Friday, December 20, 2013

Mini Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Pies

I wanted to make some kind of pumpkin dessert for Thanksgiving this year (yes, I know, this post is a little late).  I couldn't find a recipe that was exactly what I wanted so I decided to put a couple of recipes together instead.  These creamy pumpkin pies turned out great... and they're even better with vanilla ice cream!

I could have just made a pumpkin pie, but that seemed too ordinary.  I found this recipe for individual peanut butter cheesecakes and decided to use it to create a similar pumpkin cheesecake, except that I didn't have enough cream cheese to actually make cheesecake... and who wants to go back to the grocery store on Thanksgiving day?  Not me... so I improvised (pumpkin is a pretty forgiving ingredient so it worked out).  Besides, I wanted pumpkin anyway.  Too much cream cheese would have just gotten in the way!

Mini Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Pies

Makes 12 mini pies

4 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/8 tsp salt
12 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 tsp
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves (ground)
1/2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12-count muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.

2.  Mix together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar (4 Tbsp) and salt until well combined.  Scoop a heaping tablespoon into each cup.  Use the rounded back of the tablespoon to press down into cups and slightly up the sides.  Set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar (1 cup) together until smooth.  Add vanilla and pumpkin.  Beat again until smooth.  While mixer is going, sprinkle in the flour and spices. Then add the eggs one at a time until they are fully incorporated.

4.  Add pumpkin mixture to cups until almost full.

5. Bake for 20 minutes or until centers are set.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve later.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Peanut Butter Balls

These Peanut Butter Balls were a holiday staple in my house, one of my mom's "Christmas Candies" that she's been making for as long as I can remember.  According to the recipe, they are actually called Chocolate Graham Cracker Balls, but I choose to just call them Peanut Butter Balls... and I'm publishing this online so I think this suffices as an official name change.

This is a super simple recipe (with the possible exception of actually dipping them in the chocolate with dropping them), and they're delicious.  Of course they are.  Who doesn't like peanut butter and chocolate, combined with cookies and lots of sugar?!

There were often multiple batches of Peanut Butter Balls in my house growing up because my dad and brother don't like coconut, and I don't like nuts.  Both of those are optional ingredients, clearly.  You can choose which type of chocolate pieces to use.  I recommend milk or dark chocolate.  The semisweet chocolate chips are just not sweet enough after melting them with the paraffin wax.


For Peanut Butter Balls:
2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
1 cup pecan chopped fine (optional)
7-oz. chopped coconut (optional)
2 sticks of margarine
10-oz. confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 small jar creamy peanut butter

For Dipping:
3/4 cake paraffin wax
1 pkg chocolate pieces

1.  Melt wax with 1 pkg chocolate pieces in a double boiler (or you can use a bowl over a pot of boiling water if you don't have a double boiler).

2.  Mix the peanut butter ball ingredients and make them into balls.  Chill for 30 minutes.

3.  Dip balls into chocolate from the double boiler, using toothpicks, and allow them to dry on wax paper.

Note:  If the balls are falling apart as you try to dip them, try chilling them for longer, or even putting them in the freezer.  When I made them this year, my kitchen was too hot because there was a lot of baking happening at once and they kept falling apart!  I put them in the freezer and tried again once all of the other items were finished!