Pretty as a Pumpkin

We're only a couple of weeks away from one of the biggest foodie holidays out there. Thanksgiving gives us all a chance to enjoy that amazing blend of comfort food classics like turkey and gravy with new items that you want to add to make the day something special of your very own. While I recommend steering away from trying something entirely new with, say, the turkey, other dishes can give a creative cook opportunities to try something new. Appetizers, in particular, are great for extra flourish and pizzazz. Case in point:

Instead of a standard cheese ball, this one gets a blend of sharp white cheddar and goat cheese for a decidedly tangy flavor and gets presented as a beautiful white pumpkin. Since it's one of the first items holiday guests are likely to see, it's fun to dress it up and give your event an added touch of whimsy. But what really shines, for me, is the combination of creamy cheeses with bright flavors. The result is a spread that brings a lot of flavor to crackers, pretzels, and raw vegetables. Sometimes, items like these end up being pretty ho-hum at a big gathering like Thanksgiving. However, the combination of a flavor that sticks with you and a presentation that's likely to make you smile is just perfect for the special occasion.

And, if that's not enough to make you get in line, this recipe takes all of 10 minutes to prepare and you can even make it ahead of time. When it seems like so much of Thanksgiving has to be assembled within minutes of guests sitting down to eat, enjoy making this cheese spread dish a couple of days in advance and give yourself a pat on the back for combining flavor, creativity, fun, and practicality for the win!

Festive Fall Cheese Ball

  • 1 (10-oz.) block sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 (4-oz.) goat cheese logs, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • Edible greens - preferably vines - for decorating (I used nasturtium vines and flowers)
  • Pretzel sticks, crackers, and assorted vegetables - for serving (reserve 1 pretzel stick for decorating)

Stir together the first 4 ingredients (shredded cheese through ground pepper). Place the mixture into the center of a large sheet of plastic wrap and fold the wrap around the mixture. Using your fingers, shape the mixture into a squat ball resembling a pumpkin. Using a table knife, gently press 6-8 lines into the ball to give it a realistic pumpkin shape. If you are making it ahead of time, place the ball inside a resealable plastic container and store in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. When you are ready to serve it, carefully remove the plastic wrap, set the cheese ball on a serving plate, and press a pretzel stick into top of the cheese ball to resemble a pumpkin stem; place the greens and vines around the pumpkin for decoration. Serve the cheese with pretzel sticks, crackers, and assorted vegetables.

  • Yields: 10-12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

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