Pumpkin Pie Dip

Happy Halloween! ‘Tis the season for pumpkin! As you may have noticed, I’ve been busy whipping up some pumpkin recipes these past few weeks. Soft pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting, pumpkin blondies – yum!

Now, for the easiest pumpkin pie recipe of all – and still delicious – pumpkin pie dip. My friend Ali shared a version of this recipe with me a few years ago and it’s become a staple in my stomach house every fall. Serve it with apples, pears, ginger snaps, nila wafers, or cinnamon sugar pita chips. Or eat it with a spoon – it’s THAT good!

easy pumpkin pie dip

Pumpkin Pie Dip

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened (I used half full fat and half 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

Here’s what you do:

  • Make sure cream cheese is fully softened – I left mine out of the fridge for 30+ minutes before starting the recipe. Once softened blend cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth.
  • Gradually add in the canned pumpkin. Stir in pumpkin pie spice.
  • Chill until serving. I served mine with apples and cinnamon & sugar pita chips!

easy pumpkin pie dip

Peanut Butter + Chocolate = Homemade Buckeyes

Each year for B’s  birthday I make him a favorite treat, Buckeyes.

What are Buckeyes?

If you had asked me a few years ago, I would’ve just looked at you crazily. Buckeyes? I have no idea? I would’ve said.

Now, being an Ohioan for five years (can you believe that?) – of course I know what Buckeyes are! Not only do I know what they are – but I LOVE eating them and making them! Peanut butter? PLUS chocolate? How could they go wrong? So to all my East Coast and West Coast friends  and family – Buckeyes are basically a glorified and homemade peanut butter cup that are made to look like the state tree of Ohio’s “fruit/nut” and are super delicious. You know Reese’s peanut butter cups and how you always wish there was more peanut butter? Well, these are what you need. Check out that peanut butter to chocolate ratio:

actual homemade buckeyes

So each year, sometime around September 13 (B’s birthday) … or a month later if I’ve been busy … I cook (without the oven, of course) up some Buckeyes and B is a happy camper. And now, you too, can make some perfect Buckeyes – oven free – with this recipe:

Perfect Homemade Buckeyes

Here’s what you need:

For the amazing peanut butter filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

For the chocolate outer coating:

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2ish tablespoons of Crisco or shortening

Here’s what you do:

    1. Line a baking sheet with foil or waxed paper
    2. In a medium bowl, mix peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar. Mix well (I use my KitchenAid) until it forms a stiff dough.
    3. Shape dough into balls, about one inch or 2 tsp wide.
    4. Place on prepared pan, and place peanut butter dough balls in refrigerator for 1 hour, or freezer for 30 minutes.
    5. Now it’s time to make the chocolate coating! Melt shortening and chocolate together in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave. Stir occasionally until smooth.
    6. Time to coat the Buckeyes! Remove  peanut butter balls from freezer. Insert a toothpick into a ball, and dip into the melted chocolate chip/Crisco mixture. Return to wax paper or aluminum foil chocolate side down, and remove toothpick. Repeat with remaining balls.
    7. Refrigerate chocolate coated peanut butter balls (or Buckeyes!) for 30 min to 1 hour to set.

peanut butter chocolate buckeyes

Running After A Stress Fracture(s)

You may recall that I was diagnosed with not one, but multiple stress fractures after my Cleveland Marathon training. For some reason I got fractures in my tibia and my metatarsal area and was unable to actually run the day of the marathon. Yes, I trained and ran 20 miles – but I never got in my 26.2 miles during race day.

But I haven’t given up my running career. Will I ever be  a competitive marathoner? Absolutely not. And while I don’t have another marathon in my near future – I’m still running. AND I signed up for – and completed my first race since “the stress fracture incident!” While it may have only been a 5k – and our time wasn’t great (in our defense, B and I ran about two miles to get to the start of the race — so we ran 5 at least total), I’m still proud, and happy that we stuck it through and I’m still running.

racing after a stress fracture

Me, B and Mary post-race

Will I continue to run? Yes. Have I been running? Yes – today I completed nearly 4 miles in under 10 min/miles (a big deal for me .. still recovering!) and I’ve signed up for another race with my coworker, Cari (the first race I’ll have done without B!) … you can’t stop me – yes, you may be able to slow me down, but I’m still running!

Post 5k

So with that, I leave you with a few of my favorite running quotes:

“There are clubs you can’t belong to, neighborhoods you can’t live in, schools you can’t get into, but the roads are always open.”

You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.
Frank Shorter

My feeling is that any day I am too busy to run is a day that I am too busy.
John Bryant

And of course, a few from Pinterest:

 No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch

Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

A few weeks ago I kicked off the fall baking season with some pumpkin blondies. They were delicious. They were amazing. They were everything I had expected. BUT after the cookies were done, I still had 1 cup left of canned pumpkin. So what was I to do? If only all dilemmas were that easy to solve – I made some more pumpkin cookies a few days later.  Now, I’m sharing them with you. You must make these. B loved them (they reminded him of a childhood favorite cookie he had) and so did my parents (who enjoyed them when they were in town). I made some with a cream cheese frosting/glaze, and some without – they are both delicious. Soft Pumpkin Cookies (modified from here) Here’s what you need:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon heaping pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (I used the other half of a 15 oz can)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Here’s what you do:

  1. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt and set aside.
  2. Beat sugar and butter until well blended.
  3. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract to wet ingredients and mix until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
  4. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool completely before frosting (optional).

Frost a few with your favorite cream cheese frosting! I used half of this recipe. Enjoy! soft pumpkin cookies Still reading? Want more pumpkin? Then check out these recipes as well!

Pumpkin Scones with Maple Butter Glaze

pumpkin scones with maple butter glaze {i crashed the web}

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

pumpkin chocolate chip cookies - i crashed the web

Pumpkin Pie Dip

Pumpkin Butterscotch White Chocolate Chip Blondies

I Love Fall Weekends

“I love fall. Except for that nagging feeling that winter is coming and then it’s going to suck when it snows and is cold.” ~ anonymous

Fall leaves outside of Cleveland

It’s already mid-October and I’ve been lacking in a fall weekend update post. Why? It’s not because I have nothing to update – it’s because instead of taking the time to post, I’ve instead been having fun and enjoying the beautiful fall in Cleveland (and New York and Columbus). There’s just so much going on and the weeks and days seem to go by faster and faster! So here are some highlights from the past few weekends (in no order):

Wedding Shower

B’s cousin is getting married next month (YAY!) so we went down to Columbus one weekend to celebrate their upcoming nuptials.  Festivities spending time with B’s family, lots of Italian food (of course), and a bridal shower with funfetti cupcakes (the bride’s favorite), sangria (why not?) and so many cute Snoopy (the bride’s other favorite) decorations!

The beautiful bride-to-be (middle), her sister and me
I totally stole this photo from the bride’s friend and photographer: http://www.facebook.com/Ave23Photography

Guess the bride’s favorite cartoon?

My Parents Visit

My parents visited! Instead of a gorgeous fall weekend where we went apple picking, walked to the West Side Market and took part in the 100 year anniversary festivities (which I had planned), it rained and rained and rained. So we saw a movie (Looper!), tried some classic Cleveland cuisine (Hecks burgers and Noodlecat!) and enjoyed each others’ company, mostly indoors (and may have caught a SATC marathon … sorry B!).

When it finally stopped raining, we found a rainbow!

The Weekend Where We Go to NYC 

When B and I heard that my grandma was in the hospital unexpectedly, we made an impromptu weekend trip to NYC to visit her and my family. A quick trip (about 24 hours) that involved waking up at 3:15 a.m. to catch a 5:30 a.m. flight from Akron, we got to not only visit my grandma, but got to see each of my uncles, enjoyed lunch with my brother, dinner with my parents, aunt, uncle and cousin – and a movie (Perks of Being a Wallflower = amazing)!

Visiting my grandma

I got to catch lunch with my brother!

And the weekend where I tailgate and go to a Browns Game

My coworker Samantha has been trying to get me to go to a Browns game with her for forever. We were SUPER close two weeks ago, but just as we were about to buy some tickets, it started pouring and hailing out – so I decided to head home from our tailgate and take a 4 hour nap, as opposed to watching the Browns lose. This weekend, though, Samantha tricked me. She had me buy the tickets ahead of time – how could I back out?

The game and pre-game festivities were great! We checked out the new bar, Winks, and caught a Browns win – the first of the season! Who knows – maybe I’m good luck?

helping the homeless?

We’re finally at a game!

Here’s to a great fall in Cleveland … and not counting down until winter!

A SOUP-er Roundup!

The weather has definitely been getting colder in Cleveland, which means that I’ve not only been baking up a storm, but B and I have also been in the kitchen more to cook. Baked ziti? Homemade sauce? Spaghetti squash? Homemade pasta with home baked bread? You name it – if I can turn the oven on, I’m happy.

Still, what about those days when all you want is a hearty helping of soup and crusty bread? Lately I’ve been just frequenting the Souper Market – but I plan to attempt to make at least one soup on my own as the days get cooler. Here are some of the soups I’m dying to cook:

Slow Cooker Taco Stew (from Mommy Hates Cooking)

Fall Harvest Stew (from The Daily Balance – another Clevelander!)

Tuscan Chicken Sausage, Kale and Vegetable Soup (from me!)

Spicy Pumpkin Soup (from My Recipes)

Buffalo Chicken Soup (from Bake Your Day)

Chicken Tortilla Soup (from The Pioneer Woman)

AND for those days that I don’t feel like turning on the crockpot or waiting for some soup to cook?

I “indulge” in the best light soup: I recently got to try some of Progresso’s new light creamy soups! I was sent the Chicken Pot Pie and Creamy Potato with Bacon & Cheese. The best part about the soups? They’re 100 calories per serving.

So if you’re me – you have two 100 calorie lunches to play around with (I usually also bring a side salad or a sandwich on an English muffin to round out the meal) – or if you’re B, you have one 200 calorie (yes, he eats the whole can) soup on your hand. The other cool thing? I was sent this really cute gift set – it included two cans of soups, a gift bag, a water bottle and a soup mug (yes, I ate mine out of my mug)!

I definitely recommend you check these soups out if you’re looking for something creamy, but light, to enjoy this winter or fall. Do they taste exactly like the originals and non-light soups? No … but I still really enjoyed them!

Creamy Potato with Bacon and Cheese Soup in real life

Disclosure:  The coupons, information, and gift packs have been provided by Progresso® through MyBlogSpark

Are you a Fire, Earth, Air or Water?

Thoughts from my first Bridge Builders’ session

NOTE: Much of this blog post originally appeared on the Fahlgren Mortine blog.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Cleveland Bridge Builders Class of 2013. According to the Cleveland Leadership Council, Bridge Builders is “a 10-month leadership development and civic engagement program for committed civic leaders.” In short, that means over the next year I hope to develop the leadership skills and local business relationships that will help me on my way to being a better leader in the office and within the Cleveland business community.

How does one become a leader? At the Bridge Builders opening retreat in September, I was eager to find out and wondered what I would learn: How to manage others? How to adjust to different personality styles? What people look for in a leader?

Instead, the session was designed for us to learn more about ourselves, stemming from the idea that becoming a better leader requires an understanding and appreciation of oneself. To help us with this process, we all took a personality-type test to find out our leadership style. The TetraMap test revealed four personalities or leadership styles – Earth, Air, Water and Fire. Earths are confident and competitive and enjoy setting goals and having control. Airs are orderly and focused and excel where systems and order are in place. Waters are caring, quiet, loyal and emotional. Fires are energizing, passionate, easily distracted and love to explore possibilities. How did I do? I scored very strongly as a Fire, and second highest as a Water.

Though I was surprised to find out I identify as a Fire, learning more about this personality type put me at ease. There’s a reason that I often start a project and then jump to another one and then another one – it’s common with Fires, and probably one reason I thrive at a PR agency where I juggle a variety of clients and types of work each day. It also explains why I’m resistant to processes and procedures – Fires work better in environments where they are permitted to explore their ideas and try a new approach to problem-solving, another reason I fit in at an agency whose mantra is “Think Wider” and believes in working together across agency disciplines to provide customized approaches to our clients’ challenges. That doesn’t mean that we’re an agency of Fires, though – as I learned in Bridge Builders, a good leader understands how to empower all personality types to get things done. TetraMap’s website shares how each personality serves an important role:

  • Earth personalities move us forward so we can achieve our goals
  • Air personalities rely on order and design processes and systems to help us work and plan together
  • Water personalities help us acknowledge diversity for our well-being and caring
  • Fire personalities inspire and excite us to create brighter futures

We learned that we all contain character traits of each personality (nobody is JUST a Water), but sometimes one trait definitely stands out. After learning about the different traits, I realized that while I may be a Fire – this personality definitely shines (no pun intended) when I’m at work, but my Water traits come out more when I’m at home or with family.

Which personality type do you think you are? Are you a different personality at work versus with your friends and family?

Pumpkin Butterscotch White Chip Bars

Fall is here! Fall is here! Which means .. it’s time for baking with, cooking with and eating pumpkin!

Earlier this week I mentioned that I had missed National Homemade Cookie Day. Fear not – I celebrated last night instead, baking some pumpkin butterscotch white chocolate chip cookies. AND since we’re having a pumpkin party today at work (yes, my job is that awesome) – I brought some in to share!

Looking for a hand-held, sweet, moist (yes, your favorite word) way to enjoy some pumpkin? Here you go – enjoy!

pumpkin blondies

Pumpkin Butterscotch White Chip Bars

(modified from The Girl Who Ate Everything)

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1¼ cups brown sugar
  • 1 large egg (I used 1/4 cup Egg Beaters)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (About 1/2 of a 15 oz can)
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips

Here’s what you do:

  1. Cream together butter and sugar.
  2. Add egg and vanilla. Combine with an electric mixer. Add in pumpkin puree and mix well.
  3. Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, salt. Add to creamed mixture.
  4. Fold in the white chocolate and butterscotch chips.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees in a 13×9 greased pan for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. They’ll be moist, but cooked.

Enjoy! More pumpkin recipes to come 🙂

pumpkin blondies fall baking

Fall Cookie Inspiration (Pumpkin, Apple, Oatmeal and more)

Yesterday was National Homemade Cookie Day! I can’t believe I missed it. I actually didn’t even have it on my radar until last night when my friend Devin messaged me, “Today is national homemade cookie day – sounds like a good opp for Melissa Bakes!”

I dropped the ball and ended up going to the Indians game instead of baking; but, here’s a belated blog post to share some cookie recipes that are perfect for fall. I promise to make at least one of these recipes this week!

Caramel Apple Bars (from Betty Crocker)

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles (from Annie’s Eats)

Peanut Butter & Fudge Oatmeal Bars (from The Kitchn)

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Sandwiches (apologies for the photo -it’s from my Tumblr – I made these last year)

Caramel Apple Cookies (from Midwest Living)

Pumpkin Blondies (from Inspired By Charm) – I am so making these this week!

Pumpkin Gingersnaps (from Two Peas in their Pod)

Did you celebrate National Homemade Cookie Day? What are you excited to bake this fall?