Small Treats, Big Taste
From sweet to savory, here are some bite-sized recipes sure to please your seasonal guests.
The Easiest Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
These pumpkin cheesecake bars are quick, easy, and seriously almost TOO good (if there is such a thing)! The crust is a simple mixture of gingersnap cookies, pecans, and melted butter. The classic pumpkin cheesecake layer is loaded with a traditional combination of cinnamon and nutmeg. Then it’s finished off with a drizzle of caramel, toasted pecans, and a dollop of whipped cream. The bars bake in a 9×13 inch pan – no spring form business, no water bath nonsense. Just simple, straightforward, delicious pumpkin cheesecake. The secret to getting those perfectly cut edges on these cheesecake bars is to use a sharp knife that’s been run under warm water and then dried off with a clean kitchen towel. In between each cut, rinse the knife with warm water, dry, and then slice. Your cheesecake will cut like butter and your slices will be picture-perfect. Alternatively, you can just dive right into these cheesecake bars with a fork and reckless abandon. This is a judgement-free zone, so anything goes here. You worked hard (or at least it looks like you did) to make this pumpkin cheesecake; you can enjoy it however you’d like.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Yield: 20 bars
12 oz. gingersnap cookies
1/2 cup toasted pecans
7 tablespoons melted butter
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
toasted chopped pecans
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Add gingersnaps and pecans to a food processor and process until they are a course crumb texture. Mix with melted butter.
3. Line a 9x13 pan with tin foil. Press crust mixture into the bottom of the pan in an even layer.
4. Heat a large pan over low heat and add cream cheese. Heat cream cheese, stirring frequently just until it is smooth and spreadable. Transfer cream cheese to a large bowl and add pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. Mix until combined.
5. Add vanilla and eggs and mix until well-combined, smooth, and creamy. Be sure not to overmix.
6. Pour the cheesecake batter on top of the crust and use a spatula to spread it in an even layer. Give the baking dish a few short bangs on the counter to make sure any air bubbles that are hiding rise to the top.
7. Bake, uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until the edges of the cheesecake start to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center is set but still jiggly.
8. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2 hours on the counter. Top with toppings and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
9. Slice, serve, and enjoy!
Caramelized Onion & Blue Cheese Puff Pastry Tarts
These puff pastry tarts are as elegant as they are delicious. Caramelized onions combine with tangy blue cheese and sweet fig jam to deliver a palate-pleasing flavor your friends and family will love! Puff pastry makes this appetizer do-able within an hour. This lip-smacking appetizer made an appearance last year at Thanksgiving and it was promptly devoured. The real winner here is the fig jam. It’s deliciously sweet without being too sweet, and it really marries the caramely onions and the bite of the blue cheese. Yes it takes 60 minutes to caramelize those babies, but they are worth every second.
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 18 mins
Total Time: 100 minutes
Yield: 30-32 mini tarts
1 package puff pastry (thawed in the fridge overnight)
4 large yellow onions (halved, then thinly sliced)
2 teaspoons butter
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dry white wine
fresh cracked pepper
1 egg + 1 teaspoon water, beaten
3/4 cup fig jam
5 oz. blue cheese (crumbled)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
honey for drizzling
1. Heat butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and and stir to coat in oil. Grab a glass of wine and a magazine and plop yourself in front of the stove because you are going to be here for a while. You will cook the onions for 60 minutes total, stirring every 4-5 minutes or so. After they’ve cooked for 10 minutes add a pinch of salt. After they’ve cooked for 40 minutes add a teaspoon of sugar. After they’ve finished cooking for 60 minutes and are a gorgeous dark brown color, deglaze the pan with the white wine, season with salt and pepper to taste, then set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap the puff pastry and cut along the seams of each sheet, creating 6 rectangles total. Lightly flour your work surface and roll each piece into a 3.5” x 12” rectangle. Use a 3” cookie cutter to make four tarts out of each rectangle. Transfer tarts to two parchment-lined baking sheets. Combine puff pastry scraps into a ball, roll them out to the same thickness as your previous tarts, and use the cookie cutter to make 10-12 more tarts. Arrange tarts on the two baking sheets about an inch apart. You will have 30-32 tarts total. Use a 2” cookie cutter to score each tart in the center, creating a half-inch-wide crust.
3. Brush the crust portion of the tart with the egg wash.
4. Heat fig jam in a small saucepan over medium heat just until it becomes loose and spreadable. Spread a teaspoon or so of fig jam in the center of each tart. Top that with a teaspoon or so of caramelized onions. And then, you guessed it, top that with a teaspoon or so of blue cheese. Divide thyme evenly between the tarts, sprinkling a few leaves in the center of each tart.
5. Bake tarts for 15-18 minutes or until the crust starts to get dark golden brown.
6. Remove tarts from the oven and drizzle with honey. Serve warm and enjoy! (Note: These tarts are also delicious at room temperature.)
For more delicious recipes from Eau Claire’s own Midwest Foodie, go to midwestfoodieblog.com.