Easy Pumpkin Dinner & Dessert!

Friday, October 26, 2012

It’s finally FALL! I absolutely love the chill in the air, the rustle of leaves, tall boots and warm sweaters. It’s also great to get to snuggle up at home and enjoy some fantastic fall flavors. Although, in the spirit of things I do have a secret to share.

I’ve never been a fan of pumpkin. Gasp! Pumpkin pie? Nope. A certain pumpkin spice latte from a very popular coffee shop? Not for me. I even grew up near the town where 85% of the world’s canned pumpkin is produced. They have a pumpkin festival complete with many of your pumpkin favorites, like pumpkin pancakes. Yep, you guessed it – I always hated it.

So when Steve and I came across a recipe for pumpkin macaroni and cheese, I agreed to give it a try because I knew how much Steve would love it. And… it’s amazing! Sweet and savory. Warm and comforting. This is the perfect fall comfort food. And to top it off, it’s super simple to make and tastes just as good as leftover as it does fresh out of the oven. Great for busy parents who, like us, cook on Sunday so that we’ll have easy dinners for the week.

Baked Pumpkin Mac and Cheese 

(Note: my adjustments are in bold)

8 ounces of uncooked noodles (I used whole wheat rotini)
1 cup of canned pumpkin
1 cup of light cream (I mixed heavy cream and skim milk)
4 tablespoons of Neufchatel cream cheese
1 cup shredded part-skim sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese
1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (divided) (I used cinnamon and nutmeg)
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (I didn’t have any handy so I omitted)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup of panko (Japanese bread crumbs) (I used whole wheat bread crumbs)
1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
Cooking spray

Cook pasta until al dente, about eight minutes in boiling water. Rinse and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish. Meanwhile, heat cream and pumpkin in a sauce pan on medium heat, until thickened. Reduce heat to low and slowly whisk in cheese until completely melted. The sauce will be quite thick.

Add in 1/2 pumpkin pie spice, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper. Add pasta and stir it into the pumpkin-cheese sauce and mix until thoroughly combined. Pour mixture into the greased dish. Sprinkle panko, parmesan cheese and rest of the pumpkin pie spice to completely cover the top of the macaroni. Add in more cayenne if you want a spicy crust.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until bread crumbs have browned.

Now, because pasta typically comes in 13 ounce boxes and you will have leftover pumpkin and cream cheese,  you can modify the recipe to make a larger quantity of mac and cheese. Or you can take the extra pumpkin and cream cheese and make pumpkin bars! Are you with me?

Swirled Cream Cheese Pumpkin Bars 


6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature (if you made the mac and cheese, you’ll have a little less than 8 oz which is fine)


In a bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until smooth. Beat in 2 eggs, pumpkin, and 1/3 cup water until well blended, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. In another bowl, mix flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and nutmeg; stir or beat into butter mixture until well blended. Spread batter evenly in a buttered and floured 10- by 15-inch baking pan.

In a bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, remaining egg, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth. Drop cream cheese mixture in 24 evenly spaced 1-tablespoon portions over batter. Pull a knife tip through filling to swirl slightly into batter.

Bake in a 350° oven until center of pumpkin batter (not cream cheese mixture) springs back when touched, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan, then cut into 24 bars.

Note: You can chill them airtight for up to 3 days.

Both of these recipes have made a pumpkin believer out of me! Enjoy!

Sadie at 5 Months

Monday, October 1, 2012

Oh the exciting things that 5 months brings! This huge milestone is marked with two new teeth, a little girl who can sit up on her own (when feet and hands are perfectly propped), smiles at everyone and tries to bite her mommy’s nose! And, most importantly, 5 months has brought us a little girl who gets harder and harder to leave each day because of her silly and sweet personality.

It’s so fun to watch Sadie's personality change with each of these week-by-week photos as well as the change in the season here in Chicago! I still can't believe how quickly she is growing! 

Button, Sadie Boo, Baby Girl, Boo Boo Girl, Stinky, Stinker
Temperament: Happy as ever! You're such a smiley girl and everyone comments on it when we're out and about. But, at the same time if we're out and you're not happy about it, you let us know. Very, very loudly!
Things I Could Do Without: Those pesky teeth you're getting! You're still a pretty good night sleeper but those teeth tend to wake you up from time to time and it's not fun for any of us.
Item/Toy We Love The Most:  Chew beads. I love being able to throw this necklace around my neck when we're out. You can chomp on it when I'm holding you but it still looks like I'm wearing a fun necklace.
Item/Toy You Love The Most: Your play mat. It's been a favorite in the past and has become even more fun for you as you pull on all of the toys.
Things I’m Loving Most Right Now: All of your giggles and the way you study my face so closely, especially if you haven't seen me for awhile. I also love how in the mornings instead of nursing you smile at everything in your room (your dresser, the tree decal on the wall, your crib, etc). You are so happy it's a brand new day! You also have been enjoying "biting" my nose!
Things You’re Loving Most Right Now: Riding in your stroller. We transitioned you out of your car seat and into the main part of your stroller. You love sitting like a big girl and watching the world around you.
Sounds/Words: The race is on - will you say "mama" or "dada" first? I think you've been starting to babble "mama" but someone else in our house disagrees. We shall see!
Foods You Like: Breast milk but we're excited to give you your first "real" food soon!

I actually made this little peasant top for Sadie! I promise she liked it.

One of the last warm days of summer!

It’s fall and time for snuggly sweatshirts!

We got a little “fancy” this day. A lady must always have her purse.