Cooking with Pumpkin: Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

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Pumpkin is undoubtedly the flavor of fall. You’ve probably noticed every coffee shop advertising their pumpkin flavored coffees and lattes, and every store in the mall is filled with smells of pumpkin and cinnamon spice. But while the smell and flavor of pumpkin is everywhere this season, how much are you actually eating it?

Aside from major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas where pumpkin pie seems to be on every family’s menu, most people don’t incorporate pumpkin into their everyday fall cooking very often. Maybe it’s because pumpkin is so closely associated with the holidays, or maybe people consider pumpkins more as decorations than ingredients. Regardless of the reasoning, though, if you aren’t regularly cooking with pumpkin during the fall then you are missing out! Here’s why you should start cooking with pumpkin more often:

• It’s versatile
Pumpkin pie is easily the most popular pumpkin dish, but there are dozens of other ways to cook with pumpkin. If you’re a baker, use pumpkin to make pumpkin breads, muffins, cheesecakes or cookies. For more savory dishes, try pumpkin soup or stew, roasted pumpkin and even pumpkin lasagna. Don’t forget to roast pumpkin seeds with a little salt or garlic powder for an easy snack.

• It’s easy to work with
Lots of people are scared to cook with pumpkin since it isn’t a regular in the produce section, but it’s actually quite easy to work with. The easiest way to cook with pumpkin is to buy the canned variety, but it’s also not at all difficult to roast pumpkins just like you would a squash. Just be sure to cut it into manageable pieces since pumpkins can get pretty large.

• It’s good for you
Pumpkins are technically fruits, and like most fruits, they are packed with nutrients and good-for-you vitamins like Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Pumpkin’s orange hue is a result of its high carotenoid content, which is also found in carrots; carotenoids help fight diseases and protect eyes. Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of protein.

• It’s festive!
Aside from its nutrients, delicious taste and versatility, adding pumpkin to any dish will automatically make it much more festive for the fall months. Its orange color makes any meal more appropriate for the autumn season and will absolutely brighten up your dinner table.

If you want to start cooking with pumpkin, try out this easy recipe for mini pumpkin cheesecakes. They’re perfect for any fall occasion, whether it’s a tailgate, Halloween party or just a Sunday afternoon. Happy baking!

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes
Prep Time: 20 min
Total Time: 3 hours
Serves: 18 (138 calories per serving)
Ingredients
• 1 cup ground walnuts
• 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
• 1 tablespoon Fleischmann's® Original-stick, melted
• 2 pkgs (8 oz each) 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
• 1/2 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar substitute
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• Dash ground cloves
• Dash ground nutmeg
• 2 eggs
• Reddi-wip® Original Dairy Whipped Topping
• Ground cinnamon, optional

Preheat your oven to 325°F (or to 300°F if you’re using a dark nonstick pan). Place paper liners in 36 miniature muffin cups.

For the crust: Mix walnuts, 4 teaspoons sugar and the Fleischmann’s in a medium bowl until well blended. Press about 1 teaspoon of the walnut mixture firmly onto the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Bake for 5 minutes, then cool.

For the filling: Place the cream cheese, pumpkin, ¼ cup of sugar, the sugar cup sugar substitute, vanilla, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a large bowl; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Gradually add eggs one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until blended. Spoon evenly over crusts. Bake for 15 minutes or until the centers are almost set. Cool. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until chilled. Top with whipped topping just before serving and sprinkle with additional cinnamon, if desired.

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