Dessert Uncategorized Video How-to

Pumpkin Ricotta Cheesecake for an Elegant Thanksgiving Dinner Finale

Pumpkin Ricotta Cheesecake
Pumpkin Ricotta Cheesecake

Looking for an elegant alternative to pumpkin pie? Want to enjoy the holidays without ruining your waistline? I have the recipe for you and a book to recommend. Marisa Churchill, a contestant on Season 2 of Top Chef and San Francisco resident, has recently published an inspired collection of low calorie desserts, called, Sweet & Skinny: 100 Recipes for Enjoying Life’s Sweeter Side Without Tipping the Scales.
Click on the book to purchase it at

I recently spent an evening with her since we share a mutual friend, and she told me that the Pumpkin Ricotta Cheesecake in the book is one of her favorites, so I made it for my annual Halloween Dinner Party (more recipes to follow from that event). It was divine. The flavor of the cheesecake is subtle and sophisticated. It’s not too sweet, but it still retains the yummy flavors reminiscent of your favorite pumpkin desserts.

Marisa Churchill

The book is full of fabulous recipes and Marisa really takes the time to explain the techniques. She provides sugar-free alternatives for each dessert as well as all of the nutritional information you need to stay on track (calories, grams of fat, etc.) and stay healthy. Get this book in time for the holidays! There are lots of cookie recipes to satisfy all of your Christmas cookie-baking needs!

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Pumpkin Ricotta Cheesecake
Serves 12
From the book, Sweet & Skinny: 100 Recipes for Enjoying Life’s Sweeter Side Without Tipping the Scales


For the Crust
Nonstick pan spray
6 oz honey graham crackers (about 10 cookie sheets)
2 Tbsp 1% or 2% milk

For the Cheesecake
8 oz (1 cup) reduced-fat Kraft cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup nonfat sour cream, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 egg whites from large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp reduced-fat ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp large pecan pieces, toasted for garnish (I used hazelnuts)
2 Tbsp pomegranate seeds for garnish


For the crust

1. Coat 9-inch springform pan with pan spray. Break up the graham crackers and process them in a food processor until they are reduced to very fine crumbs. Add the milk and process for 30 seconds, or until the crumbs hold together when you squeeze them in your fist.

2. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Press the crumbs firmly over the bottom and slightly up the sides of the pan, using your finger-tips to compress them.

For the cheesecake

1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F with a rack in the lower third of the oven.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until it is completely smooth and well blended. (If using a standing mixer, use the paddle attachment). Add the sour cream, eggs, egg whites, and vanilla; mix for 2 to 3 minutes longer to blend well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and cloves and mix for 1 minute longer. Add the ricotta and mix just until it is incorporated.

3. Pour the batter over the crust and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the cheesecake jiggles only slightly in the center when you gently shake the pan. (If the cheesecake browns too quickly or begins to crack, tent a piece of aluminum foil over the top, without touching the filling, for the remaining baking time).

4. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool for 1 hour. Then run a knife around the edge of the pan if needed to loosen the cheesecake, remove the outer pan ring, and transfer the cake, on its base, to a serving plate. Cover the cake loosely with plastic film and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To serve: Cut the cheesecake into 12 wedges, and garnish them with the toasted pecans and pomegranate seeds.

Refrigerate any leftover cheesecake, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.

Nutritional Information:
Calories per serving: 221
Grams of fat: 9.5g

Watch Marisa whip up a Chocolate Mousse with Olive and Sea Salt:

Dessert Pumpkin Uncategorized Video How-to

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Mini Pumpin Cheesecake
Mini Pumpin Cheesecake

Day 24 of 31 days of pumpkin and we come to a fun, easy video recipe provided by the Karo Company, the corn syrup makers. The clever trick here is baking the cheesecakes in muffin tins lined with paper and lined with gingersnap cookies. Mini-crusts for mini cheesecakes. Genius.

I feel guilty using corn syrup since I read Michael Pollan’s books, but I wasn’t sure how to substitute my way out of it here. If you have an idea, please share it in the comments section. In the end, I figured one recipe a year can’t be all that bad. Right?

Breads Dessert Pumpkin Uncategorized

Pumpkin Mascarpone Cheesecake

Pumpkin Mascarpone Cheesecake
Pumpkin Mascarpone Cheesecake

It’s day 15 of 31 days of pumpkin. I can’t believe I’m halfway there. Today’s recipe was such a joy to make. I’ve never made cheesecake before and I was nervous at each step, but everything worked beautifully. I followed a recipe in a book that my sister gave me recently. Every once in awhile, she’ll see interesting cookbooks at a used bookstore and send them to me. I love it because there are always surprises. Like this book which is based on the fourth season of a Public Television Series I didn’t even know existed: Cooking Secrets of the CIA. The video doesn’t appear to be available anywhere, but the book is still available on Amazon:

The book was published in 1999 and was sponsored by Cuisinart. There is a set of pages at the back of the book featuring Cuisinart small appliances. The other thing about the book that I find fascinating is that the photography isn’t that great. The recipes are amazing, but with so much incredible food photography around these days, the lack of consistency in this book is a bit jarring.

Recently, I attended two food photography sessions at the BlogHerFood09 conference in San Francisco.

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