Friday, November 21, 2014


In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. It became an official Federal holiday in 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens", to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

So now, it is time to give thanks. What are you thankful for? I am thankful for many things but I am NOT thankful for the stress that the holiday season brings. Over the years I have scaled down my entertaining repertoire to simplify and save time. It's hard managing a family, job, etc and having limited time to host 15 - 20 people for dinner. Good news; I  don't think they noticed that I scaled down. People look forward to the holiday favorites like turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry chutney, stuffing, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole. Why stress and change a good thing?

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be a huge undertaking....if you let it. Instead of trying something fancy, new and extremely time consuming, I stick with the Thanksgiving favorites I mentioned. I've learned that most people like tradition and look forward to the typical menu every year. I decided that if I wanted to try something new and change a menu item, dessert was a good time to do that. For instance, there is usually at least one or two guests that bring a dessert of their choice. So, if you attempt to try a new recipe, then there are plenty options in case they don't like your invention.

This year I decided to try a pumpkin cheesecake recipe that I found in Williams-Sonoma Thanksgiving Entertaining book by Lou Pappas.


For the gingersnap crust:

  • 1/4 lb. gingersnaps (about 20 small cookies) 
  • 1/3 cup pecan halves
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup pecan halves
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar


Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan.

To make the crust, in a food processor, combine the gingersnaps and pecans and process until crumbly. Add the brown sugar and melted butter and pulse for a few seconds to blend. Transfer the crumb mixture to the prepared pan. Use your fingers to pat the mixture into the bottom and evenly all the way up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

To make the filling, in a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cloves. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Using a rubber spatula, occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the brown sugar mixture, beating until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pumpkin puree, beating until smooth. Using the rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the chilled crust and smooth the top.

Bake the cheesecake until set or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the topping, set aside 10 pecan halves and coarsely chop the rest. In a small fry pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add all of the pecans, sprinkle with the granulated sugar and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts and the nuts are toasted and caramel coated. Transfer the nut mixture to a plate and let cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Just before serving, sprinkle the chopped pecans over the cheesecake and arrange the halves evenly around the perimeter. Serves 10 to 12.
This cheesecake came out delicious. I decided to use my new 4" mini springform pans instead of the 9". This recipe was enough to fill 4 of the mini pans. The candied nuts added an extra crunchy sweetness.  The gingersnap crust was loved by all. I was surprised that so many people like gingersnaps.