The Baker Upstairs: September 2020

9.18.2020

Cinnamon Applesauce Muffins

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These cinnamon applesauce muffins are so tender and light, perfectly sweetened, and all around delicious!
These cinnamon applesauce muffins are so tender and light, perfectly sweetened, and all around delicious!I don't know why exactly it is, but this summer has just seemed interminable to me! It could be that I'm in the third trimester of my pregnancy and time seems to be ticking by ever more slowly. It could be that it has been unusually hot this year, and the rain that we normally get around this time of year has yet to materialize. It could be that because of the pandemic, it seems like time passes both incredibly quickly and not at all, so I'm never sure if it's still March or if ten years have passed. It's probably some combination of all of the above. Anyway, I am so ready to welcome fall and be done with this summer! Here in Oregon we're still choking from all of the wildfire smoke that is in the air at the moment, but we're supposed to get some decent rain over the next day or two, which will hopefully clear things up a little and make it finally feel like fall. And nothing says fall like baking a cozy treat and snuggling up with a warm drink and a soft blanket!

These cinnamon applesauce muffins are pretty much the definition of warm and cozy, and I love that they are so easy to make. The muffin base is so light and tender, with the perfect amount of cinnamon and apple flavor, and the buttery cinnamon sugar topping makes them extra addicting. I like to make them in a mini muffin tin so they're adorably bite-sized, but you could definitely make them in a regular sized muffin tin if you so desire. My kids are totally obsessed with these muffins and would inhale a whole batch in five minutes if I let them. I can't blame them though - they are irresistible!
These cinnamon applesauce muffins are so tender and light, perfectly sweetened, and all around delicious!
Cinnamon Applesauce Muffins

for the muffins:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

for the topping:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a mini muffin tin. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and applesauce, and mix until well combined. Add the flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon, and mix until just combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling the cups 3/4 full. Bake 11-13 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned around the edges and the tops spring back when touched lightly.

Let the muffins cool 10-15 minutes. Add the muffins to a gallon sized zipper bag, then drizzle the butter over the top and toss to coat. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Toss the muffins in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Serve warm.

adapted slightly from Lil' Luna
These cinnamon applesauce muffins are so tender and light, perfectly sweetened, and all around delicious!

9.14.2020

Simple Spaghetti

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This simple and delicious spaghetti is kid-friendly, and so easy to make!
 
This simple and delicious spaghetti is kid-friendly, and so easy to make!

One of the most frustrating things for me about this pregnancy is that I have had to be sooooo careful about everything I eat. Beyond the severe and often debilitating morning sickness that has lasted most of my pregnancy, I've also had terrible heartburn and digestive issues. I just don't seem to be able to tolerate a lot of my favorite foods, which is such a bummer! I love spicy and flavorful food, and it's very depressing to not be able to tolerate even very mild things like taco seasoning or marinara sauce. For a few months there at the beginning of the summer, all I could really eat were very bland foods like toast, rice, bananas, and applesauce. Thankfully, things have improved significantly since then, but I'm still not able to eat a lot of foods that I enjoy. I've never been a picky eater, and it's hard for me to feel so limited in what I can eat.

A few days ago I was craving spaghetti, but I knew I wouldn't be able to tolerate my usual spaghetti sauce. I found this kid-friendly version of spaghetti on my friend Kristyn's site, and decided to give it a try. It was the perfect solution! It's very mild, not very spicy or acidic, and totally satisfied my spaghetti cravings. My kids loved it, and we had enough leftovers to eat it for dinner another night (which is perfect for my tired eight-months-pregnant self!). 

This simple and delicious spaghetti is kid-friendly, and so easy to make!

It's definitely not the most sophisticated spaghetti I've ever had, but it was super easy to make, and we all loved it! I think this one will definitely be added to the rotation, even when I'm not pregnant!
Simple Spaghetti

1 pound ground beef (or 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound ground pork)
2 cups beef broth
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound spaghetti

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Drain the grease, then return the meat to the skillet. Add the beef broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, salt, basil, and garlic powder to the skillet, and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a simmer, and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until slightly thickened. During the last 15 minutes of simmering, cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Toss the cooked noodles with the sauce and serve hot.

adapted from Lil' Luna
This simple and delicious spaghetti is kid-friendly, and so easy to make!

9.10.2020

Creamy Baked Tortellini

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This creamy baked tortellini has a delicious parmesan sauce and tender chunks of chicken. It's the essence of comfort food!
This creamy baked tortellini has a delicious parmesan sauce and tender chunks of chicken. It's the essence of comfort food!
I know some people like to turn their noses up at casseroles, but there's a reason that they are perennially popular! Sometimes you just need a delicious comfort food meal, am I right? This creamy baked tortellini is one of my favorite meals to bring to new moms or new neighbors. It's mild enough to be very kid-friendly, but still flavorful and delicious. I made up the recipe almost seven years ago when my cute nephew Xander was born, and my sister in law said it was her favorite meal during that bleary postpartum period. With a new baby of my own coming next month, I've already made a double batch to keep in the freezer so my husband can re-heat it for us on a day when I need some comfort food!

I like to use frozen tortellini because I feel like the texture is a little better, but refrigerated tortellini works too. Using rotisserie chicken makes it extra quick and easy to put together, but you could easily cook a few chicken breasts, or even used canned chicken if you prefer. The sauce is similar to my homemade mac and cheese sauce, but with some garlic parmesan flavor. So yummy! 
This creamy baked tortellini has a delicious parmesan sauce and tender chunks of chicken. It's the essence of comfort food!
If I'm making this casserole for the freezer, it usually works best for me to cook the tortellini and sauce, pour them into a disposable baking pan (I like the 9 x 9 foil cake pans), cover tightly with plastic wrap, and then cover with foil. I mix up the bread crumbs and butter, put them in a snack size zipper bag, and put them in between the plastic wrap layer and the foil layer. When I'm ready to bake it, I pull off the foil and plastic wrap, sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top, and then bake 60-70 minutes at 350, until the casserole is heated through and the sauce is bubbling. I like that I can just recycle the pan when I'm done and have no dishes to wash!
This creamy baked tortellini has a delicious parmesan sauce and tender chunks of chicken. It's the essence of comfort food!

This creamy baked tortellini is a totally delicious, kid-friendly comfort food meal! 

Creamy Baked Tortellini

for the pasta:
1 package (about 20 ounces) frozen tortellini
2 cups chopped cooked chicken (I used rotisserie)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

for the topping:
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the tortellini according to the package directions. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, stirring well so that the flour is completely incorporated. Cook 2-3 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is smooth and thick. Remove from heat and whisk in the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Add the garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Stir in the cooked tortellini and cooked chicken. Pour the pasta mixture into a 9 x 9 baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter and bread crumbs. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the pasta, spreading evenly. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.
This creamy baked tortellini has a delicious parmesan sauce and tender chunks of chicken. It's the essence of comfort food!

9.07.2020

Crispy Baked Chicken Nuggets

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These crispy baked chicken nuggets are way healthier than fast food, and way more delicious!
These crispy baked chicken nuggets are way healthier than fast food, and way more delicious!
If there's one meal that I can guarantee will put a smile on everyone's face, it's my homemade chicken nuggets! I've been making some variation of these ever since my thirteen year old was a toddler, and they are always a favorite with everyone in my family. They're easy to make, kid-friendly, and super delicious! I've tried a few different types of liquids to dip the chicken in before rolling in bread crumbs (eggs, milk, olive oil, etc.), but I think this variation using buttermilk is my absolute favorite. Marinating the chicken in buttermilk before breading it makes it tender and juicy, and adds a lot of flavor. The bread crumbs stick to the chicken really well and don't separate from the chicken after baking. 
These crispy baked chicken nuggets are way healthier than fast food, and way more delicious!
Adding seasonings to both the buttermilk mixture and the bread crumb mixture ensure that the nuggets are flavorful all the way through. It might sound like a lot of salt, but a lot of it gets discarded in the excess marinade and excess breading. Spraying both the pan and the nuggets themselves with cooking spray helps them get nice and crispy in the oven, without all of the mess of frying them. 

I like to make a big batch of these nuggets and save half in the freezer for another day. I've tried freezing them both before and after cooking, and both ways work well. If you're freezing them uncooked, just plan on adding an extra 10-15 minutes to the baking time. If you're freezing them after cooking, then you can just warm them up in the microwave or toaster oven. My kids love it when I have a bag of these nuggets in the freezer, so they can make their own lunches. They usually just pull out 5-6 nuggets, put them on a paper towel, and microwave for 2-3 minutes until they are warmed through. (And if you've noticed that I'm posting a lot of meals that are easy to freeze, it's because I'm trying to stock my freezer before this baby makes her debut, so my brain is in total freezer-cooking mode right now!)
These crispy baked chicken nuggets are way healthier than fast food, and way more delicious!

These chicken nuggets are a staple at our house, and I make them so often that I could probably make them in my sleep. My husband loves to toss his in buffalo sauce and dip them in blue cheese dressing for  boneless buffalo wing-style nuggets, and they're also really delicious tossed in barbecue sauce. You definitely need to give these a try!

Crispy Baked Chicken Nuggets

for the marinade:
2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into nugget-sized pieces
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika

for breading:
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Place the chicken pieces in a large zipper bag or a container with a lid. Add the buttermilk, salt, and paprika, and toss to combine. Refrigerate at least one hour. When you're ready to cook the nuggets, preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with a parchment or silicone liner, then spray with cooking spray. In a large shallow dish, whisk together the bread crumbs, panko, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Dip the chicken pieces in the bread crumbs, coating all sides, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Spray the tops of the nuggets with cooking spray. Bake 20-25 minutes, until cooked through, flipping halfway through to ensure even browning.
These crispy baked chicken nuggets are way healthier than fast food, and way more delicious!

9.03.2020

Honey Lime Fruit Salad

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This honey lime fruit salad is so easy to make, and brings out all of the delicious flavors of fresh fruit!
This honey lime fruit salad is so easy to make, and brings out all of the delicious flavors of fresh fruit!
One thing I can't get enough of during this pregnancy is fresh fruit! We eat some kind of fruit as a side dish for nearly every meal, but when I'm feeling extra fancy I like to make this honey lime fruit salad with it. It's quick and easy to make, and brings out all of those delicious flavors in the fruit. I have made it with pretty much every kind of fruit you can imagine: all kinds of fresh berries, watermelon and canteloupe, peaches and nectarines, bananas, grapes, clementines, apples - you name it! This salad is one of my favorite things to make when I have a random peach or two, a handful of grapes, and half a carton of strawberries all threatening to go bad. The simple honey lime dressing brings all of the flavors of the fruit together, and somehow it always just works!

Although you can just mix up the salad and eat it right away, I think it's better when it has been refrigerated for twenty minutes or so to allow the flavors to blend. I usually put together the salad before I make the main course, pop it in the fridge, and by the time the rest of dinner is ready the fruit salad is ready to go. It's simple and delicious, and everyone in my family loves it!
Honey Lime Fruit Salad

zest and juice of one lime
1 tablespoon honey
4-6 cups chopped fresh fruit of your choice

In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime zest, lime juice, and honey. Add the fruit to the bowl and toss to combine. Refrigerate at least twenty minutes before serving to allow the flavors to blend.
This honey lime fruit salad is so easy to make, and brings out all of the delicious flavors of fresh fruit!