I am thankful for the sunrise.
I am thankful for the six hour time change, that allowed my body to wake up at 4 30 am, ensuring that I would not miss such a miraculous sight each morning.
I am thankful for color. I love watching the entire sky go from the blue of night to purples, pinks and reds, then to finally watch the sun crest over the horizon, the crepuscular rays lighting the sky before the sun ever makes an appearance, and then dancing amongst the low lying clouds…
Greeting the sun every morning is a meditative experience. In our rented house full of 15 bubbly and boisterous personalities for the week, mornings were an unlikely serene and calm. The still-cool breezes blew across the sands and rustled the palm trees providing lift for the gulls to float effortlessly through the air, while the only sounds of modern life inside were the gurgling of the coffee pot. Slowly, one by one, folks would find their way outside to gaze on that morning’s light show.
But while I am a sucker for beautiful scenery and admiring nature’s glory, I am most thankful for the opportunity to be able to share such a holiday with friends and family. Growing up in New England, the story of the first Thanksgiving is one told and retold each year. It’s not just a story of facing the sheer adversity of surviving a cold harsh Winter with next to no supplies. It’s a story of friendship and peace, for it was only through creating friendships with the native peoples of the area that those first settlers were able to establish a peaceful cultural exchange that allowed them to make a new home for themselves. I’m not saying that the rest of early U.S. history is so bright and rosy (because it’s not), but at least the version I was taught growing up was that working together and forming meaningful relationships was the only way they could have survived. Thanksgiving was not only about being able to survive the long Winter, but also about making friends and sharing with each other.
Whether or not that version is historically accurate, it’s the part of Thanksgiving that I think is most important to embody in a holiday meal. Many people might see a week with 15 of their in-laws as a cruel form of torture, but my husband’s family has completely adopted me as one of their own. It was a week filled with fun memories, great food, silly stories, and beautiful sunrises.
I’m thankful for all of it.
In the spirit of sharing, I want to share this dessert that I made for everyone with you. A take on my mother’s famous California-style cheesecake, with a bit of an Autumn flair. There wasn’t any left the next day, so I think it was a pretty successful dessert. I hope you enjoy it as well, whether the snow is blustering about in the cold, or you are on a sunny beach greeting the Atlantic sunrise as I did.
Adapted from California Style Cheesecake, originally from Knudsen’s recipes
*Note – this dish is probably easiest to make the day before you want to serve it because of the chilling time required.
For the cheesecake:
13-14 graham crackers or equivalent volume of gluten free cookies of your choice (about 2 cups once all ground up)
6 tbs. butter, melted
12 oz. cream cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup pumpkin purée
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
3.5 tbs. sugar
1/4 vanilla bean
For the pears:
4 bosc pears, peeled quartered and cored
juice of 1 lemon
1 bottle of riesling wine (750 mL)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod reserved
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
enough water to cover the pears if needed
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Pulse cookies in a food processor until crumbs. Mix 2 cups of cookie crumbs with melted butter and pat into pie pan.
2. Combine cream cheese, eggs, pumpkin, lemon juice and zest, 3/4 cup sugar and vanilla extract. Pour into crust and bake for 25-30 min.
3. While baking, make the sour cream topping – combine sour cream, 3.5 tbs. sugar and scraped out beans from the vanilla bean in a small bowl.
4. Once cheesecake is baked, let cool for 5 min. Spread the sour cream icing on top, and bake for 10 min. Chill in fridge until cooled.
5. Add lemon juice, riesling, sugar, vanilla beans and pod, and nutmeg to a pan and heat to just a low simmer (below boiling).
6. Add in the pears, and add more water if necessary to the pan to keep the pears covered. Let poach about 30 minutes, or until soft and tender (test by piercing with a fork).
7. Once tender, remove pears and refrigerate them for a couple hours until they are chilled. Meanwhile, turn the heat up on the poaching liquid until at a low boil, and allow the liquid to reduce to 25% of its original volume. This will make a nice thick syrup to drizzle over the pears.