Pumpkin Cheesecake

If you’re looking for a different spin on pumpkin pie, this is one of my seasonal go-to recipes that I trotted out just about every year back when my family still got together for the holidays.

Pumpkin Cheesecake:
1 can (16 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Bisquick baking mix
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
whipped cream topping

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pie plate. Place all ingredients except for the whipped topping in a large bowl and mix on high for 2 minutes, scraping bowl constantly. Pour into pie plate.

Bake just until puffed and the center is dry, about 45 minutes (do not overbake). Let it cool, then spread the whipped topping over top and garnish with pecan halves or twists of orange peel if desired. Refrigerate any remaining cheesecake. 


Halloween themed recipes

Note: These aren’t my original recipes; I found them in various cookbooks I’ve collected over the years.

Jell-O-Ween Poke brownies
1 package (19.8 oz) brownie mix
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1 package (4 serving size) vanilla instant pudding
a few drops each red and yellow food coloring

Prepare and bake brownie mix as directed on the package for 8 or 9 inch pan. Remove from oven and immediately use round handle of a wooden spoon (or something of equivalent size) to poke holes at 1 inch intervals down through brownies to pan.

Pour milk into a large bowl and add pudding mix. Beat with a wire whisk for 2 minutes. Stir in a few drops of food colorings to tint the mixture orange. Quickly, pour about 1/2 of the thing pudding evenly over warm brownies and into holes.

Tap pan lightly to fill the holes. Let remaining pudding mixture stand to thicken slightly. Spread remaining pudding over top of brownies as “frosting”.

Refrigerate one hour or until ready to serve.


Ghosts in the Graveyard: 
1 package of chocolate sandwich cookies (aka oreos)
3 1/2 cups cold milk
2 packages (4 serving size) instant chocolate pudding
12 oz tub of Cool Whip

Remove the filling from the cookies (eat or discard) and crush the cookies well in a plastic ziploc bag with a rolling pin or in a food processor. They should be little grains, not chunks.

Pour milk into a large bowl and add pudding mixes. Beat with a wire whisk for 2 minutes. Gently stir in 3 cups of Cool Whip and half of the crushed cookies.

You can either spoon the pudding mixture into a 13×9 dish and sprinkle with the remaining cookies, or you can do what I did: get some small clear cups and layer the pudding mixture, the crushed cookies, and Hallowe’en M&Ms.

If you’re really creative, you can create wee ghosts out of the remaining Cool Whip to go on top and maybe some Milano cookies for “tombstones”. This would look especially cool with the dish variety, especially if you got some of those little candy pumpkins that come in the bag of candy corn. They taste like crap, but they make good decorations.

Refrigerate one hour or until ready to serve.


Witch’s Cauldron Cake:
20 Halloween Oreo cookies, divided
1 pkg (2 layer size) yellow cake mix, batter prepared as on package
1 container (16 oz size) ready to spread chocolate frosting, divided
Black shoestring licorice and assorted Halloween candies
2 cups thawed whipped topping, tinted orange with food coloring
1 pretzel rod
Gummy worms

Chop 16 cookies. Fold chopped cookies into prepared cake batter. Pour into greased 10 inch fluted tube pan. Bake and cool according to package directions for tube pan.

Halve two cookies and decorate as bats, attaching two halves side by side with frosting to form bat wings and decorating with frosting and assorted candies for eyes. Decorate two remaining cookies as spiders, using frosting to attach 1 1/2 inch pieces of licorice as legs and assorted candies for eyes. Set aside to dry.

Place cake, flat side up, on serving plate. Frost side of cake with remaining frosting. Frost top of cake with tinted whipped topping. Place pretzel rod into center opening of cake for “wooden spoon”. Decorate cake with cookie bats, spiders and gummy worms.


Southern Comfort food

“Ginger and  Gentlemen”, the third story in the Recipe for Romance series, is coming out from Torquere Press tomorrow, so I thought I’d talk a bit about cooking and recipes since those are central themes to the series.

The series is set in South Carolina, which both Ari and I are familiar with; we aren’t South Carolinians, but we are Southerners, and we both like Southern comfort food. Okay, I admit it: I don’t like collards, a fact that has gotten me threatened with expulsion from my family more than once. But that’s my biggest “do not want” when it comes to Southern cuisine.

Stephen’s kitchen produces more upscale dishes, but Ian Pierce’s diner is strictly food like Mama and Grandmama used to make. I can see his menu featuring collards, fried chicken, cornbread, hushpuppies, corn (on the cob and creamed), sweet potato casserole, fried green tomatoes, okra (fried and stewed), and seafood. Lots and lots of fresh seafood!

Two dishes in particular feature predominately in the story, so I thought I’d share recipes for both of them. I’ve never made a seafood boil myself, so I combed through regional cookbooks when we were writing the story to find something that sounded like Ian might make it. The recipe for Ian’s gingersnaps is actually my recipe. I’ve been making them for years during the winter and tinkered with the recipe until I got the level of “snap” I wanted.

Continue reading “Southern Comfort food”


Holiday baking

Yesterday, Ari and I guest-blogged on Torquere Press’ Romance For the Rest of Us blog, and we both wrote about our holiday traditions. I thought I’d cross-post my contribution here. 😀


Hello! I’m the McKay half of “Ari McKay” (with thanks to Ari for posting this on my behalf), here to share my contribution to the blog. Unlike Ari, I don’t have a significant other, children, or siblings, and my extended family isn’t particularly close, so I don’t have family-oriented traditions per se.

My own personal tradition, however, is holiday baking. We don’t have a big family gathering anymore, so I can’t pull out all the stops like I used to, but I still bake bread and cookies to give to friends and colleagues. It gives me an excuse to pore over my cookbooks (some might say I have too many, but I contend there’s no such thing) and select at least one or two new recipes to try in addition to the old favorites.

Last year, I came across a recipe for Red Velvet Whoopie Pies that I made and took to a gathering at work; the minty-sweet cookies earned major kudos from my colleagues, so they’ve been added permanently to the holiday baking roster.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1 oz bottle of red food coloring (2 tbsp)

Preheat oven to 375. Beat the 1/2 cup butter with an electric mixer on medium to high for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Alternately add flour and buttermilk, beating on low after each addition just until mixture are combined. Stir in red food coloring.

Place rounded teaspoons of dough 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes or until edges are set. Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spread peppermint cream cheese frosting on bottom half of half of the cookies; top with the remaining half, flat sides down, pressing lightly together.

Peppermint cream cheese frosting:

Combine 2 three ounce packages of cream cheese (softened) with 3 tbsp butter (softened), and 1/2 tsp peppermint extract. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 3 cups powdered sugar. Add milk if necessary to make it spreading consistency.

However, one of my personal favorites is a recipe that’s been on my holiday baking roster for about five years: Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bread. This bread is ridiculously good, and you can eat a slice by itself with a cup of hot tea or cocoa, or you can slather some Nutella and sliced bananas on it to make a sandwich.

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bread: 

3 cups sugar
1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin (not pie filling)
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
2/3 cup peanut butter
3 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, and peanut butter; beat well. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Gradually pour into the pumpkin mixture; mix well. Pour into 2 greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire rack.


This year, Ari and I are starting what we hope will become a tradition for us together: writing a holiday story for Torquere Press. “Santa’s Naughty Helper” will be released on December 19, and we had a lot of fun writing it! It’s a light romantic comedy about a man who uses a secret gift exchange as a means of wooing his long-term crush.