Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Bites

One of the best parts of fall are all of the yummy, comfort foods.  I love pumpkin pie but it is always fun to find different twists and the traditional dessert.  Also on my list: pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin cake.

Pumpkin Pie Bites

2 Pre-made pie crusts
1 Cup pureed pumpkin
8 oz. fat-free cream cheese (at room temp.)
1/2 Cup Splenda
1 Tsp. vanilla
1 Tsp. cinnamon
1/2 Tsp. ginger
2 Eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine pumpkin, cream cheese, eggs and Splenda until smooth.  Add vanilla, cinnamon and ginger.

Next, roll out the pie crust to be slightly thinner than it comes packaged.  To cut the individual crusts, I used a flower-shaped cookie cutter.  You could also use a circle cookie cutter or cut circles freehand using a paring knife.  Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray and press in the crust.

Fill the crusts above halfway with the filling.  You don't want to over-fill them or they get kind of messy!

If you used the flower-shaped cookie cutter and want to make the bites into "pockets", just fold the petals towards the center.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, then let cool on a wire rack.  Top with whip cream  - and serve!  Store in a covered container and refrigerate.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pear Turnovers (Original Recipe!)

I try not to brag about the things I cook or create.  But these pear turnovers are pretty spectacular.  A couple of weeks ago we bought a package of pears at Costco.  When we got them they were rock solid, and then one day - pretty much overnight - they were too soft.  Clearly, I had to figure out something to do with them.  Here is what I came up with:

2 Pears, peeled & cored
1 Package Grands biscuits
1 Tablespoon flour
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1 Teaspoon brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter

Preheat your oven according the biscuit instructions.  Start by chopping the pears into small cubes.  In a medium bowl, combine the pears and vanilla.

Next add the flour, cinnamon and brown sugar and stir until thoroughly combined.  For the next step, take the pre-shaped biscuits and flatten them on a greased baking sheet.  You want to make them as flat as possible.

To fill, place one spoonful of the pear mixture into the center of each circle.  Be careful not to use too much filling on each one or you won't be able to seal the edges.

You might want to stretch the dough out a little bit more before folding it in half over the pears.  Once you have folded them in half, press the edges together to seal it shut.

Finally, melt the butter and add a little bit of cinnamon.  Using a pastry brush, brush the cinnamon butter over the turnovers and stick 'em in the oven!  Bake for about 15-20 minutes.

This is what will happen if you over-fill the turnovers and are unable to get a good seal.

They are definitely best hot out of the oven, but they aren't bad reheated either.  They make a great addition to breakfast, or if you add a little vanilla ice cream can be a tasty dessert!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wedding Scrapbook

A blogger-friend of mine recently asked that I share some of my scrapbook layouts from my wedding album.  I mentioned that I have a hard time getting motivated to get into my craft room and get started . . . but once I am sitting there surrounded by paper and stickers and photos I can create page after page.  Talking about it was enough motivation to get up there again this last week.

I decided to share some of the pages that I have put together so far.  One of the things I tend to struggle with is making each page a little bit different and coming up with new ideas - evolving my creativity.  But . . . that is the fun part.

 The quality of the photos aren't great, but the layout is what I am going for...

Now I need to get more pictures printed to keep going!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Major Milestone!

I don't have much to post today - but I just noticed that yesterday I reached . . .


It may not be a big deal to most, but considering this is my first blog, I am
pretty excited about it!

Now, on to 2,000!!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall Mantel

It is officially the first day of fall.  Recently, I've figured out that I enjoy the fall season more than I realized.  I have always considered myself to be a "summer girl".  But in the last couple of weeks, I noticed the beauty of the leaves beginning to drop from the trees, got excited when the pumpkins showed up at the grocery store, and started looking up warm comforting recipes for upcoming dinners.

Not only that - but I have redecorated our house a little early in anticipation of this cozy time of year.  Earlier this week, I picked up a few mini pumpkins from the store, as well as some supplies to create a fun, simple fall wreath.

Also featured on my mantel are the treat dishes that I posted about earlier this week (you can find the tutorial here).

The wreath was super easy to assemble.  I traced out the letters, pasted them to the green background, and pasted that to the leaf-designed squares.  I also used my hot glue gun to attach leaves to the wreath, and tied a piece of twine from one side to the other.  Using some mini clothespins that I had, I hung the letters across the center of the wreath - and was done.  The longest part of this project was cutting out the letters (if you have a Cricut, I envy you!!).

The picture above features just some random pieces that I have accumulated.  I wrote about the twine-covered vase awhile back (another easy repurposing project!).

I didn't really intend on putting out ALL of my decorations the other night.  But it just kind of exploded and everything I had made its way out to the shelves, tables and walls!

I'm off to go curl up under a warm blanket on the couch to watch some movies with my best friend!  I suggest you relish in this season as well!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Homemade Treat Jars

Lately I have seen different versions on these on Pinterest.  I have been saving some jars just to have around for projects, and I was inspired to try to find some good, cheap candle holders to complete this one.

I've always had a hard time getting the labels to come off the jars cleanly.  Thankfully, I found Trish at Mom on Time Out!!  Trish suggests a couple of different methods for removing pesky labels.  I started by filling the jars with hot water, and then dropping them into a pot also filled with hot water.  Letting them soak for awhile loosened the adhesive and most of the labels just fell off.  There was still some residue from the adhesive on the jars, though.  Using Trish's second method, I grabbed my nail polish remover and some cotton balls and started scrubbing.  I found that a circular motion worked best

Note: you will want to make sure that you either don't have nail polish on, don't care that it gets messed up if you do, or wear gloves!!

Since I had a few things to drop off at Goodwill last weekend, I decided to run in and see if they had any candle holders that were in decent shape at a good price.  A lot of candle holders that are meant to have the candle sit on top (as opposed to a candlestick that sticks inside the holder) have a needle on the top to help stabilize the candle.  I was thrilled to find some that not only were of varying heights, but didn't have that needle on top, so I didn't have to worry about removing it.  Here is what I got:

The last supply I needed was some spray paint.  I planned to make fall-themed jars, so I went with a burnt orange color of Valspar spray paint from Lowes.  (As much as I love the summer weather and despise having to be out in the rain, fall & winter are the most fun for crafts!!)

I painted both the candle holders and the lids to the jars, while I left the jars alone so that you could see what was inside.  I was a little nervous about this step because I haven't done much with spray paint before.  You want to make sure to do lots of quick, light sprays, and shake the can up often.  I'm not a very patient person, so it was irritating to have to wait for one side to dry before rolling the candle holders over to get the other side. paid off in the end :)

Now - you could just set the jars on top and be done (it would make them much easier to wash), but I wanted to make sure mine didn't fall off.  Using my hot glue gun, I made a ring around the bottom of each jar and attached them to the tops of the candle holders.

Finally: fill them up!!  You can use them to hold fall candies, or use some sort of "filler" just for decoration.

Not including the fillers, this project cost only $12 - the candle holders were $3 a piece at Goodwill and the spray paint was also $3.  For that price - you probably could get 1 actual candy dish at the store.  I'm always excited when I think about the deals I can get by doing things myself.  Plus, you can design the project yourself and personalize how you want it to look in the end.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Trip to the Farmer's Market

You would not believe the massive zucchini squash I found at the local farmer's market this weekend.  Although I had no idea what I would do with it all, I knew that I needed to get some (if nothing else, for the photo opportunities!!).
As you can tell in the photo of the zucchini next to my arm, it is obviously not something you find in the grocery stores!

I decided to make a batch of zucchini bread.  This was another first for me.  I have made plenty of banana bread (which I made more of yesterday as well while I was at it!), but it was time to try something new.  The recipe I used comes from Hoosier Homemade.  I found it after looking around on Pinterest.

Zucchini Bread

3 Eggs
1 Cup white sugar
1 Cup brown sugar
1 Cup vegetable oil
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1/4 Teaspoon baking powder
3 Cups flour
2 Cups zucchini, grated

(makes 2 large loaves or 6 mini loaves)

After preheating your oven to 350 degrees, you will want to grate your zucchini so that it can sit and drain a bit while you prep the other ingredients.  I used my handheld cheese grater to grate the zucchini, but you could use a food processor as well.  Once your zucchini is grated, lay it out on a paper towel to absorb some of the moisture.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs until they become foamy.  Add sugar, oil and vanilla and mix well.  Then add cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder and again mix well until combined.  Before adding the zucchini, dab the top with another paper towel.  Next, add the flour and zucchini, alternating between the two and mixing in between steps (I added one cup of each at a time).  

Lightly grease and flour your bread pans, then fill with batter.  Bake bread for 40-50 minutes.  Bread is done when you can stick a toothpick (or fork) in the middle and it comes out clean. 

To see some of my other finds from the farmer's market, go check out Produce at My Mind's Lens. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Strawberry Blueberry Streusel Muffins

After making the blueberry topping for my cheesecake this weekend, I still had some blueberries leftover.  Once I started making the blueberry muffins as planned, I decided to add the remains of the strawberries that were in the fridge as well.  They turned out pretty tasty!!

Strawberry Blueberry Streusel Muffins

1 1/2 Cups flour
3/4 Cups Splenda 
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/3 Cup vegetable oil
1 Egg
Approx. 1/3 Cup 1% Milk
1 Cup blueberries
1/4 Cup diced strawberries

1/4 Cup Splenda
2 Tablespoons & 2 Teaspoons flour
2 Tablespoons butter, cubed
3/4 Teaspoons cinnamon

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, Splenda, salt and baking powder.  Pour vegetable oil and egg into 1 cup measuring cup, then fill the measuring cup the rest of the way with milk.  Add this to the flour mixture and stir until combined.  Fold in blueberries and diced strawberries (you want fairly small pieces of strawberries).

Fill 8 muffin cups to the top with batter.

For the topping, mix all ingredients in a small bowl with a fork until crumbly.  Sprinkle over top of batter.

Bake muffins at 400 for 20-25 minutes.  Once muffins are done, cool until touchable, then move to wire rack until completely cooled.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Blueberry Cheesecake

It has been awhile!  I have not been doing much cooking or been very crafty lately.  Instead my focus has been on my camera and developing my photography.  However, this weekend we had family over for a BBQ and we needed to have some dessert of course!

I was a little nervous to try making was a first.  After baking it, I was even more nervous as the top did not look like I expected.  Instead of being smooth and silky like you normally see in a restaurant, it was had a crackled look.  I have a bad habit of always licking the beaters when I am done mixing up something tasty, so I knew it probably tasted fine.  But I knew I wanted something to cover the top.

I found a recipe for a blueberry topping that sounded tasty, so I decided to give it a try.

Blueberry Cheesecake

Cheesecake(adapted from Better Homes & Gardens cookbook)

1 1/2 Cup crushed graham crackers
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 Cup butter, melted
3 8-ounce packages fat-free cream cheese, softened
1 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1/4 Cup milk
3 Eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  For the crust, combine graham crackers, 1 tablespoon sugar and cinnamon.  Once mixed together, stir in melted butter.  Press mixture into the bottom of a springform pan and set it aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, remaining sugar, flour and vanilla until combined (you should use an electric mixer).  Add milk and continue beating until smooth.  Finally, stir in eggs.

Pour the mixture into the crust-lined pan and make for 35-45 minutes.  It is done when there is about a 2 1/2 inch area around the edge the appears to be set when gently shaken.  Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then gently loose the edges with a small knife.  Cool for another 30 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.  

Blueberry topping:

1 Cup fresh blueberries
1/4 Cup water
2 Tablespoons Splenda
2 Teaspoons corn starch
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

In a small saucepan, heat water, Splenda, corn starch and lemon juice.  Heat and stir until mixture thickens, then add blueberries.  Continue to heat until blueberries soften and mixture begins to bubble.

Cool mixture in refrigerator until chilled, then spread over top of cheesecake.

Fortunately - despite the look of the cake when it came out of the oven, it actually turned out pretty good.  My family members were impressed and that is all that matters!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cream Cheese Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

My latest venture: filled cupcakes.  I have never attempted this before . . . but with Tristan's birthday celebration approaching I decided to give it a try.  The result: some pretty tasty cupcakes!!

(Light) Chocolate Cupcakes
- adapted from Cooking Light magazine

1 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Light
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350.  In a large mixing bowl, blend together brown sugar and butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes (or until combined).  Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each one.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Slowly add flour mixture to the large bowl containing the sugar mixture, alternating with the buttermilk.  You should start and end with the flour mixture.  Lastly, add vanilla extract.

Fill cupcake liners 1/2 - 2/3 way full and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of cupcakes comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Filling

8 oz. fat-free cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 low-fat milk
1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine cream cheese and powdered sugar using handheld or standing mixer.  Once thoroughly combined, add milk and vanilla.  Texture should be smooth and creamy.

To fill cupcakes, cut a cone shaped hole out of the center of the the cupcake using a paring or other small sharp knife.

Do not toss out the pieces that you cut out.  You will still need them after filing the cupcakes.

Fill either a piping bag or Ziploc with the cream cheese filling.  I just used a Ziploc and it worked great.  After cutting a small whole in one corner of the bag, slowly fill the holes you cut in the cupcakes. 

Try not to fill the cupcakes all the way to the top, or the filling will end up squeezing out when you replace the top like this:
Once you have filled all of the cupcakes, cut the cone off of the chunk that you cut out so that you have a round, flat piece to plug the top.

Buttercream Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (not melted)
3-4 cups powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons low-fat milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

Warning: for this frosting, be sure to use real butter.  I tried substituting the "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" the first time around and it did not work.

Cream the butter until smooth before adding the powdered sugar.  Be sure to keep your mixer on low when adding the powdered sugar, or it will make a HUGE mess!!  You can start with 3 cups of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk.  Then, add additional powdered sugar or milk to thicken or thin it out to your liking.  I used 4 cups of sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk for a fairly thick, stiff frosting.

The frosting with have a creamy, off-white color following this recipe.  I knew I wanted a blue frosting so I just added a few drops of blue and green food coloring until I got the color I wanted.  You can either using a piping bag to decorate the tops of the cupcakes, or just spread the frosting with a spatula.  I have a cookie press that has frosting tips so that was my choice for applying the frosting. 

You will want to keep this in an airtight container.  I also keep mine refrigerated, but it probably isn't necessary.


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