Pumpkin-Cream Cheese Strudel

There are a couple things that I require for Thanksgiving dinner. Well, more than a few things, really; it turns out I’m somewhat of a traditionalist when it comes to this one particular meal. Who would have guessed? Turkey, stuffing (preferably bread-based,  noncornbread, with mushrooms, no meat), mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce (ahem, canned please; no judging!), brussels sprouts, and pumpkin pie are all required. Anything else is just gilding the lily, as far as I’m concerned (though this year there’ll be kale gratin and an almond cranberry cake! om nom nom. Sometimes gilding is beautiful).

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

I’ve always been a pretty good student. Well, that may actually be a slight understatement. I am. such. a. nerd. I mean, I have a PhD in molecular biology for God’s sake. I learned pretty early on that schoolwork was something I just got. Trigonometry? No worries. Advanced American History? Check. In high school, I was in Science Olympiad AND History Bowl. In college, I only stopped calculus when they somehow worked in a 4th dimension (that insanity does NOT make sense). But for everyone, there’s something. There’s some achilles heel. For me, it wasn’t organic chemistry or P-chem (yes it was. P-chem is not okay); it was spelling.

Now, please keep in mind that I WRITE FOR A LIVING (I’m a medical writer), but spelling man, it’s rough. Alphabetical order made me cry in 3rd grade–no, really, I cried AND my teacher sent a note home to tell my parents I’d had a rough day. I still to this day remember how I WANTED alphabetical order to work and still contend that there was logic behind my method. Know what I still can’t spell? Rabbit. Is there 1 “b” and 2 “t”s, or the other way around? I before E, I will never get you right. Also, pumpkin. There should be no “p” in the middle of that word. Pumkin. So much cuter. Totally wrong.

Luckily, the inability to spell the name of food does not preclude me from eating it. Now don’t freak out, I know what you’re thinking − pumpkin and chocolate? Who does that? Well, I do and you should too, because…it’s way way better than I thought it was going to be.

Sometimes I doubt myself. Sometimes, when Im slapping things together in the kitchen, I’m giggling at how ridiculous I am. This will never work, Cali. What a waste of chocolate…and pumpkin. But more often than not, it does. Although a good 20 years after figuring out I was a bona fide nerd, I’ve now learned that baking skills, I have; it’s still spelling skills that I do not.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen. Brownie recipe here.

Brownies
2 sticks butter, melted
1 c granulated sugar
1 c brown sugar
3/4 c cocoa powder
3 lg eggs
1 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1 c walnuts (optional; I always leave them out)

Pumpkin Cheesecake
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1 c canned pumpkin
1 egg
1/4 t cinnamon
pinch salt

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x13″ pan

Make the brownie layer:

  • In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, sugars and cocoa powder
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and mix to combine
  • Stir in the vanilla and mix well

Make the cheesecake layer:

  • In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy
  • Add the sugar and beat until combined
  • Add the pumpkin and vanilla and beat until combined
  • Add the egg, cinnamon, and salt and beat until smooth

Assemble and bake the brownies:

  • Pour the brownie batter into the bottom of the pan and smooth with a knife or spatula
  • Dollop the pumpkin cheesecake batter over the top of the brownies; the majority of the brownies will be covered
  • Using a knife, swirl the brownies and cheesecake together so that some of the brownie shows through
  • Bake ~35-40 min or until the cheesecake in the middle of the pan is just set; a toothpick inserted into the middle will still have crumbs

Gingerbread and Eggnog Whoopie Pies

New York is a hard place to live. It’s full of people, but can be lonely. It’s artsy, but often too  pretentious. It’s cutting edge, but too expensive for most of us normal folk. I commute on the subway every day and those are the times that I think to myself “I can’t do this anymore.” And then I have a day like I did yesterday, that reminds me of all the reasons I love it here and all the reasons I put up with the crowds and the attitudes and the too-cool-for-school mentality.

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