The Baker Upstairs: November 2011


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