×8 baking dish and set aside.

Combine melted butter and pretzel crumbs in a bowl until moistened. With the back of a spoon, press pretzels into the 8×8 pan making a crust. If pretzels seem loose, drizzle some additional melted butter over top or hit with a quick shot of non-stick spray.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla. With the mixer on medium speed, add in cocoa, flour and salt, mixing until combined – about 2 to 3 minutes. Fold in chocolate chips. Using a spatula sprayed with non-stick spray, evenly spread brownies on top of pretzel crust. Set pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until brownies are baked through.

When brownies have about 3 minutes left baking, melt peanut butter (I melted mine in the microwave in 30 second increments then stirring) in a bowl. Once melted, stir in 1/3 cup powdered sugar and mix until no lumps remain. Pour over warm brownies and spread evenly. Refrigerate brownies for 1-2 hours, then cut into bars and serve.

the best breakfast smoothie


I've seen green drinks floating around Pinterest for a while now, and I've been wanting to try them out. So far, all the variations I've tried have been delicious. Geoff (and a slew of others) has made fun of me for drinking spinach for breakfast, but it makes me feel good and starts my morning off nicely. I also love that it's simple and tasty. Here's the way I make it:

1 cup milk (any kind)
1 cup spinach
1 banana (freeze it for a colder smoothie)
1 T peanut butter
honey to taste

Blend all ingredients until smooth, and enjoy.

summer garden vegetable soup


As I mentioned before, we have tons of produce from our garden that's becoming ripe, and it makes me super excited. Geoff and Abby are not as excited about vegetables as I am, though, so sometimes it's a little challenging to come up with new fun recipes to try. This recipe was perfect, because I already had almost everything I needed in the house (or in the garden) and it was delicious. I'm not sure Geoff liked it as much as I did, but that may have been because I made him eat squash quiche the night before, and he was vegetable-d out. I just whipped up some quick garlic parmesan toast, and dinner was ready in under half an hour. Yum!

Summer Garden Vegetable Soup
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

3 medium zucchini, chopped into bite-size pieces
4 medium tomatoes, chopped into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped)
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk (can use fat-free or low-fat)
1 ½ cups frozen or fresh corn kernels
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the zucchini, basil, parsley and onion and saute, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Add the flour, salt and pepper and stir and cook for one minute. Gradually add the chicken broth, whisking or stirring constantly. Add the lemon juice; mix well. Bring the soup to a simmer, stirring to prevent sticking, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the zucchini is tender but still has some bite to it (it will continue cooking for a few more minutes). Add the tomatoes, evaporated milk, and corn. Bring the soup to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the soup and simmer until the corn and zucchini are tender. Stir in the cheese just before serving.


buttermilk chicken and corn salad


This chicken is incredibly easy to make, and tastes great. It has a nice subtle flavor, and would be great in pretty much anything. The directions are ridiculously easy... marinate chicken overnight in 1 quart buttermilk with a few sprigs of rosemary, then grill. I ran out of Costco chicken in the freezer, so I had to use the chicken from the grocery store, which usually is not the greatest quality, and it was still absolutely delicious. I'm planning to toss the leftovers with some buffalo sauce and make buffalo chicken salads for dinner tonight. Yum!

Grilled Rosemary Buttermilk Chicken
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 quart buttermilk
5-6 sprigs fresh rosemary

Place the chicken breasts in a large ziploc plastic bag. Pour in the buttermilk to cover the chicken. Add the rosemary sprigs. Seal the bag and refrigerate overnight, about 8-10 hours.

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. With tongs, take out each chicken breast one by one, shaking off excess buttermilk and removing the rosemary sprigs. Grill for 4-6 minutes per side, until the chicken is cooked through but still moist. Tent with foil for about 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

We got a bunch of sweet corn from the co-op this week, so I decided to grill some and make a salad to go along with the chicken. I just kind of cobbled it together, using a variety of recipes as inspiration, and threw in what I had. It was pretty good, but I definitely think some green onions would have helped.

Sweet Corn Salad

3 ears sweet corn, grilled and cut off the cob
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 medium avocado, diced
1/2 cup queso fresco or feta
olive oil
white balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Mix a little olive oil and vinegar with the salt and pepper to make a basic vinaigrette. Mix all other ingredients in a bowl and top with dressing.




The tomato plants in our garden are finally producing some delicious fruit! So far, we've had five ripe tomatoes, but there are a good 4 or 5 dozen tomatoes still on the vines, in various stages of ripening. I could be irritated about the fact that nobody in my family will even touch a raw tomato except me, but instead I'm just going to enjoy that I get to eat snacks like this and don't have to share them with anybody. Especially since I'm trying to be nice to myself after slamming my finger in the back door yesterday. (I bought myself a red velvet cupcake to apologize, but I'm still feeling rather sniffy. And my blackened fingernail and swollen finger are driving me crazy as I try to go about my business.) I'm planning to do some canning, should the tomatoes all overwhelm me at once, but for now they're nice with just a little salt and pepper. Geoff and I watched a documentary last night about slow food, and eating locally, and I was thinking about whether fresh, local food actually tastes better than food from the grocery store. And then I bit into these tomatoes this morning and remembered what actual tomatoes (not the pasty little things from the store) taste like, and I was converted. Delicious.

cheesy chicken and zucchini enchiladas


I fully recognize that enchiladas (or at least my enchiladas) are not the most photogenic food on the planet. Especially since I hate cilantro (it's my nemesis) and therefore refuse to use it to garnish anything. Despite their sloppy appearance, though, these enchiladas are fantastic. I've been making enchiladas at least 2 or 3 times a month our entire marriage, but I never got excited about them until I started making them this way. They're not super authentic, but they taste delicious, they make great leftovers, and they freeze beautifully. I usually just make them with chicken and green chili filling, but I have an abundance of zucchini at the mo, so I decided to try something new. Here's how I made them:

Cheesy Chicken and Zucchini Enchiladas

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cut into small pieces
1 medium onion
2-3 cloves crushed garlic
3-4 cups shredded zucchini
2 cups shredded cheddar or jack cheese, divided
1 small can green chilies
1/4 cup flour
12-16 whole wheat tortillas (depending on how full you like your enchiladas)
2 small cans enchilada sauce (I like green sauce)
1/4 cup sour cream

Saute onion and garlic in a large skillet until translucent. Add zucchini and cook until softened and translucent. Add chicken, 1 cup cheese, and green chilies, and stir until cheese is melted. Add 1/4 cup flour, and cook until sauce has thickened. Mix enchilada sauce with sour cream, and spread a few spoonfuls of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Place filling in tortillas, roll up, and place seam side down in the baking dish. Cover with remaining sauce, and top with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling.

Notes: I usually make two 9x9 pans of enchiladas, with 6-8 enchiladas each, and freeze one of them before baking. Also, I really like the whole wheat tortillas more than white tortillas in this dish because they get soft and delicious, but don't fall apart or get mushy like corn or white flour tortillas.


lentil soup and crescent rolls


This week I decided to switch my grocery shopping from Saturday to Wednesday, which means that today and tomorrow I get to catch up on things I didn't make from the menu last week. I have no idea where my head was last week, but we ended up improvising or eating out several nights. I am a huge fan of pea soup, and I was really excited to a new recipe! I chopped all my vegetables and some turkey ham, and was ready to throw everything in the slow cooker when I realized that I was totally out of dried peas! Not one to give up on a delicious dinner, I threw in some lentils instead and hoped for the best. The soup actually turned out great, although I did have to add a little extra liquid (about 2 cups). I really love any kind of dried legume (peas, lentils, beans, etc.) and this was definitely the best lentil soup I've ever made or eaten. I can't wait to try it this fall/winter with dried peas as well. To go with the soup, I made delicious crescent rolls. They're light and soft and wonderful. I thought it was an awesome dinner, even if it was roughly 9,000 degrees outside and heating up the oven turned my house into a sauna. Maybe I'm just hoping that if I start eating like it's fall, it will actually become fall.

Lentil Soup
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 cup lentils
1/2 cup medium pearl barley (not quick-cooking barley)
2 cups chopped ham
3/4 cup chopped carrots
3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
6 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes (or 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf

In a medium bowl or liquid measure, combine the water, bouillon cubes and spices and whisk to combine (it’s ok if the bouillon cubes don’t completely dissolve).

In a medium round slow cooker (about 4-quart), layer lentils, barley, ham, carrots, onion and celery. Do not mix. Pour in the water/spices mixture and add the bay leaf to the slow cooker. Don’t stir! Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or on low eight hours, until the peas reach the desired creamy, soft texture. Remove the bay leaf, stir well, and add salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Serve immediately. Upon sitting and/or refrigerating, this soup thickens considerably. Simply add water or chicken broth to thin the soup to the desired consistency before reserving.

Cornmeal Crescent Rolls
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

2 cups milk
2/3 cup yellow corn meal
1 ½ tablespoons instant yeast
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
5 ½ – 6 cups flour

Heat the milk to just below a boil so bubbles are just appearing around the edges (this is called scalding milk). Add the cornmeal and cook and stir until thickened, lowering the temperature if needed so the mixture doesn’t boil (see picture below the recipe for an idea of what the consistency should be). Pour the cornmeal/milk mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl and let cool until lukewarm. Add the yeast, butter and sugar (if you dissolved active dry yeast with a bit of water and sugar until it foamed, add it now). Mix. Add the salt and eggs. Mix well. Add the flour gradually until a soft dough forms. Knead for 5-8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl covered with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.

Divide the dough into three portions and roll each into about an 8-10 inch circle. Brush the top lightly with butter. Cut into 8 wedges and roll each wedge up starting from the wide end so it forms a crescent roll shape. Place each roll on a lightly greased or silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing about 1-2 inches apart to allow for rising. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap. Let the rolls rise until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Brush with butter while still warm.


the best cookies i ever made three times in two weeks


I think it's more than fair to say that I am a cookie snob. Cookies happen to be one of those things that I can make exceptionally well, and I'm always very skeptical when people tell me about some cookie I just have to try. I like cookie shops (Ben's Cookies, Ruby Snap, etc.) pretty well, but even they sometimes fail to meet my expectations. When I found the blog How Sweet It Is, it was actually life changing for me. For the first time, I was willing to broaden my cookie horizons and step away from the cookie scoop. For the last few weeks, I've been rolling cookies into big fat balls and baking them into chubby lumps of sweet dough, and it has been marvelous. These cookies are my favorite that I have tried so far, but she has a plethora of lovely looking recipes and I want to try all of them. I can't even describe these cookies, they are so amazing. They're soft and caky, the plump blueberries burst in your mouth, the cinnamon and brown sugar make them taste like everything good about home... they're delicious in every way. (Just don't make them if you're not planning to eat the entire batch, because you will fail and fail hard.)

Brown Sugar Blueberry Cookies
How Sweet It Is

1 stick butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon milk
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 375.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, mixing well until combine, about 2 minutes. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon with the mixer on low speed. Mix until dough comes together. Add in milk. If dough is still crumbly, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until it comes together. Fold in blueberries gently with a spatula – it is okay if they break a bit. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove dough from fridge and roll into 1 1/2 inch balls or scoop out with an ice cream scooper. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely.

southwest chicken and rice


Since dishes are one of the things I hate most about being a grownup (or maybe just a human being?) I'm always in love with any recipe that only dirties a few dishes. For this dinner, I only needed a knife, a cutting board, a frying pan, a plate, and a spatula. Awesome sauce. (And incidentally, the sauce was actually pretty awesome.) A long time ago, before I figured out how to cook very well, Geoff and I used to eat a lot of Chicken Helper meals. This meal was just slightly reminiscent of those days, but infinitely more delicious because I made everything from scratch. The night that we had it, I served it the way it shows on the website, with a piece of chicken, rice to the side, and salsa and sour cream on top. The next day, we had it for lunch with the chicken chopped up and the rice and chicken rolled up in a flour tortilla. Finally, I had it for lunch yesterday in a bowl with a slice of pepper jack melted on top. No matter how you serve it, it's totally delicious. And easy. And comfort food. Yum.

Southwest Chicken and Rice
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn
4 ounces cheese (used a combination of Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar)
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
Salsa and sour cream for serving

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large pot, heat the canola oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook until golden, about 3 minutes on each side. The chicken will cook more in a subsequent step. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

To the pot, add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder and cumin and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook until the edges are just slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the broth and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Return the chicken to the pot. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook at a simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter or plate. Stir the black beans and corn into the pot. Add the cheese and cilantro. Season the rice mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the rice with the chicken, adding salsa and sour cream, if desired.


rainbow cookies


These cookies are pretty much perfect. When I started making them, I figured I would switch back to my standby chocolate chip cookie recipe when I got bored of them. Instead, the old recipe has been permanently replaced! The texture is amazing, they're beautiful, and I can't stop eating them. Definitely a keeper recipe. I'm very particular about my cookies, and I love these ones!

Giant Rainbow Cookies
How Sweet It Is

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I usually have to add an extra few tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of salted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup mini m&m’s (or something else that you love)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix the butter and sugars until they are combined (and look like the first picture above). Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir until mixed. Gradually add flour and mix until a dough forms – it will look crumbly at first, but it will come together. I even used my hands to help at one point. Fold in the m&m’s.

Divide the dough how you choose (1/4 cup portions for 18 large cookies or 2 tablespoon portions for 36 smaller cookies). Shape each portion into a ball with your hands then pull each ball into two equal pieces. Turn each half so that the rough side of the half (what used to be the inside of the ball) faces upwards and then squish both halves together. Place the dough rough-side up on a baking sheets. If you’re doing large cookies, I’d leave about 2 inches in between each.

Bake for 12-15 minutes (large cookies) or 8-12 minutes (small cookies) or until the edges are slightly brown. The centers should be soft and puffy. Do not over bake. Let cool completely then dig in!

These also happen to be my tiny assistant's favorite cookies, and she loves helping me make them!


the best tacos ever


Geoff and I just might have an obsession with wings lately. Ever since we discovered Wing Nuts, we can't get enough. We only like boneless wings, and our favorite are spicy buffalo. When I saw this recipe for buffalo chicken tacos, I just couldn't pass it up. Especially since we had roughly all the ingredients in the house. They came together super fast, and were incredibly delicious. I served them in fajita size tortillas, and topped the chicken with grated cheddar cheese, blue cheese dressing, and romaine lettuce. I don't think I've ever seen Geoff so excited about anything I've cooked. It was a combination of his two favorite things to eat: mexican food and wings. Geoff : buffalo chicken tacos :: Abby : m&m cookies. These are definitely going into our rotation.

Buffalo Chicken Tacos
How Sweet It Is

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce (I used Frank’s Buffalo Wing)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4-6 4-inch tortillas

for toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled gorgonzola, avocado, shredded lettuce or cabbage, green onions, cilantro, ranch dressing and extra buffalo wing sauce for drizzling.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. In a large bowl, combine corn starch and flour cayenne and garlic powder. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour mixture. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and once it gets hot, add chicken and brown on both sides – about 3-4 minutes per side. You can add the additional olive oil through cooking or once you flip the chicken. Once the chicken is done, set it aside in a bowl and toss with 1/4 cup of buffalo wing sauce.


banana bread

We have had major problems with fruit flies this week. I have no idea how they got started, but they've been threatening to take over the house. As such, I decided it was time to clean the kitchen top to bottom, ajax the drains, and get rid of all fruits and vegetables on the counters. Lucky for us, we had a nice little collection of spotted bananas that were just begging to be made into banana bread. It's not hard at all, especially when you have a little person to smash your bananas for you. Smashie smashie.

We decided to bake four mini loaves instead of one big loaf, and they were absolutely delicious, and cute to boot.

We used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen (love that site) and it was perfect. It smelled perfect, it looked perfect, and the tiny loaves made adorable presents to share with our neighbors. (I know! Who knew I could be social?) This is definitely going to be my go-to banana bread recipe. Much better than any I have tried before. I should probably go eat another piece, just to be sure, though.

Banana Bread
Smitten Kitchen

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.


garden pesto

Our garden has finally stopped being such a colossal disappointment. I definitely do not have a green thumb, but I figure it shouldn't be too hard to grow a few vegetables, right? Well, last year we failed miserably. This year, however, we have four tomato plants going strong, although so far all of their tomatoes are various shades of green. We have some peppers that so far don't seem to have done much. And, wonder of wonders, we have a few things you can actually eat! A few days ago, I picked the first of our zucchini! I'm planning to saute it with a little olive oil and garlic and have it for a side dish this week.

And our basil plant has been outdoing itself, and has completely repopulated its leaves since a few weeks ago when I stripped it pretty much bare. Of course, that was the perfect invitation for me to strip it bare again.

The last time I stripped it, it was to make pesto for dinner, and it was so delicious that I couldn't wait to make it again. It's the easiest pesto ever. In fact, it's so easy that I let Abby make the whole thing. (And she's 4.)

To a food processor (or a Ninja, if you're cool like me) add 1-2 cups basil leaves, a handful of walnuts or pine nuts, 1/2 - 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, and some olive oil. Pulse until everything is combined, and add olive oil until it's at the right consistency. You can store it in the fridge for a week or two, or in the freezer for a long time. And it's delicious. Can't wait for more of those basil leaves to grow back.