Perfect Pumpkin Halloween Treat 1

Halloween and pumpkins! They go together like cheesecake and calories… Boo! Surprise! These tiny tasty treats won’t scare away your guests when they find out that these mini-cheesecakes are actually low in calories and packed with nutrition from creamy pumpkin!

Pumpkin is often overlooked as far as its nutritional content. Low in calories, with only 49 per cup, this autumn favorite adds a healthy punch of vitamins and minerals. Eating just one cup of cooked, canned pumpkin provides more than 100% of your daily needs of vitamin A, which aids vision, and nearly 20% of your vitamin E. Pumpkin is also a terrific source of fiber, with three grams per cup, which aids in keeping you feeling fuller longer to assist in weight control.

Perfect for a Halloween party buffet or dessert, these easy baked delights have all the flavor and creamy texture of traditional cheesecake, without the intimidating water bath, which scares away so many home cooks from making cheesecake. Using a combination of regular cream cheese and reduced-fat cheese keeps calories low. These tasty morsels can be made and refrigerated up to five days before serving, making them a perfect party choice to avoid any last minute preparation stress.

Topped with low-fat whipped cream and pecans, these pretty cakes are versatile; they can be baked in a mini-muffin pan for a bite-sized treat, perfect for kids, or in a traditional springform cheesecake pan if you want to impress guests. Beware, the tangy sweet filling is so addictive that your best pan choice may be an oversized Texas muffin tin, to satisfy all the monster appetites once they taste this freakishly fabulous cheesecake!

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Crust Ingredients:

12 full sheets of reduced-fat graham crackers

½ cup pecans

2 tablespoons softened butter or reduced-calorie spread

Filling Ingredients:

1 package (8 ounce) reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened

1 package (8 ounce) regular cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

½ cup sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin

Whipped topping & pecans for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Place graham crackers, pecans and butter in food processor; process on high until fine crumbs form. (Note: To create cheesecake with a full crust, including sides of pan, simply double crust ingredients). Place equal amount of crust in each tin, pressing firmly with spoon to flatten. Refrigerate crust for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and both sugars; beat until creamy. Stir in pumpkin; beat until blended and smooth.

Remove muffin tin from refrigerator; divide filling among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cheesecake is set. Centers should still jiggle (they will firm up while cooling). Cool tin on counter for 30 minutes. Chill cheesecakes in refrigerator for minimum four hours. Garnish with whipped topping and pecans, as desired. Enjoy!

Yield: 24 mini cheesecakes; 12 cupcake-sized portions. Calories (per mini): 98; Fat 3.6g; Cholesterol 33.8g.  Cost Per Serving: $.69.

Suzette Zara is a cookbook author, nutritionist, creator of Satan’s Salsa (SatansSalsa.com) and a frequent speaker on low-fat healthy cooking. Suzette@SuzetteZara.com