Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pumpkin Roll Muffins

Here we go again...another pumpkin recipe for your enjoyment!  I made these a few times over the holidays, but I just got a chance to get the recipe on here!

One of my all time favorite pumpkin recipes is the Pumpkin Roll.  That said, one of my least favorite pumpkin recipes to make is the Pumpkin Roll.  If you have ever made one then you know why...they make a huge mess, require lots of ingredients, many dishes, a large handful of towels and they are just plain hard to get rolled up just perfectly without the filling oozing out the cracks you made while rolling it or out the ends of the pumpkins roll.  Whew...I just want to scream by the time I am through making them!

But they are so tasty, and so this year I decided to do something a little different.  Rather than the traditional pumpkin roll that I like to make, I made Pumpkin Roll Muffins.  Holy Cow...they were good!  They taste just like a pumpkin roll, but without the mess, the ingredients, the dishes, the towels...and the all the time that it takes to make a pumpkin roll.

Oh, and if you don't want the filling...although I don't know why you would want to make them without it...you only need two ingredients!  What?!  Two ingredients...you can't beat that!  No eggs, no oil, no water.  Just two ingredients...pumpkin and cake mix.  These muffins are so moist, you may never want to make traditional muffins again! 

Without filling, these are only 2 WW Pts+ each!  With filling, you have to double the points to get 4 WW Pts+ for each muffin.  I know, I know...you don't want to...but you HAVE to if you want to be fair.

Okay, okay...so now to the good stuff, how to make these amazing muffins.
Pumpkin Roll Muffins
Servings: 18  Calories: 100  WW Pts+: 2
  • 1 box Spice Cake mix
  • 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
Filling: (you better double the calories and points)
  • 8 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 tbsp light butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pastry bag and filling tip
Mix pumpkin and Spice Cake mix until well blended. 
This makes a nice thick batter.  Scoop into muffin tins or a muffin pan and bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes.  I use a small ice cream scoop or cookie dough scoop to get just the right amount for each muffin.  You can also make mini muffins if you want to cut the calories in half or if you just want to make yourself think you are getting more when you eat two instead of one..hehe. 
While the muffins are cooking, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla in a small bowl.  When the muffins are done cooking, place them on a wire rack to cool. 

Once they are cooled, use a pastry bag and filling tip to pipe the mixture into each muffin.  Squeeze slowly until you see the muffin begin to rise, just before the filling starts to come out the hole the tip is in.  Make sure to stop as soon as you see the filling begin to come out because it will continue to ooze for a few seconds once you stop squeezing the bag.
If you can restrain yourself from eating them all, store the remaining muffins in the fridge for best keeping.  I actually like them a little better when they are cold, just like a pumpkin roll!

Click here for a printable version.

Lessons from Baby's First Year

My baby girl just turned one and her first year has been an exciting one to say the least!  Besides the usual 'new baby stuff' of no sleep and learning how to balance a career with being a mom, my husband and I have endured several months of weekly doctor appointments, my own doctor appointments, a baby who does not like to sleep (and still doesn't like to sleep through the night), surgery in an attempt to unblock her tear duct, my 6 months post pregnancy surgery and recovery and trying to figure out what she can tolerate in her diet (which we are still working on).

In addition to being new and first-time parents, the company I work for decided to move our headquarters to a bigger city and so we also moved into a new home and sold our old one during our first two months as parents. 

In the last few months alone, we have also gotten to watch her learn and grow so quickly.  She has learned to crawl, walk, sit in her own rocking chair, play by herself, turn on and off the garbage disposal, climb the stairs, use her toys as stools to climb on top of the ottoman, open cabinets, play with the puppy, say Mama and Dada, scream at her will, pick up food, drink from a cup, try to use a spoon, repeat sounds, and so much more.  Sometimes I just sit back and watch her in amazement.  It is so hard to believe that a one-year-old can do all these things and in such a sort time frame. 

What a year it has been indeed and during this past year there are several things that I learned about babies and parenting.  Everyone has their own preferences, but here are a few things that I have noted this past year that I wanted to jot down for the next go round...

First I will start with some tips when preparing for baby to get here and buying baby gear:
  1. Get a diaper caddy!  I wanted one at first and then thought it was a waste of money and so I ended up just using a cute little pink basket with NO handle.  I toted that thing from the living room during the day to the bedroom at night and even at one-year-old (tear) I still have it sitting in the living room with all the things that Miss Priss might need.  The things that I keep in my caddy have changed over the last year and now that she can almost reach it, I think it might be time to say goodbye before it ends up in the floor.  You can get a cute tote specially for baby or use a plastic one from Wal-mart, either will work fine.
  2. Save your money on a bassinet and invest in a Pack 'n Play for your room.  You can use this as a bassinet when baby is little, but can also be used when baby gets bigger and starts standing too!  I kept mine in my room even after Miss Priss finally started sleeping in her own room so that I would have somewhere to lay her in the morning while she had her bottle and I finished getting ready.  After she rolled off my bed once, I was too afraid to lay her anywhere else without being right beside her!  They can also be packed up easily and taken on vacation or for overnight visits with the grandparents.
  3. You can NEVER have too many bibs ~ especially if you have a sick or messy baby!  I got tons of bibs for my shower and thought to myself 'what am I going to do with all these?', but after a few weeks I realized how many I did need and you will too, unless you want to do laundry every day.  The choice is yours.
  4. Pack and keep an emergency bag in your car with diapers, wipes, bottle, bibs, change of clothes , extra blanket and anything else that your baby uses frequently.  I cannot tell you how many times we went somewhere unexpectedly or ran out of diapers or needed a bottle and didn't have one.  Those were some long trips and unpleasant dining out experiences.  You may never use your emergency items and it doesn't have to be a big bag of things...just enough to get you by if you run into a situation.
  5. Buy the diapers with the "pee line" on them ~ so much easier than checking all the time and a BIG help for dad!  Sometimes you just can't tell if baby is wet or you don't want to disturb a sleeping baby if you don't have to, but we all know that a baby's bottom needs to be kept dry and so having the line that changes colors when wet is a life saver.  And I don't know about you, but dad had a harder time then I did and when she finally outgrew the diapers with the line he was a little upset.  Do yourself a favor and get these diapers.  Huggies Lil' Snugglers and Pampers Swaddlers both have the lines, but i don't know for sure about the other brands.
  6. Don't overbuy on the clothes ~  you will get plenty of clothes at your baby shower and she will grow out of them before you can blink an eye.  Hopefully you have someone that will send you some hand me downs also.  That is the greatest gift of all when you have a newborn.  You won;t believe how fast they grow out of those itty bitty clothes.
  7. If you are using an infant carrier, spend the money for an extra car seat base for your spouse or other caregiver's vehicle ~ it is well worth it!  Those car seats are heavy without baby in it and when you add the weight of your newborn too, it can be a workout just to carry them to the car.  And don't forget your purse and the diaper bag and all of the other things you might have to carry as well.  If you share the baby responsibilities with another person, make sure that you discuss getting an extra base to save yourself some additional weight and the time it takes to strap it in every time your partner totes baby around.  Infant carriers snap in and out of those bases in no time and make it so much easier on the parents.  I saw a dad at daycare that would bring in the base of the car seat sometimes for his wife to get after work and I asked him one day why he did that and he didn't even know that you could get another base!  Well, it was a little late since his baby only had a few more weeks before upgrading, but he wished he would have know sooner.  And when your little one moves up to a convertible car seat, consider buying two so that you don't have to move those back and forth as well.  I bought a two $40 Cosco car seats from Wal-Mart rather than one expensive one and I wouldn't do it any other way.
  8. Don't waste the money on a wipes warmer!!!!! ~ I thought I wanted one, especially since I had a winter baby and it was so cold out, but let me tell you, it takes up tons of space, dries out your wipes and you will probably never use it.  Just give the wipes a little rub between the palms of your hands and warm them up that way.
  9. Make sure that you have a baby swing ~ I didn't have a bouncer, since I had the swing, but there were many times that I wouldn't have been able to get her to sleep without it.  A swing is so calming to a baby and when she got heavy I could just switch her over there and she would stay sound asleep.  They do have swings now that are small and portable and acts as bouncers too so if you are wanting one of everything, you might check out this option!
  10. This is purely based on preference and I know that they cost a pretty penny, but after having a video monitor, I would NEVER use a traditional one again!  Her monitor was acting crazy one night and wasn't working right and so I had to use an old school monitor and all it did was scare the crap out of me.  The white noise drove me insane and I couldn't figure out if she was really crying or not.  With the video monitor if I think I hear her, I just glance over to see what she is doing.  It is a such a relief to be able to see what is going on in her bed at all times.  AND I can keep it in there as she grows into her toddler years and see what she is up to when she is supposed to be sleeping.
  11. DO shop at Ross ~  they have the best baby stuff and for the greatest prices!  That is my first stop for all of Miss Priss' things and for any birthday or baby shower I am invited too.  Don't blow it off until you check out what they have.
Those are just a few of the many things that I have learned while caring for my first little one.  Here are a few other things that I have learned about being a mom:
  1. Enjoy rocking baby to sleep ~ when she gets mobile she won't want to cuddle anymore!  Everyone told me to let her cry it out or to make her put herself to sleep.  Let me tell you now, she will only be a baby once and then the day will come that she walks all over the place and gets into everything and doesn't want to cuddle with you anymore so enjoy it while you can.
  2. Love the fact that she is healthy.  Over the last few years, I have learned of the struggles that many couples face when trying to have a baby.  Facing some of these myself and having met some great friends along the way, some of which are still childless, I can only be thankful every day for such a sweet, healthy baby girl.
  3. Don't sweat the small stuff.  Believe me, you will have PLENTY to worry about, especially if you are an over organized neat freak like I am, don't let the small stuff get you off track to being a great parent.
  4. Accept help when offered.  I know in the beginning it is so hard to give up precious baby time, but you will have plenty of time to love on that little bundle.  The nurses at the hospital told me that it takes a family to raise a baby and it is so true.  If a grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, whoever offers to help watch the baby while you run errands, or while you take a nap, or just make some time for yourself, LET THEM!  If you don't, you will want it later and it might not be there! 
  5. Buy two-piece pajama sets ~ especially after about 9 months.  It is so much easier to pull down her pants and change her diaper when she wiggling all around rather than unsnapping her pj's and trying to get those rubbery legs out and getting her put back together while she is kicking and screaming about.
  6. Get a fresh food muncher for self feeding before baby can pick things up ~ what a life saver when you want a hot meal at a restaurant or even at home!  Miss Priss was able to use this for fruit and veggies long before she could pick up food on her own and she was entertained by it as well.  You could even use it with cottage cheese too!
  7. Don't spend a fortune on an entertainment center ~ baby will love it, but only for a short time.  When she begins to be more mobile, she will not want to sit in there all the time.  And you shouldn't want her to, as it may slow her down.  I am not saying to skip this...Miss Priss had a Wonderbug and absolutely loved it...for a few months, but it was about $40...not $140 like so many of the ones that I see right now.
  8. Let baby get messy when eating ~ this is how she learns.  Give her a few pieces of food at a time if you don't want your floor covered, or get a dog!  LOL  Really though, she has to learn how to feed and do things for herself.  Once she starts trying to feed herself with a spoon let her hold it, but guide her with your own hand and give her foods that are thicker and sticky so she can dump it out of the spoon as easily.
I could probably write about baby things all day and night, but these are some of the things that I find are useful for everyone and not just my preference, but most of all I have learned to cherish each day with baby and the rest of your family because you can't go back and will miss it so much after it has passed. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rainbow Ribbon Wand

My baby girl is turning one in less than a week!  She is getting so big and I have been amazed at how fast she is growing and how quickly she is learning things.  She is in a major learning phase right now...it seems like everyday she is doing something new! 

It is so exciting to see her change right before my eyes and sometimes I still cant believe that I am a mommy...what a blessing!  All I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a mom and so I can say that dreams do come true!

This weekend we are having a Care Bear birthday party for her with rainbows and all.  I saw a rainbow ribbon wand as I was searching for birthday ideas and wanted to make a few for little Miss Priss and the other little girls at the party. 

They turned out to be so cute and easy and it didn't take hardly any time at all!  Keep reading to see how I did it...
Rainbow Ribbon Wand
You will need:
  • hot glue gun and/or white thread and needle or sewing machine
  • cloud template
  • white felt or other 'cloud-like' material
  • dowel rods
  • several colors of ribbon
  • Fray Check
  • tape
  • cotton balls
Cut your ribbon into lengths that are a half inch to an inch longer than your dowel rods.  I cut six of each color so that I could make six wands. 

You can skip this step, but I like to put Fray Check on the ends of my ribbon to keep them from fraying.  These are for a birthday party, but just in case the girls want to keep them for a while, I don't want the ribbon to start fraying on them.  I got this bottle at Wal-Mart for just a few bucks and it will last forever!
Download the rainbow wand cloud template from the link below and use it to cut out clouds from a piece of white felt.  This template is sized to print on a regular letter sized piece of paper (8.5 x 10").  You will need two clouds for each wand if you want to make them fluffy and more sturdy.
Rainbow Wand Template

Place the ribbon in the order that you want them near the bottom of the cloud making sure that you leave enough room to attach them securely so that they will not pull or fall off.  Use a piece of tape to temporarily hold them in place. 
The picture below shows what you will want the ribbons to look like like when you have them placed correctly. 
Sew across the ribbon in one direction and then turn around and sew across them in the other direction to make sure that they are secured in place. 
You can then remove the tape making sure that all of the ribbons are in place and that none of them are detached from the cloud.  You are almost done!  Sewing is the hardest part and that really wasn't that bad, now was it?
Put hot glue around the edge of the cloud EXCEPT for the bottom circle portion, where the ribbon is located, and glue onto the second cloud piece that you cut out earlier and press down to make sure it sticks good to the second piece.  Note:  Make sure to put the hot glue on the same side of the cloud that your ribbon is located! 

I didn't cut out my second cloud when I did this because I didn't have the template yet and so my picture is a little different than what I am describing, but believe me, you will not want to do it the way I did.  It is much harder!
Let the glue dry for a minute or so and then this is what the hole in the bottom will look like.  Just enough room to stuff the cloud with cotton balls.  I tore the cotton balls into smaller pieces so that I could push them way up into the cloud and get all the corners and then I stuff the middle with some regular, untorn cotton balls until it was as fluffy as I wanted it to be leaving room for just one more cotton ball, which I describe below.  Be careful not to overstuff the cloud or your pieces may start to come apart.
Now for the kind of confusing part...but not really.  Put some hot glue on the end of a dowel rod and push it deep inside a cotton ball so that the cotton ball covers most of the tip of the rod.  Stick the cotton ball end of the dowel rod up into the hole that is still left open in the cloud.  Make sure that you have it lined up straight so that when you hold the dowel rod your cloud is not crooked.  Finish her off by putting hot glue on the part of the cloud that is still open and close it up!  Check again to make sure that your dowel rod is straight and press hard to make sure you get a tight seal with the glue.
You are done!  Your rainbow ribbon wand is ready to go!  You could make your wands a little more personal by writing the kids names on them with fabric paint or even a Sharpie.  You could add some glitter to your cloud.  You could even add some special glitter ribbons when you pick out your ribbon colors at the beginning.  There are so many options to make this special for your child!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blueberry Cheese Rolls

I am sitting here enjoying one of my most favorite desserts EVER and I am so excited to be including this in my blog recipe box.  This is a recipe that I found a few years back that is very simple and yet so tasty. 

You already know that I love pumpkin, but I am also a HUGE blueberry fan.  I was trying to find some great blueberry recipes a while back and this is one that I came across and I have been making it ever since.  

Believe it or not though, I had actually forgotten about it and when I randomly thought about it today I went immediately to the grocery store after work and bought all of the ingredients.  I am so glad I did...and I even got my little sister, who is the world's pickiest eater, and her boyfriend, who hates blueberries and cream cheese he says, to try it and they kept eating until it was gone!  

Woo Hoo! Success!

I would suggest that you make sure you don't have too much company when you make these so that you have more for yourself.  I was a little disappointed that I only got one and had to share the other one with my hubby.  Sad day for me! 
Blueberry Cheese Rolls
Servings: 4  Calories: 322
You will need:
  • 1 tubes of reduced-fat crescent rolls
  • 4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese (1/2 of a block)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • sprinkle with powdered sugar before servings
  • substitute apples, cherries or other fruit for filling

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Mix together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. 
Spread the mixture evenly into the center of each rectangle.  Top with blueberries.  Pull opposite corners into the center and press together firmly.
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Some of the cream cheese and blueberries may ooze out the sides, but don't worry, there will be plenty left to you to enjoy on the inside!
Click here for a printable version.