It’s official: We are in holiday crunch time, friends! And that’s okay. Whether you need a last-minute dessert to serve tomorrow or you’re planning ahead for your many, merry Christmas celebrations…this no-bake recipe has got you covered!
Let me tell you, this Salted Caramel Cheesecake recipe has gotten me through tons of holidays! Unlike baked cheesecakes which (lets be honest) are kind of a pain to make, this super-easy recipe is ready in just 20 minutes. You don’t need to refrigerate it for hours (read: don’t have to plan ahead to pull ‘em off)
Your savior in this sweet-and-salty recipe? The food processor. Use it to whiz up some buttery graham cracker crumbs, then wipe it out and blend the cheesecake filling in the same bowl. Easy clean up!
The only part of this recipe you may find intimidating is the caramel but we’ll walk through that together. There’s absolutely no reason to fret! Tip: If you’re willing to splurge on one extra ingredient, I like to add a splash of good-quality vanilla to the caramel and the cheesecake mixture. But that’s optional!
Serve these cheesies assembled or set out as a DIY dessert bar and let guests build their own creations. Why should you have to do ALL of the work?!
photos by Erin Phraner
- 1 sleeve graham crackers (about 9 crackers)
- 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut in half
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 (8 ounce) blocks reduced fat cream cheese
- PANTRY STAPLE: Sea salt and/or flaky sea salt
- Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until coarsely ground. Melt one half of your butter (4 tablespoons) in the microwave; add to the processor with a nice big pinch of salt. Pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Divide the crumb mixture between 6 to 8 dessert cups—I used mason jars!
- Heat 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts, about 3 minutes. Let the sugar cook, without stirring, until medium-dark amber in color, 7 to 9 more minutes. First the sugar water will be boiling rapidly. Then it'll slow down and boil more slowly, looking almost syrupy but clear. Then it'll start picking up some color. That's when you want to keep an eye on it. If it's become golden in only one specific spot (that's your hot spot!) gently swirl the pan to distribute. You'll know the caramels done when it's the same color as medium maple syrup. Immediately remove from heat. Very carefully stir in the sour cream using a heat-proof rubber spatula (it'll bubble up). Stir in a big pinch of salt. You can always add more later. Let the caramel cool to room temperature. (Stir in vanilla extract, if desired.)
- Wipe out the food processor and add the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, 1/3 cup sugar and the cream cheese to the bowl. Blend until totally smooth. Add 1/3 to 2/3 cup warm-ish caramel to the cheesecake mixture and blend until combined.
- Transfer the cheesecake to a resealable plastic bag; snip the tip and pipe the mixture into the dessert cups on top of the crumb mixture.
- To serve, top with more caramel sauce and flaky sea salt! You can wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Pilgrims and Indians everywhere are rolling over in their graves but I couldn’t help myself, dried Indian corn gets dressed up for Thanksgiving with a coat of metallic gold spray paint for this easy DIY and it’s a stunner!
Thinking you don’t have time to make place holders? Think again! These Thanksgiving Gold Corn Place Holders take about 10 minutes to make and look like a million bucks on your table…literally.
Here’s what you need to get started:
Dried miniature Indian corn, one per place setting
Gold spray paint
Gold paint pen
Let’s Get Started!
Step 1: Spray corn gold avoiding the husk and allow to dry completely.
Step 2: Write guests names in paint pen on the husk of each corn.
Step 3: Place golden corn place holders on each setting. Happy Thanksgiving!
photos by Leah Bergman
Easy Thanksgiving appetizers are necessary when it comes to cutting down prep time for the big day! Over the weekend I posted my recipe for homemade cranberry sauce and that had me thinking, how delicious (and easy) would a crostini of blue cheese, mascarpone, cranberry sauce and fresh orange zest be? The answer, very delicious.
After making your cranberry sauce, set aside a small amount for these Blue Cheese & Cranberry Crostini. You can whip up the cheese mixture a few days ahead so prep-time is almost non existent. Guests will love these festive and savory pre-turkey bites.
photos by Leah Bergman
- 1/2 lb blue cheese, crumbled
- 8 oz mascarpone
- ciabatta loaf
- olive oil for drizzling
- cranberry sauce
- zest of 1 orange
- Slice ciabatta into 1/2 inch slices, brush both sides with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Toast under the broiler turning after 1 minute (or when golden) to toast both sides.
- In a bowl combine crumbled blue cheese and mascarpone cheese. Mix until well combined and creamy.
- Spread blue cheese mixture onto each warm crostini and top with a dollop of cranberry sauce.
- Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh orange zest. Serve immediately.
- The cheese mixture is easiest to mix and spread if you bring the cheese slightly to room temp.
On Friday I made a batch of cranberry sauce from the same recipe I use every Thanksgiving! It’s so simple and turns out delicious every single time. Trust me, you will never reach for a can of pre-made sauce again. Although I do have to admit, I love cutting into the ridged jelly can-shaped version from my childhood.
The best part about this recipe, you can follow it exactly or make a few minor additions to customize the flavor to your own personal liking! Here’s how I make it:
Also, for a step by step look at how to make this sauce, read my post from a couple of years back!
- 2 (12 oz) bags of fresh cranberries
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 4 wide strips orange zest
- 1/2 cup water
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- *Other optional ingredients: (see notes below)
- 1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
- 1-2 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Wash and drain cranberries.
- In a medium saucepan, combine fresh cranberries, sugar, strips orange zest (I use a vegetable peeler for these), water, and salt.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup fresh orange juice. Refrigerate in large mason jars until well chilled and ready to serve.
- 1. If you like a bit of spice in your cranberry sauce, add in 1-2 cinnamon sticks in step 2 and remove just before chilling.
- 2. Try stirring in 1 tsp of vanilla extract just before chilling.
- 3. If you are not a fan of orange, substitute 1 cup cranberry juice cocktail for the orange juice.
Happy Friday, friends! Over the last week I’ve been suffering from a case of the un-shakable cold and I have had little time to think about Thanksgiving. Luckily, my sister is hosting Thanksgiving dinner for our family this year and has put me in charge of bringing pies. Not a bad job if I do say so myself! So, if you (like me) will be using the weekend to shop and prep, here are 8 Simple Thanksgiving Ideas & Recipes to try. Are you hosting Thanksgiving or have you been assigned a dish? What are you planning to bring?
1/ Pumpkin Sage Biscuits 2/ Browned Butter Sage Crostini 3/ DIY Pear Place Cards 4/ DIY Twig Votive Holders 5/ Pomegranate Cranberry Sparklers 6/ Spiced Pear Bourbon Cocktails 7/ Cranberry Pecan Tarts 8/ Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pies
When it comes to holiday recipes, these Cranberry Pecan Tarts work double duty as a Thanksgiving dessert or a sweet Christmas party appetizer. Either way they are scrumptious and nutty, tart and buttery little bites of holiday goodness!
The original recipe calls for a mini-muffin pan but I chose to make mine in standard sized cups. I always prefer mini-desserts that are at least two bites, what about you? I mean, who can stop at just one bite of tart? But if you’re planning on serving a large crowd for the holidays, I highly recommend the mini-version.
Piled high on a cake pedestal or simple platter and dusted lightly with powdered sugar, these tarts are beautiful and irresistible!
photos by Leah Bergman
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 3 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 Egg
- 1/4 cup Butter, diced small
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup (48 to 72) fresh cranberries, washed, drained, cut in half
- Heat oven to 325°F. Combine flour, 3/4 cup butter and cream cheese in mixer. Beat at medium speed in until dough forms a ball or can be gathered together.
- Divide dough into 36 equal pieces for mini muffin tins, and 24 pieces for standard muffin tins. Place 1 piece of dough into each ungreased muffin pan cup. Press dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of cup. *The dough will not come all the way up the sides in a standard muffin pan.
- Combine sugar, pecans, egg, 1/4 cup diced butter and vanilla in small bowl. Place 4 or 5 cranberry halves in each pastry-lined cup. Spoon 2 teaspoons sugar and pecan mixture over cranberries.
- Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Loosen tarts from pan while hot by running knife carefully around inside of rim. Cool completely. Remove from pans.
- Variation: try adding in 4-5 white chocolate chips to each tart along with the cranberries before baking for a sweet addition.
Happy Friday! Is this crazy cold front nuts or what? Although we have little to complain about here in So. Cal, I am shocked at the snow fall across the rest of the states. It seems that winter is already here, and after waiting so long for fall, I’m not sure how I feel about that. But to bring a little warmth to this chilly Friday I offer Spiced Pear & Bourbon Cocktails!
This drink is sugar, spice, really good bourbon, and everything nice all wrapped up in a pretty fall cocktail package. It starts with a sweet pear simple syrup cooked down with cinnamon until it tastes like pie, mixed with nutty William Wolf Pecan Bourbon* and a hearty squeeze of lemon. I was sent a bottle of William Wolf Pecan Bourbon a couple months back and have been savoring it ever since! With it’s pecan-pie flavor and smooth quality, this is one of my favorite bourbons to date! Of course if you can’t find William Wolf, another good quality bourbon will do just fine.
Because I like my bourbon cocktails on the sweet side, I rimmed my glasses with a bit of pumpkin pie spice and sugar. What’s not to love about that? Garnish with a fresh cinnamon stick and serve alongside any savory fall meal. This cocktail will pair perfectly with Thanksgiving dinner, of course. So, stay warm this weekend my friends and make a round of these drinks for extra comfort. Cheers!
photos by Leah Bergman
* William Wolf Pecan Bourbon was gifted to be by the company. All opinions about this bourbon are my own however…it’s just that good.
- 4 oz William Wolf Pecan Bourbon
- 4 oz Spiced Pear Syrup (if you like your cocktails less sweet, reduce to 2 oz)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- plenty of ice
- 1 Bosc pear, washed and chopped
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Make the syrup: In a small sauce pan combine chopped pear, water, sugar and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce to a simmer and cook 30 minutes. Break down the pear with the back of a wooden spoon as the mixture reduces.
- Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve reserving the syrup. Discard the solids and chill syrup until ready to use.
- Make the cocktail: In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine bourbon, lemon juice, spiced pear syrup and pumpkin pie spice. Shake very well to allow ice to slightly melt into the drink.
- Strain into cocktail glasses rimmed with pumpkin pie spice and sugar if desired. Garnish with cinnamon stick and enjoy!
- To make the pie spice spice and sugar rim mixture, combine 2 Tbs granulated sugar and 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice. Rim glasses with lemon and dip in the sugar-spice mixture.
Perk up pasta night with a fun, fall twist on the classic carbohydrate: Carbonara! Let’s face it, it’s easy to fall into a noodle rut but this ridiculously easy recipe will get you right back on track.
You already know how to boil pasta, so let’s talk sauce. Who doesn’t love carbonara? It’s rich, creamy, cheesy—bacon-y!—I mean, come on! But here’s a tip: It’s even better with a scoop of butternut squash puree stirred into the mix. The squash adds sweetness and a hint of tartness that helps cut through the super creamy sauce. This definitely isn’t a diet dinner but (bonus) the squash does add some extra vitamins and nutrients, so cheers to that!
You can find butternut squash puree right next to the canned pumpkin in your grocery store. It may be a few cents extra but it’s worth it! The flavor is a bit more sophisticated and aren’t you sick of canned pumpkin by now (at least until Thanksgiving)!? That said, if you can’t find the squash, feel free to swap pumpkin. It’ll work just as well. Shopping hint: I usually buy mine at Whole Foods but I checked a bunch of other grocery stores here in Brooklyn and everyone seems to carry the Farmer’s Market Foods Butternut Squash.
Another reason why this sauce is so amazing? You only need one cup! Everything happens in equal amount: 1 cup chopped bacon, 1 cup cream, 1 cup squash…you get the idea. It’s like that easy peanut butter cookie recipe everyone know but, like, in dinner form. Make this sauce, toss it with you favorite cooked pasta and dinner’s on the table. Let us know what you think!
- 1 cup chopped bacon or pancetta
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup canned butternut squash puree
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
- PANTRY STAPLES: Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel–lined plate using a slotted spoon. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the heavy cream and butternut squash puree to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by almost half and the mixture coats the back of your spoon, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the parmesan cheese and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until cheese melts, about 1 minute. At this point, the sauce can be cooled and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. (Gently reheat on the stovetop and thin with some pasta water when ready to eat.)
- To serve, cook your favorite pasta. Add 1/4 to 1/3 pasta water to the sauce to thin it, if desired. Toss the pasta with the sauce. Divide among bowls. Top with the cooked bacon, lots of freshly ground black pepper and more Parmesan, if desired.
My Dad is an expert self-taught bread baker. From homemade cinnamon rolls to the very best pizza dough and loaves of bread, my Dad has a way with flour and yeast. I on the other hand do not. I blame it on my general lack of patience— I can’t stand the whole wait to rise, punch it down, repeat nonsense. I much prefer baking scones, biscuits, banana bread, and all other sorts of quick breads that come together in a snap! It’s all about instant gratification and not waiting around for dough to rise. Sheesh.
This Thanksgiving, I’m making a batch of homemade Pumpkin and Sage buttermilk biscuits to take to our family dinner. They couldn’t be more simple to make but are sure to impress when served hot and steaming from the oven with a side of salted butter. Pass the butter!
Aside from the fresh sage and buttermilk, you probably already have all of these ingredients in your pantry. No biscuit cutter on hand? A glass with about a 3 1/2″ rim or even the lid of a mason jar will work just fine. I hope you will give them a try for your family Thanksgiving dinner. Plus, they make the perfect day-after lunch sliced open and stuffed with turkey and cranberry sauce! Who else just got hungry?
photos by Leah Bergman
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 2 Tablespoons fresh sage, minced
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- Make the biscuit dough: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your hands until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside. Combine the pumpkin purée and honey in a small bowl. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and fold in until just combined (do not overmix). Add the buttermilk and chopped sage and stir just until mixture clings together and can be gathered up (again, do not overmix).
- Roll out the biscuits: Set aside two ungreased baking sheets. Turn the biscuit dough out onto a well floured surface and knead a few times until it the dough comes together. Roll the dough out to 3/4-inch thickness, cut biscuits out with a 3 1/2-inch round cutter, gather the scraps, gently press together, and repeat until all of the dough is used. Place biscuits 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Tip: Make sure to work with ice cold butter. This will create a flaky and delicious biscuit!
Is there anything that a good can of spray paint can’t do? It really doesn’t get more simple than transforming your average glass hurricane candle holder into pure ambiance with a yard of lace and a can of metallic gold paint.
Gold Lace Candle Holders are the the perfect accessory for your fall table from everyday dinners to Thanksgiving feasts!
Here’s what you need to get started:
Glass hurricane candle holders
Gold spray paint
Lace Trim 2″ (or wider)
Newspaper to cover your work station
Let’s Get Started!
Step 1: Cut stripes of lace to fit the diameter of your glass hurricanes and tape securely. Note: Make sure to pull lace tightly before taping down. If your lace is too loose, or moves, you will not see the pattern after painting.
Step 2: Place hurricanes on a covered surface in a well ventilated outdoor area and spray the outside only in gold spray paint. Make sure to paint lightly over all of the lace. Allow to dry completely.
Step 3: Carefully remove the tape and lace to reveal your stenciled pattern. Fill with votives or tea lights, light and enjoy!
Hooray for fall! What sort of festive fall projects are you planning to make this season? Is there anything in particular you would like to see here on Freutcake? I’ve got a serious crafting bug.
photos by Leah Bergman