Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake
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December is here and I know many of you will be going to holiday parties so I thought this would be a perfect time to post an easy recipe that you could bring to a party or have at your own party if you are hosting. When going to a cocktail party or bringing a dish to someone’s home, I like to try and keep things as simple as possible. By that, I mean if I am hosting, I don’t like making a huge mess in the kitchen before people come over. Alternatively, when I am bringing a dish to someone’s home, I don’t want to have to worry about serving it with forks, plates etc. Cookies work out well for this and I know a lot of people like to bring and make cookies around the holidays, so if that is your preference check out my Whole Grain Buckwheat (or Oatmeal) Cookies. If you are interested in a different type of bite sized dessert, read on to hear about my Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes….

 

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake

 

So I found this recipe for mini cheesecakes made in cupcake tins here awhile ago and thought it was a great idea (already in perfect portion sizes and no serving, plate or fork necessary!). However, my husband is not really a cheesecake fan so I was waiting for the perfect opportunity to make and bring them somewhere. A few weeks ago we went to a “Friendsgiving” and I jumped at the chance to make them with a few slight adjustments to make them more thanksgiving themed. So basically instead of vanilla wafers for the crust, I used gluten free gingersnaps, removed the cottage cheese and added pumpkin puree, and added a few pumpkin pie spices to the batter. Adding the pumpkin puree did make the batter a little more liquidy, so I did have to cook it for a little longer, but the texture still turned out good and cheesecakey. Also, have I mentioned before that pumpkin is super good for you? Lots of vitamin A, fiber and low in calories :)

 

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

(Makes 30)

 

Ingredients

30 Cupcake/Muffin Liners

30 Gluten Free Gingersnap Cookies

16 Ounces of Neufchatel Cheese (or Reduced Fat Cream Cheese)

1 Cup Pumpkin Puree

4 Large Eggs

1/2 Cup Sugar

1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg

1/4 Teaspoon Allspice

2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and place rack in center of the oven. Place cupcake/muffin liners into cupcake tin and add 1 gingersnap cookie to each liner. Mix all remaining ingredients together with a mixer until smooth. Add 2 teaspoons batter to each liner and bake in oven for ~20 minutes or until cheesecakes are firm in the center. Allow to cool and refrigerate until ready to serve. If desired, you can top with whipped cream immediately before serving or make a crunchy pecan topping. To make a pecan topping you can simply sauté a 1/2 cup chopped pecans with 2 teaspoons maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon over medium heat for approximately 2 minutes or until topping is warm and fragrant. Sprinkle a few pieces on the top of each mini cheesecake.

 

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake

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Perfect for a holiday party!
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Last weekend we decided to have a few of our friends over for appetizers and drinks to celebrate fall flavors and as a last little get together before the baby arrives…. Because who knows when we will be able to have people over again. The menu I had planned  included Skinny Pumpkin Dip with apples, Baked Brie with Pecans and Pears, a few other cheeses and grapes with gluten free crackers, butternut squash crostini (recipe coming soon) and sparkling cranberry apple cider.

I wanted to make a nonalcoholic drink that I could enjoy but of course also have the option of adding alcohol for everyone else…. So I decided to make an apple cider as a sort of “mixer” so everyone could add whatever alcohol they preferred to it. I also wanted to infuse a lot of fall flavors such as cinnamon and cranberries so I decided to cook some fruit with spices first then add it to the apple cider so the flavors could meld overnight. I didn’t want a warm apple cider because I live in south florida and it is not quite cool enough for that yet, but you can easily adapt the recipe to make it warm if that is what you prefer. Anyways, I topped my apple cider with soda water as I love a sparkling mocktail, and for the most part everyone else added a little bit of vodka and sparkling wine to their glasses, and seemed to enjoy it that way.

Sparkling Cranberry Apple Cider

Sparkling Cranberry Apple Cider

Ingredients
1-12 oz Bag Fresh Cranberries (about 3 cups)
1  Navel Orange – zested and cut into bite sized pieces
1 Pear- cored and cut into bite sized pieces
1 Apple – cored and cut into bite sized pieces
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1/2 Cup Water
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Teaspoon All Spice
1 Gallon Apple Cider

Directions
Add cranberries, zest from orange, pieces of orange, Apple and pear along with cinnamon sticks, honey, all spice, and water to a medium saucepan.  Mix together and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for about 10 min or until cranberries break open and flavors meld. Turn off stove top and allow to cool. Once cool, add to apple cider in a punch bowl or large pitcher and put in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to serve, fill glass halfway with cider and then top with soda water or sparkling wine. If you like your drinks strong, add a little vodka or liquor of preference. Cheers!
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Baked Brie with Pears and Pecans
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Baked Brie is such an easy and delicious classic holiday appetizer, but the way you prepare it can really make a difference for your waistline and overall health. I know a lot of people like to prepare it by topping it with jelly and wrapping it in puff pastry, however this adds quite a few calories and refined carbohydrates, which is not great for someone that is trying to at least eat semi-healthy over the holidays. I like to prepare my brie with real ingredients like nuts and fruit so at least the extra calories I will be adding to the brie will come with nutrients such as vitamins, fiber and “good for you” fatty acids. Plus, I think my brie tastes better, but I may be a little biased.

Healthier Baked Brie

Baked Brie with Pecans and Pears

Ingredients
1 Wheel of Brie ~7 oz
Cooking Spray
1/3 Cup Chopped Pecans
1 Pear – Cored and Diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Pure Maple Syrup

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray small sauté pan with cooking spray. Sauté pears and pecans in pan with cinnamon and maple syrup on medium heat, stirring continually for about 5 min, or until pears and pecans are warm and fragrant. Place Brie in a Brie baking dish (I love mine from Crate and Barrel:  http://www.crateandbarrel.com/brie-baking-dish/s672630), top with pear and pecan topping and cover with lid. Cook in oven for ~10-15 minutes.

Nutrient Analysis
7 Servings
Per Serving (1 oz cheese plus toppings)
152 Calories and 5.2 grams of Saturated Fat

For comparison, 1 serving of baked brie cooked with a Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheet has 232 calories and 9 grams of saturated fat per serving.

Baked Brie
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