The Baker Upstairs: 2020

12.30.2020

Everything Bagel Pigs in a Blanket

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These everything bagel pigs in a blanket are so adorable, and so tasty too! They're perfect for snacking, game day, or school lunch!

These everything bagel pigs in a blanket are so adorable, and so tasty too! They're perfect for snacking, game day, or school lunch!

Who else is in total disbelief that this year is over? 2020 has been the strangest, loneliest, hardest, most unexpected year of my life (and I assume a lot of peoples' lives). I've had some highs (like welcoming our new baby) and some lows (like unrelenting nausea and vomiting for my entire pregnancy). Wading through the pandemic while pregnant with a frontline healthcare worker husband has been challenging, to say the least. I'm trying to stay optimistic about 2021, if for no other reason than I won't be pregnant on top of everything else. My husband got his first dose of the covid vaccine this week, and that alone is reason enough to think that things will get better in 2021. Here's hoping!

One of our family's favorite New Year's Eve traditions is having a variety of appetizers for dinner instead of a traditional meal. Some of our top favorites are this easy bacon cheddar cheeseball, this buffalo chicken dip, and these crispy baked buffalo wings. I have a list of fifteen amazing appetizers that you can check out here, and these everything bagel pigs in a blanket are a new twist on my favorite mini pretzel dogs from that list. It's amazing how you can add everything bagel seasoning to pretty much anything savory and make it even more delicious!

These everything bagel pigs in a blanket are so adorable, and so tasty too! They're perfect for snacking, game day, or school lunch!

My kids love to help make these, and they are great at rolling the little sausages up in the dough. The dough is quick to mix up, and although the rolling can be a little tedious, it goes pretty quickly with some little helpers. These pigs in a blanket are so simple to make, and totally delicious!
Everything Bagel Pigs in a Blanket

for the dough:
3/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted

for the pigs in a blanket:
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 package Lil' Smokies sausages
1 large egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water, whisked together
1/4 cup everything bagel seasoning

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the warm water and sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let stand five minutes, until foamy. Add the flour, salt, and butter, and mix until combined. Knead 5-10 minutes, until smooth and pliable. Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner, and spray with cooking spray. Heat the water and baking soda to boiling. While waiting for the water to boil, gently punch down the dough and divide it into 3 equal-sized balls. Roll each ball out into a circle that is approximately 12 inches in diameter. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut each circle into twelve wedges. Place a sausage at the wide end of each wedge, and roll the dough around it, pressing with your fingers to seal the end. Place the wrapped dogs a few at a time into the boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then remove to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the top of each dog with the egg wash, then sprinkle with the everything bagel seasoning. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and let cool slightly before serving.
These everything bagel pigs in a blanket are so adorable, and so tasty too! They're perfect for snacking, game day, or school lunch!

11.16.2020

Cinnamon Buttermilk Syrup

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This decadent and delicious cinnamon buttermilk syrup is so easy to make!
This decadent and delicious cinnamon buttermilk syrup is so easy to make!
One of my favorite skills as a baker and cook is learning to make something at home that I've always just bought at the store without thinking about it. Things like homemade tortillas, french bread, salad dressing, marinara sauce... all totally delicious when homemade! Syrup is one of those things that I never would have thought I could make at home, but it turns out it's totally easy to make, and tastes way better than store-bought. I've been making this homemade buttermilk syrup for years now, but I decided that since it's fall, I needed to come up with a cinnamon version to top all of my favorite fall breakfasts. This cinnamon buttermilk syrup is perfection! It's buttery and smooth and totally delicious, and so simple to make that you could easily whip it up on a weekday morning. 
This decadent and delicious cinnamon buttermilk syrup is so easy to make!
We enjoyed our cinnamon syrup on baked pumpkin french toast, but it's also delicious on pancakes, waffles, or regular french toast. It will keep well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, and it's easy to reheat in the microwave whenever you want to use it. If you need syrup for a bigger crowd, you could easily double or triple the recipe. Just be careful to use a big enough pot, because when you stir in the vanilla and baking soda the syrup will bubble up quite a bit. This cinnamon buttermilk syrup is a must try!
Cinnamon Buttermilk Syrup

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the sugar, butter, buttermilk, corn syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large heavy pan. Stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Cook 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. Continuing stirring until the 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.
This decadent and delicious cinnamon buttermilk syrup is so easy to make!

11.13.2020

Baked Pumpkin French Toast

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This baked pumpkin french toast is the perfect make-ahead breakfast for fall! It's so rich and delicious, and so easy to make!
This baked pumpkin french toast is the perfect make-ahead breakfast for fall! It's so rich and delicious, and so easy to make!
Hey friends! It has been a little while since I posted here! My beautiful daughter Beatrice was born on October 23, and I've just been soaking in all of her baby sweetness and staying out of the kitchen and off my laptop for the last three weeks. Before she was born, I made and photographed a little stockpile of recipes to share with you, and then by the end of my pregnancy I was too exhausted to sit down and write out all of the posts. I'm still in a bit of a sleep-deprived haze at the moment, but some of these recipes are so good that they need to be shared post haste!

This baked pumpkin french toast is one of my family's favorite recipes, and I made a batch a few weeks ago before the baby was born so I could freeze it and have it on hand for another day. The pumpkin flavor is subtle but delicious, and it's totally fantastic in combination with the brown sugar streusel on top. I love using homemade french bread for the base, but store-bought will work well if you don't have time to bake a loaf. It's best if you can let it sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, but I've baked it straight after pouring the egg mixture on top, and it still turned out well. The recipe makes enough for one 9 x 13 pan, or two 9 inch pie dishes, but it's pretty easy to double or half the recipe depending on how big of a crowd you are feeding. 
This baked pumpkin french toast is the perfect make-ahead breakfast for fall! It's so rich and delicious, and so easy to make!
This baked french toast is pretty sweet on its own, but if you want to make it over-the-top delicious, you can add some homemade buttermilk syrup on top, or (even better!) some totally decadent cinnamon buttermilk syrup! I'll be sharing the recipe for that on Monday (assuming the baby will nap long enough for me to write up the recipe) and it is a great one. The combination of tender, pumpkin-y French toast with crunchy and sweet streusel, and a little splash of cinnamon syrup is heavenly!
This baked pumpkin french toast is the perfect make-ahead breakfast for fall! It's so rich and delicious, and so easy to make!
Baked Pumpkin French Toast

for the french toast:
1 loaf french bread, cut into one inch cubes
6 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup half and half
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

for the streusel:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish and set aside. Cut the french bread into 1 inch cubes and place in the prepared baking dish. In a large bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, milk, half and half, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the mixture over the bread pieces. Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or two knives, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the french toast. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until the french toast only jiggles slightly when shaken and is golden brown on top. Let cool slightly before serving.
This baked pumpkin french toast is the perfect make-ahead breakfast for fall! It's so rich and delicious, and so easy to make!

10.02.2020

Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Enchiladas

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These creamy chicken and vegetable enchiladas are an easy and delicious dinner the whole family will love!
These creamy chicken and vegetable enchiladas are an easy and delicious dinner the whole family will  love!
The weather around here can't decide if it wants to be fall or summer, so we've had a bunch of really warm days lately and lots of sunshine. It is totally not feeling like October yet! Now that I'm in the last few weeks of my pregnancy and as big as a house, I was really hoping the weather would cool down, but no luck so far. This is the time of year when I need comfort food and cozy sweaters and lounging by the fireplace, not cranking up the air conditioner and wearing shorts all day because it's too hot to wear anything else. Regardless, I'm going to push ahead with making comfort food for dinner, because it's what I'm craving and I need whatever comfort I can get. :)

Chicken enchiladas are one of my family's classic comfort food dishes, and they are one of those meals that is guaranteed to get everyone to clean their plates. I've made a lot of different varieties over the years (these green chili chicken enchiladas and simple chicken enchiladas are perennial favorites) and I love that they are adaptable to whatever I have on hand. I had some fresh sweet corn and garden zucchini in the fridge this week and decided there was no better way to use them than in these delicious enchiladas! I usually prefer corn tortillas for enchiladas, but I just happened to have some uncooked flour tortillas in the fridge as well, so I used them. I ended up rolling them burrito style because they were so big, but if you are using smaller tortillas, enchilada style will work fine. 
These creamy chicken and vegetable enchiladas are an easy and delicious dinner the whole family will  love!
These enchiladas have such an awesome combination of flavors, and they're really simple to make, too!
Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Enchiladas

2 teaspoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 medium zucchini, diced (about 2 cups)
2 cups corn (frozen or cut from the cob)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 ounces (1/2 block) cream cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 soft taco sized flour tortillas, warmed
1 can (19 ounces) green enchilada sauce

Preheat the oven to 375. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, zucchini, corn, and salt, and cook until the vegetables are tender. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until heated through. Add the cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder, and stir to combine. Remove from heat and stir in the cream cheese until it is completely melted and no lumps remain. Let cool 10 minutes.

To assemble the tortillas, pour 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Spoon about 1/2 cup of filling into the center of each tortilla, then sprinkle with a little cheese. Roll up the tortillas and place seam side down in the prepared baking dish. When all of the enchiladas have been rolled, pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the top, spreading evenly, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Serve warm with sour cream on top.
These creamy chicken and vegetable enchiladas are an easy and delicious dinner the whole family will  love!

9.24.2020

Cheesy Zucchini Quiche

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This cheesy zucchini quiche is so delicious and perfect for breakfast, brunch, or a light dinner!
This cheesy zucchini quiche is so delicious and perfect for breakfast, brunch, or a light dinner!
I mentioned in my last post that our garden is still producing a bounty of tomatoes and zucchini for us, and I'm excited to share two more delicious zucchini recipes with you this week. This cheesy zucchini quiche is so easy to make, and my whole family loved it! We love quiche in general (check out this spinach and bacon quiche or this broccoli cheese quiche for some of our other favorites), but I had never tried zucchini in it. It turns out that zucchini is super versatile and works in just about anything! With some homemade pie crust and a hefty serving of cheese, it made for a totally delicious meal. 

I used mozzarella cheese because I had a bunch of it already on hand that I had shredded for pizza night earlier in the week, but I really think this quiche would work with whatever cheese you like. Cheddar is always a good choice, but I also think gruyere, blue cheese, or even parmesan cheese would be good. If you use a sharper or more flavorful cheese, I would suggest adding a little less (maybe around one cup instead of two cups) so the flavor isn't overpowering. 
This cheesy zucchini quiche is so delicious and perfect for breakfast, brunch, or a light dinner!
You don't necessarily have to make your own pie crust for this recipe, but it's so easy and quick to make that I think it's totally worth it! It tastes way better than store-bought pie crust, and really doesn't take very much more time. I used half of this recipe and it worked great! As far as a baking dish, I love using my quiche pan, but a pie pan will also work well. I've done both, and this amount of filling works well for both. You definitely need to give this quiche a try!
Cheesy Zucchini Quiche

1 pie crust (make your own with this recipe)
8 eggs
1/2 cup half and half
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 medium zucchini, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 375. Press the pie crust into a pie dish or quiche pan, shaping it as you like. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and half and half. Add the flour and water to a small bowl and mix until combined, dissolving any lumps. Add the flour mixture, salt, and pepper to the eggs, and mix to combine, then whisk in the shredded zucchini. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese on the pie crust, then pour the egg mixture over the top. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until the top of the quiche is lightly golden and only jiggles slightly when shaken gently.
This cheesy zucchini quiche is so delicious and perfect for breakfast, brunch, or a light dinner!

9.21.2020

Plum Crumb Bars

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These easy and delicious plum crumb bars are the perfect way to showcase that sweet summer fruit!
These easy and delicious plum crumb bars are the perfect way to showcase that sweet summer fruit!
I have to say that this is probably my favorite time of year, food-wise. The produce is abundant and gorgeous, it's cool enough to make soup regularly for dinner (not that I ever let the temperature stop me from enjoying soup!), and the farmers markets are bursting with goodness. Our garden is still producing an abundance of tomatoes and zucchini, and we've got plans to visit a local apple orchard this week for some apple picking and apple cider slushies and doughnuts. Yum! 

One of our friends had an abundance of plums on his trees this year, and was generous enough to gift us two huge shopping bags full of fresh plums. My mom had plum trees when I was growing up, and I've always loved just eating them plain, but with so many plums on hand I decided I needed to come up with some fun recipes for them. First up, these sweet and buttery plum crumb bars!
These easy and delicious plum crumb bars are the perfect way to showcase that sweet summer fruit!
I didn't exactly re-invent the wheel with these bars; they're actually made from the same base recipe as my strawberry crumb bars. The plums are really delicious in the recipe, though, and it's the perfect way to showcase that sweet plum flavor! I added a hint of cinnamon to the filling, and the flavors blend really nicely together. The crust on these bars is super delicious, and I love how crumbly and buttery they are. Miraculously, they hold together really well and don't get soggy, even with all of the fresh fruit, so they're perfect for taking to a potluck (if those ever happen again someday in the future) or bringing along to a picnic. They are so good!
These easy and delicious plum crumb bars are the perfect way to showcase that sweet summer fruit!
Plum Crumb Bars

for the crust:
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 cup cold butter, grated
1 egg, beaten

for the filling:
4 cups fresh plums, pitted and chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 teaspoons corn starch

Preheat oven to 375. Grease (or line with foil) a 9 x 13 pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, baking powder, salt, and flour. Cut in the butter using two knives or a pastry blender, until pieces are no bigger than pea sized. Stir in the egg to form a crumbly dry dough. Pat half of the dough in an even layer in the prepared pan. In a medium bowl, toss the plums with the sugar, cinnamon, and corn starch, then spread the plum mixture on top of the dough in the pan. Crumble the remaining dough evenly over the plum layer. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.
These easy and delicious plum crumb bars are the perfect way to showcase that sweet summer fruit!

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!

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!