Saturday, October 12, 2013

Harvest Holiday

WHEW! Thank goodness it's finally Columbus Day weekend/Fall Break! I can't remember a busier autumn in recent memory, and I need a little break. Besides sleeping in and trying to clear out the dvr, I didn't have any grand travel plans, other than a few local and regional entertainments. But some folks did have leaf-peeping guests in from out of town, so my friend June decided to host a harvest holiday party and potluck.

Hailing from New Orleans, June prepared Cajun fare such as gumbo and pralines for dessert. But I was told that we did not have to adhere to a particular theme. So I made an easy bruschetta-topped pizza, taking the elements along with me and assembling and baking it at the party.

I hope there will be no audible gasps out there, but I started with a "cheater" crust, a thin-crust Boboli, which I really like. So there! I spread on a thin layer of pesto (homemade is best, of course), then topped it with shredded mozzarella and aged provolone (two cups?). I baked this in the oven at 450 for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese had melted and just started to brown at the edges. Then I added what is probably the last bruschetta of the season (seeded and chopped tomatoes, a little chopped onion, a big drizzle of olive oil, several cloves of minced garlic, a good glug or two of balsamic, and a handful of chopped fresh basil leaves) to the top and drizzled on a little balsamic glaze to finish. YUMMY!
Then for my dessert offering, I made a pumpkin cheesecake pie with ginger thin crust that I had originally made just for us to have at home, but it turned out so perfectly, I decided to take it to the party to share. (And I think the guests were very glad that I did!) I used a recipe I found online for the filling, but I was pleased with the crust that I fashioned from a package of Anna's Ginger Thins that I discovered in the freezer. Such a DELICIOUS combination! And don't you just love this time of year, where one can enjoy both the last of the tomatoes and basil and the first of the pumpkin spice deluge soon to follow?

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie with Ginger Thin Crust
(Source: adapted from Southern Food at
1 package ginger thin cookies, crushed
4 to 5 tablespoons melted butter
pinch of salt
2 packages (16 ounces total) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
dash cloves
2 large eggs
1 9-inch graham cracker pie crust
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the cookie crumbs with enough melted butter and the salt until it all holds together when squeezed lightly. Press into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until firm and a little darker in color Cool on a rack for a least five minutes.

Meanwhile, combine cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, and spices; mix with a hand mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs; mix until blended. Pour into the prepared crust. Bake at 350° F. for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. Cool completely. Refrigerate at least three hours, or overnight. Serve garnished with sweetened whipped cream or whipped topping.

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