Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Bars

Happy Almost-Halloween!

It's finally starting to feel a little more like fall around here and it's so nice! We had a Halloween Trick-or-TREAT DAY at work on Friday and of course everyone expected me to bring my now-famous frosted sugar cookies (sorry, no recipe to share here, top secret!), but I also wanted to bring another dessert since I had the baking itch. I saw these on Sugar Plum's blog a few days ago and they just looked too yummy. The recipe was super simple and I already had everything I needed, so it was perfect!

Frosted Pumpkin Bars
via: Sugar Plum
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 (16 oz) can pumpkin puree
4 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted

Frosting (I doubled this)
4 ounces cream cheese, softed
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 15x10x1 jelly roll pan (mine is 17x13x1 and worked just fine) with cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon. In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together butter, granulated sugar and pumpkin until creamy - about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs until well combined - about 2-3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined. Beat in walnuts until just combined.

Scrape and smooth batter into prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat cream cheese in a large mixing bowl using a mixer on medium speed until creamy. Beat in butter until creamy. Beat in confectioners' sugar, cream and vanilla until well combined and smooth - about 2-3 minutes. Spread frosting over cake, sprinkle with extra cinnamon if desired, and slice into bars.

Yum yum! They were a big hit at work. Some people even told me they ate them instead of their lunch! Ha! They did dry out pretty bad after a while, so I suggest storing them in the fridge until you are going to serve them. Enjoy! 

Come back soon to see what the dogs are for Halloween this year! It's gonna be hilarious!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Three Years

This past Thursday, Zach and I celebrated our 3 year wedding anniversary. We both took a few days off of work and just spent time together. We didn't have any plans, we just hung out. It was a nice change of pace considering we only have limited time with each other during a normal week and that time usually manages to get scheduled to the nth degree. That night we went and had a very lovely dinner at Pierpont's at Union Station, which was great because we took most of our wedding day pictures at Union Station.  Ah, good memories.

So here's to 3 great years and many more to come.

Stephanie & Zach  ~ October 13, 2007

Loves you!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Taco Soup

I've been behind the times.  I've never had, or made, Taco Soup. Quite frankly when it comes to soup, I'm just now, at the age of 29, starting to try "new" things.  Up until now my soup consumption has consisted mainly of chicken noodle, tomato, and beef and barley. B-or-ing.

These days I'm a soup fanatic. I can't eat enough of the stuff! I would guess I probably eat soup for dinner or lunch at least 4 times a week.  The soup aisle is my new favorite place! So many choices! So cheap! So healthy! I guess it's a phase, but a welcome one.

This Taco Soup recipe has been around for a long time. I think it might be another Weight Watchers recipe, but I kind of just threw it together based on a few internet searches.   It was not really as much a soup as it is a chili.  Either way, it was delicious! And really easy! Brown some meat, open some cans, mix it all together, simmer and you are done!

Taco Soup
1 lb. ground turkey or lean beef (I used ground turkey)
1 (1 oz.) package hidden valley ranch dressing mix (I used spicy ranch mix)
1 (1 oz) package taco seasoning Mix
1 (16 oz.) can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 (16 oz) can chili beans
1 (16 oz) can whole kernel corn (I used an even smaller can and will likely leave it out completely next time, corn just isn't our thing)
1 (8 oz) can Mexican-style tomatoes (used Rotel)
1 (8 oz) can diced tomatoes (any flavor)
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chili's 
Dash of onion powder
Dash of garlic powder
Dash of Southwest Chipolte Spice
1 Can of water

Brown the beef or turkey in a skillet and drain off excess liquid.  In a large stockpot, combine the ground meat and all the spices and cans of beans and veggies plus one can of water (you could use more if you want it even soupier or none if you want a thick chili).  Let simmer for 1 hour over low to medium heat.

We served ours topped with cheddar cheese and a side of cornbread. It was the perfect fall meal! The leftovers are even better!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Soft Pretzels - My New Favortie Recipe

I love soft pretzels. Love them! The are one of my most favorite ballpark treats.  That chewy crust, the soft bread, the sprinkles of salt and the delicious cheese dip is just too much for me to resist. 

I'd always wanted to try making soft pretzels on my own, but just figured they would be too hard.  That is until my baking hero Annie of Annie's Eats posted a how-to on soft pretzels.  I knew I had to try!  So, one Chiefs Sunday I decided to make them before the game. 

I'm going to be honest. I had no idea how soft pretzels were made and when I got to the part about boiling them in baking soda water (!?!) I just had a feeling that I was doomed.  The whole time I was in the kitchen I kept yelling out to Zach, "Don't expect much!", "There's no way these are going to work", "I have no idea what I'm doing!".  Needless to say, I was less than optimistic.  I was constantly surprised when each step turned out to be rather easy! I was doing it! I was making soft pretzels! Using yeast and baking soda water and everything!  

Soft Pretzels
from Annie's Eats
For the dough:
1½ cups warm water (110-115° F)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour (about 4½ cups)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for greasing the bowl

For finishing:
Cooking spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Pretzel (or kosher) salt

To make the dough, combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed to dissolve the yeast. Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly greased with vegetable oil, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot. In the meantime, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll a segment out into a 24-inch long rope. Make a U-shape with the rope and holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and onto the bottom of the U-shape in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 or 2 at a time, for 30 seconds. Remove from the water with a slotted skimmer and return to the baking sheet. Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown, about 12-14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

You guys, These. Were. Amazing.  I couldn't believe it!  I'm not even joking when I say this might very well be my most favorite thing I've ever made. Yes, that's how much I love soft pretzels! They tasted even better than at the stadium!  We froze the ones we didn't eat right away and then heated them up a couple weeks later by thawing them a bit in the microwave and then putting them back in the oven for just about 3-4 minutes. Perfect even re-heated!

You must make these. Nowish.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fill in the Blank Friday - October 8, 2010

1. The first thing I do in the morning to start my day is (at home) give the dogs and cat lots of hugs and loves. (at work) crack open a diet coke and check up on my Google Reader. It's my own coffee and newspaper type of thing.

2. Today I wish I was hanging out at home with the pups watching all my lame DVR'd shows, all cozy in bed.

3. If I had an extra $100 in my bank account today I would head to TJ Maxx. I'm in the mood to shop and could spend hours in that place with $100!

4. Tomorrow we are taking Ted to the vet because he has some mystery yuckiness in his ears (poor dude), then I will go to the gym and work out in the yard with Zach. Tomorrow night we are having dinner with friends out at the Cheesecake Factory! Mmmm!

5. Two things that don't go together are socks with strappy sandals. People! Stop it!

6. Something I can never pass up at the grocery store is shredded cheese. It's an honest to goodness sickness. I probably have 4 bags of the stuff at home right now. That and recently I've been buying a ton of soup. Can't get enough of it. Most of the time it's even better when you throw some shredded cheese on top! :)

7. The last time I tried something new was just now! I had some Southwestern Ranch Baked Lays. Delish! Very spicy and actually Southwesterny! Usually all chips taste the same to me...

Have a happy weekend!

A different kind of race!

I know you all are used to me blabbering on about all the races that I run, but this time it's not about me! A few weeks ago my friend Kristy send me an email asking if Zach and I would like to go to the NASCAR race with her and her husband.  After staring blankly at my screen for a few seconds (Kristy and are aren't what you'd consider to be your typical NASCAR goin girls) I asked Zach if he'd be up to it.  We both agreed that even though we don't follow the "activity" (absolutely refuse to call it a sport, sorry) we thought the experience would be fun. And it was! 

 I had no idea what to expect when we got there.  First, parking was FREE(!!!) and it looked as if people had been there for a long while. As in, all weekend. Plus the number of flags was insane! I'm bummed I didn't get a better picture.

 I'm not sure how far away we parked, but it felt like it took ten years to walk to the actual speedway. 

We got our credentials and were shocked at the price on the tickets. $150!! Holy bananas! So glad we scored these puppies for free! We also got "Fan Walk" passes. We'll get to that...

 I can't remember how many the speedway seats, but it is a lot!

 Our seats were in row 14 way on the end of the seating area.  Normally row 14 would be awesome for most events, but for a big race, it makes it a little hard to see, but being that close to the cars was pretty neato!

 A look at the infield. People apparently pay thousands of dollars to camp out there all weekend. You should have seen some of the campers and setups! Wooden decks and all! It was crazy.

 What's neat about racing is that they let you bring in your own cooler full of whatever you want!  Kristy and I decided to attempt to relive our college days and brought vodka with soda.  I think I took maybe 3 drinks of mine before admitting I'm old and crying uncle. Plus I didn't really think about all the debris that would be floating around the air. No sooner had I poured my cup when I noticed a bunch of little black flecks floating around in it.  Diet Coke please! "Next time" I'll stick to beer like the boys did.

 James and Kristy! We are about to head down the stairs to the Fan Walk.

This is the tunnel that goes under the track to the infield. Ooooohweeee! It sounded really crazy when the cars drove over it too!


 Here we are on the inside of the track. It was different, but the same.  Yep. I know my racing. 

 I believe this is the scoreboard. Evidently you have to know the numbers on the cars to have this make any sort of sense.

 We got pretty close to all the trailers and stuff. Serious business goes on back there.

 Kristy and I got our picture taken at Victory Lane in the infield. It's where the winner gets their trophy. We didn't stay for the whole race to witness it though.

 Zach and I!

 This is the Pit Area! It's where the cars pull in to get their tires changed and stuff. It looks like a lot bigger space on TV.  Fast and furious work!

Here's a really terrible cell phone video of the cars zooming past! They really do go super fast!  It was noisy, but not too bad. I didn't feel like I needed ear plugs or anything. What I wasn't prepared for was the smell! I left reaking of exhaust fumes and burnt rubber.  

Overall we had a really fun time! I'm glad we got to go! It was yet another perfect fall day and we enjoyed it to the max!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


This past Saturday Zach and I headed back to the place where we met.  Northwest Missouri State University.  We met our Freshman year and were quick friends and lunch buddies. The rest, as they say, is history (and a very long story).  We haven't been back up there since we've been engaged/married, and this year the stars aligned where Nebraska had a bye week the same week as a NW home game! We couldn't pass that up! We headed up with our friends (and my old college roomie and fellow Sigma Sigma Sigma) Erica and her boyfriend Steve.  We couldn't have asked for more perfect weather! We had a great time!

Hopefully we can make it back next year too.

Fitness Challenge 2.0 - The (sort-of) End.

I've been putting off writing this last "Fitness Challenge 2.0" Update. I feel like every time I finish a challenge it just gives me license to go back to doing whatever I want. Mainly, eating whatever I want. So, I've been gradually extending the challenge in my head, week by week. Every day is a new day. I try not to beat myself up if I eat something bad, but instead try to make up for it in the gym and by making healthier choices the next time.

I haven't been weighing myself, so I don't know how much I've lost, but it's something since all my clothes are fitting better/looser. So, while I don't think I lost a huge chunk (not that I have a HUGE chunk to lose anyway, in my opinion) I have lost something and I'm feeling good.

So, I guess this is the last update for Fitness Challenge 2.0, although it's never really over. I think I'm just going to take a break from writing about it for a while.

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Greenwood, Missouri, United States