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 Cheesecakes

 

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.

 

Gluten Free Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

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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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Harvest Chex Mix
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I love making homemade chex mix because you can make it with the exact amount of flavor you want and choose whatever kind of chex cereal and additional add ins you want to use. Because I am gluten free and don’t tolerate corn very well, I stick to the rice chex flavors, but there are still plenty of choices, so you can always mix it up. Rice chex comes in plain, cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla….mmmm 😛

Chex uses whole grains and simple ingredients so it is easy to turn your breakfast cereal into a healthy snack, as long as you make sure the rest of your ingredients are also good for you, or at least in moderation. Nuts, seeds, whole grains and dried fruit are all good choices for a healthy homemade chex mix, and the possibilities are endless! Just make sure you don’t add too much sugar and/or butter which could catapult your healthy intentions into a problem for your waistline.

Last weekend I was in the autumn spirit and wanted to make a chex mix that highlights fall flavors so I thought I would share my recipe. I used lots of cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg along with chex cereal, pecans and craisins to make my perfect seasonally appropriate chex mix.

Bowl of Harvest Chex Mix

Harvest Chex Mix

Ingredients
6 Cups Rice Chex
3 Cups Vanilla Rice Chex
2 Cups Pecan Halves
4 Tablespoons  “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light”
1 Tablespoon Honey
2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons All Spice
2 Teaspoons Ginger
2 Teaspoons Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Cups Craisins

Directions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Add Chex and pecans to a large mixing bowl. Melt butter substitute in a small microwavable bowl or mug (put in microwave on 30 second intervals until melted) and mix in honey until dissolved. Pour mixture over Chex and pecans and mix until evenly coated. Add the spice mixture that was set aside earlier and continue mixing until evenly coated. Spread out on parchment paper lined baking sheets and bake in oven for twenty minutes. Remove from oven, toss mixture and then bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Add to large serving bowl, mix in craisins and serve.
Harvest Chex Mix Ingredients
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