Monthly Archives: November 2016

Pumpkin-Shaped Cheese Ball

October and November have been very mild months for Michigan which allowed us to enjoy some beautiful Fall foliage and everything else the season has to offer.

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Apples and pumpkins come to mind as well as the beautiful trees.  These pretty Honeycrisp apples and giant pumpkins are from Robinettes, a nearby orchard that I visit on a regular basis.  I bought the apples but not the pumpkins which were slightly too large.

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Giant Pumpkins

I never attempted to make a cheese ball until I found recipes for a cute Pumpkin-Shaped Cheese Ball (no pumpkin in it though).  What it does have are wonderful flavors of cream cheese and cheddar cheese with a slightly spicy taste from the salsa and Fiesta Ranch Dip mix.

I make the cheese ball to serve as an appetizer for Halloween and Thanksgiving.  But it is good any time of the year and for any special occasion.  There are several versions of this recipe out there but this is what I have come up with to suit our taste.  If you are looking for a tasty and easy appetizer to add to your Thanksgiving Day dinner, try this one.

Pumpkin-Shaped Cheese Ball

Pumpkin-Shaped Cheese Ball

16 ounces softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons Hidden Valley Brand Fiesta Ranch Dip Mix
3 tablespoons salsa
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 to 1 1/2 cups crushed Doritos nacho cheese chips
pretzel rod or bell pepper stem

Using a stand or hand held mixer beat the cream cheese, onion powder, and Fiesta Ranch Dip mix until  creamy.  Add the salsa and cheddar cheese and mix until combined.

Scoop mixture into a plastic food storage bag and use the plastic bag to form a ball.  Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

After chilling, score the sides of the cheese ball to resemble a pumpkin.  When ready to serve, roll ball into the crushed nacho chips and place a pretzel rod or bell pepper stem on top.  Serve with crackers or your favorite chips.  Keep any leftovers in the fridge.    

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Cheese Ball and Cracker

Notes:
1.  If the salsa has a lot of liquid, strain it before adding to the cheese mixture.
2.  I have used the food processor and also a rolling pin to crush the chips. They both work equally well.

Pumpkin Carrot Cake

November has one of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving.  It is a holiday in the USA when we gather for a day of food, family and, yes, even football. We celebrate it on the fourth Thursday in November.  Traditional Thanksgiving foods include turkey, stuffing (or dressing), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

And speaking of turkey, a couple of weeks ago I looked up from my computer and saw a flock of wild turkeys in my front yard.  They disappeared too fast for picture taking except for this one.

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I don’t actually live in the country, but there is a flock of wild turkeys that we see on occasion here in the northeast side of Grand Rapids.

Most  Americans are familiar with what we call  the First Thanksgiving which was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. This first Thanksgiving also included Native Americans at the feast according to Edward Winslow who was a member of the early Pilgrims:

“…many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor…”

Edward Winslow was a prominent member of the Plymouth Colony and wrote first hand accounts of their life in Mourt’s Relation.  Here is his account of that most momentous occasion in a letter written to a friend.

This is the first carrot cake I have ever baked; most unusual, considering all the years I have been baking and cooking.  I like carrot cake but always just bought them from the grocery’s bakery section.  But that has changed since I found this beautiful Pumpkin Carrot Cake recipe from Gold Medal Flour. The recipe was actually developed for Gold Medal Flour by The Baker Mama and can be found here.  Check it out to see some beautiful photos of the cake preparation.

As you can tell by the recipe’s name, there is pumpkin in it.  This ties in perfectly with Thanksgiving since pumpkins are associated with that holiday.  However, this cake is so delicious, it will be welcomed anytime of the year.

Pumpkin Carrot Cake

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Cake:

2 cups Gold Medal all-purpose flour (or your favorite brand)
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated fresh carrots
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1-1/2 cups flaked coconut

Frosting:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup flaked coconut
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. The dough will be very thick at this point.

Fold in the pineapple and pumpkin until well combined. Fold in the carrots and then the nuts and coconut until just combined.

Pour batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 45-60 minutes until the cakes are browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean.   Let the cakes cool in their pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Turn them out onto the wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese and lemon juice until smooth. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the coconut and walnuts.

To frost the cake, place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving platter. Use a spatula to cover with a thick layer of frosting. Stack the other cake layer on top of the frosted layer. Cover the top and sides with the remaining frosting.  

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Notes:
1.  This recipe makes a lot of cake batter.  I used 9 x 1 3/4 inch cake pans instead of the 8 inch as in original recipe.   When filling the pans, be sure to leave room for the cake to expand and rise as it bakes so that it won’t spill over the sides of the pans.
2.  Original recipe calls for peanut oil but I used vegetable oil instead.
3.  I used an attachment to my food processor to grate the carrots.
4.  Since this cake has a cream cheese frosting, any leftover cake should be refrigerated.