Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Happy Halloween!

We spent several hours designing and carving pumpkins on Sunday evening and they turned out fantastic.  This is what they looked like...

Monday afternoon when I walked outside to water the plants, this is what I found...

The culprit?

A Weimaraner with a tummy ache laying in the front yard.
Good thing I took pictures on Sunday. 

We are hosting a small dinner for some of our neighbors tonight before trick or treating.  On the menu is chili, salad, bread and of course, treats!  One of the desserts for this evening will be Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars.  I made these a few weeks ago and put them in the freezer so all I have to do is pull them out and put them on a platter tonight.  This is a recipe that I have been using for a long time and I think that is was originally a Martha Stewart recipe. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars
Crust                                   Filling
2 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs            16 ounces cream cheese
½ cup sugar                                              3 eggs
2/3 cup butter, melted                              1 cup pumpkin
                                                                 ½ t. pumpkin pie spice
Topping                                            ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cups sour cream                                ¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar                                             6 ounces chocolate
grated nutmeg                                          2 Tablespoons butter
                                                                 1 3/4 cups sugar

Combine crust ingredients and press into a greased 9x13 pan.


Cream sugar and cream cheese.

Add eggs, one at a time.

Stir in pumpkin, spice, salt and vanilla.

Pour 1 ¼ cups filling into a bowl to save.  Melt chocolate and butter.

Stir in 1 ¼ cups reserved filling.

Spread over crust.

Bake 15 minutes at 325.

Pour pumpkin filling over chocolate layer.  Bake 40-50 minutes longer.

Remove from oven and cool 30 minutes.

Combine sour cream and sugar.

Cover and let stand at room temperature.  Spread on bars.

Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Slice into 24 squares.

I'm getting double mileage out of these pumpkin chocolate cheesecake bars.  Half are for tonight's neighborhood get together and the other half I am going to keep in my freezer until Thanksgiving. 

Be safe out there tonight and enjoy your Halloween.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies

With Halloween only 1 day away, my house is buzzing with excitement.  Even Mia has been getting into the spirit of Halloween by wearing her costume around the house.  I made her 2 costumes last week - a cow costume for Halloween and a hooded red jacket for Christmas.  (Yes, I think I have too much time on my hands.) 

Don't be surprised if those picture end up on our Christmas card.  This is what happens when my kids get too old for me to make their Halloween costumes anymore.   Believe it or not, Mia LOVES her costumes and she wears them as much as I will let her.  (Which I realize is not normal dog behavior.)

Tomorrow, some of the neighbors are coming over for a chili dinner before the trick or treating begins so I've been busy making the "treats" for our little dinner.  I found this recipe for Pumpkin Gingersnaps on  (I don't know why I didn't think of the idea of combining these two Fall flavors into one delicious cookie.)    

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies

Yield: 3 dozen cookies
Cook Time: 10-12 minutes



½ cup of butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies
½ cup of pure pumpkin (I used Libby's canned pumpkin)
¼ cup of molasses
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth.

Add the pumpkin, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract, mix until well combined.


2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined.

 Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 1 hour. The dough can be chilled for 2-3 days. 

3. When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Place sugar in a small bowl. Roll tablespoon-sized balls of dough in sugar until well coated and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10–12 minutes, or until cookies look cracked and set at the edges. The cookies will still be soft. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a 2-3 minutes after removing them from the oven, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I put these cookies in my freezer to save for tomorrow night's party.  I think I am just as excited about Halloween as the kids (and the dog) are. 


Monday, October 29, 2012

Vegetarian Chili

Why is it that most people associate the words vegetarian and vegan with tasteless and boring?  I am not a vegetarian but I'm always trying to incorporate more vegetables into the meals that I prepare for my family.  I like to look through vegetarian cookbooks for new and interesting ways to prepare vegetables.  What I've learned is that vegetarian food can be just as rich and hearty and satisfying and it's meaty counterparts. 

I made this vegetarian chili for a group of friends (only 1 of which is actually a vegetarian) and they all really seemed to enjoy it.  (That is proof enough for me that you don't have to be a vegetarian to eat vegetarian chili.)  It really is delicious and even the most avid of meat eaters will enjoy this hearty chili. 

Vegetarian Chili
2 ½ cups dry kidney beans                    2 teaspoons basil
1 cup tomato juice                                 2 teaspoons chili powder
1 cup uncooked bulgur wheat               1 ½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons oil                                  black and red pepper
2 cups chopped onion                           1 bell pepper, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced                      14 ounce can tomatoes
3 carrots, diced                                      3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 celery stalk, diced                               fresh parsley, minced
2 teaspoons cumin                                 1 box vegetable stock

Soak beans for at least 4 hours (or overnight) before cooking.

Place soaked beans in a dutch oven and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, partially cover and simmer for 1 ¼ hours.  Add water is necessary during cooking.


After 1 ¼ hours, drain off any excess water.  Heat tomato juice to boiling.

Add bulgur wheat to tomato juice.  Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. 

 Add cooked beans.

Heat oil in skillet.  Add onion, half of the garlic, carrot, celery and seasonings.  Saute for 5 minutes and add bell pepper and saute until tender.

Add vegetables, tomatoes, broth and tomato paste to beans.  Simmer for 15  minutes.

Add remaining garlic.  Simmer 15 minutes longer.  Serve with parsley and cheese.  (Omit the cheese if you're going for a vegan chili.)

I usually make a batch of this chili to keep in my freezer over the winter.  It makes a great lunch when I'm in a hurry and a great dinner on cold nights.