Eid Al-Fitr - Halloween

October 22, 2006

The first thing I must tell you is that I have received so many emails from guests to my website saying how much they like the "new and improved" look and feel to the site. Many of you really seem to like the new Conversion Calculators and the way the site is now set up. Thank you so much for all of your support and your kind emails. It means a lot to me.

Secondly, I told you I'd be keeping you up to date on my home-grown tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables we've grown this year. Well the tomatoes were all so delicious, all 6 varieties of them. The heirloom tomatoes turned out mostly red in color, one variety was an orange color (really sweet) and one was an orangey-red. I am so pleased because as you know this was our first attempt at growing tomatoes (in self-watering containers on our patio no less) and they exceeded my expectations. Just wonderful. Next year I will plant more, a few of the same kind as this year and a couple of new varieties. I'm hooked.

Well, if you read my last newsletter, you already know that our Pluots (plum-apricot fruit combination) were just delicious. So very sweet. We hope to have a stellar crop again next summer.

Our white corn produced many corn on the cob’s so we ended up giving away many to our neighbors and friends because we had so much. Another success!!

Last but not least, our Pumpkins. Well, they're still in the ground (well, above ground on their vines) and we will be picking them soon. They look great so we shall see. If they are anything like the other goodies we've grown this year, we are in for some good and healthy orange pumpkins.

That's it for the gardening part of this newsletter. I hope your crops turned out as well as ours did this year.

Since I am sending out my newsletter every couple of months now instead of monthly, I thought I would include several recipe ideas in this edition for both Halloween and Thanksgiving and a special recipe for those of you who will be celebrating the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr (October 24, 2006), then in December's edition I will share some recipes for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Years.

Hope you enjoy the recipes and please let me know how you liked them and if you made any of them.

The Guest recipe this month is for Italian Apple Cake submitted by Ken Bakke. I was thinking that this cake would make a really tasty dessert for Thanksgiving and being that it's an apple cake, it fits so well into autumn's food traditions. Thank you Ken for sharing this recipe with us.......Diana

Guest Submitted Recipe

Italian Apple Cake

Submitted by Ken Bakke

Servings: 6-8

A very different, but delicious cake! Not your standard cake to frost. Just enjoy!

2 medium size apples (good baking apples such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz./113g) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons almond extract

Confectioners' sugar

Serve with:
Vanilla Ice Cream or Whipped Cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan.

2. Clean and core the apples but DO NOT PEEL. Cut apples into 1/2-inch cubes.

3. Place cut up cubed apples in a bowl. Drizzle lemon juice over them and toss to coat. Add raisins, coconut, walnuts, and the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar to the apples. Mix to combine.

4. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

5. In a small bowl, combine the eggs and the 3/4 cup sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until slightly thickened and light yellow in color. Beat in the melted butter and almond extract.

6. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the egg mixture. Stir to combine. Add the apple mixture and fold into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

7. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake is golden brown.

8. Transfer cake to a rack to cool. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Italian Apple Cake on Diana's Desserts Website

Eid al-Fitr

End of Ramadan - October 24, 2006

Eid Al Fitr is celebrated on the first day of Shawaal, the tenth month in the Muslim calendar. It marks the end of a month-long fast during the month of Ramadan.

Eid Al Fitr is a day of joy and thanksgiving. On this day, Muslims show their joy for the health, strength and opportunities of life, which Allah has given them to fulfill their obligations of fasting and other good deeds during the month of Ramadan.

It is considered unholy to fast on this day. It is also a day of forgetting old grudges and ill feelings towards others.


Servings: Makes 3 dozen pancakes

The final day of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, is celebrated by a day of feasting.

A luxurious treat of filled pancakes in syrup is served on Eid and at weddings throughout the middle east and the Arabic-speaking world.

2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1-1/4 cups water
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. rose or orange flower water

1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1-1/4 cups water
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Cheese Filling:
1 tbsp. per pancake ricotta cheese


Nut Filling:
2 cups ground walnuts or pistachios
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pistachios or almonds

Oil for frying

Combine sugar, water and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the syrup is thick enough to coat a cold metal spoon. Turn off the heat and stir in the rosewater or orange flower water. Transfer the syrup to a metal bowl and refrigerate until the ataif are ready to be doused.

Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the water and set aside for 5 minutes. Measure the flour into a mixing bowl. Once the yeast foams, pour the water into the center of the flour and stir until you have a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the batter rise for an hour.

Lightly oil a heavy frying pan or griddle, and turn up the heat to high, until the pan is thoroughly heated. Reduce the heat to medium to maintain a steady temperature. Pour 1 tablespoon of batter into the pan and fry the pancake until small bubbles form on the surface. Remove the pancake to a platter and continue until the batter is all used up.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a pot suitable for deep frying. Spoon a tablespoon of ricotta cheese onto the uncooked center of each cake; or fill with a tablespoon of nut filling made by combining ground nuts, sugar and cinnamon. Fold the pancake in half and pinch gently around the edges so that they will stick together. Deep fry each pancake until it becomes golden, about 2 or 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to lint-free absorbent towels. Dip the hot pancakes into the cold syrup, remove with a slotted spoon, and arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Ataif may be enjoyed either hot or cold.

Makes 3 dozen pancakes.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Ataif on Diana's Desserts Website


Easy Halloween Cupcakes

Servings: Makes 24 cupcakes

If you need tasty little goodies at the last minute for your children's Halloween get-together or to bring to school for a Halloween party, here's a recipe that will work well and will get you or the kid's to the party on time.

1 package cupcake or cake mix
1 container ready-made vanilla frosting
Orange food coloring
1 tube black or dark brown cake decorating gel

Make cupcakes according to instructions on package. Mix vanilla frosting with orange food coloring and frost cupcakes. Decorate cupcakes with decorating gel to make spiders, webs, etc.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Source: Kara
Submitted By: Kara
Date: October 13, 2005

Click here to view recipe and photo of Easy Halloween Cupcakes on Diana's Desserts Website

Tarantula Cookies

Servings: Makes 25 to 30 cookies

Don't let the hairy arms and legs alarm, you. Tarantula cookies might look frisky, but they don't bite.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 bag (8 ounces) thin, short pretzel sticks
1 large bag (11 1/2 ounces) milk chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Chocolate sprinkles
Small red candies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well blended.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture and cocoa powder. Beat to form a smooth dough.

5. Roll a tablespoon-sized ball of dough, and place it on a baking sheet. Arrange eight pretzel sticks around the ball like spokes on a wheel. Press the tips of the pretzel sticks firmly into the dough ball. Continue with the rest of the pretzels and dough.

6. Bake until cookies start to brown around edges, about 7-10 minutes.

7. Lift the cookies from the baking sheets with a spatula, and place on wire cooling racks. Let cool completely. Place the racks on sheets of aluminum foil or waxed paper.

8. In a double boiler (or the microwave), melt the chocolate chips with vegetable oil.

9. Pour the melted chocolate over each cookie. Coat with chocolate sprinkles. Press in two red candy eyes on the front of the head. Eeek!

Makes approximately 25-30 cookies.

Source: From The Secret Life of Food by Clare Crespo

Click here to view recipe and photo of Tarantula Cookies on Diana's Desserts Website

Spider Sugar Cookies

Servings: 2 dozen cookies

These Halloween Cookies are easy and fun to make. Have your kids help with cutting them out and decorating them with sprinkles or colored decorator sugar. Make an extra batch for your children to bring to school for tasty Halloween "treats" to share with their school mates.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup (1 stick/4oz/113g) unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Sprinkles or colored decorator sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. In a separate bowl, combine butter and sugar, then add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Combine with the flour mixture. Roll dough into a ball, and place into plastic bag. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Roll dough into 1 to 1 1/2-inch balls on a floured surface. Use a spider design or other Halloween cookie press or stamp to shape and flatten dough balls, then place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Decorate with sprinkles or colored sugars. Bake in preheated oven for 13 to 15 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and leave in cookie sheet for 1 minute; then transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Photograph taken by Diana Baker Woodall© 2003

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Spider Sugar Cookies on Diana's Desserts Website

Mini Halloween Pumpkin Cakes

Servings: Makes 3 (4-inch) pumpkin cakes

Serve these little pumpkin cakes for a children's Halloween party or can be served for an adult get-together also. You will be surprised how delicious these mini pumpkin cakes are. The cake batter is made with pumpkin puree, white and dark chocolate, mixed fruit bits and chopped walnuts and other goodies. When ready to serve, cut cakes in half, making enough servings for 6 people.

Mini Pumpkin Cakes:
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz./113g) butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup canned pumpkin or pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup milk
1.5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1.5 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dried mixed fruit bits
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz./113g) butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Orange food coloring

2 ounces marzipan
Green food coloring
Confectioners' sugar

For the Mini Pumpkin Cakes:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Coat six mini bundt cake pans with nonstick cooking spray or vegetable shortening.

2. Beat butter and sugar in bowl until light and fluffy, using electric mixer at medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Mix flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture, pumpkin, lemon zest, lemon juice and milk. Using a wooden spoon, stir until ingredients are blended. Do not overmix. Gently fold in chocolate, white chocolate, fruit bits and walnuts. Divide batter among prepared pans.

4. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into each cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack and cool completely. After frosting and decorating the cakes and when ready to serve, place cakes on a platter and slice each in half to make 6 servings.

For the Frosting:

1. Place cream cheese and butter in large bowl. Beat on high speed until smooth. Gradually add half of the confectioners’ sugar, beating on low speed. Add the lemon juice, orange food coloring and remaining confectioners' sugar and beat until smooth.

2. Cut tops off cakes so that they are flat. Using a small spatula, frost the flat sides of each cake and "glue" together to form a pumpkin. Repeat with the remaining cakes. Frost the outsides of the pumpkins with the frosting. Refrigerate the cakes.

3. Knead the marzipan and a bit of green food coloring until color is blended. Sprinkle a bit of confectioners' sugar on work surface. Roll out marzipan to 1/4-inch-thick. Using a sharp knife, cut out leaf and stalks shapes. Let them air dry on a baking sheet for 3 or 4 hours before decorating pumpkin cakes.

Makes 3 (4-inch) pumpkin cakes, 6 servings (if each cake is cut in half).

Click here to view recipe and photo of Mini Halloween Pumpkin Cakes on Diana's Desserts Website

Halloween Green Frothy Punch

Servings: Makes 10 (1 cup) servings

Here's a "ghoulish" drink for your Halloween party or get-together. Green and a bit slimy, but very very tasty!

2 cups boiling water
1 pkg. (8-serving size) lime flavor gelatin
2 cups cold orange juice
1 (1 quart/1 liter) bottle seltzer, club soda or lemon-lime soda, chilled
Ice cubes
1 pint (2 cups/half liter) orange or lime sherbet, slightly softened
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 lime, thinly sliced

1. Stir boiling water into dry gelatin in large bowl at least 2 minutes until completely dissolved.

2. Stir in juice. Cool to room temperature.

3. Pour into punch bowl just before serving. Add seltzer (or club soda or lemon-lime soda, if using) and ice; stir. Add scoops of sherbet and fruit slices.

Makes 10 (1 cup) servings.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Halloween Green Frothy Punch on Diana's Desserts Website


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Servings: Makes 4 (1/2 cup) servings

After you've scooped out the seeds and stringy stuff from your pumpkin, keep the seeds, clean them and use them for roasting. Enjoy snacking on these while sitting around a warm fire during those chilly autumn nights or why not serve them as a Thanksgiving snack before the big meal.

1 cup pumpkin seeds, cleaned
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Combine pumpkin seeds, butter and salt in medium bowl.

Place mixture onto ungreased 15 x 10 x 1-inch jelly-roll pan. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until seeds are dry and begin to brown.

Makes 4 (1/2 cup) servings.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Roasted Pumpkin Seeds on Diana's Desserts Website

Spiced Pumpkin Cornbread

Servings: 16

A nice change from regular dinner rolls that are usually served at a Thanksgiving meal. This sweet and spicey cornbread will go so well with your traditional turkey dinner and your guests will love it.

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan or a 8 or 9-inch square or round oven safe cast iron skillet. Sprinkle bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon cornmeal; set aside.

In a medium-size bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice; set aside. In a medium-size bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in pumpkin, milk, oil, brown sugar, molasses, and orange zest. Add to flour mixture, stirring only until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon into prepared pan. Smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand in pan 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into squares and serve with lots of butter and honey.

Makes 16 (2-inch) squares.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Spiced Pumpkin Cornbread on Diana's Desserts Website

Holiday Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Servings: 12

What a nice change for your Thanksgiving dessert, a Pumpkin Bread Pudding instead of the usual Pumpkin Pie. You may use either raisins or chopped dates in this recipe, adding a lovely sweet texture to the pudding.

See variation below for making the bread pudding in a freshly cooked pumpkin, a very festive addition to your holiday table.

Half of a 1 pound loaf unsliced challah, brioche or other egg bread
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick/1 oz./28g) butter or margarine
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups half-and-half (or 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup cream)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cooked pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins (or 1/2 cup chopped dates)
Boiling water

Serve with:
Sweetened whipped cream

1. Cut bread into 1-inch thick slices. Toast bread slices. In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Remove from heat. Brush one side of each bread slice with butter. Cut buttered bread into 1-inch cubes and place in greased 1 1/2 quart casserole or baking dish.

2. In same saucepan, with wire whisk, combine evaporated milk, half-and-half, sugar, and pumpkin until smooth. Heat over low heat until bubbles appear around side of pan. Remove from heat.

3. In medium-size bowl, lightly whisk eggs with ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt until well mixed; beat in about a cup of pumpkin mixture. Pour egg mixture into remaining pumpkin mixture and mix well. Pour pumpkin-egg mixture over bread and let stand until bread absorbs most of the liquid, about 15 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Fold raisins (or chopped dates, if using) into bread pudding until well mixed. Place casserole in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Pour 1 inch of boiling water into pan (this is called a "water bath").

5. Bake bread pudding (in it's water bath) for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until firm around edge of casserole but soft set in center. Cool pudding on wire rack at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve pudding warm or cool to room temperature with sweetened whipped cream. Store pudding in the refrigerator.

To bake this recipe in a pumpkin, cut top off a 5 to 6 pound pumpkin and remove seeds and fibers. Cut decorative edge on top of pumpkin, if desired. Place pumpkin in 9-inch-square baking pan. Bake pumpkin 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare bread pudding mixture and pour into partially baked pumpkin. Bake 1 hour and 30 minutes longer or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Makes 12 servings.

Source: Recipe adapted from Country Living Magazine, September 1993

Click here to view recipe and photo of Holiday Pumpkin Bread Pudding on Diana's Desserts Website

Apple Cake with Pear-Brandy Caramel Sauce

Servings: 12

If you want to make a traditional pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, why not also make this wonderfully delicious apple cake as a second dessert. Then your guests will have a choice and you'll have enough dessert to serve and satisfy everyone's taste. Not everyone likes pumpkin pie but most people like apples, especially in cakes.

For the Cake:
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz./113g) butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1 Granny Smith or Pink Lady apple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

For the Pear Brandy-Caramel Sauce:
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick/2 oz./56g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. pear brandy or Calvados
Pinch of salt

For the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Grease a 12-inch bundt pan or a 14-inch tube pan. Sift the flour, cinnamon, soda, salt and cloves together into a large bowl; set aside.

In a mixer bowl, on medium speed cream the brown sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating until creamy. On low speed, alternately blend in the dry ingredients and the applesauce. Stir in the chopped apple and nuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and tap it to settle the batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool.

While the cake is baking, prepare the sauce:
In a small saucepan, cook the cider over medium heat until it reaches a syrup-like consistency and is reduced to 1/4 cup. Set aside.

In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Cook over medium-high heat, swirling the pan gently, until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is clear; do not let the mixture boil. Increase heat to high, cover and boil the syrup without stirring for 2 minutes. Uncover the saucepan and continue to boil the syrup until it begins to darken around the edges. Gently swirl the pan until the syrup turns a deep amber and just begins to smoke. Remove from heat and with a wooden spoon carefully beat in the butter until well blended. Stir in the cream until smooth. If the sauce becomes lumpy, return the pan to the stove and cook over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the reduced apple cider, the pear brandy or Calvados, and salt.

To serve, cut the cake into slices and top with the warm caramel sauce.

Makes 12 servings.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Apple Cake with Pear-Brandy Caramel Sauce on Diana's Desserts Website

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake

Servings: 10-12

A gingersnap crumb crust underlies this spicy cheesecake, and caramel-coated pecans adorn the top, for an irresistible alternative to traditional pumpkin pie. Cut this rich dessert into small wedges to serve.

Gingersnap Crust:
1/4 lb. gingersnaps (about 20 small cookies)
1/3 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick/2 oz./56g) unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)

1/2 cup pecan halves
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. granulated sugar

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan.

To Make the Gingersnap Crust:
In a food processor, combine the gingersnaps and pecans and process until crumbly. Add the brown sugar and melted butter and pulse for a few seconds to blend. Transfer the crumb mixture to the prepared pan. Use your fingers to pat the mixture into the bottom and evenly all the way up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

To Make the Filling:
In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cloves. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Using a rubber spatula, occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the brown sugar mixture, beating until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pumpkin puree, beating until smooth. Using the rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the chilled crust and smooth the top.

Bake the cheesecake until set or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To Make the Topping:
Set aside 10 pecan halves and coarsely chop the rest. In a small fry pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add all of the pecans, sprinkle with the granulated sugar and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts and the nuts are toasted and caramel coated. Transfer the nut mixture to a plate and let cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Just before serving, sprinkle the chopped pecans over the cheesecake and arrange the halves evenly around the perimeter.

Makes 10-12 servings.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake on Diana's Desserts Website

Hot Apple Cinnamon-Cranberry Cider

Servings: 4

This soothing hot cider will warm your guests up on a chilly Thanksgiving day or evening. Serve before or after meal. If desired, you can use all apple cider instead of combining apple cider and cranberry juice cocktail. Whichever you choose, both versions are wonderful!

Double the ingredients (not the spices) if you're serving more then 4 people.

2 cups apple cider
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
12 whole allspice berries
4 cinnamon sticks, each 3 inches long
1 whole nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 small red apple, cored and cut into wedges

1. In a medium-size saucepan, bring the cider, cranberry juice cocktail, orange juice, honey, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, whole nutmeg, and orange rind to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add apple wedges and simmer for 3 minutes more.

2. Strain cider through a tea strainer or a sieve lined with 100% cotton cheesecloth into a large heat-proof pitcher. Stir gently. To serve, pour into glass mugs. Garnish each serving with cinnamon sticks.

Makes 4 (7 ounce) servings.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Hot Apple Cinnamon-Cranberry Cider on Diana's Desserts Website

Food Tips and Information


Why Eat Pomegranates

The pomegranate, affectionately known as the "jewel of winter," has recently been acclaimed for its health benefits, in particular, for its disease-fighting Antioxidant potential. Preliminary studies suggest that pomegranate juice may contain almost three times the total antioxidant ability compared with the same quantity of green tea or red wine. It also provides a substantial amount of potassium, is high in fiber, and contains Vitamin C and niacin.

Used in folk medicine (to treat Inflammation, sore throats, and rheumatism) for centuries in the Middle East, India, and Iran, the pomegranate is about the size of an orange or an apple. It has a tough, dark red or brownish rind. The seeds and the juicy translucent scarlet red pulp surrounding the seeds of the pomegranate are the edible parts of the fruit, although only the pulp has any flavor. Encased within a bitter-tasting, white, spongy, inedible membrane, the seeds can be gently pried out with your hands. Perhaps one of the reasons the pomegranate isn't as popular as it deserves is that it takes time and care to get to the seeds. The flavor of these juicy seeds is delicate, sweet, and tangy.

Grenadine, a light syrup added to alcoholic drinks or soft drinks, used to be made from pomegranate juice, though now it is made with food coloring. There are concentrated forms of pomegranate juice available, however. Called variously pomegranate molasses, concentrated pomegranate juice, or pomegranate essence, they are available in Middle Eastern markets, gourmet food stores, and some health-food stores.


The most commonly grown commercial variety in the U.S. is the "Wonderful" variety. Other varieties include the "Grenada", "Early Foothill," and "Early Wonderful."


Most commercially produced pomegranates in the U.S. are grown in California's San Joaquin Valley (the pomegranate tree was introduced into California by Spanish settlers in 1769). Fresh pomegranates are only available between September and December.

Because it takes quite a few pomegranates to make concentrated pomegranate juice (or pomegranate molasses), these bottled products are made in limited quantity and they, too, can have a seasonality.


Pick up the fruit to feel its weight (the seeds represent about 52% of the weight of the whole fruit). If it feels light for its size, select a heavier one. The skin should appear shiny, taut and thin, without cracks or splits.


Store whole pomegranates in a dark, cool place for up to a month, and in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Seeds can be refrigerated for up to three days. To freeze the seeds, place them in an airtight container and they will keep in the freezer for about six months. When the seeds thaw, they will no longer be edible as fresh seeds, but they will be fine for extracting the juice. In fact, the freezing process will break down the cell walls of the pulp surrounding the seeds and as they thaw, they will naturally give up their juice.

If you've made pomegranate juice, it can be frozen for about six months in an airtight container.


Pomegranate juice is used to make jelly, juice, sauces, vinaigrettes, and marinades. The whole seeds can be sprinkled on salads, desserts, and used as a garnish for meat, poultry, or fish.

To remove the seeds, slice the crown end off and gently score the rind vertically in several places from top to bottom. Place the pomegranate in a bowl of water. Carefully break the sections apart, prying the seeds from their anchors on the pith with your fingers. Remove the thin membranes that separate the clusters of seeds. The seeds will sink and the rind and membranes will float. Gather up the seeds in a colander.

To make juice, place the pomegranate seeds in a food processor or blender and process until a juice is formed. Strain the seeds out of the juice through a fine-mesh sieve or a strainer lined with cheesecloth.

Generally, a medium-sized pomegranate yields about 3/4 cup of seeds or 1/2 cup of juice.

Nutritional Information:

Pomegranate/1 fresh
Calories 105
Total Fat (g) 0.5
Saturated fat (g) 0.1
Monounsaturated fat (g) 0.1
Polyunsaturated fat (g) 0.1
Dietary fiber (g) 0.9
Protein (g) 2
Carbohydrate (g) 27
Cholesterol (mg) 0
Sodium (mg) 5
Manganese (mg) 0.9

Source: WholeHealthMD

Pomegranate Sorbet

Servings: 4

In this jewel of a sorbet, pomegranate juice is used to make a sweet-tart treat that is scooped back into a bowl made from the fruit’s skin and studded with seeds. If you don’t have time to extract the juice from the pomegranates, fresh pomegranate juice is available in gourmet markets. Do not substitute pomegranate syrup; the texture will not be the same, and the sorbet will be too sweet.

This luscious and very colorful sorbet will make a wonderful addition to your holiday menu. It's light yet still very satisfying and works well after a heavy Thanksgiving meal.

12 pomegranates
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. corn syrup

To Make the Shells:
Select 4 pomegranates and cut off the top third of each. Using a melon baller, dig out the seeds. Discard the membranes and reserve the seeds in a bowl. Using a spoon, clean out the shells and place in the freezer.

Cut the remaining pomegranates into quarters and bend each quarter backward to expose the seeds. Release them into the bowl with the other seeds. Reserve 1/2 cup seeds for garnish and put the remaining ones in a large-mesh sieve. Crush them with the back of a large spoon to release the juice. You should have about 2 cups juice.

In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar and corn syrup and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pomegranate juice and let cool. Refrigerate the sorbet mixture for about 2 hours.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Or place the mixture in a stainless-steel bowl and place in the freezer until frozen, about 4 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Spoon the sorbet into the frozen pomegranate shells and garnish with the reserved pomegranate seeds.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma TASTE Magazine, “A Chef’s Holiday" Holiday 2000, produced by Andy Harris (recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten)

Click here to view recipe and photo of Pomegranate Sorbet on Diana's Desserts Website

Until Next Time

As always, I hope you enjoyed the recipes, and the information on Pomegranates. If you've never tried pomegranates, maybe this year will be the first time you'll try this wonderful and versatile fruit. As a child I used to love just eating the seeds which are so nice and sweet and juicy and hopefully the ones you get are very sweet too. If you make up a centerpiece for your holiday table, pomegranates looks so nice mixed in with other fruits; really pretty and colorful!

Well, that's it for now. I will be back in December with a new newsletter for the holidays.

Take good care and have a happy and safe Halloween and a fun and festive Thanksgiving with family and friends. Hope your baking turns out wonderful and delicious.

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Sincerely, Diana

Diana's Desserts

Diana's Desserts
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E-mail Address: diana@dianasdesserts.com