Tag Archives: pumpkin

Pumpkin Cheesecake in a Gingersnap Crust

In my family, we all love the flavor of pumpkin,  and are big fans of pie.  But pumpkin pie? Not really a favorite around here, but for many Thanksgivings growing up, pumpkin pie would be made and served along with one or two other pies as part of our family tradition. If you didn’t include pumpkin pie, it felt wrong, I guess?

Well, when all of the other pies were quickly finished and the pumpkin pie remained in the fridge barely touched, it seemed to me something needed to change.

So one year, when it was my turn to host the Thanksgiving feast at my house, I decided to make a bold move and replace the traditional pumpkin pie with a recipe that I had been developing: Pumpkin Cheesecake in a Gingersnap Crust.  At first, the idea of cheesecake after a heavy meal sounded ridiculously rich, but once everyone tried the first bite and realized how light and fluffy it was, they were hooked. We have made this cheesecake every year since, and have not looked back.

I included this dessert in a fall menu taught in my cooking classes a while back, and know many of  those people make this every year too.

I like the recipe so much, I even included it in my cookbook, Friends at the Table.

Why not share it here on my blog too?

So go ahead and drive to the store to  tackle your grocery shopping (if you haven’t already started!) and pick up the ingredients to make this cake. You can make it tomorrow and have it ready to go in the refrigerator on Thanksgiving day! No one will notice the pumpkin pie is missing from the table….I promise.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Pumpkin Cheesecake in a Gingersnap Crust

 Serves 8 to 10

1/4 cup of sweetened coconut
8 ounces of gingersnap cookies
2 tablespoons of sugar
4 tablespoons of melted butter
2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese
3/4 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 (1-pound) can of pumpkin
1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon of maple syrup

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until golden brown. In the bowl of a food processor, place gingersnap cookies and pulse until the cookies are finely crushed. (You will need 1 3/4 cups of crumbs.) In a medium bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs, toasted coconut, sugar and melted butter. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan with a removable bottom. Press the crumb mixture about one inch up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
For the cheesecake: With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and maple syrup; mix until well blended. Pour mixture into the pan.
Bake until the center barely jiggles when the cake is gently shaken, about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Cover and chill until cold, at least 2 1/2 hours or up to 24 hours. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and remove the pan sides. Top each piece with whipped cream.


Fighting Breast Cancer One Meal at a Time: Cooking Class and Recipes

In the  8 years that I have been teaching cooking classes I have gotten to know my students (who are mainly women) very well. I have a regular following, and even have  some students who have attended almost each and every class I have taught.  When you see people on such a regular basis, you learn more and more about them, and you start to become friends.

Over the years, some of these friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer. There have been missed cooking classes where they just weren’t up to eating because their taste buds were off, or because they just didn’t feel well, and cooking classes where they walked in with  pretty pink scarves on their heads and a smile on their face. There are some that won their battle, and some who did not. All faced their breast cancer with a tremendous amount of courage and strength that  I can only try to get my arms around.

October is breast cancer awareness month,  and last night I had the pleasure of teaching a different kind of cooking class to a room full of  65 women currently fighting breast cancer, and women who are breast cancer survivors. The topic for the evening was focused on nutrition Fighting Breast Cancer One Meal at a Time.

Melissa Jones Snader, RD led the presentation with a detailed look at what foods provide the best nutrition/cancer-fighting nutrients, and which foods and drinks should be avoided. When you look at the statistics, and learn that 30% of all cancers are related to diet, “you are what you eat” takes on a whole new meaning.

Next, it as my turn to take all of that nutritional  information, and apply it using real recipes that the audience could make at home.  For those who don’t do much cooking, and/or haven’t eaten with the nutritional rainbow in mind, trying to figure out  how to cook  can be overwhelming.

I talked to my audience about ways they could ensure a healthy way of eating: Setting time aside 1 day a week  to put together a meal plan  that included nutrient rich foods, shopping ahead and making sure you have healthy foods  at-the ready for times they wanted a snack or quick meal. I talked about ways to incorporate things like a sprinkle of flax seeds here and there, adding applesauce to baked goods in place of fat, and about eating plant based protein as an alternative to an animal source.

This led me to my  quinoa salad, loaded with all kinds of good things, like fresh kale, apples, toasted almonds, dried cranberries, and goat cheese.  Samples of the salad were passed to the guests, and it was rewarding to hear that everyone thought this good-for-you salad was delicious.

Quinoa Salad with Kale, Apples, Almonds, and Goat Cheese


1/2 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons raspberry balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Zest from one orange

3/4 cup olive oil

Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl until well blended.


1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed

1 1/4 cups water

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 medium apples, quartered, cored, and sliced into 1-inch-pieces

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

3-4 large kale leaves, center rib removed, thinly sliced

1 cup crumbled goat cheese

In a medium saucepan combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 12- 15 minutes or until liquid is completely absorbed.

Transfer quinoa and all other salad ingredients to a large  bowl along with the dressing. Toss well, thoroughly combining ingredients. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

2-4 entree servings

6-8 side servings

For a healthier sweet option, I put together some gluten-free pumpkin muffins. The muffins may be frozen, and pulled out of the freezer when you need a snack, quick breakfast, or even dessert.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins

1 1/4 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup potato starch

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk (or rice milk)

1/3 cup apple sauce

1 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup light brown sugar


2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium bowl, mix flours, ground flax seeds, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt and spices.

In a large bowl, mix eggs, milk, apple sauce, pumpkin, and brown sugar.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Mix everything together until it is just combined.

Pour the mix into greased or lined muffin cups.

Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle on top of muffins.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes (12 minutes for mini muffins), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins (or) 40 mini muffins

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the Pink Mondays series, and hope my recipes will inspire these fine ladies to go forward in their  kitchens with colorful, healthy foods in their own everyday cooking.

If you know someone who is a breast cancer survivor, or currently in treatment, I hope you will share these recipes with them too.