The Baker Upstairs: February 2021

2.23.2021

Oatmeal for One

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This simple and delicious oatmeal recipe is the perfect amount for one person. It's the perfect healthy breakfast!
This simple and delicious oatmeal recipe is the perfect amount for one person. It's the perfect healthy breakfast!
Are you a morning person? I am most definitely not. I've always been a night owl, and I do my best thinking and working at night. My baby Bee (who is four months old today!) is pretty much the definition of a morning person. She wakes up every morning so happy and full of smiles and giggles. And (unfortunately for me) she likes to wake up for the day at 6:30 or so, which means that I have to go to sleep around 10 pm, or spend the whole day feeling like a zombie. Not only am I losing what I consider to be my best working hours (between 10 pm and midnight), I have to be up way earlier than I want to be. 

One thing I've been trying to do lately to help myself cope is to make a nice breakfast for myself every morning. I don't have a lot of time or energy in the morning, so this simple and delicious oatmeal for one has been a lifesaver for me. It's super easy to make, takes just a few minutes, and is hearty and filling. It gives me enough energy to keep going until lunch time, and keeps me full and happy. I make it almost every morning for breakfast, and I love that I don't have to think about it, I just know I have something delicious and healthy to eat that doesn't require any brain power. 
This simple and delicious oatmeal recipe is the perfect amount for one person. It's the perfect healthy breakfast!
I've never been a huge oatmeal fan, but I read a tweet recently that said that oatmeal, like any other grain, is better with some salt and fat added to it. Once I started adding a little butter and salt to my oatmeal, it went from "meh" to amazing! I know it sounds a little weird if you grew up eating fairly bland oatmeal like I did, but butter is definitely the way to go! I prefer to sweeten the oatmeal with pure maple syrup, but since it's expensive and I don't always have it on hand, brown sugar works great too. I add whatever I have on hand to it, but my favorite toppings are fresh blueberries and walnuts. Some of my other favorite toppings are raisins, dried mango, shredded coconut, bananas, any kind of berry, sliced almonds, and peanut butter. I just add a little of whatever I have in the house, and it always turns out delicious! I like to finish the oatmeal with a drizzle of vanilla almond milk, but you can use whatever milk you like. I'm pretty sure I will always hate waking up early in the mornings, but this oatmeal is a pretty good consolation prize!
Oatmeal for One

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
water to cover the oats
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon butter
brown sugar or maple syrup to taste
fresh berries and nuts, for topping
milk of your choice (soy, almond, dairy milk, etc.)

Add the oatmeal to a microwave safe bowl and add water to just cover the oats. Sprinkle the salt on top. Microwave for 3 minutes on high, then let stand 2-3 minutes. Add the butter and sugar, and mix to combine. Add the toppings of your choice, and finish with a splash of milk.
This simple and delicious oatmeal recipe is the perfect amount for one person. It's the perfect healthy breakfast!

2.16.2021

Rich and Meaty Spaghetti Sauce

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This rich and meaty spaghetti sauce is simple to make, and full of delicious flavors!
This rich and meaty spaghetti sauce is simple to make, and full of delicious flavors!
I've heard lots of times that three kids is the hardest number of kids to have, and I'm not entirely sure whether that's true, but this transition from two to three kids has definitely been a challenge for me. Maybe it's because my older kids are 9 and 13, and it has been quite a while since I had a baby in the house. Maybe it's because I'm a bit older now than I was when I had my last baby, and my tiredness catches up with me faster. Whatever the reason, I've been a little shocked by how hard it is to accomplish even basic tasks during the day. It seems like someone needs something constantly all throughout the day, and by the time I go to bed, I can't remember if I accomplished anything at all. I'm hoping things will be better when my older kids can return to in-person school (if that day ever comes!) but until then I'm just  going to give myself lots of grace and try not to worry so much about everything that gets left undone.

Part of that plan is to cook really easy meals, preferable those without a lots of hands on time. This spaghetti sauce is one of our favorites! It makes a huge batch (enough for four meals for my family), and I love putting the extra in the freezer to pull out for another day. I also love that once the meat is browned, you just throw in the rest of the ingredients and let it simmer until all of the flavors blend beautifully. I can start the sauce simmering, feed the baby, and have dinner ready by the time I'm done!
This rich and meaty spaghetti sauce is simple to make, and full of delicious flavors!
If you're a little weirded out by the thought of adding sugar to the sauce, don't leave it out! It helps to neutralize some of the acid in the tomatoes, so you get a lot of great tomato flavor without it being overly acidic. I like to use fresh minced garlic, but if you don't have any on hand, garlic powder will do as well. You'll want to simmer the sauce until it's thick and some of the liquid has evaporated. You'll end up with 7-8 cups of sauce, which is enough to mix with two pounds of spaghetti. I usually freeze half of the sauce in a quart zipper bag, and toss the rest with a pound of cooked spaghetti. As with most Italian food, the leftovers taste even better the next day. My family absolutely loves this spaghetti sauce!
This rich and meaty spaghetti sauce is simple to make, and full of delicious flavors!
Rich and Meaty Spaghetti Sauce

1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound mild Italian sausage
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 cups beef broth
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Brown the ground beef and Italian sausage in a large heavy pot or dutch oven over medium heat, breaking them into smaller pieces as they cook. When all of the meat is browned, add the garlic to the pot and cook until fragrant. Add the beef broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, salt, basil, and Worcestershire sauce to the pot, and stir well to combine. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the sauce is thickened.
This rich and meaty spaghetti sauce is simple to make, and full of delicious flavors!

2.12.2021

Banana Streusel Muffins

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These buttery and tender banana streusel muffins are so delicious, and so easy to make!
These buttery and tender banana streusel muffins are so delicious, and so easy to make!
I am on a total muffin kick lately! I've been making them once or twice a week for the last few months. They're kind of the perfect food for a busy nursing mom! I can make a whole bunch at once, I can eat them with one hand, and they're great for snacks, breakfast, lunch, etc. My kids are pretty crazy about them too, so we've all been enjoying the bounty of muffins. 
These buttery and tender banana streusel muffins are so delicious, and so easy to make!
Like most people, we seem to be really hit and miss with bananas. Some weeks, we eat a whole bunch of bananas in two days, and other weeks nobody is interested in bananas and they get brown and spotty before anyone even glances their way. I had a bunch of spotty bananas on hand, and decided it was time to make some banana muffins. I've been using the same recipe for banana muffins for years, but this time I decided to make them extra special with some buttery streusel on top. They turned out totally fantastic!
These buttery and tender banana streusel muffins are so delicious, and so easy to make!
The muffin base is adapted from my favorite banana bread recipe, and it gives the muffins the perfect sweet banana flavor and tender texture. The walnuts in the streusel give it a little extra crunch and complement the banana flavor perfectly. Seriously, the combination of banana, cinnamon, and walnut is pretty much perfection!
These buttery and tender banana streusel muffins are so delicious, and so easy to make!
Banana Streusel Muffins

for the muffins:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 overripe bananas, mashed

for the streusel:
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
4 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat the oven to 425. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and milk, and mix until smooth. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, and mix until just combined. Fold in the mashed bananas and mix until combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling 3/4 full. To make the streusel, whisk the flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts together with a fork in a small bowl. Drizzle in the melted butter and whisk until the butter is blended in and the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the streusel over the tops of the muffins. Bake 15 minutes, or until light golden brown on top and cooked through.
These buttery and tender banana streusel muffins are so delicious, and so easy to make!

2.10.2021

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

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These chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies have the most delicious combination of flavors and textures!
These chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies have the most delicious combination of flavors and textures!
I know we're getting down the wire here, but I hope it's not too late to share another Valentine's cookie recipe! These chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookie are just too good to keep until next year. They're so soft and thick, with the perfect combination of peanut butter and chocolate flavor. The edges are crisp, the middles are soft and luscious, and they're perfectly buttery and rich. Yum!

I love a good oatmeal cookie, but adding peanut butter to the dough makes them extra delicious! And since everyone in my family loves peanut butter, I thought it would be fun to bump up the flavor even more with a Reese's peanut butter heart on top. It makes the cookies extra decadent, and perfect for Valentine's Day!
These chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies have the most delicious combination of flavors and textures!
This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so if you don't need 2 dozen giant cookies at the same time, you can definitely freeze some of the dough for later (see my favorite tips for freezing cookie dough here). If you love chocolate and peanut butter like we do, these cookies are a must make!
These chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies have the most delicious combination of flavors and textures!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups chocolate chips
24 Reese's chocolate hearts

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until well blended. Add the eggs, peanut butter, and vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix to form a soft dough. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners. Scoop the dough using a large cookie scoop (I used a 3 tablespoon scoop). Bake 12-14 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Remove from the oven and press a chocolate heart into the center of each cookie. Let cool before serving.

slightly adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
These chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies have the most delicious combination of flavors and textures!

2.06.2021

Valentine M&M Cookies

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These Valentine M&M cookies are totally irresistible! They're so easy to make and so delicious!
It's weird how pandemic life goes by so slowly and yet so fast. I can hardly believe that Valentine's Day is almost here already, and yet it feels like a million years have passed since last Valentine's Day. I think the endless days of staying home in my sweatpants and binge-watching The Office have just made me lose all sense of time. Since Valentine's Day is my favorite holiday, it would be a total shame to let it pass without posting a few fun Valentine's recipes!

I make M&M cookies all year round because they're a favorite with my kids, but these ones are extra special because they have Valentine's colored M&M's. Everything tastes better when it's festive colored, right? :) The cookie dough base is my tried-and-true chocolate chip cookie recipe. If you haven't made it yet, you should just know - it's the best!
You can make the cookies whatever size you choose, but I love scooping them with a 3 tablespoon scoop (about the size of an ice cream scoop) so they're huge and thick. I can fit eight cookies per cookie sheet, and it's important to give them space because they'll expand quite a bit as they cook. To make them extra delicious, I like to give them a little sprinkle of Maldon salt  before baking (feel free to use whatever finishing salt you like) but if that's not your jam, you can definitely leave it out. 
The cookies are done when they're just lightly browned around the edges. Don't overcook them! They'll still be a little puffy on top, but as they cool they will flatten out a little more and have the perfect soft texture in the middle, while still being crisp on the outside. So yummy!
The dough for these cookies freezes really well (you can look at my tips for freezing cookie dough here), so I usually bake one sheet of cookies and then freeze the rest of the dough. I scoop it into balls before freezing so that it's easy to bake up some cookies whenever I need them (which, let's face it, is basically daily). These cookies are so good, and they're the perfect way to get a little festive for Valentine's Day!
Valentine M&M Cookies

12 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cups chocolate chips
2 cups valentine M&M's
1 teaspoon Maldon salt (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract, and mix until combined. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix to form a soft dough. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and M&M's  Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet using a large cookie scoop (I used this 3 tablespoon scoop). Sprinkle with Maldon salt if desired. Bake 12-13 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges.