Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Hello friends, it has been a super busy weekend and I have lots of catching up and sharing to do on here! I figured I’d start with dessert since it’s my favorite. This is the third year I’ve done pumpkin cheesecake, but the first time I made it into bars. I like the bars because the portion is smaller and then you can have more than one dessert! Regular cheesecake slices are just too thick and this was way easier to serve. I loved it and plan to keep it around!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

yield 30-36 bars

  • 1-1 1/4 cup crushed whole wheat graham cracker crumbs
  • 2-3 tbs pumpkin butter
  • 2 8oz packages fat free cream cheese, softened
  • 2 8oz packages reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbs sugar free maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/3 cup Splenda
  • 2 tbs brandy (can omit)
  • 2-3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine graham cracker crumbs and pumpkin butter (I used my hands–it’s fun!) and press into a sprayed 9×13 baking dish.
  2. Bake for 8-10 min until set, remove and cool. Drop oven to 300.
  3. Meanwhile, beat cream, then gradually beat in sugars, Splenda, extracts and syrup until smooth.
  4. Beat eggs in one at a time.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin, Brandy, flour, and pumpkin pie spice, then gradually add mixture to cream cheese mixture until just combined.
  6. Pour over prepared and cooled crust and bake for 60-80 minutes (if your oven is like mine, I suggest turning it around half way through), until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  7. Cool for one hour, then transfer to the refrigerator and cool at least 8 hours.
  8. Cut, serve and enjoy!

Thanksgiving 2011

Hello friends! I hope your Thanksgiving was as fabulous as mine! I started the day off with my first double digit run ever. After that, I was pretty emotional all day long. In the morning Clementine helped me while I stretched out my tired legs.

“Good job, mom. I’ll sit here and keep watch while you stretch.”

Legs hurt less with a Clementine. It’s a proven fact.

Pretty soon, I was back to work on snacks, sides and setting up. For the snack food, I made Skinny Mini Corndogs (recipe to come–they are a hit every time!) and Baked Sweet Potato Chips with a Yogurt Dipping Sauce. Lisa made her famous Deviled Eggs and Judy brought chips with homemade salsa. So much yum.

Ok, they look kinda funny pre-cooked, but just trust me.

I put Charlie to work on sweet potato flipping. Careful about coming to dinner at my house, I will put you to work!

Steve asked me at 7am when I returned from my run if I wanted to open the champagne which I thought I would, but even I can’t handle it that early so we waited until after noon ;)

“Friends! I ran 10 miles and cooked a lot of food, so please drink with me!”

“Oh, you still wanted some too? I was just going to switch off between my glass and the bottle…”

You know you like my Thanksgiving outfit.

Before it was time to make the last couple of things for dinner, I was able to spend some time actually hanging out with friends, family and the puppies. Imagine that! I hosted and got to be social! Success.

Charlie and Kara always take the best pictures together!

I seriously cannot imagine my life without this little guy. He is the most loving dog on earth!

Seriously, look at how he hugs me!

I got legitimately upset with Steve for only taking pictures of Clementine. In true Steve fashion, he took about a million pictures of Winston afterwards.

Most beautiful photo of my mom ever.

Mathew and Lisa

Deann and my mom

Carolyn was visiting from Tucson for the weekend, and I am so glad she was able to make it as well! She even brought me a hostess present, and I didn’t even tell her for the entire month before that she was supposed to. I mean, not that I would have done that to anyone. ;)

Fig butter and honey apple butter!!! We all know how I feel about anything with the word butter in it. Yummmm. She also got me a Starbucks gift card! This girl knows the way to my heart!!

If you’re looking for a blog with some kick butt work outs that can make you feel like your work out is lame no matter how hard you think you’ve worked, you should check hers out. She has made so much progress and looks absolutely amazing!

Because Carolyn was hanging with Kara and Charlie, I think she was asked about 5 times whether she also worked for Starbucks haha.

My dad, Janie, Grandma, and Hank

Finally, it was time to finish up the cooking and carve the turkey!

Wild mushrooms, fresh rosemary, bay leaves, olive oil, chopped garlic, s&p. Baked @ 375 for 20-30 min.

I had almost forgotten that last year we painted our own turkey platter at As You Wish. I absolutely love this.

Steve’s turkey came out absolutely perfect. 2nd time was a charm ;)

Eventually we all sat down to say what we were thankful for. My favorite part of Thanksgiving.

After dinner, Hermano finally arrived (Soooo happy!!! I missed him all day!) andSteve gathered all the family into the living room for a photo.

Love.

And then afterwards, I insisted on a friends picture, and while I am not a fan of the photo in general, I love my friends, so i posted it anyway.

Then, it was time for dessert. I cannot wait to post all of these recipes because they came out amazing! There was Super Simple Pumpkin Brownies, Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars, and ice cream (buttermilk, white chocolate and vanilla bean). And, yes, every single thing I made was at least healthy-ish. I mean, I didn’t go nutty about it, but I made everything the way I wanted to make it.

No one had any complaints ;)

 

“Is it bed time yet?”

The whole day was pretty perfect from start to finish. I love my family. I love my friends. I love my Winston and Clementine.

 


A Milestone

They say if you can run 10 miles, you can run 13.1. At least I’ve heard people say that. I never imagined I would train for a half marathon. I never really thought I’d be able to run longer than a couple of miles. But today, I hit a milestone that I will always remember. And I did it alone. No one else to push me through. Just me. It was the first long run (since back when 4 was a long run!) that I have done all alone.

As soon as I walked in my door, tears came immediately. I did it. I got up on the day I’m about to host and cook for 20 people and I WANTED to run 10 miles. And I made it happen. I know for people that regularly run this distance and have completed full marathons, it may not seem like much. But who would have ever dreamed that this girl would run 10 miles?

Yes, I am carrying soda, donuts and a mocha. And I used to wonder why I was overweight haha

I sometimes can’t believe I am the same person. I have been through so many highs and lows, ups and downs when it comes to my weight and relationship with food, and one day at a time, it is finally getting better. I am finding balance. That version of me could not have run 10 miles, but neither could the me who obsessed over everything I ate. I have spent a lot of time picking my body apart, but here is what I know to be true. My body is doing amazing things for me. Things other people wish they could do (and don’t know yet that they CAN). My body is amazing and whether or not I ever make it to my “goal weight” it can’t change that.

So today I say, hey legs, YOU ARE FREAKING AWESOME!!!!! Thank you for carrying me those 10 miles and not giving up when the going got tough. I am thankful for you.

So this morning I woke up at about 4:30am with no hope of falling back asleep. I never sleep well before a long run. I’m always too nervous and excited. Finally at 5, I got up and made myself breakfast. I have felt the last two long runs like I ran out of fuel, so I was determined not to let that happen today. I made 2 slices toast with almond butter and banana slices like I read on almost every single running blog I read, and let me tell you, that breakfast is legit! It did not upset my stomach and I felt nourished and fueled the entire 10 miles. Fabulous.

My plan was simply to run until the Garmin said 5 miles, then turn around and come home. At mile 5, I stopped at a gas station, got some water and took a coffee flavored gu. It was hard to get down–so sticky, blechhh–but I think it helped a LOT. I never got to a point where I really wanted to stop or where I felt overly exhausted except in the very last mile when I was running as fast as humanly possible to try to improve my time haha.

As soon as I turned around to head home, the sun started to come up and I was running right into the sunrise. It was beautiful and I just felt so happy to be out there running, and so grateful that my body was cooperating and things were going well. For the second half of the run, both of my achilles were definitely bugging me, but honestly, I almost didn’t care. It was a minimal amount of pain that I kind of knew would hurt worse later, but in the moment, it just couldn’t tackle the feeling of awesomeness.

As soon as I could see that the end was in sight, I picked up my pace big time and just enjoyed the feeling of knowing that I was about to accomplish something great. Something I’ve worked really hard towards, and dreamed of. I know I’m not to the race yet, but I honestly do feel this wonderful and accomplished after every new distance. The race is something to work towards, but every long run feels like I’ve already won.

I finished 10.1 miles in 1:40:43 with *almost* all negative splits.

And oh my gosh, I have never been so sweaty.

This is where I’m crying. I do not look cute in a single one of these pictures and I do not care in the slightest!

This is where I’m thirsty.

This is where I’m happy.

Good lord, my legs HURT. I stretched for a while with Clementine. Cute pictures of that will be posted later. She likes to sit on me and lick my face while I stretch. Winston just lays there and looks at me haha. I foam rolled (ouch) and then sat in the ice cold pool for an “ice bath”. Brrrrr. There is nothing that feels better than a hot shower after sitting in a freezing cold pool, let me tell you!

Steve has been so amazingly supportive. I came home to a congratulations card from him, Winston, and Clementine and sat there and cried before even opening it. He also bought me a camelback as a hostess present so now I will have water on my long runs! How did I get so lucky??

This is a Thanksgiving I will never forget. I am so grateful for my body and my life. I never in a million years thought I’d be able to say I’m grateful for my body.

Now I need to get ready for guests! Can’t wait to spend the day with the people I love. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

Thanksgiving Eve

It’s so close, I can taste it! Literally ;) Was everyone else as busy as I was today? Steve and I woke up at 5am–gross. He wanted to get into work early so he could leave early and I had cooking on the brain and couldn’t fall back asleep once his alarm went off. Before I really got started on everything, I had a physical therapy appt that luckily did not involve any scraping action today. I did watch some other people get it though and apparently I really am a wimp because no one else was screaming in pain. But maybe I’m not a wimp, because look at my polka dotted leg!

I know my bruises are small, but small bruises hurt too!

After PT, I went to town on my food to do list.

1) Slice sweet potatoes for Baked Sweet Potato Chips ✓

Steve came home just in time to take some beautiful food photos and make fun of me…a lot.

Still somewhat amused by him

No longer amused. Maybe when I'm holding the knife is not the best time to be a butthole :)

2) Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars ✓

Crust. My favorite part!

3) Super Simple Pumpkin Brownies

4) White Chocolate and Vanilla Bean Ice Creams ✓

5) Yogurt Dipping Sauce for #1

Not to mention putting up some decorations ;)

I love these silly little cups from Hobby Lobby

Soooo much to do! Luckily my family knows I don’t like to work alone, so they dropped by to keep my company :)

I am so lucky to have married into the BEST family ever!

"I've had a hard day too, mom. Do you have any idea how hard it is to act cute so people pet me for hours at a time?"

"In case you weren't aware, I'm also cute in color."

My little sister is so pretty. Steve is going to beat the boys off pretty soon.

After cooking essentially all day long, I was off to work. One of those days where it’s a good thing that most of the time I really love what I do, otherwise it would have sucked. I ended up having a great time with my kids though and didn’t mind being there. I especially loved hearing the kiddos tell me what they were thankful for, and when some of them said the theatre, my heart melted. I am so proud to be a part of something that changes these kids’ lives! Anyway, while I went to work, Steve got to work on brining!

21 pounds of turkey people

Let me tell you, I love to cook, but I am SO glad to have Steve to take care of the turkey! That would stress me out like nobody’s business. Meat has always intimidated me. And this means all I have to do tomorrow is the mini corndogs, bake the sweet potato chips, and make the stuffing balls. I have big plans for early in the am, then I plan on coming home, popping open some champagne and enjoying the day with some of my favorite people ;)

This Thanksgiving there are a few things that I am especially thankful for

  • I am in a healthier place with food than I have ever been in my entire life. It feels amazing.
  • I am proving to myself things that I always imagined were impossible. My body is capable of amazing things. I am so lucky to have a body that can do what I ask of it.
  • My dad has found the most amazing woman to spend his life with that brings joy to his life and our whole family. Janie has also encouraged all of us to make my grandma a bigger part of our lives and I am so grateful for that because I spent a lot of time taking her for granted.
  • And of course every day I am thankful for Steve, Winston, Clementine, my family and my incredible friends, as well as my amazing students that inspire me every single day.

I have so much love for this holiday. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!!

The Cooking Begins

The plan for today?

  • Grocery shop ✓
  • Cornbread for stuffing balls ✓
  • Ice cream prep ✓

Success. Still need one more thing from the store, but otherwise I am right on track! You know what else I did today?? I almost couldn’t believe it. I actually got my butt to the gym and STRENGTH TRAINED!!!! I know, that shouldn’t be such a big deal, but it is something I’ve been so bad about since I started training for PF Chang’s. Also, whenever I do strength train, I always want to post what I did, but I don’t know the names for half of it. So let’s just say I did abs, biceps, triceps, shoulders and lats. Hooray! I haven’t been so sweaty in a weights work out in a while. Unfortunately, I don’t feel quite as strong as I did when I was really focused on that leading up to the wedding, but it will come back. I just have to stay focused on the big picture.

After coming home from the gym, I immediately got to work! What makes hosting Thanksgiving about 100x more fun? Having most of your work done in advance! If all goes according to plan, my actual cooking on Thursday should be minimal and my drinking company enjoying should be maximized! Before I go into the prep work, let me just say that as much as I love the dinner and hosting part of Thanksgiving, I have something planned that morning that I am even more excited for. You’ll have to stay tuned for what it is, but I will say that I plan to be more thankful than ever! :)

Okay, back to tonight.

Vanilla bean scraping. It's serious business.

Can we just talk about how one vanilla bean costs about $9 at Whole Foods and only $4 at Sprouts? I freaking love Sprouts.

"What next ice cream??? Give me the answers to all life's questions!"

Look at all this stuff we have lined up to cook with! And that's not even the half of it!

Cornbread crumbs. Not only baked, but crumbed. Is crumbed a word? I decide it so.

I ♥ my kitchen

"Mom, when do we get to eat the food? Can it be Thanksgiving for us too?"

Egg yolks and sugar. Spoon, please.

What should I put in this cute little leaf? I feel like it needs to hold something amazing.

The fun will continue all day long tomorrow, and then, you know, the actual holiday. Can.not.wait. Happy early Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you all are as happy and excited as I am!