Foodie Friday – Forty-ninth new recipe

I saw this recipe for Impossibly Easy Pumpkin Cheesecake in a Betty Crocker Halloween magazine and I was intrigued. A pie without a crust? Could it really be that easy? Then I remembered that one of my most successful party desserts is mini cheesecakes – with no crust! That made me realize that this pumpkin cheesecake recipe had potential. Bite-sized versions would be perfect for our Halloween party buffet, so I had to give this recipe a try. And what do you know, they’re simple and very tasty! I think I over baked this first batch so I’ll adjust the cooking time and maybe add some more pumpkin pie spice for the Halloween party. But otherwise I’m very pleased with the outcome of this recipe. It’s definitely a keeper!

INGREDIENTS:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c Bisquick
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. It needs to be pretty soft to blend well with the other ingredients. When the cream cheese is soft enough, add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and blend on medium speed about 2 minutes or until smooth. (I had specks of unincorporated cream cheese because I was too impatient. Make sure your cream cheese is room temperature!) Coat a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and spoon about a tablespoon of the batter into each cup. Each one should be about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the middles are just set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before popping the mini cheesecakes out with a knife. Cool on a wire rack then refrigerate on a plate at least an hour until chilled. Enjoy!

Based on Betty Crocker’s Impossibly Easy Pumpkin Cheesecake.

Random thoughts

***We have a Telepresence suite at work, very similar to the one above, and it’s used to have face-to-face meetings with our East Coast counterparts. It’s super cool. The first time I was invited to a Telepresence meeting was when I was in DC last December. It was almost a surreal experience. It really was like we were all in the same room rather than all the way across the country. I was all I could do to keep from giggling like a little girl! The reason I bring this up today is because I was in another Telepresence meeting yesterday and I’m still not over how cool it is to see folks on the screen who are so far away.

***The last night before Dan came back from Florida I decided to whip up an experimental batch of red velvet brownie bites to see how they turned out. In case you were wondering, they were amazing. I ate quite a few of them myself before throwing the rest into a tupperware to take to work the next day. Usually it takes all day for me to give away baked goods, but the red velvet brownie bites disappeared before lunch. And my co-workers went out of their way to tell me how awesome they were. This is the third way I’ve used this recipe from Baking Bites and every incarnation hasl been amazing. I am looking forward to making red velvet brownie bites part of our Halloween party dessert buffet next weekend.

***As Dan was on his flight home from Florida last night I made a big pot of spaghetti for dinner. As usual it turned out great. Yesterday was the first day of the fall that I got home from work and decided that it was too cold to have the windows open in the house. This meant that the yummy smell of the sauce simmering lingered a lot longer. My nose had adjusted by the time Dan got home from the airport, but hopefully it still smelled inviting when he arrived. The only problem with making my delicious spaghetti is that I’m not sure whether Dan is more excited to come home to see me or eat dinner! He definitely loves sketty.

***The Rugby World Cup finals is on Sunday and Dan and I are very excited to watch New Zealand play for the title against France. The All Blacks have already beaten France in one of their Pool A matches so that gives us hope that they can win the Cup, even with all of the injuries they’ve sustained. Since the Gators aren’t playing on Saturday (which means they can’t lose – thank goodness) the rugby match will be our one big sports event of the weekend. I might even wear my New Zealand sweatshirt to work tomorrow instead of my usual Friday ensemble of Florida gear. I think the All Blacks need my support more than the Gators do this weekend!

(Almost) Wordless Tuesday

Don’t these red velvet brownie bites look delicious? Trust me, they taste amazing so I’m definitely adding them to our Halloween party dessert buffet. The rounded tops might prevent me from frosting them, but I think they can stand along without icing. Anyway, I apologize for an early wordless post this week. I spent the last four hours doing chores and then trying to make plans for a trip to San Francisco in a couple of weeks. Finding a hotel is going to be more difficult than I thought and the Virgin America website crashed just as I hit “Purchase” for my plane ticket. Great. And if I want to be able to get up for spinning in the morning I need to go to bed very soon. I’m really tired and there’s so much to do before Dan’s comes home tomorrow! But right now I’m going to bed. Hopefully everything will work itself out tomorrow.

Typical Monday

Work, spinning class, and chores – just a typical Monday for me. I spent too much of yesterday being lazy so I’m paying for it today. Dan will be back from Florida on Wednesday and I still have a lot I want to accomplish before then – not the least of which is to get the house tidied up. I never knew I was a slob until grad school, which was the first time I lived alone. Now, when given a chance, I have a tendency to make lots of messes. So when I got home this evening I forced myself to start a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher, and take out the trash before I sat down at my computer. Oh, and I assembled the rest of the mini whoopie pies to take to work with me tomorrow. The finished products are in the fridge now because the marshmallow filling is too runny at room temperature. Hopefully my co-workers eat them before them become sticky disasters tomorrow. I’ll just leave them in the fridge until after lunch, like the mini pumpkin cheesecakes I served today. Those were a hit so I know they’ll be great for our Halloween party. Right now I’m watching last week’s episode of “House” and making a mental list of what I need to get done before I go to sleep. It’s longer than I have time for, I’m afraid. So excuse me while I go check on the laundry and get ready for bed. Tomorrow is going to be a long day.

Shopping Sunday

I don’t like shopping very much, but every once in a while I get the idea that I want to go to South Coast Plaza – a fantastic mall in Orange County that has just about every store you could ever want to visit. The only thing that would make it perfect is if it had an Old Navy in the main building. As it is, you have to drive across the street, which always seems like too much trouble. But anyway, I drove down to South Coast Plaza this morning because I had a mental list of about ten stores that I wanted to go to. That’s how it is every time I go shopping. I’m excited about the potential of all the great stores, but I’m almost always disappointed. I can’t find anything that I like and I leave empty handed, which is only good for my wallet. Like today – I spent an hour and a half walking around the enormous mall (laughing at the folks queued up outside the Apple store to buy an iPhone 4S) and I only ended up making two purchases. The first one was a strapless bra (to replace my old ones that are too small) and the second one was $4 worth of Halloween stickers. Pretty boring, huh? Most of my time was spent just walking around (did I mention South Coast Plaza is enormous?), looking in the windows of the stores and deciding not to go inside. Or realizing that anything I liked was either too expensive or not worth spending money on. Like Christmas ornaments.

So I’ll bet you’re wondering why I bought Halloween stickers, right? Well, it’s kind of a long story. Have you ever been to a fancy restaurant where they send you home with a little something to eat later? Like how Craft gives you muffins for the morning after your amazing dinner? Well, a couple of weeks ago I decided to explore the option of making muffins as parting gifts for our Halloween party guests after a night of costumed frivolity. I’m not worried about making muffins that taste good, but I made an experimental batch on Friday to make sure that a standard homemade muffin would fit into a 3x3x3″ box. See, I found a stack of leftover wedding favor boxes and I thought they would be perfect for Halloween party favors! My first attempt at pumpkin muffins turned out more cupcake-y than I wanted, but the bottom line is they fit perfectly in the boxes! But a plain silver leftover wedding favor box just isn’t going to cut it for our big Halloween party, so I bought the stickers from Hallmark today to spruce them up. They’re really great Charlie Brown stickers and they’re going to be perfect. I’ll make sure to take pictures as part of our Halloween extravaganza.

OK, I’ve stayed up way too late writing this post. Besides going to South Coast Plaza I’ve been pretty lazy today. I have a lot to do before I go to sleep – not the least of which is to get the rest of the pumpkin muffins ready to take to work tomorrow. If I keep eating them I’m going to regret it. And it doesn’t help that I have a plate full of mini pumpkin cheesecakes in the fridge too. Can you tell I had some leftover pumpkin puree that I needed to use? No more procrastinating – I’m going to get read for bed now. Good night!

Saturday schedule

I admit it, I spent several hours yesterday watching “Jersey Shore.” It’s a really, really awful show, but it’s one of those that if you start watching, you just can’t stop. Anyway, one of my favorite parts of the show is the acronym “GTL,” which means gym, tan, laundry. At least to them. Today I realized that I had established my own, less skin cancer-prone, GTL – gym, Togo’s, laundry…with a few other things in between. Dan left for Florida yesterday and I promised myself I was going to make the most of the time I’ve got while he’s visiting his dad. So how am I doing so far? Here’s a list of what I accomplished today for consideration.

1) I got woken up by a text from Dan at 5:55 AM. He was on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico and he sent me a picture of a fish. I glanced at the photo and promptly fell back asleep.

2) I woke up on my own at 8:30 AM, which is earlier than usual on a Saturday. Last night I realized that I own way too many pairs of pants that I don’t wear and I need to once and for all figure out which ones to keep and which ones to get rid of. So when I got up I tried on every pair of jeans, slacks, shorts, and skirts I own and then sorted them in to “keep,” “donate,” and “alter” piles. Even though it was a small thing, I was glad to get it done.

3) After I filled two big bags of clothes for Goodwill I was left with a stack of six pairs of pants that fit, but were way too long. Although I’m average height for an American woman, finding pants that have the right inseam is all but impossible. So on my way to the gym I dropped off three pairs of jeans and three pairs of slacks (some with the tags still on) to get hemmed. If they turn out well my work wardrobe will have a lot more variety.

4) I decided I didn’t want to slather on sunscreen to take a walk today so I went to the gym instead. My 100 minutes of cardio on the elliptical and stationary bike was much easier than last week, thank goodness. And I got to watch episodes of “No Reservations” as I worked out. Bonus!

5) After my workout I showered, threw on my Gator jersey (which was a little redundant since I was also carrying a Gator gym bag and wearing my company ID on a Gator lanyard), and drove home to watch the Florida vs. Auburn football game. On the way I picked up a delicious turkey sub from Togo’s for lunch. I’ve established a tradition of eating Togo’s on Saturdays while watching football and this week was no exception.

6) Alabama, LSU, and Auburn. Three weeks – three losses. It’s been a depressing run for the Gator faithful. Even at peak strength, with their first string quarterback healthy, Florida would have had trouble with these strong SEC opponents. But with two injured quarterbacks, stringing two good plays together is extremely difficult. This is true for every team, but there are some years that it’s hard to be a fan. Don’t get me wrong, I still bleed Orange and Blue, but the blood is coming from a lot of accumulated wounds right now.

7) After the first Auburn touchdown I started making cookies to keep from sitting on the couch and stressing about the game for four hours. I had the idea to make mini sandwich cookies (aka whoopie pies) for our Halloween party later this month, but I wanted to try out the recipe first. And it’s a good thing I did because today’s results weren’t promising. The cookies were good, but the filling was runny and assembling them was way, way too much trouble. I’ll think I’ll make red velvet brownie bites instead.

8) What was the last part of that GTL acronym again? That’s right – laundry! I’ve been putting off washing clothes for several days, but today I ran out of excuses. I only ran two loads this evening, but it’s a decent start on the mountain that I need to tackle.

Looking back, I definitely think I made the most of my Saturday. That probably explains why I’m so exhausted now. If I want to accomplish just as much tomorrow I need to go to bed soon. Good night!

Foodie Friday – Forty-eighth new recipe

I enjoyed the peanut butter blossom cookies I made last week so much that I wanted to try a variation on the classic. When I saw this recipe for pumpkin blossoms I had to try it – as soon as I could find a bag of Pumpkin Spice Hershey’s Kisses at the store, of course! First of all, let me say that I will never make these cookies again because they were such a pain in the rear. The dough was easy to make, but then forming the cookies was an extremely difficult task. The canned pumpkin made the batter so sticky. I actually threw out about a quarter of it because I was so annoyed. The finish product was pretty good and I got good feedback from my co-workers who tried the cookies, but they definitely weren’t worth all the trouble. I’m glad I tried this recipe, though. It’s a great idea, but it needs a little work.

INGREDIENTS:
Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses, unwrapped
1 pouch Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix
1/3 c butter, softened
1 egg
1 c canned pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon, mixed

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, combine the sugar cookie mix, butter, egg, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice by hand until well blended. The dough will be very soft. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. I left mine in the fridge overnight, bus alas, it didn’t firm up that much. Roll tablespoon-sized amounts of dough into a ball and coat in the cinnamon sugar. Place on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated in cooking spray and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately press a Pumpkin Spice Hershey’s Kiss in the center of each. Move the cookies to a wire rack to cook completely. Enjoy!

Based on Confessions of a Cookbook Queen’s Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Blossoms.

Thankful Thursday 10/13/11

Here’s what I’m thankful for today…

1) My husband. This week Dan heard me tell the same story at least three times because I thought it was funny and kept forgetting that I’d told it already. And the he listened to me vent about all of the problems I’ve been having at work. Just annoyances, nothing major, but I certainly had a lot to say. Poor Dan. He was a saint. If I couldn’t unload my frustrations every once in a while I would go crazy.

2) My co-workers. When they weren’t enduring one of my daily rants (yes, I vented not just to Dan, but to everyone I encountered this week) they were fixing whatever problem was plaguing me at the moment. And there were a lot of problems to fix. I seriously don’t know what I would do without my co-workers. They were all willing to do everything in their power to help me, although they might have just been trying to get me to stop whining! Either way I really appreciate them.

3) Safety. So I’m assuming everyone heard about the shootings at the salon in Seal Beach yesterday. Pretty scary, huh? Well, I work at Boeing in Seal Beach which is about a mile away from where it took place. Luckily I am alive and well and very thankful to be so. Actually, I would have had no idea what was going on yesterday except we had CNN on in the room where I was working. Not only do I work in Seal Beach, but I lived there for a year and a half before Dan and I bought our house. It’s such an idyllic community that it’s hard to imagine any sort of crime there. Very sad. My heart goes out to the families who were touched by this tragedy.

4) Jenni. My high school best friend contacted me through Twitter early this morning to make sure I wasn’t at that salon in Seal Beach yesterday. I was very glad to tell her that I wasn’t. I haven’t seen Jenni in many years and I really miss her friendship so it was very nice to hear from her. I miss all of my high school girlfriends, actually. Making friends as an adult is hard!

5) Weekends. I know this is on all of my gratitude lists, but I am so burned out this week that I can’t wait for a break. I thought I was done with extended workdays after last week, but this week has been more of the same. My brain was so fried before I went home today that I could barely type. If I’m lucky I’ll be able to go home after lunch tomorrow and have an extra half day to relax. Dan is going to Florida for a few days so I have some time to myself. I have no idea how I’m going to fill it, but you’ll definitely find out in my weekend posts!