By Dietitian Jill Place AKA The Good Gut Queen
I published this holiday dessert recipe FOUR years ago as an afterthought in January to a scrumptious Christmas-day dinner I made for a few friends. Now I’m giving it to you beforehand so that you can make these for your own holiday dinner (along with the the recipes I published last week) for whatever holiday meal you’d like.
And, since my tastes and health beliefs have changed over the years, I’m giving you not only my formerly famous dairy-filled pumpkin cheesecake. But updated this article with a Paleo Pumpkin Cheesecake. to equally die for! You choose … and eat them up … FOR REAL!
I’m not a baker. I just watched a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about fanatical cake decorators this morning. I have no desire to do that … sculpting multi-petaled fondant flowers and faux-marble butter-cream urns … even though I find the results of their passions thrilling.
Some Updated Holiday Dessert Ideas
So I ain’t doin’ that! And the big splashy desserts are below. But I’d like to share some alternatives that are on this site. Because I gotta tell you I absolutely LOVE sweets … and ONLY will publish Paleo (or Gluten Free) stuff here …
So if YOU’RE doin’ that … this is the place … Try Paleo Thumbprint Cookies … a holiday staple. Or your might want to try the Paleo Pear or Apple Galette … rustic versions of pie. Another idea … the Double Chocolate Banana Bread is always great … or even Paleo Vanilla Cupcakes with 2-Ingredient Chocolate Frosting.
On with the Cheesecakes …
But … when I make a holiday meal … or just want to show off my ex-chef skills by cooking for friends, I make a cheesecake. It’s a beautiful presentation, makes people OHHH and AHHH, and you just can’t kill it.
So if you forget that it’s in the oven or become preoccupied with yet another chore, which I often do, it can bake a few minutes more and still be fine. I’ve also been making cheesecakes low-fat forever because I don’t want to be weighed down by a truckload of fat and 1000 calories after a hearty meal.
They take a bit of doing … lower temperatures and toppings to mask cracks that usually form at the top … but are ultimately satisfying. Cut the fat even more with something like pumpkin … like in this particular cake … and you slash calories even further as well as beefing up the Vitamin A and C in your diet.
I love pumpkin … and don’t think it’s just for Thanksgiving. I use it all year round in muffins and I carve it out as both a vessel and vegetable for soup.
But its pie-spice goodness really shines in a cheesecake with that winning juxtaposition of sweet and tangy flavors. I even like to add a little Frangelico … hazelnut liquor … to make the tang even more complex. So you don’t even know it’s low-fat.
My Marvelous Gluten Free Cheesecake Stole the Show!
This makes a HUGE cheesecake. Which is even better as I sent all my Christmas-day guests home with little care packages. So the taste of the day lasts a little longer. And … yes … I definitely save some for myself.
This is adapted from a recipe in Delicious Living. Another great thing about cheesecakes … all you need is to do to make them Gluten Free is to change the graham crackers or cookies in the crust for Gluten-Free ones.
I used Mary’s Gone Crackers Ginger Snaps here. Don’t be daunted by the many ingredients … another great thing I love about cheesecakes is that all this comes together with a food processor or beater. The added texture of beaten egg whites lightens and lifts this one. Bon Appetit!
Pumpkin Ricotta Cheesecake
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup crystallized ginger
1 package Mary’s Gone Crackers Gluten-Free ginger snaps
1 Tbsp. canola oil
15-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese
8-ounce package fat-free cream cheese
8-ounce package Neufchatel (1/3 less fat) cream cheese
1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin
1 cup date sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. Frangelico
3 egg whites, at room temperature
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
1 Tbsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups nonfat or low-fat sour cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. Frangelico
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Place all crust ingredients except oil in a food processor; pulse until fine crumbs form. Add canola oil and process another 5 seconds. Press mixture evenly against pan bottom. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool.
- For the filling: Place ricotta cheese in a clean dish towel. Knead to remove excess moisture until cheese holds together like soft dough. Place in a mixer bowl or food processor and beat until smooth. Add cream cheese, pumpkin, date sugar, molasses, 1 whole egg, Frangelico, and spices; beat until well-blended.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar at medium speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add 1 Tbsp. sugar and pinch of salt; continue to beat until stiff but not dry. Gently fold into pumpkin-cream cheese mixture.
- Place the springform pan on a baking sheet and pour in the filling. Bake in the center of the over for 80-90 minutes, or until sides are set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- While cheesecake bakes, prepare topping by mixing together sour cream, sugar, Frangelico, and vanilla extract in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- When cheesecake is done, remove to a rack and cool for 15 minutes (don’t turn off oven). Pour topping over cheesecake. Return to oven and bake another 5 minutes. Cool on a rack. Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time. Remove pan sides before serving.
Paleo Pumpkin Cheesecake
You don’t have to worry about overcooking this as … like most Paleo “no-cheese confections” … it’s a refrigerated cake. And so very rich that I can only eat a small piece.
Which means more for for care packages. And even more for me!
3 cups raw walnuts, almonds, or pecans
10 medjool dates, pitted
3 Tbsp. coconut oil, softened or melted
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 cups raw cashews, soaked 3 hours
2/3 cup full-fat (or lite to decrease calories) canned coconut milk
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (or coconut nectar)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice (or 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar)
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp. ground cinnamon to taste
1/2 tsp. sea salt to taste
Make the Crust:
- Line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
- Add the ingredients for the crust to a food processor or blender and pulse until it is well-combined and forms a sticky dough.
- Transfer the crust mixture to the parchment-lined pan (I also like to spray a little coconut oil cooking spray inside the pan to ensure a non-stick cake).
Make the Filling:
- Soak the cashews for at least 3 hours (up to overnight). Drain the cashews and add them to a high-powered blender or food processor along with the remaining filling ingredients. Blend until super-smooth and creamy. Taste the filling for flavor and add more cinnamon, sweetener, and/or salt to taste.
- Pour the filling over the crust and spread into an even layer. Refrigerate pie at least 3 hours (or you can also freeze 2 hours to make it easier for transport. Then thaw in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or at room temperature for 2 hours before serving.)
- Cut pie into slices and serve with a dollop of coconut whipped cream (Try this recipe from Gimme Some Oven or even Reddi-wip now makes an almond and coconut milk whipped cream).