The Baker Upstairs: February 2014


frosted sugar cookie bars


I can't believe I waited this long to try these sugar cookie bars! They've been all over blog land forever, but somehow I just never got around to making them. I made them last weekend to munch on while we were watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, and they were super yummy! Sugar cookies are some of my very favorite cookies, and these bars make them even easier to make. No rolling and cutting, so easy to frost, and super delicious!

The bars themselves are soft and not overly sweet, and the vanilla frosting is sweet and creamy. I think the frosting to cookie ratio is just perfect! I also love that by making them in bars the frosting covers the whole cookie from edge to edge. They're also incredibly adorable with some cute little sprinkles on top. The whole family loved these (Geoff ate most of them while I was working late a few nights this week) and they can't wait for me to make them again!

Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars
adapted from Cooking Classy (the queen of sugar cookies and one of my favorite blogs)

for the bars:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

for the frosting:
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons half and half or milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
food coloring (optional)
sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray, and set aside. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and egg white, sour cream, vanilla, and almond extract, and mix until well combined. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt to form a crumbly dough. Press the dough into the prepared pan to form an even layer, and poke the dough every few inches with a fork so it will bake evenly. Bake17-20 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, and half and half until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, salt, and food coloring, and beat again until fluffy. Spread over cooled cookies and add sprinkles. Cut into squares (I did 24 squares, but you can make them as big or small as you would like). Enjoy!


chocolate chip cookie granola bars


These chocolate chip cookie granola bars are so fun and yummy! Abby and I made them for an after-school snack last week and had a great time together. Abby read the whole recipe to me and then helped me stir and add the chocolate chips. After we let them cool (which seemed like an eternity to my little impatient Abby) we ate them together with some milk and loved every bite! The cookie butter adds such a fun and delicious flavor to these bars. I have to say, I've attempted granola bars a few times before, but this is my first real success with them! I'm excited to try out some other variations as well. I think these would also be great substituting peanut butter or Nutella for the cookie butter. Yum!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Granola Bars
adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

3/4 cup cookie butter (Biscoff, Speculoos, etc.)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup (I used honey)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chocolate chips (I used regular, but mini would be great!)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9 x 9 baking dish with foil, then spray with cooking spray and set aside. In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the cookie butter and coconut oil. Heat on half power for one minute, then stir until smooth. Add the honey, egg, and vanilla, and stir until well-combined. Add the oats, brown sugar, and salt, and stir to combine. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan and pat smooth. Bake 21-24 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges and set. Let cool in the pan 10-15 minutes, then remove using the foil and let cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing and serving. Store in an airtight container.


thai peanut noodles


This is one of my all-time favorite meals! I actually didn't realize I hadn't posted it on the blog before until I was looking for it a couple of nights ago and couldn't find it. I've made these noodles dozens of times since I discovered the recipe a couple of years ago. They are so quick and easy to make (the longest part is boiling the noodles) and my whole family loves them! My girls call them peanut butter noodles, and slurp them down faster than their beloved mac and cheese. Geoff and I love them just as much, too. They make a really good side for grilled chicken or fish, or a great meal on their own with shredded chicken tossed in. I'm never very precise when measuring the ingredients for the sauce, and they still always turn out perfectly. I've made them with whole wheat noodles, rice noodles, and regular linguine noodles, and they've been delicious every way I've made them!

Thai Peanut Noodles
adapted from Our Best Bites

8 ounces linguine noodles (or any long noodles you like)
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 - 1 teaspoon sriracha
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger (I leave this out if I don't have any on hand)
2-3 cloves crushed garlic
chopped green onions
chopped peanuts
fresh limes (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, in a small sauce pan, whisk together chicken broth, peanut butter, sriracha, honey, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Heat until warm and slightly thickened, then set aside. Toss with cooked pasta. Sprinkle with green onions and peanuts, and a squeeze of lime juice. Feel free to toss in some shredded cooked chicken or sautéed shrimp to make it a heartier meal!


homemade churros


Are you a churro lover like me? I'm not really sure how anyone could not be a churro lover… they're so incredibly delicious! I'm sharing my favorite churro recipe on I Heart Nap Time today (complete with a homemade raspberry sauce!) because they're too delicious just to keep to myself! Go check out my post and give Jamielyn some love!


Soft and Chewy Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies

These soft and chewy dark chocolate sugar cookies are so rich and full of chocolate flavor!

These soft and chewy dark chocolate sugar cookies are so rich and full of chocolate flavor!

Guess what? Today is my birthday! I am 31 years old today, which sounds so incredibly old to me that I can hardly believe it. I know in the grand scheme of things that I'm still very young… most of the people at my work are in their eighties and nineties, after all. But 31 sounds like an age where you've got it all figured out, and I certainly don't. Maybe I'll have life figured out at 41? :)

Anyway, I always find that a treat is important for every occasion (and every non-occasion) so I've got some delicious cookies for you today! These cookies are so rich and chewy. The texture is amazing, and I love all that dark chocolate flavor in every bite. I had fun making these with my little Abby and letting her roll all the balls of dough in the sugar. She did an awesome job (as you can see). I've made these three or four times now since I discovered the recipe a couple of months ago, and they have turned out beautifully every time I've made them. Try them and love them like I do!
Soft and Chewy Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350. Put the sugar on a plate or shallow dish and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt until well combined. Add the egg and egg yolk, and mix until combined. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder, and mix until just combined. The dough should be relatively stiff. Roll the dough into 20-24 balls (about 2 tablespoons each). Roll each ball in the sugar, then place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies have puffed up and cracked.


homemade subway italian bread


One of the first things I learned about my husband Geoff is that he is a diehard Subway fan. When we started dating, he lived just down the street from a Subway restaurant, and would pick up a sandwich for lunch or dinner several days per week. It was his idea of a romantic date to take me there with him. :) I like Subway, don't get me wrong, but I just don't have the same level of devotion to it that Geoff does. The Subway that's closest to our current house poses a lot of problems for me… it's in a poorly designed complex with very limited parking, and the store itself is long and narrow and always crowded, which makes the kids (and me!) claustrophobic and whiny. When I found this recipe, I was thrilled to think that I could make the same delicious bread at home without all the claustrophobic waiting in line!

This bread totally lived up to all of my expectations! It's soft and flavorful, and so light and delicious. We made sandwiches with turkey, pepper jack, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, and honey mustard, and they were awesome! It's hard for me to even describe how delicious this bread is… it's definitely on the top five list of all the breads I've ever made. Geoff loved it so much that I think I've got him convinced that we can replicate his beloved Subway at home. I like that the recipe is quick enough to make on a regular basis (which I almost certainly will be doing!).

Homemade Subway Italian Bread
adapted from Bless this Mess

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 - 3 1/2 cups flour
butter for rubbing on top

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let sit five minutes until bubbly and foamy. Add the salt, olive oil, and 1 cup of flour, and mix until combined. Add another cup of flour and mix to combine. Add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until a soft dough is formed. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl but stick slightly to the bottom of the bowl. Knead the dough (using a dough hook or your hands) until it is smooth and pliable. Shape the dough into a ball, cover, and let rise 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into four equal size pieces and roll each piece into a rectangle that is approximately 4 or 5 inches wide and 9 inches long. Roll up the rectangle, starting at the long edge, to form a long skinny loaf, and place, seam side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a baking mat. Repeat with remaining dough, placing each loaf at least two inches apart. Cover and let rise one hour, or until doubled in size. Near the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 350. Bake 25 minutes, or until  golden brown. After removing from the oven, rub the loaves with butter and cover with a towel to keep them moist. Let cool before slicing and filling.


chocolate chip cupcakes with cookie dough buttercream


I can't believe Valentine's Day is tomorrow! I spent the evening yesterday making valentines with Abby for her class party, and she's bursting with excitement for all the valentine fun. If I could make cupcakes for her class party (which I can't, because food safety or something) these chocolate chip cupcakes with cookie dough buttercream would totally be the ones I would make!

The cupcakes are light and moist, with chocolate chips sprinkled evenly throughout, and the frosting tastes just like cookie dough! I love how unique and delicious these cupcakes are. Not only that, they're super easy!

If you love cookie dough as much as I do, you have got to give these a try!

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cookie Dough Buttercream

adapted from my Fluffy Vanilla Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, cold, cut into small cubes
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk (I used skim, and it worked fine)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces mini chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Line two muffin tins with paper liners. In a large bowl or a the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the milk and vanilla in a measuring cup, and add about half of the milk mixture to the flour mixture. Beat until well blended and smooth. Add the other half of the milk mixture, and beat until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill paper liners 2/3 full and bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for a few minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Cookie Dough Buttercream
adapted from Kevin & Amanda

3 sticks softened butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl combine the butter and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the salt, milk, and vanilla and beat to combine. Add the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips.

Note: Just like in normal cookie dough, the brown sugar will not dissolve completely into the frosting, which means the texture will be a little grainy. I loved it and thought it was great (and it just made it more like cookie dough to me!) but if you know you're not going to like that, feel free to substitute another frosting recipe!


strawberry lemonade muffins


Happy love week! Valentine's Day is hands down my favorite holiday. I start getting excited for it before Christmas, and the excitement builds to epic levels in February. I'm not sure exactly why it's my favorite… I never have any expectations from my husband for Valentine's Day. Usually we make dinner together after the kids are in bed and try to make it through a romantic movie without falling asleep. :) I think I just love the chance to show my husband and kids how much I love them. And I'm crazy about anything pink or red, so there's that too.

Our family has a tradition of having a special breakfast together on Valentine's Day. I put little presents on everyone's plates and make something delicious to eat, and generally decorate the table with as many obnoxious Valentine's decorations as I can. I think these strawberry lemonade muffins would be perfect for a Valentine's breakfast! They're bursting with juicy strawberries, and the hint of lemon makes them extra special and delicious. Share them with someone you love!
Strawberry Lemonade Muffins
adapted from my Bakery-Style Blueberry Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
zest of one lemon
1/3 cup melted butter
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cup chopped strawberries

Preheat oven to 400. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest. In a measuring cup or a small bowl, mix together melted butter, egg, milk, and lemon extract. Add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Gently fold in strawberries. Scoop into muffin cups, filling 2/3 full. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


cranberry white chocolate pudding cookies


I'm not sure exactly why, but I've been making a ton of cookies lately. I just can't get enough of them. I think there's something about baking cookies in the winter… baking is so cozy and it warms up the house and brightens up the dark winter days. If you've never had a pudding cookie before, the texture is incredible. They are the softest, moistest cookies! These particular ones are full of cranberries and white chocolate chips, with a little added white chocolate flavor (and a great texture!) from the pudding mix. 

Lizzy helped me make these cookies and was so proud of herself. She watched every step of the process in wonder and was thrilled to see how the mixer combined all the different ingredients into a mass of delicious cookie dough. I brought them to my monthly meetings at work yesterday, and everyone was thrilled (as usual) to munch on them!

Cranberry White Chocolate Pudding Cookies

1 1/2 sticks (or 3/4 cup) butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 (3.4 oz) package instant white chocolate pudding mix
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars together, then mix in pudding until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla, and mix well. Add flour and baking soda, and mix until just combined. Fold in white chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Roll into 1 inch  balls (I used a cookie scoop and it worked great!) and place on greased baking sheet. Bake 8-12 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges.


glazed lemon sugar cookies


Ever since I made those amazing funfetti sugar cookies, I haven't been able to stop thinking about them! The texture is just fantastic, and the cookies have the best sugar cookie flavor. I decided the only remedy was to make another version of them. I was chatting with a co-worker about the general awesomeness of lemon desserts, and the idea for these cookies was born. They still have the awesome texture and sweetness of the original cookies, but with some delicious tartness added in as well. My family loved these cookies and couldn't get enough!

Glazed Lemon Sugar Cookies
adapted from my Soft Funfetti Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
zest of one lemon

for the glaze:
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons milk
1 cup powdered sugar (more or less as needed)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, and lemon extract until well blended. Add flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, and lemon zest, and mix until a dough forms. Shape into 12 equal sized balls. If your dough is fairly soft, I would recommend chilling it at this point for about 30 minutes. If your dough is thick (like mine was), bake in the preheated oven for exactly 8 minutes. Remove and let cool 5-10 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely. While the cookies are cooling, whisk together the glaze ingredients, adding more or less powdered sugar as needed to make a smooth but not runny glaze. Pour the glaze into a plastic bag or piping back, snip a small piece off the corner of the bag, and drizzle over the cookies. Let harden and enjoy!


homemade flour tortillas


Homemade tortillas are pretty high on my list of "foods I love and could eat all the time forever." I love them soft and warm and fresh off the griddle, and I usually eat way more than my share whenever I make them (which is embarrassingly often). I've been using this particular tortilla recipe for years now, and it is the best! The tortillas come out light and chewy and perfect, and there's no need to go buy shortening or lard (yuck). I love that I can just whip up the dough and have fresh hot tortillas in under thirty minutes. We use them for tacos, fajitas, and as a side with tortilla soup or enchilada soup. This recipe is a lifesaver!

Start by adding flour, salt, water, and olive oil to a bowl, and mix well. Set aside and let rest for 10 minutes.

Preheat a frying pan or griddle. Divide the dough into eight equal-sized balls and roll them out. I find it helps to flatten them with my hand first.

Roll into a rough circular shape. (As you can see, I'm terrible at rolling, but it doesn't matter at all!)

Cook each piece of dough for a few minutes per side, flipping them once they start to bubble.

Remove from heat and keep warm with a towel. Simple, quick, and delicious!

Homemade Flour Tortillas
adapted from Taste of Home

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix to form a soft dough. Let rest 10 minutes. Preheat a griddle or frying pan. Divide into eight equal-sized balls and roll out into 8 inch circles. Cook for a few minutes on each side, flipping when the tortillas start to bubble. Remove to a plate and keep warm with a towel. Enjoy!