Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

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.


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.


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.    


Cheese Ball and Cracker

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.


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


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


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.  



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.

Pumpkin Cream Pie

Pumpkin Scene

I am always happy when October rolls around.  I think it is our prettiest season here in Michigan.  It is also when the locally grown pumpkins start to appear in the Farmers Markets and farm stands.  I love their bright orange color and their different shapes and sizes, even the giant ones.

Giant Pumpkins

Pumpkins have been grown in North America for thousands of years and are a native plant.  In 1584, French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America.  He found what he described as “gros melons”.  The name was translated into English as “pompions” and over time has become known as the pumpkin.  Source

There are so many delicious recipes than can be made from pumpkins.  A Google search reveals a lot of recipes from sweet to savory.

My favorite way to cook with pumpkin is a traditional Pumpkin Pie.  I always bake two pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Here is a link to my post for a recipe for traditional pumpkin pie, made with either fresh pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin.

However, this year I am adding another kind of pumpkin pie to our dessert menu for Thanksgiving.  It is an easy no bake pumpkin pie with a rich creamy filling that has a delicious light taste of pumpkin and the tang of cream cheese.  It is perfect for Thanksgiving and Christmas desserts.

Pumpkin Cream Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 1/2 cups finely crushed gingersnaps (approximately 24 cookies )
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
2  teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1  cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

For the Crust:

Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees.  In a medium sized bowl, combine the crushed gingersnaps, sugar and cinnamon.  Mix in the  melted butter until thoroughly combined.  Press the crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie plate, evenly covering the bottom and sides.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is set.  Remove the pie crust from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

For the Filling:

Place a medium-sized mixing bowl and beaters of an electric mixer into the freezer while you make the cream cheese and pumpkin filling.

Beat the softened cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add one cup of powdered sugar and mix until combined.  Add the pumpkin puree, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice and beat until smooth.  Set aside while preparing the whipped cream.

Pour the cream into the chilled mixing bowl.  Beat the cream until it begins to thicken.  Add the two tablespoons of powdered sugar.  Whip the cream until stiff peaks start to form, being careful not to over-beat.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese and pumpkin mixture and then spread into the pie plate.

Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.  Serve with additional whipped cream and a sprinkle of crushed gingersnaps, if desired.   

Pumpkin Cream Pie


1.  Be sure to chill the mixing bowl and beaters and use heavy cream that is as cold as possible.  This  will help the cream to whip quickly and increase the volume.
2.  I used a food processor to crush the gingersnaps.  An alternative method is to place them in a ziplock bag and roll over them with a rolling pin until finely crushed.
3.  Adapted from Pumpkin Silk Pie recipe by  thegunnysack.  Visit her site for delicious recipes and beautiful photos of food.

We must not forget that jack-o’-lanterns carved from pumpkins are the star of Halloween.  While I may be terrible at carving Jack-o’-lanterns,  I don’t think the little trick or treaters mind at all.  Happy Halloween

Jack O Lantern

Apple Pie

Apple pie is a favorite American dessert. To a lot of us, it is placed in the category as a comfort food. My favorite times of year to bake an apple pie are during the fall and for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Apple pie tastes good anytime of the year, but it seems to taste even better when made from locally grown apples.

Michigan is the third-largest producer of apples in the United States, behind Washington state and New York. Fortunately, many of the apple orchards are located nearby.

Cooking With Love

One of my favorite orchards to visit is Robinettes which is less than two miles away from my house. It is a fun place to visit, especially in the fall with their corn maize and wagon rides into the orchard. As soon as you walk into their Apple Haus you immediately smell their freshly baked donuts. Kids love having their picture taken in front of their huge red apple.

Robinettes Apple

Even though we are familiar with the phrase “as American as apple pie” apples are not native to the USA. When the colonists arrived in North America, they found only crabapple trees, so apple seeds had to be brought from England to be planted. While we associate the apple pie with such American things as baseball and the Statue of Liberty, history seems to indicate that it is the English who invented the apple pie.

Thanks to Google, I found the following recipe for apple pie that appeared in a scroll of cookery believed to have been written at the end of the fourteenth century. It is the recipes of the Master Cooks of King Richard II. The name of The Forme of Cury was given by Samuel Pegge and was published in 1789 in England. The name translates to The Method of Cooking. Cury being the Middle English word for cookery.


Tak gode Applys and gode Spycis and Figys and reysons and Perys and wan they are wel ybrayed colourd [1] wyth Safroun wel and do yt in a cofyn and do yt forth to bake well.”

The Forme of Cury is free as an eBook on Project Gutenberg and can be found here.

An American apple pie recipe was first published in 1796 in a cookbook titled American Cookery by Amelia Simmons:

“Stew and strain the apples, to every three pints, grate the peal of a fresh lemon, add cinnamon, mace, rose-water and sugar to your taste–and bake in paste No. 3.”

The above recipe has familiar ingredients such as sugar and cinnamon with mace and rose-water not so familiar. American Cookery was the first known cookbook written by an American, published in Hartford, Connecticut in 1796. Until then, the cookbooks printed and used in the Thirteen Colonies were British.

A free version of American Cookery is also available from Project Gutenberg.

Both of the above referenced cookbooks are available on Amazon at very reasonable prices. I could not resist, so I bought the paperback version of The Forme of Cury and Kindle version of American Cookery. Both books are very interesting to read and are a good source for food history.

the forme of curry 1 american cookbook

The first apple pie I ever baked was from a recipe in a vintage Betty Crocker New Picture Cook Book published in 1961. The cookbook was passed down to me by a favorite aunt and shows its wear and tear.

Betty Crocker's Cook Book

Over the years, I have updated the recipe to the one in this post. It is a family favorite. Apple pie is such an easy pie to bake and everyone seems to appreciate it when you take the time to bake one from scratch.

apple pie 1

Apple Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Double-Crust Pastry

2 1/2 pounds baking apples (about 6 medium or 8 cups), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
juice of half of a lemon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
1 tablespoon coarse sugar crystals, optional

Preheat oven to 375°F

Slice the apples in a large bowl and toss occasionally with the lemon juice to prevent the apples from browning. In a small bowl, mix sugars, flour, cinnamon, and salt together. Pour this over the apples and toss to coat well. Transfer the filling to a pastry-lined pie plate and dot with the butter.

Top with the second crust. Trim the excess dough to about 1/2 inch. Pinch bottom and top crusts together and fold under. Crimp as desired. Cut several small slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape while baking. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the sugar crystals.

Place pie plate on a foiled-lined baking sheet and place on lowest rack in oven preheated to 375 degrees. Bake 45 to 60 minutes or until apples are tender, juices are bubbling and crust is golden brown. If edges brown too quickly, cover lightly with aluminum foil. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving. Serve with ice cream if desired.

1. I used a Perfect Pie Crust recipe from Barefoot Contessa for this apple pie. Her recipe can be found on the Food Network
2. If you prefer, one box of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts can be used. I use them quite often. They are easy to work with and produce a flaky crust.
3. I used Golden Delicious apples in this recipe.

apple pie slice

Pumpkin Pie

strawberry lake

Fall is a beautiful time of the year and quite possibly my favorite season. There are so many things to like about fall, the crisp air, changing leaves and beautiful orange pumpkins.


Pumpkins just seem to go hand in hand with the fall holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving, what with pumpkin pies and jack-o’-lanterns. There are so many delicious recipes using pumpkin from pies, soup, bread, cookies to Pumpkin Spice Lattes from our favorite coffee shops.

As soon as the small pie pumpkins are on the market in October, I make several pies using the fresh pumpkin puree. Since Thanksgiving and Christmas are such busy times, I use the Libby’s canned pumpkin for making pies.

Picking your own pumpkin from a local pumpkin patch can be fun and here in West Michigan there are several to choose from.

pumpkin patch1

One of our favorite pumpkin patches and orchards to visit is Ed Dunneback & Girls Farm Market at 3025 6 Mile Road NW, Grand Rapids, MI. It is located a few miles from town down country roads where you will see apple orchards on your drive there. I recently visited there and saw their huge Gentle Giant of a pumpkin.

apple orchard1

gentle giant

While pumpkin pie as we know it was not served at the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Native Americans, it is highly likely that some form of pumpkin was served. Pumpkins have been around for a very long time. Pumpkins are believed to have originated in Central America. Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico, dating back over 7000 years to 5500 B.C. Native Americans were already using pumpkin in their diet centuries before the Pilgrims arrived. Source

I didn’t realize this but Morton, Illinois is known as “Pumpkin Capital of the World”. Libby has a plant there and a large percentage of canned pumpkin is produced there. I have to admit that the easiest pumpkin to use for baking or cooking is the canned pumpkin. But I do think that a pumpkin pie made from fresh pumpkin tastes better and is worth the effort.

The most difficult step in preparing the pumpkin is cutting the pumpkin because pumpkins are not easy to cut. You’ll want to use a serrated knife and use a sawing motion to cut the pumpkin in half.

There are several ways to prepare the pumpkin puree from fresh pumpkins but this is the way I do it. Just be very careful when cutting the pumpkin.

Wash the exterior of the pumpkin and dry it. Carefully cut around the pumpkin stem with a serrated knife. Remove the top of the pumpkin and scoop out the stringy insides and seeds. Cut the remaining pumpkin shell in half and then into 1/2 inch slices. Use a vegetable peeler or sharp pairing knife to peel the pumpkin. Chop the peeled pumpkin into smaller chunks. Place in a Dutch oven and cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and cool.

For more information on how to prepare fresh pumpkin, see this article from Good Housekeeping which details three methods (bake, boil, and steam) for preparing pumpkin puree and can be found here.

pumpkin pie

Pumpkin Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell
Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In large mixing bowl, blend together the pumpkin puree, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Mix in the eggs. Gradually mix in the half and half. Pour into prepared pie crust. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 350. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted 1 inch from edge of pie comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving if desired.

Pumpkin Pie Slice

1. Sugar Pumpkins are one of the most common baking pumpkins and are often labeled “pie pumpkins”, which is the type used in this recipe.
2. The pie pumpkin used in this recipe weighed 3 pounds and yielded 6 cups of pumpkin puree.
3. A 15 ounce can of Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin can be substituted for the fresh pumpkin puree and is what I use for Thanksgiving and Christmas pies.

%d bloggers like this: