Jodi’s Thanksgiving Dessert

Nov 2009: Cooking is fun especially when taught by Jodi Liano, one of Tante Marie's most favorite teachers. For over ten years she has been teaching Basics on Tuesday nights and weekend classes such as how to entertain with ease, or cook for the family on week nights, or even do the whole Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone loves her classes, and her cookbooks (written for Williams-Sonoma), and her blog. To learn more about Jodi go to And, more important here is her write-up about Thanksgiving dessert with her recipe for an easy pumpkin dessert.

Turkey, turkey, turkey. People spend so much time trying to perfect their bird, Thanksgiving dessert often falls by the way side. It’s the course people buy at the market, feeling like a pumpkin pie is a pumpkin pie so “why bother?” I couldn’t disagree more.

I’ve always been one of those people who has room for dessert. I can’t think of a meal when I didn’t need at least a little something sweet to finish things off and Thanksgiving is no exception. Sure, I’ve stuffed myself to the brim with turkey and all the fixings but I crave that bite of something just to balance it all out.

At some houses, Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie is like taking away the turkey—it could never happen. It’s a funny meal, steeped deep in family traditions, even if those traditions mean eating food that isn’t all that good (green bean casserole anyone?). So I’m proposing a change! Toss the pumpkin pie in favor of Miniature Pumpkin Cheesecakes. They’ve got just enough pumpkin to satisfy your family but they are lighter and lovelier than your average pie. The best part? You can make them two days in advance and store them in your fridge. Take them out the afternoon of Thanksgiving, whip a little cream, and you’re good to go.

Before you tackle the recipe, let me give you a few hints for the perfect little cheesecakes. The gingersnap crumbs are just right here, a little spicy and very crunchy. I use the Nabisco brand but any crunchy store bought gingersnap will work. Grind them in your food processor until they form fine crumbs. To get the crust into your muffin cups, put a plastic baggie over your hand. When you press on the filling, it wont stick to you and you’ll get it spread out nice and evenly. Be sure your cream cheese is at room temperature. No one likes lumpy cheesecake. These should be silky smooth, which means very soft cream cheese to start. When you beat it with the pumpkin, don’t stop until all the lumps are long gone. You’ll be glad you did. Finally, you can whip your cream up to two hours in advance. You can keep it nice and soft and use a teaspoon to spoon it over the tops of the cheesecakes or, you can beat it until it holds stiff peaks and pipe it decoratively from a pastry bag. Both look wonderful, especially topped with a tiny bit of ground cinnamon. Remember, cheesecakes love to absorb the odors of other foods in your fridge so when you make these in advance, keep them in the muffin tins and wrap them very tightly with plastic wrap.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!