Halloween is coming! And in anticipation, I present you with these Pumpkin Cheesecake bars which I assure you, you will love as much as I do. The base is one that refuses to play second fiddle to the fresh, tangy topping. It is packed with nuts and shredded coconut, providing a roughage that contrasts nicely with the smoothness of the cream cheese and pumpkin.
I used melted dark chocolate to pipe these funky little black cats, and adorned them with shiny edible pearls for eyes. You can of course choose whatever design you please; witches hats, bats, evil eyes……the world is your cheesecake!
Speaking of cats and holidays, for those of you who have four-legged family members, I thought I’d put together a list of ways to care for them during this season. Our beloved furry friends can get a little neglected during the festivities and that, as well as the insanely hot summers we experience here in Oz mean that vet hospitals are the busiest during this time.
Here are a few important ways to look after our creatures over the next few months…….
1. Watch what they gobble: Our pets love a Christmas feast as much as we do. In fact, we often see patients that have eaten something silly, causing them to become sick. Nothing ruins a holiday like having to spend an hour in a busy waiting room of a vet hospital! When pets eat fatty foods such as bacon, sausages and sweets, it can trigger a condition known as pancreatitis. This is a very painful and debilitating condition whereby the pancreas becomes inflamed, causing vomiting and a lack of appetite leading to dehydration and illness. Most cases are treated with hospitalisation, antibiotics and IV fluids, but severe cases can be fatal.
Fatty foods aside, certain foods such as onions, chocolate, raisins and many others are actually toxic to pets. So while you enjoy your meal, treat your pet to something pet-friendly such as a raw bone or doggy treat, and ask visiting relatives nicely not to feed the pets human food or leave it lying around within reach.
2. Remember that things that are not food can seem edible: In addition to eating inappropriate foods, some dogs (think Labrador!) have a knack for eating things that really shouldn’t be eaten by anybody! While you are celebrating the holidays, your pooch may do the same by gulping down something that may get stuck in his or her gut causing an obstruction. Some holiday related things that I have had to fish out of doggy intestines include wine corks, skewers, fish hooks and corn cobs. Believe me, spending Christmas eve elbow-deep in a dog’s abdomen is no fun for the vet, the dog or the anxious owner!
3. Protect against nasty critters: In Australia, the heat tends to bring out some of those nasty creepy crawlies that we are well known for. Paralysis ticks are a horrible little bug, and if I could choose one species to be extinct, it would me this one. They latch onto an unassuming animal and proceed to inject them with a poison that paralysis first the legs and then the respiratory muscles.
There are one or two good products available from vets to protect dogs against these ticks and they should be used in high risk areas such as national parks and near water bodies. Unfortunately none of these products are highly reliable and you should search your pet after visiting these areas, focusing on the head and neck. If you notice any signs of paralysis such as weak legs, a change in bark or breathing difficulty, veterinary care should be sought immediately.
Snake bites are also more common during summer and this should also be treated as an emergency.
4. Stay on top of routine treatments: Ensure your dogs are fully vaccinated. Diseases such as Parvovirus and Canine Cough (Kennel Cough) are more frequently transmitted in the warmer months. Parvovirus occurs mostly in young, inadequately vaccinated dogs and causes severe vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration. It is also a condition that can be fatal due to the profound dehydration and weakness it causes. Vaccinations and worming can often be overlooked during the excitement of the holiday season so stay organised!
5. Beat the heat: Keep your pets cool during the scorching summer months. Keep them indoors or provide plenty of shade outdoors. Ensure there is plenty of clean drinking water within reach, and add ice cubes to it on hotter days. Pets should not be left in cars on hot days and if this must be done, leave a couple of windows open a notch, don’t leave them for more than a few minutes and park the car in the shade.
So with a bit of care and vigilance, your furry friends can enjoy the holiday season while staying happy, healthy and out of hospital!
Hoping I haven’t put you off your food with all this vet talk and on a brighter note, here’s the recipe for my Black Cat Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars for October’s SABH. The lovely JJ from 84th & 3rd is hosting this one. These bars are gluten-free, vegetarian and fructose free (not including the decoration).
Happy Halloween to you and your pets!
Black Cat Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Recipe for the base is from Sarah Wilson’s Blog
For the base:
1/2 cup nuts- hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios or macadamias work well
1/2 cup shredded or dessicated coconut
1/3 cup nut meal- I used almond
2 tbsp unsalted butter
For the topping:
1 block (200g) cream cheese
1/2 cup pumpkin puree*
2 1/2- 3 tbsp rice syrup or honey
1 tsp allspice
1/3 cup almond meal
About 10 squares dark chocolate
Sprinkles, pearls, et al
A piping bag or homemade version (try this tutorial)
Preheat the oven to 160 C.
Use a food processor to grind the whole nuts to a very coarse meal with some small chunks. Place in a large bowl and add all the other ingredients. Using your (clean) hands, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a sort ok kneadable dough. Press the mixture into a grease-proof paper lined loaf tin or a deep baking tray if you decide to double the recipe. The base should be about a centimetre thick. Bake on the middle shelf for about 15 mins or until firm and very slightly browned. Allow to cool before adding the topping.
Place the topping ingredients in the bowl of the food processor and pulse until well combined and smooth. Pour the mixture over the cooled base and spread evenly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before slicing into 8 even squares.
Line a tray with grease-proof paper or a silicon mat. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 20-30 second bursts in the microwave. Place in the piping bag and pipe shapes of your choice. At this point, I placed the edible pearls to make the cats’ eyes. Place the tray in the fridge till the chocolate sets. Once the cheesecake bars are set and sliced, decorate with the chocolate shapes and any other decorations you wish to use.
*I make pumpkin puree by placing a chunk of pumpkin, skin and all, on a tray in an oven preheated to 180 C. Bake until the pumpkin is quite soft, about 30 min. Scoop out the flesh and mash by hand or using a food processor.
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