When a Cheesecake looks
like the San Andreas Fault

It may not have looked pretty enough to serve.. but it was a taste masterpiece!

I had ingredients left over from my Pumpkin Marsala Spice Cake with a Cheesecake Surprise, so my intention was to reverse the dessert and make a simple cheesecake with a pumpkin swirl. It was in fact a good idea, I have made this type of cheesecake before and it has turned out wonderfully. But this time I wanted the pumpkin flavor to just be an accent, infusing the cake with just a slight taste of pumpkin.

I piped the cheese filling 1/4 of the way up the pan, then I dolloped a few teaspoons of pumpkin filling in the cheese and swirled it around, then adding more cheese filling to 3/4 of the way up the pan. I then dotted the pumpkin filling on top of the cheese filling so that I could run a toothpick through the dots creating a pretty design on the top of the cheesecake, as you see above.

It created San Andreas like faults in all the dotted places on my cake. Not so pretty.. but the slight infusion of pumpkin was the success I was hoping for.

Now let me tell you about the crust.. this was where most of the flavor punch came from. With an ingredient list of graham cracker crumbs, ginger snap cookie crumbs, ground cinnamon pecans, brown sugar, butter and a drizzle of marsala wine.. we were all in heaven. The combination of flavors were (and are) a perfect melding of holiday aromatics.

So while I may make a few adjustments for future swirly's that decorate the top of my cake, I won't change this crust!

An addition to our cheesecakes that my mom had taught us when we were young in the kitchen, was to take the cake out five minutes before it was done and add a sour cream topping, put it back in the oven and bake for an additional five minutes. For the sour cream topping we just mixed together sour cream, a couple of tablespoons of sugar, vanilla and a splash of lemon (if a lemon based cheesecake). This topping would for sure hide any of the cracks on the cake.. and it tastes so good!

While I don't have an exact recipe for the pumpkin filling, I added around;

Pumpkin Filling
15 oz. pureed pumpkin, 1 egg, 1/2 cup half and half, sugar, bourbon vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves to taste.

The rest of the recipe is as follows;

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup ground ginger snap cookies
1/4 cup finely chopped cinnamon or candied pecans
1/2 stick melted butter (more if needed)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. Marsala

3 sticks of 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3 Tbs. Flour
2 tbsp. Bourbon vanilla extract
1 tbsp Marsala wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees°.
In a food processor grind ginger snap cookies and pecans. Mix together with graham cracker crumbs and the remainder of crust ingredients. Lightly press into a spring-form pan going up an inch or so on the sides. Set crust aside.

Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla and Marsala, blend until smooth and creamy.

Pour 1/4 of the batter into prepared crust. Dollop some of the pumpkin and swirl around with a knife. Avoid cutting into the crust. Add the remainder of cheese filling and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Dot the cake all the way around.. in columns, with the pumpkin filling. With a toothpick, move slowly around the circle through the middle of the dots. Cover bottom securely with foil. I do this so butter from the crust does not drip in my oven. I almost think this also prevents the bottom from cooking to quickly while the thick middle is cooking.

* If you want to avoid the San Andreas Fault look.. you can limit your pumpkin filling to the middle section of your cake only. :)

Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is a little jiggly in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Turn the heat off and open the door of the oven so it is ajar. Let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. At least 12 hours. I like to make my cheesecakes a whole day in advance to serving.

Buon Appetito!

Green Beans and Potatoes in Broth

This is such a tasty way to serve vegetables poached in a wonderfully light broth infused with tomato, spices and wine. If you like hearty vegetable soups, this is along the same lines but the vegetables are poached just till a fork can pierce them and then they are sautéed in a bit of olive oil and herbs till golden. These go well with beef or poultry and can be served hot or at room temperature which makes them ideal for picnics and barbeques.


1 lb fresh green beans cleaned and cut to 1 ½ inch length sizes
4 large baking potatoes cut into chunks

Water to cover vegetables in pot
1 ½ cups tomato sauce
1 cup white wine
2 tsp. vegetable or chicken bouillon
Yellow Onion sliced roughly
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
Poached Vegetables
Salt and pepper if needed
1 tsp. fresh rosemary finely minced
2 tsp. fresh basil chopped roughly
2 tsp. fresh thyme

In a stock pot, pour water over vegetables just to cover. Add tomato sauce and wine, yellow onion, bouillon and seasonings. Let come to a boil, lower heat and cook for around ten minutes. Just so they are slightly tender enough to pierce with a fork.

Remove vegetables from broth, reserving liquids for use in sauté.
In large sauté pan, heat olive oil. Sauté garlic till translucent. Add poached vegetables, toss or stir to coat and cook. Add fresh herbs and season to taste *if needed. They should have been seasoned adequately in poaching broth. Add around a ¼ of a cup of reserved liquid. Cook till well seasoned but don’t cook so long that the vegetables start to fall apart. The liquids will thicken a bit with the starch of the potatoes. This adds to the wonderful flavor. Serve hot or at room temperature. They taste great the next day as they sit in broth overnight!
Buon Appetito,

Stuffed Mushrooms

If there's one side dish that is most requested by my children in our home.. it would have to be stuffed mushrooms. I love cooking with mushrooms and in my opinion they make a successful ingredient in almost everything. :) One of my first posts here on DMC was an onion and mushroom saute. Yumm! You can check it out here.

You can use white button mushrooms, which are also called agaricus, crimini mushrooms, portabello mushrooms or porcini mushrooms for the base. Did you know that portabello mushrooms are the same as crimini just on a larger scale.
For the stuffing I use bread crumbs, freshly ground from a stale loaf of bread or store bought crumbs are fine too. I add Parmesano Reggiano grated cheese, finely shredded mozzarella, melted butter, white wine and salt and pepper to taste. Very little black pepper for it will overwhelm the flavors if your not careful. I don't have exact quantities for this recipe but I do always start with the bread crumbs and cheese for the base and work from there. Add the liquids a little at a time. A few tablespoons of melted butter then a few tablespoons of the wine till the mixture is moist enough to hold together when pinched. Have your mushrooms ready, stems removed, mushrooms cleaned with a damp cloth or a dry brush. Don't ignore your stems from the mushrooms.. they will make a wonderful addition to your stuffing if finely mince and added to the rest of the ingredients.

Bake in a preheated 375° oven for approximately 12 - 15 minutes. They will be golden brown in color and the cheese from the inside should be oozingly delicious.

Ciao and Buon Appetito!