Recipe: Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Sandwich Cookies

What is happening to me?! I’m becoming a cooking/baking monster! I always loved baking though. And there’s nothing like baking something from scratch. It’s probably my favorite, when I have time for it. And I try to make time for it. With just me and the Huz, it’s not too hard to spend a couple hours in the kitchen, and the end result is normally satisfying.

I really recommend baking from scratch for two reasons – 1) You know exactly what is going into your food. You know because you put it there. No silly obscure scientific names, just the basics: flour, sugar, milk, egg, vanilla, pumpkin. Yum. And 2) the end result is no longer whatever the recipe says it is. It’s now part of you. Your heart (not literally) went into making that and THAT is fulfilling. I have yet to truly get there with cooking, but I’ve had some successes recently with new recipes, so that is encouraging me a lot.

I was about to finish up work yesterday with a growing need to making something pumpkinny. Did you know that you can’t always find pumpkin puree throughout the year? Reminds me of Japan with all the seasonal veggies/fruits. And that’s comforting to me. I enjoy using fresh pumpkin myself, but the process can be very messy and time-consuming. It has to be combined with roasting pumpkin seeds too. That’s just a given.

So, I wanted something sweet and something pumpkinny. I have a Pinterest board exclusively for pumpkin things. It’s delectable. I found the quickest pumpkin dessert recipe on there. The original recipe calls for all things gluten-free. I am not encumbered by the dietary restriction, so I did not use anything specifically GF. If you are, feel free to run over to that website for the alterations. This post, however, will include all the gluten-full and probably not-too-healthy-for-you ingredients necessary. Here you go!

Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Sandwich Cookies

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makes 24 individual cookies (12 sandwiches)

Prep:   30 mins      Total Time: 1:05

Ingredients:

Cookie

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice**
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter softened (unsalted)
1/2 cup pumpkin (you can refrigerate the remaining pumpkin in the can for about a week)
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Filling

8-oz package of cream cheese softened
2 tbs butter softened (unsalted)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

extra powdered sugar

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350*F

2. Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, salt) in medium bowl and set aside.

3. Combine brown sugar and 1/2 cup butter in large bowl and beat at medium-speed until creamy. Add pumpkin, milk, egg, and vanilla. Beat until well-mixed. It will not look very nice, but don’t worry. Add flour mixture and beat at low-speed until well-mixed. Now it looks like batter.

4. Drop batter onto ungreased cookie sheets with a spoon. I cover my cookies sheets with aluminum foil because I don’t like having to wash my cookie sheets. I’m lazy. I was liberal with the amounts (about a large half-dollar size) and they turned out pretty consistent. Not smooth like the ones on the original website, but they do the job. I had enough batter for 12 cookies each on 2 pans. Bake 9-10 minutes or until until set and lightly brown on the edges. I had to go a little longer to bake all the way through (since mine were thicker). Cool on cookie sheets for about 2 minutes then set on cooling rack. Cool completely.

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5. Combine all filling ingredients except for powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat at medium-speed until smooth. You’ll probably have to scrape the bowl a few times to get all the ingredients mixed in. Add powdered sugar to the mix, one cup at a time, mixing completely after each addition. This was my favorite part. Yum!

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6. Spread a layer of filling between the flat sides of two cookies and press together. You can be very liberal with this. We had a LOT of filling left over after I put a pretty good amount of filling between our cookies. We had so much, in fact, that we cut up a Honey Crisp apple and used half of it for dip and put the rest on the fridge for later use. So good. Sprinkle tops of sandwiches with extra powdered sugar (I forgot this part, but it does make them look cuter).

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7. This is up to you. Depending on when you are serving the cookies, it is best to pop them into the fridge for about 30 minutes so the filling will thicken a bit. If not, the cookies could slide off each other. We’ve made cookies that we called Gobs for years (chocolate cake cookies with super-rich cream cheese filling AND coated on outside) and this is how we set them up. You can just put them on a cookie sheet to cool, or, if you lack the space, wrap each sandwich in some Saran wrap and squeeze in wherever you can find a space. Makes it easy to pack into lunches for a treat, too, throughout the week. I sent one to work with the Huz so he could enjoy it later.

Go, my baking friends! Go and bake up some October!

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**You can also use 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/8 tsp ground cloves.

 

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Recipe: Savory Autumn Scramble

While I was sitting at the car shop getting my oil changed, I perused through the Better Homes & Gardens magazine. There are usually some great recipes in there and the October issue did not disappoint. I quickly snapped pictures of each one and am determined to try them out throughout the season. The first attempt was the Savory Egg and Sweet Potato Scramble. The original recipe is here, but if you’re anything like me and my husband, you need a bit more meat to make a dinner meal. I decided to add some good ole Bob Evans sausage, because nothing is more Ohio than Bob Evans. Yum.

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Here’s the updated recipe:

Start to Finish: 35 mins

Ingredients:

8 eggs
1 lb package of sausage
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced
2 green onions, sliced
2 cups baby spinach
bottled hot pepper sauce (optional)

Directions:

1.  Cook and crumble sausage in a skillet for 10-15 minutes until thoroughly cooked. Set aside.

2.  In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, milk, cumin, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

3.  Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Toss in sweet potato and green onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are almost tender, about 8 minutes.  Add spinach. Cook until slightly wilted, about 1 minute.

It is amazing how big spinach is until it’s cooked for a while. Unreal!

4.  Mix sausage into the skillet. Pour egg mixture over potatoes. Let the egg cook and seep down to the bottom of the pan. At this point, I raised the heat to medium-high because the egg just wasn’t cooking fast enough. After the initial cook, begin mixing the cooked egg portion into the rest of the scramble, letting the uncooked part go to the bottom and cook. Continue this method until all egg is thoroughly cooked but still moist. This will take about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve right away. Makes 4-5 servings. Add hot sauce if desired. This will reheat (like for lunch the next day) but I wouldn’t recommend more than three days.

And there you are. It was a pretty easy meal. We really liked it with the sausage added in. Hope you enjoy it as well!

Lately

There has been a lot going on of late. I would like to expound on each thing, but for now, I’ll just give you a quick overview.

I have started going to a chiropractor. I would venture that probably half of my church back home is going to this chiropractor. I went when I was a kid and Mom worked for one, but it has been a very long time. I had some discomfort in my left shoulder that gradually got more intense and into regular pain. So, I decided to hop on the bandwagon and check them out. I’m committed for a year (call me crazy!) and hopefully will see the good results my friends and church-family have been seeing. I’ll share more on this later, definitely. For now, you can just go check out their website.

Last Thursday (two Thursdays ago, I guess, since Sunday starts a new week), friends of mine gave offered us tickets to the Cincinnati Tennis event, ATP/WTA Western and Southern Open. I loooove professional tennis. It’s a lot of fun. Matt had never been to a game so that makes it even more fun for me. We were able to get tickets for Thursday night and watched Rafael Nadal play and then Serena Williams. They both won their matches. We even had box seats since the tickets were from someone who works with Rookwood Pottery – that’s an iconic Cincinnati pottery business and they make the trophies given out at the tournament. Very fun. This was our view for the evening:

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Nadal had a wedgie the entire tournament and Matt commented on it every time he picked at it…well, maybe not every time. It felt like every time because he picked out his wedgie just about every play. I’m not a huge Nadal fan anyway, so it was annoying. But he’s one of the best in tennis history, so it’s still a good watch…unless he’s picking his wedgie. Dude, get some different undies.

Last Sunday, a man at Matt’s church was giving away from homegrown veggies. I grabbed up a zucchini and then sat around trying to figure out what to do with it. I also have some apples sitting around. Nice, plump, juicy apples. I got the big idea to add some apple to a zucchini bread. Sounds yummy, huh? Oh it was! But a word of warning – it might be a better idea to dry out the apple bits before adding them to your zucchini bread recipe. As it was, my recipe made either 24 muffins or 2 loaves of bread. I just have one pan for each, so I made 12 muffins and 1 loaf. Everything took probably twice as long to bake. I was up very late. I am wondering if the muffin recipe I have just makes really dense breads. I have yet to figure out how to make nice, fluffy breads. I’m guessing it is just something to learn. Regardless, they WERE very yummy! It’s almost all gone between Matt and I. Very dense. I would share the recipe with you, but I’m not really sure it worked the way it was supposed to. So, you can go to http://allrecipes.com and look up “apple zucchini” recipes. There are a bunch of things on there. I’m so glad.

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Lastly, We were getting kind of low on our laundry detergent. I pinned more than a year ago this recipe for making your own. Claims to get 9 months of use out of $22+ of ingredients. That sounds fabulous! We haven’t had to buy detergent yet, so I thought it might be time to go ahead and make our own.

Here is the website with the original recipe:

It smelled so good while I was mixing it all together, and all the ingredients are supposed to be gentle for sensitive skin. I used it for my laundry last night and everything smells great! Only 1-2 tablespoons for each load. It’s just the two of us (as opposed to the blogger’s 5-member family) so I’m hoping it lasts us way longer than 9 months.

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Oh and all of our ingredients cost $22.10. Woot! Matt’s mother saw my pin and made this over a year ago. She has awful water to work with at their house and this is the only stuff that seems to work and actually get their clothes looking, feeling, smelling clean. When I posted pictures of the finished product, people came out of the woodwork on Facebook commenting about how they have been making their own and love it or asking questions about how to go about doing it themselves. As you can see, we have an HE washer, but it doesn’t seem to have any problem with the detergent. I put the date on some freezer tape and stuck it to the side of the box so I can see how long this batch lasts. I’m pretty pumped.

Have a great week everyone! Hopefully, I can check in with you before another week and a half rolls by.

Oh, and our sunflowers are kickin’ it!

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Star Trek, Ants, and Painting

Well, we decided to go see Star Trek last Saturday for my birthday. Rather, I decided and Matt said, “Sure…it’s your birthday!” But he laughed during all the appropriate parts…sometimes during inappropriate parts too. Like, when one character is dying, and there is intense grieving on-screen, he turned to me and said, “Spock says, ‘Whaaaa??'” I did tell him that Vulcan’s don’t have much emotional expression, but I neglected to tell him how Spock is part human and therefore, capable of expressing emotions. Moot point. I shrugged it off and went back to my tears.

We stopped at Red Robin for dinner. My first time. *First times!* I got the Chili Chili Cheeseburger. Can you say yum?

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All that was left. It was so tempting that I forgot to take a before photo.

We got a box of gift cards to restaurants and such at one of the wedding showers, so my birthday date night only cost us about $10 max and that was leftover cost of meal and tip. Very nice afternoon/evening.

I’ve been trying to make this place more homey and together. It’s been hard because there are still boxes about that need to be unpacked. I can’t do that until I paint the bookshelves and start getting things on the walls. It’s a mess.

But I did manage to pull out the tablecloth and napkins and iron them out. I’m just saying, tablecloths are my least favorite thing to iron.

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Sure looks pretty, but I’m still not sold that it was worth the effort. Not to mention, it’s a round tablecloth! Ugh. Anyway, those are the flowers from the Huz. We’ve actually had two meals at the table now, since I put it together. That’s nice.

I’ve even been cooking. I had bought some various kinds of meat and thrown them in the freezer until we got around to doing something with them. I’ve been eyeing the tilapia that’s been in there for a while now, but I’ve never made fish before…besides fish sticks as a kid, and I have long since thrown those out of my diet. So, I went to good old Allrecipes.com and searched, “Easy tilapia.” No joke.

Here’s what I got:

Healthier Easy Baked Tilapia

and here’s what my version of it looked like:

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Ok, the fish IS in there, and it tasted yummy. I forego most things with lemon, and I went ahead and increased the amount of melted butter. It was pretty wonderful. There was so much seasoning on the fish, that I didn’t put much more than salt and pepper in the mashed potatoes…which I made from scratch. Go me! 🙂 You have no idea what an accomplishment this is for someone like me. I have never felt comfortable in a kitchen unless I was baking something, and then I’m right at home. Cooking is too ambiguous for me; there just aren’t enough rules. But I think I’ll keep trying at it. Matt certainly hopes that I will.

Speaking of kitchen, I walked into mine last night and found some tiny black ants crawling on one of the counters. Just in one little spot. You could tell they were just starting to explore. Ugh. I pulled everything off that section – they weren’t in anything yet, so it was a good catch. I stopped by Home Depot after work today and picked up some bait things and some spray.

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They caught on pretty quick. I went down for a nap and when I woke up 30 mins later, they were all over the trap. And then taking it home to their queen….to MURDER her! muahahaa! I let them go back and forth between the bait and their lair for a few hours and then sprayed the perimeter. The stuff must be pretty potent because there is little to no movement in that corridor now. Maybe I’ll leave the carcasses for Huz to clean up. 🙂 That sounds great!

I mentioned that I have some bookshelves to paint before I can really start putting the house together. Well, here’s one!

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This used to be my dad’s…way back in his college days. I didn’t know that until a week or so ago. This isn’t its finished state. I am just getting started. But i think it’s going to be good. It’s a short one and then I have its two big brothers to paint after it. Wish me luck! I love painting. 🙂

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Garden Update:

Not much to report, except that I was weeding the other day and came across these!

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Yipes! Those things were huge! I don’t know what I’m going to do with this garden bed. There’s no telling what will come out of it. Ugh. Good news, though, my Impatiens are doing beautifully and starting to really fill in! Yay! Off to finish painting!

Birthday and Recipe

So, Friday was my birthday! Yippee! Last year to be in my twenties and I’m starting it out right – married! Such a different way of life than I’m used to, but I’m loving every minute of it. Except when the Huz is working 3rds and I have to sleep by myself. That part isn’t so much fun.

But back to the birthday.

A day early, my dad stopped by my work to give me a gift from him and my step-mom. It was very appropriate for me. in fact, I believe I remember seeing a similar one elsewhere, perhaps at the Cox Arboretum gift shop.

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Sadly, I had to work most of the day Friday. But when Huz got home, he had brought flowers and my gifts in. They were pretty fab gifts. It’s like he knows me or something.

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Yep, that’s birdseed and a bat house. I absolutely cannot wait to get the bat house and the “Space available” sign up. I love bats so much. Now, don’t go thinking that I’m crazy or anything. Bats are incredibly helpful! One North American Brown Bat can eat a pound of mosquitoes EACH night! I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand mosquitoes. That automatically puts them up on the list. Although, spiders are good for mosquito catching…but spiders don’t have sweet little, almost puppy-like faces.

You cannot tell me that that face isn’t cute 🙂

We have to find a good place for the house. They like high locations with easy access and in direct sunlight for most of the day (they like it hot in their homes…probably another reason why I like them some much). I think I’ll need to call the OSU Extension office here soon. Besides, I have to figure out what we’re going to do with our weeping cherry tree.

Saturday is a free day. Huz will be sleeping until about 3 and then we can run around and go see a movie, maybe buy me a new computer (we have leftover wedding money) – one with a number pad…and Microsoft Office. Sigh…that would be so nice. It’s my excuse for not putting together a house budget yet. Maybe I should postpone a little longer….hmm.

Oh, Thursday night, I decided I wanted to bake and make the house smell yummy. I picked up some strawberries and came home to get started. The plan was to make strawberry muffins, but that quickly changed into a strawberry loaf. Same concept, just wanted to break in the new Pampered Chef stone loaf pan we got as a gift. I’m so glad I did. It turned out super yummy. Because it was muffin batter, it was a little dense (think Amish friendship bread) but it was great and when lathered with a layer of cream cheese….yum!

I had some friends request the recipe I used, so here it goes. The “putting together” part is a little tricky, but I haven’t had a bad batch using this method. I’ll put the instructions for the muffins or the loaf.

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Strawberry (or other fruit) Muffins or Loaf

IngredientsIMG_20130614_214955

Wet
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)

1 cup chopped fruit

Dry
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 or 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional…but always recommended!)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400*F (205C) for muffins or 375*F (191C) for a loaf.
2. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. If making a loaf, grease the inside of the pan (stone pans don’t need to be greased unless they haven’t been used often).
3. In a small bowl, combine the wet ingredients (oil, milk, egg, vanilla). Beat lightly.
4. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon).
5. Toss in fruit and coat with dry mixture.
6. Pour wet mixture into the dry and stir together.
7. Spoon batter into cups or pour into loaf pan.
8. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Tops should bounce back from touch. If making a loaf, bake for about 45-50 minutes. Use a toothpick to determine if the center is finished baking.

Here are a couple of variations to consider:

* For a crunchy top, sprinkle sugar over batter before baking. It’s important you do it before you bake…it just doesn’t work if it’s after. Trust me. *facepalm*
* For a sweeter top, spread raw honey over the top of muffins after baked (still warm). I haven’t done this with the loaf, but I imagine that it would taste about the same. Love that raw honey!
* Chunky Monkey Muffins – I made these in Japan and they were sooooo good! Substitute the whole cup of fruit with this mixture: 1/2 cup chopped banana and another 1/2 cup of small marshmallows, nuts (I think I used crushed walnuts), and mini chocolate chips (you’ll have a total of 1 cup fruit+extras, not a 1/2 cup for each of those items).

Enjoy!

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I’ll leave you with a couple other shots.

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Isn’t she pretty? I still don’t have a name for her. I need a name people. Help a lady out here!

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I think the best thing about having silverware all different colors is that when I pull them out of the dishwasher, I can easily grab all of the same kind and put them away more quickly. And…it’s pretty to look at.

Have a great rest of your weekend and, oh yeah, Happy Father’s Day!