Thanksgiving Cheese Ball

I love the Autumn. In Las Vegas the best months of the year are September, October and November. It is cool and beautiful and everyone comes outside, finally, after a long hot summer. I use this recipe for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and a minor Jewish Holiday called Sukkot, which usually falls in October. Any excuse to celebrate the Autumn, harvest moons and cooler nights – I am ready! Enjoy! 

Serves:

8 – 10

Total Time:

30 minutes

To Prepare

 Ingredients:

  • 3 C. orange cheese puffs

  • 2 lbs. cream cheese, at room temperature (softened)

  • 3 C. shredded cheddar cheese

  • ¼ C. freshly grated parmesan cheese

  • ¼ C. chives, chopped

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 bell pepper with a long stem that looks like a pumpkin

  • crackers, for serving

Directions:

Put the cheese puffs in a food processor and process until finely ground. Transfer to a shallow plate.

Combine the softened cream cheese, cheddar cheese, chives, parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a large bowl and mix to combine.

Mold the mixture into a ball, pressing the top of the ball with your hand to flatten it.

With the flat side of your thumb, carve lines down the sides of the ball to resemble a pumpkin.

Roll the cheese ball in the ground cheese puffs.

Remove the entire bell pepper stem with a paring knife and put it on top of the cheeseball as the pumpkin stem. Seed and slice the bell pepper.

Serve the cheeseball on a plate with crackers and slices of bell pepper. Enjoy!

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Cauliflower Parmesan Crisps

One Super Bowl year I was experimenting with some gluten-free options. My husband usually goes on a high-protein diet, (more keto than anything) right after the first of the year, and I needed an option for him that he could feel satisfied with while everyone else was eating chips. I initially doubled the recipe so he would have enough and not feel deprived during the day.

Well, to my surprise, a few people dug into the crisps, and told the next person, who told the next and voila, they were gone in a flash! I was getting stink eye from my husband as everyone was eating his special treats, but everyone else was in heaven. As I remember it, he ended up having no choice but to break the diet regimen on that day! Good thing, everything else that he was going to say “no” to was too good to pass up. We had a great Super Bowl Sunday, and a pretty rough, “Manic Monday” trying to burn all of it off (LOL). I hope you love these as much as we do. Even my four-year old granddaughter loved them.

Serves:

6 – 8

Total Time:

20 minutes

To Prepare

 Ingredients:

  • 3 lb. head of cauliflower (1 average head of cauliflower) or 2 bags fresh riced cauliflower

  • 3/4 C. fresh grated parmesan cheese

  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

  • Kosher salt (optional, to taste)

Directions:

Cut cauliflower florets off the stem.

Tip: There are so many riced cauliflower options out in the stores. I love the Whole Foods organic riced cauliflower and you can even steam it right in the bag, which saves time and mess.

Steam cauliflower florets until tender (10 to 15 minutes) or microwave the riced cauliflower per directions.

Place steamed cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse a few times until it looks like fine crumbs. (Make sure there are no chunks left.)

Transfer cauliflower crumbs in a doubled cheese cloth or nut bag and squeeze out all the liquid. (You may have to let it cool a bit or it will be too hot for you to squeeze.)

Place cauliflower in a mixing bowl and add the parmesan cheese, parsley, and garlic powder. Mix well, until it is all evenly incorporated. (Taste to see if you want to add salt. Parmesan cheese is quite salty, and you may feel like it’s enough salt.)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat (a food-grade silicone liner, one of my favorite kitchen tools).

Use a cookie scoop to scoop out cauliflower mixture. Press it into a ball with your hands and place it on the baking sheet. (I used #40 scoop.)

Press down to flatten the cauliflower mixture into a thin disk, fixing the broken edges. The goal is for the disks to be only about 3 millimeters thin and 3 inches wide at the center.

Repeat until you get about 12 pieces.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until deep golden brown and crispy.

Let the cauliflower crisps cool before taking them off the baking sheet. People go crazy for this. Enjoy!

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My dear friend Karen from Chicago, now Scottsdale, shared this recipe with me before she left Chicago more than 26 years ago. Over the years the recipe morphed while in my hands. But like all recipes that are shared, when I make them, I always think of the person who shared it with me with such love in my heart.

 Tip: This is a great recipe to make on a moment’s notice for friends or family that drop in. I learned that to always have baguettes in the house, it is best to slice them and then freeze them. That way they are always available and ready to toast in the oven. In a moment’s notice you could substitute any cheese you have in the house. Keep dehydrated sun-dried tomatoes in a bag in your pantry. If you are out of fresh tomatoes at the time you can make them with just the sundried tomatoes. It works, trust me from experience. Enjoy!

Serves:

8

Total Time:

30 minutes

To Prepare

 Ingredients:

  •  5 sundried tomato halves (not in oil)

  • C. lightly packed basil leaves cut in chiffonade

  • ½ C. olive oil

  • 1 loaf (12 oz.) baguette (French bread)

  • 6 pipe Italian plum tomatoes

  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

  • 4 oz. smoked mozzarella, shredded

  • ½ C. pine nuts, toasted

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, soak the dried tomatoes in water for about 5 minutes. Drain, pat dry and mince.

Place in larger bowl to be combined with other ingredients.

Mince half of the chiffonade basil and add to the tomatoes. Add ¼ of a cup of the olive oil. Mix until well blended.  

Cut the baguette diagonally about ½ inch thick. Brush both sides of bread with olive oil and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry hot skillet, until golden.

Slather the top of the bread with ½ of the tomato mixture. Add ½ of the remaining basil, Italian tomatoes, vinegar, pine nuts and mozzarella to the sun-dried tomato mixture and spoon over the top of the bread. Sprinkle with the remaining basil. Eat and enjoy!

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Signature Blackberry Basil Jam

This one recipe is what turned on all my creative juices and got me hooked on bringing love into the kitchen. After years of cooking terribly and everyone making fun of me, this recipe inspired me. Over time, I morphed it into the current recipe, and it has become my signature dish. I serve it as an appetizer, always, whenever I entertain. I hope you enjoy it as much as everyone who walks into my home.

Tip: The great news is that this recipe makes enough to freeze in small containers and if you use it as much as I do it will last more than a year and it is something you can throw together quickly as an appetizer. Enjoy!

Serves:

A years’ worth of appetizers when frozen in small Ziploc cups.

Total Time:

2 Hour

To Prepare

Directions:

  • 2 ½ C. sugar
  • 2 oz. Grand Marnier liqueur, or other orange flavored liqueur
  • 2 oz. fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 4 ½ C. (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 8 C. frozen or fresh blackberries
  • 1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled cored and small diced
  • 1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1 medium lemon juiced
  • 2 to 5 Tbsp. pectin (as needed)

Directions:

Place the sugar and Grand Marnier in a non-metallic casserole, such as a Le Creuset.

Slowly heat till the sugar and liqueur are thoroughly combined.  

Add the defrosted blackberries and their juice along with the orange juice, lemon juice and basil into a blender and blend until smooth.

Add the blackberry/basil mixture to the sugar mixture along with the Granny Smith apple, and lemon zest. Simmer about 45-50 minutes.

If you feel the mixture has not thickened enough, to your taste, you can begin adding some pectin. The jam will continue to thicken as it cools.

Tip: There is a great deal of pectin in Granny Smith apples which is why we use them in this recipe. Be sure to mash whatever apple chunks have not dissolved before cooling.

Place the jam in 2 oz. airtight containers and freeze for future use. Enjoy on slices of French baguette with a slice of basil and some rich Spanish cheese or English Cheddar.

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