Day 14: Holidays and Apple Cinnamon Cheeseballs

Mom, Dad, Matt, and Me on Thanksgiving
Too much turkey.

 Hello! How was your Thanksgiving? Did you celebrate?

While we have this rich U.S. history of coming together, sometimes the underlying history of Thanksgiving is hard to swallow (hierarchy, etc.). So I find more meaning in celebrating Thanksgiving by giving thanks for the amazing people, places and things that I’m able to come into contact with in my life. This year, I’m looking at the great ribbon that connects Thanksgiving themes to Valentine’s Day. Puzzled? On Valentine’s Day, we traditionally show love for others in a special way. At Thanksgiving, we can give thanks for all of those who have brought joy and love to us throughout the entire year. It’s about appreciating life, seeing the joy in little things and unlikely situations and giving thanks to those who bring that joy. I thank God for people and creatures who make life just worth it. And Thanksgiving is also a special reminder for me that food brings people together. Big groups or small gatherings, food is this sacred instrument that allows us to give and receive love in a spicy curry, juicy burger, in bright red salsa, freshly baked apple pie. Beautiful.

Drive-through lights at the Portland Raceway…8 Maids a Milking–for our awesome cheeseball

Now let’s talk about food. My parents visited, we have friends stopping by here and there both locals and out of towners (Pearl Jam NW leg of their tour), and we have more family coming in a few weeks. There has been more food in this house than I can devour. So let’s talk about it.

Cheeseballs. That word can either make someone really excited or really grossed out. I remember seeing those packaged hunks of dairy disguised by sliced almonds at holiday parties as a kid, and I never liked them. But the cheese cubes were always appreciated. My husband likes anything cheese-related (who doesn’t?), so I try to incorporate it here and there. I like cheese, but not TOO MUCH creamy, rich gloppy stuff. In saying that, I did sell gourmet cheeses at a deli in grad school. I learned a lot and ate a lot of cheese. My cholesterol went up. When I quit that job, my cholesterol was at a healthy level. Funny. So I like to eat little bits of cheese that pack a lot of flavor. One plus to that job:  I learned to make cheeseballs that were actually quite tasty.

Fresh ingredients. Great recipes. 10 minutes. That’s all it took. So I’ll share one of those secret recipes with you. Granted, I made 20-30 cheeseballs at a time, so I’ve scaled back the restaurant-size recipe, tested it, simplified it, and here it is for you.

Apple Cinnamon Cheeseball

This refreshing take on the cheeseball is simple, delicious and not-too-heavy. Serve with water crackers, butter crackers or even on bagels for a delicious, cheesy appetizer. Leftovers from your party? Spoon 1 tablespoon into your hot oatmeal for a creamy, warm cinnamony surprise.

8 oz lowfat cream cheese, softened (set on counter for 45 minutes)
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup dried apples, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Step one: Combine cheeses, apples, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend until incorporated all together. Roll into a ball the size of a baseball.
Step two: Roll into the chopped pecans, coating all sizes. Store the cheeseball on a dish, covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

The cheeseball can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days and, if you want to have an appetizer on hand at all times, actually freezes pretty well, wrapped in plastic wrap and foil (thaw in the fridge).




How to make dried apples-the quick way:
Step one: Slice 2 apples very thinly (use knife or mandoline). Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Step two: On a baking sheet or rack, lay apple slices as a single layer. Let bake for 2-3 hours, flipping once an hour. The more hot air touches the apple surfaces, the better (so I use a cooling rack).
Step three: When they’re ready, they’ll be dry yet soft and ‘bendy.’ Store them in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 
 
A thought: If you slice your pecan halves across the middle, you get these awesome little pieces that look like “M”s or the Batman symbol.

Happy post-Thanksgiving. Don’t overshop but do enjoy the lights, food, festivities and people/animals around you. Happy, happy weekend. 🙂

-Laurel

~Laurel~

Day 11: Break the Rules: Sweet Potatoes

Breakfast for Dinner has always been one of my favorite…because it breaks all the rules. Sweet potatoes are kind of the same thing…like dessert for dinner. Yes, it involves brown sugar and sweet potatoes, but you’ll receive 300% of your Vitamin C in just one meal. Let’s get to it.

(Mom, I hope you’re not reading this…although my love for sweet potatoes totally came from your side of the family. Just remember…I used to whine if I had to eat the meat on my plate and NEVER hesitated to eat my veggies.)

Break the Rules: Sweet Potatoes
Okay, so this isn’t really a recipe, but if you want to know how I make ’em, read on!

1 chunky sweet potato (yam, yam, yam), that isn’t too skinny but is as ‘fat’ as you can find
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1 TB butter
1/2 to 1 tsp of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg

Step one: Rinse and poke a few fork holes throughout the potato. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. (Don’t judge.)

Step two: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the potato in foil and it in the oven, straight on the middle rack. Bake for 20-ish minutes, or until soft and tender to the (oven mitt-covered) touch. 

Step three: Unwrap, set on a plate, and slice open (half lengthwise). Top with the rest of the ingredients (and maybe some caramel sauce or other rule-breakers).

Eat, you rebel, eat. And, for those of you that live with a guy who’d rather eat a sponge than a sweet potato, enjoy it gloriously. Happy weekend, friends!!
  

Happy eating!
Laurel

~Laurel~

Day 4: 12 Hour Applesauce

I know, I know. Who has 12 hours for anything, except working?

But this is warm, cinnamon-y applesauce that cooks in a slow cooker. Let’s do it!

There’s an indoor fruit stand down the street, and they sell juicing apples. Funny enough, some grocery stores and lots of farms/orchards growing apples will do the same. Be kind to me, I’m new at this whole bulk produce idea. I got 1/2 case of apples for $4…there are probably 8 varieties of apples totaling 60-70 apples, I’d say. Some are bruised, funny shaped or really small, but a little peeling and slicing makes these apples perfect for juice and…applesauce!

12 Hour Applesauce
This applesauce melts in your mouth. The simple steps make it easy to make and the spices will fill your home with Fall happiness. Enjoy.
Makes 1 quart

10 apples, varying sizes
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon 
1 tsp vanilla extract

 Step One: Core and cube apples. Throw into the slow cooker, as well as all of the other ingredients, and cook on high for 2 hours. 


Step Two: Turn down to low for 8-10 more hours. Eat warm, topped on whatever you like or just plain. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

And, just because I can’t help myself, here’s a new photo of Sam…who loves naps and cuddling.
 
Happy Fall Weekend!
Laurel

~Laurel~

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