Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Black Friday!

Thanksgiving time is quite possibly one of my favorite holidays. . . just family getting together to eat, laugh, talk, and eat some more. You don't have to worry about buying gifts or anything. Maybe that's why the retail industry just sort of skips right over this holiday centered around turkey and thanks!

One of my absolute favorite desserts is Pumpkin Cheesecake. I recently made the marbled cheesecake bars, which was fantastic and super easy. But, I have never, ever made a real, hard-core cheesecake. I really wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I know so many people who have mentioned their fear of baking cheesecakes (not including the Jell-o no bake box mixes). And overall, the entire process wasn't that bad. Yes, there were some strange steps, but if I didn't do them there would be way too much moisture or a ton of cracking. It was definitely worth it to bite into a soft, perfectly textured pumpkin cheesecake on Thanksgiving day!

Here's a few of my observations from my experience:
:: This was my first water bath experience. I don't have a roaster, so I filled my cookie sheet with edges up as far as it could go and that worked great. I had always wondered why this was done, so I did a bit of research and discovered that it helps prevent cracking. Nobody wants a cracked cheesecake, right? I was super excited because even though I didn't have a roaster, it still worked and only cracked a little tiny bit.

:: Pumpkin - Pumpkin is filled with LOTS of water. With any other dessert, you don't usually have to squeeze the water out of the pumpkin, but with cheesecake you don't want it all watery. It was a bit time consuming, but completely worth it. I used paper towels and just squeezed and squeezed until the pumpkin looked very dry, which felt really, really wrong at the time. However, the cheesecake turned out amazing!

I found the recipe over here. I have been baked several things from this blog and her recipe that she came up with turned out really awesome! I didn't do the pecans, but I think when we eat it tonight, I will make my homemade whipped cream to make it extra special. Or . . . perhaps, drizzle a bit of chocolate syrup over the top of it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

mmm! Pumpkin!

I just can't get enough pumpkin! I really think Fall is my favorite time of year because of pumpkin alone (although, I am mesmerized by the amazing colors of the changing leaves!). I made these bars a few weeks ago, when we hosted our small group Bible Study. They were quite yummy, I must admit. . . but can you really go wrong with pumpkin. . . and cheesecake?

Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

2.25 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 stick (8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 (heaping) tsp. ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan. In a large bowl or in your food processor (which is what I use, since I already used it to crush the gingersnaps), combine the gingersnaps, pecans, and butter. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 10-12 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl or in your stand mixer bowl, mix the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla just until smooth. Mix in the eggs one at a time, blending after each addition. Set aside one cup of the mixture. To the remaining mixture, mix in the 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Spread the pumpkin batter into the crust. Drop the remaining plain batter by spoonfuls onto the top. Swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until filling is just set (the middle will still jiggle a little bit). Cool the bars in the pan and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving (I stuck mine in the freezer for about 2 hours and then took it out a couple minutes before and it was perfect).

Happy Baking!!!!

Toddler Time: Thankful Tree

Thanksgiving is just two days away. . . I can't believe it! One of biggest annoyances is Christmas music BEFORE Thanksgiving. And, to make matters worse, this year, retailers started promoting Christmas as soon as Halloween was over (if not before!). Sadly, in a retail based society, we tend to want, want, and want. I confess, there are tons of things I want (and can't have), but I really wanted to start the season of THANKFULNESS teaching my son (who is 2) about being thankful. So, we made a thankful tree.
This project took 3 days, because the first day we traced everything (so I could cut them out), and then we glued everything down, and then when it was dry, we wrote what we were thankful for. I will remind you that I have a 2 year old, so the attention span is not that great, so breaking up art projects for smaller kids is a great idea and helps them keep their focus. It also doesn't take that much out of your day in order to do it.
We had so much fun doing this craft! I look forward to doing it again each year and seeing how the things he is thankful for changes as he gradually understands the concept of thankfulness more each year.

I also have some other thanksgiving crafts that I am just not sure I am going to get posted in time for thanksgiving. . . but you can Google preschool thanksgiving crafts and tons (I mean TONS) of ideas will pop up.

What kinds of projects have you been doing with your toddler or little one? Please comment, I love hearing what you've been up to!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Just in time for Thanksgiving breakfast

Oh my goodness! I have so many things to post, so I apologize ahead of time for the abundance of pumpkin. . . I just can't get enough of the stuff this time of year. I have seen so many other bloggers posting about the combination of cinnamon rolls and pumpkin. . . I just couldn't resist the temptation. And let me just say, they were delicious and didn't last long!
I found so many different recipes on the greatest recipe book on earth (a.k.a. the world wide web) and finally chose on this one. It is apparently a recipe from Cooking Light, but I will confess, I am not sure what was "light" about it. . . but it sure was good!

I was also able to take the portion of the recipe for the bread and put it into my bread maker and let it do all the work in making the dough.

You can go HERE to check out the recipe. . . it's delicious. If you make them, let me know what you think.

Also, what are you making for Thanksgiving? Have a great night!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A great way to save money.

I am constantly looking at how I can help save our family money. This week, my husband and I sat down to make our annual Christmas budget and I realized I needed to get creative in how I spent the money we had budgeted. I have been spending a lot of time looking for the best deal on Christmas Cards and found (through another friend's blog) that I could get some of my Christmas cards for free. . . don't worry, you heard me right. . . FREE. Now, I am not talking about 5 or 10 free cards, I am talking about 50. I am so excited that I want to go and take my family pictures now. . . except, I don't have Ethan's Christmas outfit picked out yet (that's my only problem).

Anyhow, I haven't decided which card I want, but I really like that they have different formats and layouts for several different pictures (I always have trouble picking out my favorite one throughout the year, so the layouts with several pictures have me incredibly excited! You can look at their beautiful selection here. I also like the option of their New Year's cards because I am always running late with getting them out. No matter how early I start, I always procrastinate mailing them out or get distracted with some other project. If I need to, I can just pick a New Year's card and pretend I planned it all along. And now that we're having our second little bundle of joy pretty soon, I am really lovin' their wall art. So simple and neat for this little baby's newborn pictures. So many ideas, so many different ways to present it all from one website. How cool is that?

I hope that my fellow blogger friends take advantage of this amazing deal. Bloggers get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly… sign up here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Toddler Time: Indian Corn Activity

I am having so much fun getting my craft on with my toddler! I keep finding all sorts of really neat activities to do, that I am not going to have time to do them all. But, that's okay - because I need to leave some activities for next year, right?

Now that Halloween is over, and November is here (despite the plethora of Christmas stuff out in the stores), we NEED to be focusing on Thanksgiving with our kiddos. I think so often we forget about this great holiday that really isn't focused on anything but spending time together and eating scrumptious food.

So, here is a button Indian Corn craft that is just way too cute!!!! (at least I think so!).

Step 1: Go here to get template and print out.
Step 2: Trace the pieces on colored paper and cut out (unless you feel comfortable with your toddler using scissors, I recommend this as the mommy job).
Step 3: Gather your child, glue, and buttons (I have jars of color coordinated buttons, but you can find a great little bag of them in the right color scheme at JoAnns).
Step 4: Help your child glue the pieces together. Then turn over so that the layering is on the back.
Step 5: Have child show you where they want to put the button. Place glue there and have them place button on glue.
Step 6: Continue until you think they are done
Step 7: Place in a safe place to dry and then display so child can be so proud of their work.

Happy crafting!

P.s. if you have ANY questions, please feel free to comment . . . i will get back to you as soon as possible!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Robots and Love

This weekend, I got to help celebrate the upcoming birth of a friend's first. She's having a boy and the party was full of Dr. Seuss (Debi did a great job!). I just love making baby stuff. . . each gift I make ends up being just a little bit different then previous gifts, which makes it kind of exciting!

For this round of baby gifts I had found a half yard of Michaell Miller's robot camp fabric on sale at the Cotton Ball in Morro Bay several months ago and needed something that would accent it nicely. I thought that the blue with green circles fabric from Amy Butler's line, Love, would be perfect! I had so much fun putting these things together!
I cut a square and used Heat & Bond to adhere the robot onto the shirt and then blasted it. It's just a simple shirt, but it really made the gift go together (at least I thought so).
For the Bib, I added some scraps from Heather Bailey's Nicey Jane Line. . . similar colors to tie everything together.
The diaper pouch gave me a slight scare, because I forgot to put the elastics in it for the button (which is the very first step. . .grr!), so I used sew-able velcro. I really like the way it turned out. Now I just need to find some labels to put on my creations. . . any thoughts?
Chenile burpies. . . one of each fabric. So soft and snuggly!
And a quick card that I almost forgot to make! Ooops! This card uses Stampin' Up's Gable Green and Bashful Blue inks and paper. The square eyelets are also SU, but Brocade Blue (they were close enough and I was in a hurry!). The stamps and printed paper are also Stampin' Up.

Have a great Tuesday!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Toddler time!

Okay, so I mentioned the other day that I was going to be making some changes to my blog and adding some new dimensions. A lot of this has to do with the teacher in me, but mostly because I really want my two year old to have some amazing experiences that really help him to grow into the man that God created him to be. Art activities are so important to the growth and development of a child that I just can't not give these opportunities to my child.
Another reason is that I want to give my fellow mamas out there some quick and easy activities they can do with their own kids without having to spend hours searching for things and having to run out and get the supplies needed or spend an arm and a leg to do it. As MOPS coordinator this year, I really want to give something to my fellow MOPS mommies that might help and encourage them.
One of the great things about doing art projects with toddlers is that it really helps divide up the morning. I choose a morning that we don't have anything going on. . . usually Wednesday. Right now, I am working on thematic projects because we are in the midst of so many fun holidays.

My first project is kind of belated, because we did this last week for Halloween. But, it turned out so cute that I had to share. Plus, I will start a page just for Toddler Time stuff, so it can easily be found next year when looking for something fun to entertain/stimulate
your little one with.

Paper Plate Jack-o-Lantern

This project was a two day project. On day 1, I got my kiddo in just his diaper and let him finger paint the back of his paper plate orange. He was surprisingly clean. I used the Crayola washable finger paints. . . they are awesome and wash off so nicely! Because the weather was cooler and finger paints are thick, it took awhile to dry, so we just finished this project the next day.
I cut out some eyes, a nose, and a mouth out of construction paper and showed them to Ethan. We talked about where those parts are on our body. I showed him what we were going to do with the eye and glued it on for him. Then, he showed me where to put the glue for the next eye and he put it on himself. We did this with all the rest of the face.
After he was done, he was so excited to tell me all the parts on his pumpkin's face. This is him saying "Nose," in his own cute way. I love it!

He was so proud of his creation, he didn't want to hold it up for me to get a picture. He wanted to keep looking at it!

Happy Creating!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

yep! There's more

A little teaser pic of what's ahead. . .
taken fresh out of the oven. . . mmmm. . . good!
I am going to try to get a quick post in before my little guy wakes up from his nap. It's been a quiet day here on the home front. I love days where I just get to hang out with my little guy. I even got a couple of hours to sew this afternoon, which I totally loved! I am going to finish this project for our MOPS group soon, so I can get started on some very cool Christmas gifts.

I did want to mention that I am going to make a few changes to my blog. . . not huge changes, but I have started doing art projects with my 2 year old, that I really want to share with you all (especially if you also have toddlers or work with young kids). They are quick and easy and worth the little bit of work just to see your child's face full of accomplishment! It's so cool!

I also wanted to share with my local readers that our MOPS group is having a Christmas Boutique on Saturday, November 20th. If you are in the area, please come by The Bridge and check it out. . . so many amazing vendors and LOTS of handmade gifts.

Okay, so now onto yet another pumpkin recipe. . . and it's AMAZING!!! (if not ingenious!) These pumpkin cream cheese muffins are probably the best I have ever made. . . they were so good! I ate two right out of the oven, they were so good!

These muffins do have a make-ahead portion, but it is so easy and completely worth it. It makes your muffins so clean and and tastey, that you will agree (I promise!)

The original recipe was for 2 dozen, but we can't eat them that quick (well. . . we could if we didn't have any self control), so I halved it, which was really easy.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
adapted from Annies Eats

For the filling:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the muffins:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
1 cups sugar
1 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs vegetable oil

For the topping:
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

More pumpkin

Tuesday. Is it really? This week is so busy and my to-do list is ever so long and all I really want to do is sit back and enjoy life. I am taking a break from my sewing projects right now to blog and make pumpkin puree (the pumpkins are in the oven as we speak!). I am going to quickly finish this post, so I can go change and get to dinner out with the girls in my life group (something that we haven't done in awhile!).

Before I give you this amazing pumpkin recipe. . . what have you been making lately. . . please comment. . . I am curious.

Several weeks ago, I needed to come up with a super quick snack food/finger food for the Tuesday morning Bible Study I attend. This was my contribution. . . a yummy dip of pumpkin goodness paired with some crunchy, sweet apples. I only made a half batch, and it made just enough to fill my serving bowl. I will confess, my husband was a tad hesitant about me making this. . . he just didn't think it sounded good, but after one small taste, he was hooked. It seriously is like eating pumpkin pie. . . a really good pumpkin pie!

Harvest Pumpkin Dip

(This is the full batch, super easy to half)

1 pkg. cream cheese (8 oz)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 can pumpkin
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Beat the above ingredients together and serve chilled. Super delish!

Enjoy everybody! I hope to be back tomorrow with another post. . . I have a lot of stuff to share (I have been busy!).


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