The Baker Upstairs: June 2011


the best chicken fajitas


Geoff has this habit of inviting friends over for dinner and then informing me after the fact that I need to cook for extra people. And sometimes it's hard to figure out what to make using what I have in the house. We had Geoff's friend Drew over on Sunday to play games, and I was trying to think of something impressive to make using what I already had. I decided to make these delicious chicken fajitas, and they were amazing. Geoff and I reheated them for lunch the next day, too, and they were just as good. We topped them with sour cream, salsa, grated cheese, and olives, and served them in tiny flour tortillas.

As a side dish, I made a quick fruit salad with strawberries, blueberries, and nectarines, then drizzled a little honey on top and added some lime zest. It was super yummy as well!

Chicken Fajitas
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

¼ cup fresh lime juice (about 3-4 limes)
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons apple cider or red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
½ teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon liquid smoke
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts (about 3 large chicken breasts)
1 yellow onion, cut into thin strips
1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
1 red (or orange) pepper, cut into thin strips
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, quartered
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon fresh lime juice (a quick squeeze of a cut lime)
dash of salt and pepper

Combine all marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Place chicken in a ziploc bag and pour the marinade ingredients over the top. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator and let marinate for 2-3 hours.

After marinading, take chicken out of the bag and discard the marinade. Grill or broil the chicken 5-7 minutes per side . Remove from grill or pan and tent with foil to keep warm.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat and add the onion, mushrooms and peppers. Stir fry until softened but still crisp tender. Add soy sauce, water, lime juice and salt and pepper. Cook another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Slice chicken thinly on the diagonal and toss with the vegetables in the skillet. Serve immediately with flour tortillas and top with tomatoes, lettuce, guacamole, cheese, sour cream…the options are endless!

indian butter chicken


Geoff has always been crazy about any kind of Indian food. When we were dating and first married, I was pretty nervous to try any of it, but I've gradually learned to like it. One thing I don't like, though, is that we always have to get a babysitter and pay $30 for the pleasure of eating naan and samosas and chicken tikka masala. We've found some frozen entrees that are actually pretty good, but we've always been on the lookout for recipes to make at home. The one we made last night was fantastic, surprisingly easy, and pretty economical too. The most expensive part was buying all the spices, but I'm sure they will last a long time, through many an Indian-inspired dinner. It tasted as good as anything we get at Bombay House, and I didn't even have to take off my yoga pants and put on real pants.

I followed the recipe pretty much exactly, except that I used chicken thighs instead of breasts because that was all I had. And I left out the cilantro, because it's disgusting. Geoff cooked some naan we bought at Sunflower Farmer's Market in butter and garlic, and it was delicious. It was fun, too, to eat all together around the table with the girls. If we can find a great recipe for Chicken Coconut Kurma, we'll be set for life.

Indian Butter Chicken
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeƱo, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup fat free half-and-half
1 1/2 pounds (about 2-3) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter

Hot cooked rice for serving
Chopped fresh cilantro for extra garnish

In a large 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, ginger and jalapeno. Stir often while cooking until the onion is translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in garlic, garam masala, chili powder, cardamom, and coriander. Cook stirring, constantly for another minute.

Scrape the mixture into a blender or food processor and add tomato paste and chicken broth. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Pour the sauce back into the skillet and add the half and half. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and add the chicken pieces and the salt and pepper. Stir. Keep the sauce at a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has slightly thickened.

Cut remaining 3 tablespoons butter into chunks and stir into the sauce until melted. Serve the chicken and sauce over hot rice. Garnish with fresh, chopped cilantro, if desired.


butterscotch bars


I'm just in the mood to bake treats lately. Maybe it's because I am trying so hard to lose weight and I like to sabotage myself. Or maybe it's because I walk about 5 miles a day and I'm always starving when I come home, and sugar sounds wonderful. In any case, I'm not really complaining. I've tried a bunch of new recipes lately and they've all been delicious. These butterscotch oatmeal bars were delicious, especially when they were still a little warm. It was nice to try something new. They were a little too buttery (is that even possible?) and sweet for me, but G and A ate them right up. Maybe I'm not quite as big a fan of butterscotch as I thought. In any case, they were really good, but might be something I would make every few months instead of every few weeks.

Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup butterscotch chips
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, letting the foil hang over the each short edge by one or two inches. Lightly grease the foil with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Place the 3/4 cup butterscotch chips in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and let the butter cook until golden brown in color, about 10 minutes, taking care not to burn. Pour the hot butter over the butterscotch chips and whisk together until melted and smooth. Whisk in the brown sugar until combined. Whisk in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture, just until incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top, spreading the batter evenly to the edges. Bake the bars until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 16-18 minutes.

While the bars bake, place the 1/4 cup butterscotch chips, brown sugar, water and salt in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave the mixture until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes on 50% power. Whisk to combine well. Drizzle the glaze over the warm bars. Let the bars cool completely in the pan. Remove the bars from the pan using the foil overhang and cut into squares. Serve.


probably the best cake i ever made


Last night I made this strawberry cake from Smitten Kitchen. It was the most delicious thing I have baked in a long long time. It's a little sweet, so one piece is probably sufficient (thank goodness, or I would be gaining back the baby weight I have tried so hard to lose). I think we're going to be eating a lot of this cake this summer. It would be delicious with blueberries or any kind of fruit, really. Yum!

Strawberry Summer Cake

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound strawberries, hulled and cut in half

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9 inch pie plate or 9 inch cake pan and set aside. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and 1 cup sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until just combined. Spread the cake batter in the prepared pie plate. Arrange the strawberries, cut side down, on top of the batter, spacing them close together (it's okay to overlap a little if you run out of room). Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake then cake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325. Bake an additional 50-60 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.