The Baker Upstairs: August 2012


awesome blueberry muffins


I'm a girl who loves a good muffin, and these ones are pretty darn tasty! I made them first a couple of years ago, and thought the recipe was too complicated, but this time it seemed easy. I guess I've grown as a baker or something. Or I just used to be really lazy. In any case, these muffins are sweet and light and full of blueberries. They also freeze well for quick breakfasts. And my kids ate them right up, so they have the universal stamp of approval.
Blueberry Muffins
The Pioneer Woman

3 cups minus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heavy pinch of salt
Dash of Nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 generous cup plain, unflavored yogurt (throw in extra if you want)
2 cups fresh blueberries
Vanilla Extract
Softened Butter, for muffin tins
Turbinado sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 385 degrees. In a large bowl sift flour, baking soda, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In another large bowl whisk together sugar, oil, capful of vanilla, egg, and yogurt. Add the dry ingredients and stir to a count of 10. Add blueberries, reserving 1/2 cup, to mixture and stir 3 times. Add mixture to well-buttered muffin pans. Sprinkle remaining berries on top and press down lightly. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over top. (Brown sugar can be used instead.) Bake 20 to 25 minutes and allow to cool completely.


asian lettuce wraps


If I had known this meal would be so amazing, I would have taken better pictures! It was one of those "I don't know how well this meal is working" nights, and I was tired, but once we tasted them, we were both in love! We had them again for lunch the next day, and they were just as tasty reheated. The meat mixture was totally delicious, and I'm sure it would be good over rice too. The only changes I made to the recipe were to use ground turkey instead of chicken because that was all I had, and to use chunky peanut butter in the sauce instead of creamy because I didn't want to walk all the way downstairs for another jar (yes, I'm lazy). I also left out the fresh herb garnish (remember? cilantro = no bueno) and it was good without it. We will definitely be eating these again!
Asian Lettuce Wraps
Pink Pistachio

1 lb ground chicken
3 carrots, peeled and diced fine
1 small red bell pepper, diced fine
1/3 cup chopped peanuts
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp ground ginger
2 T sweet chili sauce
1 T soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
bibb or butter lettuce
green onion (garnish)
fresh cilantro, basil, and mint (garnish
lime wedges
dipping sauce (recipe below)

In a nonstick skillet, brown the chicken over medium high heat until hallway cooked through. Add carrots, red pepper, and seasoning, and sauté until chicken is completely cooked. Remove from heat and stir in peanuts. Garnish with 1/4 cup fresh mixed herbs, green onions, and lime wedges.

Soy Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 T sweet chili sauce
1 T creamy peanut butter
1 T water

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients and set aside.


peanut butter cup s'mores bars


So I've seen these peanut butter cup s'mores bars on Pinterest a million times, and have gotten texts from friends attesting to their amazingness. When Geoff finished his school semester a couple of weeks ago, I figured it was the perfect time to splurge and make them as a treat for him. The result: I was a little underwhelmed. Sure, they were good. But I was expecting fireworks to go off and the national anthem to play and to become teary with the joy of eating them, and that didn't happen. The peanut butter cups kind of overcame the s'mores flavor, so it was just like eating a peanut butter cup with a few extra things on the outside of it. Don't get me wrong, I love peanut butter cups. And s'mores. I even love making s'mores with peanut butter cups. But these bars just didn't do it for me. I should add that Geoff loved them and thought they were the greatest dessert ever, and thus I am including them on the blog. And because I'm an equal opportunity eater, I did eat two of the sixteen bars I made (yes, that does mean that Geoff ate roughly fourteen of them). I don't like to hurt my baked goods' feelings, so I always make sure to sample at least one of everything I make. :)
Peanut Butter Cup S'mores Bars
The Sweet Life

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
16 peanut butter cups, regular size
1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 baking dishing with parchment paper; coat lightly with cooking spray. In a large bowl of the bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Scrape down the sides. With the mixer on low, stir in the flour, baking powder, salt, and graham cracker crumbs until mixed. Spread 2/3 of the dough on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Lightly press the peanut butter cups into the dough, then spread marshmallow fluff on top. Press the remaining dough on a non-stick surface into the shape of an 8×8 square. Place the square on top of the fluff and press down lightly. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown. Allow to cool for at least two hours to give the bars a chance to set, then remove from the pan and cut into squares with a large, sharp knife.

buttermilk syrup


Growing up, my family never had maple syrup. My mom is opposed to fake foods in all forms (or was then, anyway), and so we were allowed to top our pancakes with honey, and occasionally corn syrup or peanut butter. I remember as a teenager discovering the joy of the (incredibly fake) maple syrup from the grocery store, and creating a soppy mess of my pancakes with it. Geoff and I always have some of that fake stuff on hand, but it hasn't really been doing it for me lately. We bought some real maple syrup at Costco, and to my surprise I liked it even less than the fakey syrup. I knew I needed something new, and figured that (as per usual) I would be happiest with something I made myself. My cute friend Emma posted this recipe on her cooking blog a while ago, and I've been itching to try it. I finally got around to it a week or so ago, and it was totally amazing! The amount of butter in it kind of precludes it from being a daily treat (I do have some respect for my arteries, after all) but this is definitely on the list for special occasions. Or weekends. Or whenever I want something delicious for breakfast. I used light corn syrup because that was all I had, but I'm sure the syrup would have been a prettier color had I used the dark corn syrup instead. In any case, it was so good that I keep dreaming up occasions to make it again!
Buttermilk Syrup
Emma Westwood via A Few Scrumptious Things

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup

Combine ingredients in a large heavy pan. Stir until syrup comes to a boil. Cook 3 to 4 minutes. 
Remove from heat and add:

2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Stir until soda is completely dissolved. (Be careful - if your pan isn't large enough it could boil over after you add the baking soda!) Refrigerate any leftover syrup and reheat in the microwave.

chicken and veggie enchiladas


Every time I take a picture of enchiladas, I lament that they are so un-beautiful. They really are one of my favorite foods, and it makes me sad that I can't take a good picture of them to save my life. These enchiladas were definitely some of my favorites that I have made in a long time. Yum. I should add, to be fair, that Geoff was a little miffed that we couldn't have just chicken and cheese in our enchiladas, and felt that I was "ruining" them by adding healthy things like vegetables to them. He showed his displeasure by leaving at least half of his vegetables on his plate, but I savored every morsel.
Chicken and Vegetable Enchiladas

1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped (I used baby bellas)
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 jalapeños, ribbed and seeded, chopped
1 T fresh garlic, minced
1-2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder.
salt and pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
8 medium tortillas
1 small can green enchilada sauce
2 T sour cream

Preheat oven to 375. Sautee mushrooms, zucchini, onion, jalapeño, and garlic until softened and fragrant. Add chicken and stir to combine. Add cumin and chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Stir to combine.

Whisk together enchilada sauce and sour cream in a small bowl. Spread a few tablespoons of sauce in an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish to coat the bottom. Add chicken and vegetable mixture to tortillas, and roll up, then place seam side down in baking dish. Cover with remaining enchilada sauce, and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.


dulce de leche and alfajores


I've been thinking about making homemade dulce de leche for months now, and I finally got around to it. It seriously couldn't be easier! It feels like magic to wake up to several jars of dulce de leche in the crockpot, after going to bed when it was just sweetened condensed milk. I followed the instructions except that I accidentally slept in, and my dulce de leche got quite a bit darker than I had anticipated. It was still incredibly tasty, though... I don't think the color matters all that much.
Dulce de Leche
Buns in My Oven

2-14 ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
3 1/2 pint canning jars

Empty the two cans of condensed milk into the canning jars and securely tighten the lids. Place in an empty slow cooker and cover with water. The water should rise at least 1 inch above the jars. Place the lid on the slow cooker and turn to low heat for 10 hours (the longer you cook it, the darker it will get, so cook it to your preference). Remove from the water and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.
With dulce de leche in hand, I wanted to make something I saw in a cooking show a million years ago when we were just little newlyweds... alfajores!

Apparently they're pretty ubiquitous in Central and South America, but I've never actually had one. I think the ones I made most closely resemble Peruvian alfajores, except that I didn't dust them with powdered sugar. In any case, they were quite tasty!
Tracey's Culinary Adventures

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup water
sanding sugar
dulce de leche

 Sift the flour and confectioners' sugar onto a sheet of wax paper. Transfer to the bowl of your food processor along with the butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 20 seconds. With the machine running, add the water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, and continue processing just until the dough comes together, about 20 seconds. Transfer the dough to a work surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a thin disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Unwrap one disk of dough and place it on a floured work surface. Roll the dough to a thickness of 1/4 to 1/8-inch. Use a 1 3/4-inch cookie cutter to cut as many rounds as you can from the dough then transfer them to the prepared baking sheet (they won't spread, you can put them fairly close together). Set aside the scraps. Repeat with the second disk of dough. Combine the scraps from both disks to reroll and cut additional cookies. Sprinkle half of the cookies with sanding sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, or until pale golden brown (rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time). Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool for a few minutes before removing them to the racks to cool completely.

Match the cookies in pairs by size, combining one sugared cookie and one unsugared. Place about 1 teaspoon of dulce de leche on the unsugared cookie, then put the sugared cookie on top, pressing gently to sandwich and squeeze the filling to the edges. Repeat to finish all of the sandwiches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 3 dozen sandwich cookies


strawberry pasties


After making pumpkin pasties a few weeks ago, I was excited to try out some other flavors of pasties! It so happened that I had some strawberries that were teetering on the edge, so this was a perfect solution. I like that the pastry recipe uses cream cheese for moisture instead of ice water, so there aren't any worries about adding just the right amount. The pasties were a hit at the party I brought them to, and were both sweet and tart, with lots of strawberry flavor. Delicious!
Strawberry Pasties

Strawberry Filling
Lulu the Baker

1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon water
1 dry pint fruit
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

To make the filling, combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Whisk with a fork until smooth, and set aside. Puree fruit until smooth using a food processor or blender. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine fruit puree, lemon juice, and sugar. Heat over medium-high until boiling, stirring constantly. Boil for 5-6 minutes until thick and syrupy. While stirring, slowly add cornstarch mixture and beat with a spoon (or whisk) until completely combined. Continue boiling for 2 more minutes until filling is about as thick as pudding; when you drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan, you should be able to see the pan for a moment before the fruit mixture fills in the space. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Brownie Bites

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 stick of cold, unsalted but­ter, diced
1 pack­age of cold cream cheese, cut into coarse chunks

Place dry ingre­di­ents in medium bowl and mix together. Add the cold, diced but­ter and mix it together with flour until you have what looks like coarse bread crumbs. Add in the pieces of cream cheese and mix until the dough is very clumpy. Turn dough out onto a lightly flour dusted sur­face and knead until a smooth dough has formed. Wrap in plas­tic and chill for at least 30 min­utes. Can be made in advance and frozen up to 3 months.


Preheat oven to 350. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thick­ness and cut with round cookie or biscuit cutter. Place rounds onto a greased cookie sheet. Spoon a small amount of filling onto the bottom third of the dough circles. Fold the circles over and seal the edges by either folding over and pinching with your fingers, or crimping with a fork. Using a pastry brush, lightly glaze each pasty with beaten egg mixed with a little milk or water. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.


baked falafel


Ever since Geoff and I tried out a new Middle Eastern restaurant (the ridiculously named O'Falafel in Sugarhouse) we've been in the mood for falafel, hummus, tahini, and the like. I'm kind of surprised by how easy it is to make it at home! This recipe was quick and easy, and really delicious. It made for a healthy quick dinner! I got all labor-intensive and decided to make my own flatbread (using this recipe) with mixed results. The flatbread was ugly, but generally tasty. It was hard to mix, though, and I wasn't super impressed by it. I'm going to try the recipe again and see if I can make it work. Everything else, though, was totally great. The falafel patties were crunchy and well-seasoned, and it was delicious wrapped up with tomatoes, lettuce, lemon tahini sauce, and feta. Geoff was bummed that we didn't have any tzatziki to top them with, so I threw on a little ranch dressing for good measure. Definitely one to add to the rotation!
Can You Stay for Dinner

15oz can chickpeas
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons tahini paste
zest and juice of 1 lemon

½ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 pita breads (5” diameter)
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped green leaf lettuce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all falafel ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Scoop the bean mixture into a bowl and shape into 8 equal sized patties. Place on a greased baking sheet, brush each with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes. Whisk the tahini, lemon juice, and zest in a small bowl. Divide the hot falafel among the two warmed pita breads and top with chopped lettuce, tomato, thinly sliced red onion, crumbled feta, and the lemon-tahini sauce.


chicken tikka masala


I've posted about Indian butter chicken in the slow cooker before here, but this recipe was nice because it was much quicker to prepare. It was also really tasty! In the early afternoon, I marinated the chicken, and then everything was quick to throw together at dinnertime. I changed the preparation of the chicken a little bit from the original recipe: I mixed the spices with the yogurt and marinated the chicken in the mixture, and we grilled it outside instead of broiling it. I also used half and half in the sauce recipe instead of cream, and left out the cilantro. (Because, you know, cilantro = no bueno.) It was really good... my only wish would have been a few other things in the sauce mixture to jazz it up... maybe some raisins and cashews would do the trick. I'll definitely try that next time!
Chicken Tikka Masala
Can You Stay for Dinner

For the chicken marinade:
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
½ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

For the masala sauce:
 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves


Marinate the chicken:
Whisk together cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt. Rub this mixture into the chicken, covering both sides well. Lay the chicken in a shallow bowl and cover; refrigerate so that spice mixture is absorbed into the chicken for 1 hour. Whisk the garlic, ginger and yogurt in a deep bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Make the masala sauce:
Heat butter in a large, tall-rimmed Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno, cumin, coriander, and garam masala. Stir and allow the mixture to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. Turn heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Take the Dutch oven off of the burner, cover to keep warm, and set aside while you make the chicken.

Make the chicken:
Preheat your broiler. Place your top oven rack about 5 inches from the heating coils. Line a baking sheet with foil, grease well with canola oil. Dip chicken into yogurt mixture, leaving a thick layer of yogurt clinging to it, and lay the chicken onto the sheet. Broil chicken until it is lightly charred in spots, about 15 minutes, flipping halfway. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it sit on the baking sheet for five minutes to cool slightly and retain its juices. Cut into small (inch-long) pieces and stir into warm sauce. Stir in cilantro and serve.