The Baker Upstairs: August 2020

8.31.2020

Roasted Tomato Soup

Yum
This creamy roasted tomato soup is made with fresh garden tomatoes, and so flavorful and delicious! 

This creamy roasted tomato soup is made with fresh garden tomatoes, and so flavorful and delicious!

One of the most surprising things to me about owning my own home has been how fun it is to grow a garden! We moved into our home at the end of summer in 2018, so we didn't plant anything that year, but the last two years we have planted a garden in our tiny backyard. This year especially, with everything going on in the world, it has been such a rewarding experience to watch things grow. I water the garden every morning, then walk around and look at all of my little plants, noticing a new blossom here or a ripening tomato there. I'm not a master gardener by any stretch, but it's pretty amazing to me that I can make things grow! 

This year we planted a ridiculous amount of tomato plants for our very small garden (twelve!) and we are finally getting to the point where we have fresh ripe tomatoes available every day. I planted a bunch of different varieties and sizes, and we've been enjoying our little cherry tomatoes for snacking and our big tomatoes for BLT's, salads, and just eating cut into wedges with a little salt and pepper on top (yum!). I made this roasted tomato soup last year with tomatoes from our garden, and I can't wait until we have enough to make it again this year!

This creamy roasted tomato soup is made with fresh garden tomatoes, and so flavorful and delicious!

This soup is so creamy and flavorful, and roasting the tomatoes before adding them to the soup creates a delicious depth of flavor. Tomato soup is one of my husband's favorite foods (although he absolutely hates fresh tomatoes - go figure!) and he pronounced this one of the best tomato soups he's ever had. If you don't happen to have garden tomatoes on hand, you could definitely make this soup with store-bought tomatoes, although I would recommend using vine ripened tomatoes if possible, since they taste closer to garden tomatoes. 

This creamy roasted tomato soup is made with fresh garden tomatoes, and so flavorful and delicious!

This soup freezes well, and makes enough for two meals for my family, so I love being able to cook once and have a delicious dinner for two nights. If you like a smoother soup, I would recommend straining the soup through a mesh strainer to get rid of any seeds or small pieces of tomato skin, but I like the soup either way. This recipe is a keeper!
Roasted Tomato Soup

for the roasted tomatoes:
10-12 large tomatoes, cut into quarters (or an equivalent amount of smaller tomatoes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

for the soup:
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 450. Place the tomatoes on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Roast 30-35 minutes, then remove and let cool slightly. Melt the butter in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion to the pot and cook until softened, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the roasted tomatoes and accompanying juice to the pot. Add the chicken broth, basil, sugar, and salt to the pot, and stir to combine. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup together until smooth. Bring the soup to a simmer, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream. (For a smoother soup, strain the soup through a mesh strainer to remove seeds and bits of tomato skin.)

adapted slightly from Amber's Kitchen

This creamy roasted tomato soup is made with fresh garden tomatoes, and so flavorful and delicious!

8.26.2020

Peach Crisp Pie

Yum
This peach crisp pie is loaded with juicy fresh peaches, all covered with buttery cinnamon crisp topping!

This peach crisp pie is loaded with juicy fresh peaches, all covered with buttery cinnamon crisp topping!

I always love pretty much any kind of pie, but if I had to choose a favorite, this peach crisp pie is it! I look forward to making it every summer after we go peach picking, and it never disappoints. It's fresh peach season here in Oregon, and we visited a local farm a few weeks ago and picked more than 50 pounds of fresh ripe peaches. The peaches were so abundant that we picked all of them in about twenty minutes! We canned most of the peaches to enjoy later in the fall and winter when it's harder to find fresh peaches, but I always make sure to reserve some specifically for this pie. It's simple and easy to make, and the combination of fresh peaches and buttery cinnamon crisp topping is outstanding. 

This peach crisp pie is loaded with juicy fresh peaches, all covered with buttery cinnamon crisp topping!

I've made this pie with homemade pie crust and store-bought pie crust, and it's delicious either way. To make your peaches easier to peel, you can drop them into a pot of boiling water for 15-20 seconds, then immerse them in ice water for a minute or two. The skins should peel right off easily, and then the peaches will be easy to pit and slice. The filling is so simple and delicious, with just fresh peaches, lemon juice (to prevent browning), sugar, and a little bit of flour.

This peach crisp pie is loaded with juicy fresh peaches, all covered with buttery cinnamon crisp topping!

The sweet crisp topping makes this pie unique and extra delicious! I love that it's a combination of two of my favorite desserts, and the added crunch and cinnamon flavor from the crisp topping is wonderful in combination with the fresh peaches. Yum!

This peach crisp pie is loaded with juicy fresh peaches, all covered with buttery cinnamon crisp topping!
Peach Crisp Pie

1 refrigerated pie crust (or make your own!)

for the filling:
3 pounds fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour

for the crisp topping:
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350. Press the pie crust into a pie dish, shaping it as you please. In a medium bowl, toss the peaches with the lemon juice, sugar, and 2 tablespoons flour, and pour the mixture into the pie crust. To make the topping, whisk together the flour, oats, salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or two knives, until the mixture clumps together. Sprinkle the crisp topping over the peaches. Bake 35-45 minutes, or until the topping is golden and crisp, and the peach juice is bubbling around the edges. Remove and let cool before serving.

filling adapted from Cooking Classy
This peach crisp pie is loaded with juicy fresh peaches, all covered with buttery cinnamon crisp topping!

8.24.2020

Olive Garden Breadsticks

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These copycat Olive Garden breadsticks are better than the original, and so easy to make!

These copycat Olive Garden breadsticks are better than the original, and so easy to make!

Okay, who else thinks the breadsticks are the best part of the meal at Olive Garden? It's not just the fact that they're bottomless... there's something totally addicting about the light and fluffy center, the salty garlic crust, the fact that they're served warm and so tender they almost melt in your mouth. Yum! My husband and I visited Olive Garden frequently when we were first married, but as time has passed and my confidence in my own cooking has grown, we've eaten there less and less. Since I already know how to make some pretty fantastic pasta dishes at home, the breadsticks are really what I've been missing most. I found this homemade version a few years ago, and I've been hooked ever since. If anything, I think they are actually better than the original!

The key to these breadsticks is the butter and garlic salt topping. If you haven't cooked with garlic salt before, it should be easy to find in the spice section near the garlic powder. It gives these breadsticks a little punch of flavor on top, and makes them taste more authentic. These breadsticks are best on the day they're made, but they're so delicious you probably won't have any leftovers!
Olive Garden Breadsticks

for the breadsticks:
1 cup and 2 tablespoons warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 - 3 1/4 cups flour

for the topping:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let sit until foamy and bubbly. Add the salt, oil, and two cups of flour, and mix to combine. Add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, to form a soft dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead until smooth, then place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for one hour. After the dough has risen, gently punch it down and divide it into twelve equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope, and place on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour, until doubled in size. During the last 10 minutes of rise time, preheat the oven to 425. Bake 12-14 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with the melted butter, then sprinkle with garlic salt. Serve warm.

These copycat Olive Garden breadsticks are better than the original, and so easy to make!

8.20.2020

Zucchini Corn Chowder

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This delicious and savory zucchini corn chowder is the perfect way to enjoy those abundant summer vegetables!

This delicious and savory zucchini corn chowder is the perfect way to enjoy those abundant summer vegetables!

If you've checked out the soup archives on this blog, then you probably know that I absolutely love soup! We eat it year round, and I could probably eat some variety of soup every day and never get tired of it. This time of year, there are definitely days when it's too hot to cook, but I still make room in my menu for a soup night at least once a week. This zucchini corn chowder is one of my favorites to make during the summer months. It's full of fresh summer vegetables, and has a creamy texture that makes it extra delicious. 

This delicious and savory zucchini corn chowder is the perfect way to enjoy those abundant summer vegetables!

I made this soup with fresh zucchini from our garden, and sweet corn from a local farm market that we love and visit frequently. The soup complemented the flavors of the vegetables perfectly! I loved that it made a large batch, too, so we were able to have it for dinner two nights instead of just one. With some breadsticks on the side (recipe coming soon!) it was a delicious summer meal!

This delicious and savory zucchini corn chowder is the perfect way to enjoy those abundant summer vegetables!
Zucchini Corn Chowder

4 strips bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 cups sweet corn (cut from cob)
5 cups chicken broth
3-4 medium red potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 cups half and half

Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon to the pot and cook until crispy and browned. Remove half of the bacon pieces from the pot to drain on paper towels. Add the onion, garlic, and corn to the pot, and cook until the onions are softened and the garlic is fragrant. Add the chicken broth, red potatoes, salt and pepper, and bring the soup to a simmer. Simmer ten minutes, then add the zucchini to the pot and simmer for an additional ten minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove 2 cups of the soup from the pot and puree using a blender or food processor. Return the pureed soup to the pot and stir to combine. Add the half and half and cook until warmed through. Serve hot with the reserved bacon pieces on top.

adapted from Life Made Simple
This delicious and savory zucchini corn chowder is the perfect way to enjoy those abundant summer vegetables!

8.17.2020

Zucchini Bread

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This delicious homemade zucchini bread is so tender and moist, with the perfect amount of sweetness!
This delicious homemade zucchini bread is so tender and moist, with the perfect amount of sweetness!
Okay friends, I promised you a few more delicious zucchini recipes, and I'm excited to share another one with you today. This delicious and tender zucchini bread is by far the best I've ever had, and it's super easy to make, too! It just uses one bowl (yay for less dishes to clean!) and it's simple to make using pantry staples. Depending on the amount of zucchini you have on hand, you could easily double or triple the recipe and make some loaves to share with friends (or keep it for yourself - I'm not here to judge!). I made a loaf for my family and a second for my husband to share with his unit at the hospital, and there were rave reviews all around. 
This delicious homemade zucchini bread is so tender and moist, with the perfect amount of sweetness!
I haven't always been the biggest fan of zucchini bread in the past, but this recipe is awesome! The bread is so tender and moist, and not overwhelmingly sweet. It keeps really well over several days, and if anything the texture improves on the second day and the bread gets even more delicious. My kids have already asked me to make this bread again several times, and with the abundance of zucchini from our garden this year, it's an easy yes!
Zucchini Bread

2 cups grated zucchini
2 eggs
2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan with cooking spray, then line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together the zucchini, eggs, oil, brown sugar, sugar, and vanilla. Add the salt, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and flour, and mix until just combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and spread evenly. Bake 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool before serving.

adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
This delicious homemade zucchini bread is so tender and moist, with the perfect amount of sweetness!

8.13.2020

Cheddar Zucchini Biscuits

Yum
These tender and flavorful cheddar zucchini biscuits are so delicious, and quick and easy to make!
These tender and flavorful cheddar zucchini biscuits are so delicious, and quick and easy to make!

Does your family love zucchini as much as mine does? I would say it's right up there with broccoli as one of our favorite vegetables. My kids actually used to turn their noses up at zucchini, but when we started growing zucchini in our garden, they became totally hooked on it. Now that it's zucchini season, they love looking outside every day at our blossoming plants, and watching our zucchini grow. We've already had around a dozen ripe zucchini this year, and we have several more in various stages of development. Usually we just sauté them with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, but I've been trying out some new zucchini recipes lately that I'm excited to share with you. First up: these delicious and cheesy cheddar zucchini biscuits!
These tender and flavorful cheddar zucchini biscuits are so delicious, and quick and easy to make!
I'm always a fan of biscuits, but during this pregnancy I haven't been able to get enough of them. They're quick and easy to make, and perfect for those nights when I need some homemade bread but don't have the energy to spend all afternoon baking. I thought it would be fun to throw some zucchini into one of my favorite biscuit recipes, and it was a great idea! They came out so tender and flavorful, and even though the zucchini flavor is pretty subtle, I think it adds a lot to the texture and makes them even more delicious. These drop biscuits are so quick to make, and I love that I can have a batch in the oven in less than fifteen minutes.
These tender and flavorful cheddar zucchini biscuits are so delicious, and quick and easy to make!
These cheddar zucchini biscuits actually freeze really well, so I have been making a double batch and then freezing half of them for another day. To reheat them, I put them on a baking sheet in a cold oven, turn the oven on to 350, and bake them 15-20 minutes, until they're warmed through. They taste just as delicious as fresh biscuits!
Cheddar Zucchini Biscuits

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
1/2 cup cold butter, divided
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 small zucchini, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Grate 6 tablespoons of butter into the dry ingredients, add 1 cup of the cheese and the zucchini, and toss to combine. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop large spoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the top of the biscuits. Bake 14-16 minutes, or until lightly browned. While the biscuits are baking, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a microwave safe bowl. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and parsley. Brush the butter mixture over the biscuits. Serve warm and enjoy!
These tender and flavorful cheddar zucchini biscuits are so delicious, and quick and easy to make!

8.10.2020

S'mores Cookie Cake

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This decadent and delicious s'mores cookie cake is so easy to make!
This decadent and delicious s'mores cookie cake is so easy to make!

Okay, I know I'm down to the wire at this point, but technically it's still National S'mores Day, so how about a delicious s'mores dessert? This s'mores cookie cake is the perfect way to satisfy your s'mores cravings, but in cookie form! I started with my favorite chocolate chip cookie cake recipe, then added tons of s'mores flavor with crushed graham crackers, gooey chocolate, and sweet toasted marshmallows.  The result is an over-the-top decadent and completely delicious dessert! 
This decadent and delicious s'mores cookie cake is so easy to make!
I made this for my thirteen year old to take to a social-distancing sleepover with her two best friends last weekend, and it was a big hit! The way it works is that each girl sleeps in her own tent, spaced about ten feet apart in the backyard, and they all wear masks when they're outside their tents and stay six feet apart. It's a fun way for her to reconnect with her friends, whom she has missed dearly, and they've done it twice now successfully. We're still being very careful about social distancing, with my husband working in healthcare and a new baby on the way, but I'm glad that we're finding creative ways to socialize and stay in touch with friends. I wrapped slices of the s'mores cake up individually for each girl, and they all went crazy for it!
This decadent and delicious s'mores cookie cake is so easy to make!

This cake is best on the day it's made, but the leftovers are pretty delicious warmed up in the microwave for 15-20 seconds, especially with a scoop of ice cream on the side. The combination of flavors in this cake is totally fantastic, and I love that it's so easy to make! 

S'mores Cookie Cake

12 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups chopped Hershey Bars, divided
12 large marshmallows, cut in half lengthwise (or 1 cup mini marshmallows)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 10 inch quiche pan or springform pan and set aside. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the flour, corn starch, baking soda, and salt, and mix until just combined, being careful not to over-mix. Gently fold in the graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, and 3/4 cup of the Hershey bars. Press the batter into the prepared pan in an even layer. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the marshmallows evenly over the top of the cake, then sprinkle the remaining Hershey bars over the top. Broil 3-4 minutes, until the marshmallows are golden brown and toasted. Let cool before serving.
This decadent and delicious s'mores cookie cake is so easy to make!