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Gobble Gobble: Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

Gobble Gobble: Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

Gentleman Jack kicks up this ginger pumpkin cheesecake shown with a pumpkin

Time is nigh for setting the table and facing that big ole mess we call family…and all that that entails. This seems to be the one holiday when everyone descends on the same day and comes with baggage instead of picnic baskets. But let’s be real – we are indeed so lucky that we can in fact gather, break bread and give thanks. I am hoping the biggest debate your gang faces on Thursday is sweet potato or pumpkin. (I’m looking at you Val – duh, pumpkin!) And my picnic basket this year is loaded with a secret weapon – a dessert that you can make a day or two ahead. Check that box. Move on. Worry about the Beaujolais Nouveau and who will do the dishes.  Dessert is mission-accomplished. This pumpkin ginger cheesecake falls smack in the middle of  the “consider it done” category. That of course assumes you can keep it safeguarded til after dinner on Thursday. It’s tempting.

Fall in Northern Michigan - pumpkin varieties

Thanksgiving dinner often gets a bad rap for being a brown meal. But I love the vibrant colors of fall squashes, pumpkins and gourds. Use them for table settings, roast them for a side or salad,  make a quick bread, or whip them up in a dessert.
Setting The Table with fall foliage and candles on an orange cloth

Cheesecakes are pretty flawless desserts to prepare even if you haven’t made them before, as long as you follow a few simple tips. They are super sturdy, so you don’t need a deft hand. I would argue quite the opposite. You really don’t want to be dainty with the batter – don’t incorporate lots of air, do bang the pan, get aggressive. Be bold. If you follow my instructions and read the accompanying notes, you will be a star performer – dare I say, a pastry chef. Start with your ingredients at room temperature, use a good quality springform, and use a food processor, not a mixer. A processor will combine the ingredients without incorporating air which will cause the cheesecake to puff and fall, leaving a crater in the center. Allow all the time needed for cooling to room temperature and then refrigerating. It takes time, but not active time. And know that if all else fails – craters or cracks – you will be slathering a cream  topping on and that can cover a multitude of mistakes. Yes, indeed. You are definitely a pastry chef.

Gentleman Jack Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

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Pumpkin ginger cheesecake

Tennessee Whiskey Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Serves 12 1x


This pumpkin ginger cheesecake is surprisingly light, yet creamy. The nutty crust has that I want more-ish quality! And, a dose of Gentleman Jack Daniels keeps the party rolling.  




  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup melted butter


  • 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 ounces Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten


  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar


Make the Crust:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine flour, brown sugar, pecans, and melted butter and mix until crumbs adhere. Press into a 9 or 10″ sturdy nonstick springform pan and bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Remove and cool. Wrap pan in heavy duty foil. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

Make the Filling:

In food processor, puree pumpkin until smooth. Add cream cheese and puree until smooth. Add Gentleman Jack, sugar, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg and pulse until mixed. Add eggs and pulse 2 – 3 times only until just combined. Do not overprocess.

Pour filling into cooled crust and bang pan on the counter to eliminate extra air. Place in a roasting pan and fill with hot water, halfway up the side of the springform. Bake for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours or until set. It may still be a bit wobbly in the center, but it will firm up as it cools.

Turn oven off and leave the cheesecake in the water bath in the oven for 30 minutes more. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, and carefully remove the springform from the water.  Remove foil and cool on wire rack until room temperature. Refrigerate until fully chilled.

Make the Topping:

Combine sour cream, Gentleman Jack, and powdered sugar and spread on top of cheesecake. Refrigerate until set.

Gently run a knife or thin metal spatula around inside edge of pan. When cheesecake has released, open outer pan ring and remove.


Feel free to substitute a dark Rum or Bourbon if you prefer. 

Tips to cheesecake success:

  • Room temperature ingredients
  • A sturdy springform pan
  • Combine the filling without beaters or a whisk. I use a food processor
  • Wrap the springform pan in foil and bake in a roasting pan filled with hot water half-way up the cheesecake pan
  • Cool slowly and refrigerate well before serving
  • More tips on how to remove the pesky springform bottom below in comments
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 90 min (plus chilling time)
  • Category: Desserts
  • Cuisine: American

Happy Thanksgiving and Gobble Gobble!

Thanksgiving bounty- multiple fall squash in a large wooden bowl

This post contains affiliate links. For more of my must-have favorites, including the mashed potato essential – a potato ricer – and the best book  ever on Thanksgiving, visit my shop.

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2017. All rights reserved.

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Kicked Up Kick Off Chili

Kicked Up Kick Off Chili

Mug with yellow rim and red and blue pattern, filled with chili and a spoon close up of chili with scallions and cheddar

It’s last call for #NationalSoupMonth, and we are in the final countdown for Super Bowl LI. It seems like a good time to crack out a recipe I did for Cutty Sark Scotch – a Super Bowl campaign that involved scotch-laden wings, pigs, Kick Off Chili, cheesy bread bowls and more. Over the years, I have done more than my share of recipe development for liquor companies, but I am always particularly happy to do culinary recipes that go beyond the bar.

Sometimes the categories are wide open and I am on my own to get uber creative, and sometimes every last ounce of energy goes into meeting the numerous (inordinate?) parameters the client has identified. And other times, it’s a technical culinary challenge: find the perfect moment to add the alcohol. Add it too early and it cooks off with nary a trace; too late and it can be bitter or boozy. And, bitter and boozy is exactly what the messenger is thinking of me, when he rolls up with yet another bottle of my client’s elixir. It’s a dirty, rotten job, but somebody’s got to do it!

Cutty Sark Scotch Whisky bottle

I have a little bit of a soft spot for Cutty Sark – my mother sometimes drank it….”Cutty and soda with a twist, for the lady,” my father would order. But not until this job did I consider adding it to chili. It is a remarkable improvement. The peaty flavors of scotch add a real depth of flavor and complexity that make this dish more than the sum of its parts. You can experiment with other brands or even other types of whisky, but like I said……the job………my mom….Cutty is what I always reach for.

Cup of Chili topped with kidney beans and tomatoes

You have let me know how fond you are of dump and stir recipes, so after the posole recipe, I figure I owe you. This chili is a snap to make. Other than draining the beef after browning, there is no heavy lifting. You will note that I am light on seasonings here – using all these convenience (read: canned) products means you are going to get more than your fair share of sodium. Personally, I have moved toward using low or no-sodium stock for most soups these days, but it’s the Super Bowl people….all bets are off!

This soup is perfect for a party. Make a tray of toppings and let guests add their favorites. #TouchDown

Kick Off Chili with All the Toppings - close up with tomatoes, scallions and grated cheddar

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Cutty Sark Kick Off Chili in a Mug with yellow rim and red and blue pattern, and a spoon close up of chili with scallions and cheddar

Cutty Sark Kick Off Chili

  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 10 Hungry Boy Servings 1x


This is a spin on a recipe I once developed for Cutty Sark, as part of a Super Bowl campaign. The complex layering and depth of flavor which result from adding scotch to this dish have made it my go-to recipe when making a hearty winter chili.  




  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground round
  • 3 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 Tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes, and their juices
  • 3 16-ounce cans dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14.5 ounce can beef broth
  • 3/4 cup Cutty Sark Scotch Whisky
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste

Toppings and Serving Suggestions:

  • Shredded Cheddar
  • Sour Cream
  • Sliced Scallions
  • Avocado
  • Warm Flour or Corn Tortillas
  • Corn Chips


  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large stockpot. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes.
  1. Turn burner to high heat and add ground round, breaking into large chunks. Cook until browned, about 10 – 12 minutes; drain off any liquid.
  2. Add chili powder, cumin, and cayenne and stir for 1 – 2 minutes to toast spices.
  3. Add tomatoes, beans, beef broth, scotch, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Category: Soups & Stews
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: South of the Border

It’s the last day of #NationalSoupMonth and Super Bowl is fast approaching – so shout it out!

Mug with yellow rim and blue and red pattern, filled with chili topped with scallions and grated cheddar

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2017. All rights reserved.

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Don’t forget to Comment, Share & Subscribe to our blog.


Plum Glazed Shrimp with Pineapple Salsa

Plum Glazed Shrimp with Pineapple Salsa

Skewers of plum glazed shrimp on rice

This ‘Taste of the Tropics’ works all year long. Throw the shrimp on the grill in the summer, or broil when it’s too cold outside, while dosing up on the Vitamin C from the zesty tropical fruit salsa.


Plum Glazed Shrimp with Pineapple Salsa

  • 1 1/2 cups Peanut Plum Glaze
  • 3 cups Pineapple Salsa
  • 2 pounds cleaned 16-20 Shrimp, tail on
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • Coconut Peanut Rice
  • Cilantro Sprigs


Prepare the Peanut Plum Glaze:

  • ¾ cup plum jam
  • ½ cup crunchy natural peanut butter
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno

Simmer all ingredients in a saucepan until reduced by about 1/3rd and thickened, about 15 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
Makes 1 ½ cups

Prepare the Pineapple Salsa:

  • 1 cup peeled, seeded, and diced papaya
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup diced pineapple
  • 1 cup diced mango
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tablespoons minced red onion
  • 2 Tablespoons minced scallions
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped mint

Combine the papaya with the fresh lime juice. Add the remaining ingredients, except mint, and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Add the mint just before serving.
Makes 3 cups

Prepare the shrimp:

Soak 12 8”-bamboo skewers in water for 15 minutes. Prepare grill or heat broiler.

Thread 3 shrimp per skewer and brush with olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook the shrimp on the grill, until desired doneness, about 2 minutes per side. During the last 30 seconds on each side, brush on the glaze. Transfer to a sheet pan, and brush again with the glaze.

Prepare the Coconut Peanut Rice:                                                           

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain rice, such as Basmati
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ cup chopped scallion
  • ¾ cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup toasted chopped peanuts

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid.

Add the onion and sauté until transparent, about 5 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to coat until the rice turns opaque, about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the pan tightly and cook until all liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through but not gummy, about 20 minutes.

Fluff the rice with a fork and stir in the scallions, toasted coconut and peanuts. Serve immediately


To Serve:

Mound the coconut peanut rice in the center of the plate. Cross two skewers of shrimp on top of the rice. Spoon the pineapple salsa over the shrimp.

Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Serves 6

Roasted Vegetable Napoleon

Roasted Vegetable Napoleon

roasted beet, goat cheese soufflé terrine topped with zucchini and summer squash

Beets and goat cheese are a match made in heaven. Adding the goat cheese to roasted potatoes elevates this root vegetable appetizer to a whole new level of sublime.



  • 1/4 cup fresh beet juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, roasted at 350oF for 20 minutes, peeled
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper


  • 1 pound beets, scrubbed
  • 1 pound baking potatoes, scrubbed
  • 3 ounces of soft herbed goat cheese, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/3 cup milk, warmed
  • 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil


Make the vinaigrette:

Place all the ingredients in the blender and blend on high until emulsified. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Makes about ½ cup.

Make the napoleon:

Roast the beets and the potatoes at 400oF until a fork inserts easily, about one hour. When cool enough to handle, peel both.

Press the roasted potatoes through a ricer, or mash by hand. Using a handmixer, begin to whip the potatoes, while adding the goat cheese, butter, salt and pepper and slowly drizzling in enough milk to reach desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Thinly slice the beets and set aside.

Brush the zucchini and yellow squash with oil and grill or sauté until golden, about 1 – 2 minutes per side.

In a 3-inch ring, stack the vegetables by layering the beets, then the whipped potatoes, and finish with a layer of alternating rounds of zucchini and yellow squash. Repeat, to create 6 vegetable stacks.

Transfer the napoleons to an ovenproof dish and keep warm at 200oF until ready to serve.

To serve, place the warmed napoleons in the center of the salad plate and scatter the salad mix around the outside edge. Drizzle the beet vinaigrette from the end of spoon over the greens.

Serves 6

Island Ceviche with Tropical Fruit

Island Ceviche with Tropical Fruit

Island Ceviche with Tropical Fruit

Taste the Tropics.  Lime-cured fish, spicy jalapeños and tropical fruit.  It’s a fruity fresh twist on a traditional recipe.


  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/2 pound bay scallops, trimmed of muscle
  • 1/2 pound salmon fillet, cut in ½ “ pieces
  • 1 diced red pepper
  • 3 scallions, sliced on diagonal
  • 1 minced jalapeno
  • 1 cup lime juice, or enough to cover
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 mango, diced
  • 1 pink grapefruit, cut in sections and diced, juice reserved
  • 1 orange, cut in sections and diced, juice reserved
  • Salt and pepper

Garnish: Fried Plantain Chips


Blanch the shrimp in boiling water, for 1 – 2 minutes, until no longer translucent. Drain and refresh in cold water. Cut into 1/2″ pieces.

Combine shrimp, scallops, salmon, red pepper, scallions, jalapeno, and lime juice. Refrigerate, covered, for 2 – 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Drain off most of the liquid. Whisk together olive oil, orange juice, and cilantro. Pour over fish and add mango, grapefruit, orange and their juices. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Garnish with fried plantain chips

Serves 10-12

Roasted Fresh Chilean Blueberry Mulligatawny Soup

Roasted Fresh Chilean Blueberry Mulligatawny Soup

Mulligatawny soup with roasted blueberries and red rice in a green bowl on a green patterned small plate with a spoon, wine glass and small green plate with two pita breads

This fragrant soup will warm your soul on a cold winter day. Spices and ginger create an exotic perfume and are the perfect counterbalance to roasted blueberries, with just a hint of sweetness. Coconut milk (or coconut milk drink) is a relative newcomer to the beverage market. It adds some nice richness to the soup, but only has 45 calories per cup – infinitely better than the fat-laden canned coconut milk from the tropics.


  • 1 cup Black Japonica Rice
  • 8 cups chicken broth, divided per below
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, ribs removed and minced
  • 4 pods cardamom, slightly crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup yellow split peas, cleaned and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
    2 teaspoons plus 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, divided per below
  • 2 teaspoons honey
    2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tablespoon tamarind paste, softened in 2 Tablespoons boiling water, strained
  • Garnish: 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


Preheat oven to 400° F.

In a large saucepan with tight-fitting lid, bring 2 cups chicken broth to a boil. Add black Japonica rice, stir once, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook 50 – 55 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand covered for an additional 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large stockpot over medium-low heat; cook onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and spices, stirring, until onion is softened and mixture is fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Add remaining 6 cups of chicken broth to pot, along with carrots, potatoes, and split peas. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 – 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Discard cardamom pods (they float!).

Meanwhile, place blueberries in a shallow baking dish. Combine 2 teaspoons lemon juice with honey, and drizzle over blueberries. Roast for about 7 minutes, or until blueberries are about to pop.

Blend or process soup mixture, in batches, until pureed; return to pot. Add remaining 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, coconut milk, and tamarind paste; stir until heated through.

Divide black Japonica rice and roasted blueberries among 6 shallow soup bowls and ladle soup in. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Serves 6
Nutrients per serving:
290 calories, 4 gms fat, 36 calories from fat, 2 gms saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 796 mg sodium, 12 gms dietary fiber, 11 gms protein