Appetizers

Smoked Cheddar Cheese Ball with Horseradish

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I’m sharing this savory treat for Day 8 of the 25 days of Advent. The smokiness of the cheddar, combined with the potency of horseradish offers a sharp contrast to the other cheeses on your holiday cheeseboard. This pungent appetizer is also very simple to make.

Day 8: Smoked Cheddar Cheese Ball with Horseradish and Walnuts

Difficulty: Piece of cake!  This recipe was adapted from Southern Living. The key to success is making sure your cheese is very finely shredded. I bought a block of cheese and used my grater with the smallest holes. Also, make sure your cream cheese and butter are at room temperature. That way, everything will easily mix together. Of course, having an electric mixer certainly helps.

Grating Smoked Seaside Cheddar

Smoked Cheddar Cheese Ball with Horseradish
Author: Vallery
Serves: 8 servings
Adapted from Southern Living Dec. 2015 issue.
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Instructions
  1. Vigorously mix the first seven ingredients together in a medium bowl until they are well combined. (I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the paddle attachment). Refrigerate the mixture for five minutes.
  2. Roll the mixture into a ball. Place the chopped walnuts onto a flat work surface. Then, carefully roll the ball into the walnuts until the cheese is coated with the chopped walnuts. Serve with wheat crackers.

 

Butternut Squash-Citrus Dip

Butternut Squash-Citrus Dip: Toss the butternut squash, citrus, spices, butter, and honey together. Fall into winter with this appetizer that celebrates a fall favorite, butternut squash, and enhances it with winter citrus and a host of spices and herbs.  This light dish has bold flavor from aromatic whole spices like cardamom, star anise, nutmeg, and a cinnamon stick.  The butternut squash base makes it the perfect appetizer to bring along for Thanksgiving, and it's so light that no one's appetite will be spoiled for the main show.   If you are fortunate enough to have been invited to someone else's home for Thanksgiving, this is a perfect dish to bring along.  It's incredibly easy to make.  You simply roast the butternut squash with orange sections and spices, and then puree it and stir in some freshly chopped sage.  I'm hosting a Friendsgiving Birthday Party tomorrow, so I whipped up a batch of this to help us get the party started.  I'm going to serve it with sliced apples, carrot and celery sticks, and toasted pita.  Another great thing about this dish is that you can make it up to three days in advance by storing it in the refrigerator in a sealed container.  When you are ready to serve it, bring it to room temperature and stir in the sage.

I'm not sure how to emphasize how satisfying and versatile this dish is.  After I snapped a few photos, I decided to take an apple wedge for a dunk.  It was as if I had lost all control, and I kept dunking until there was no apple left.  I took one break, and that was to chop more sage and mix it in.  When I first tasted it, I thought it was a little sweet--which isn't surprising because roasted butternut squash is naturally sweet.   But, that was before I added the sage.  The minced sage elevates this dish by effectively tempering the sweetness of the orange-y squash and tying in all of the fragrant spices.  Even the Star Anise shines.  I'm not a fan of anise due to its licorice flavor, but all of the spices in this dish play off of each other, the butternut squash and the orange citrus like different instruments in an orchestra, creating beautiful music.

This recipe is adapted from Food&Wine.

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Serve with apple wedges, vegetables, or pita bread.  You can even serve this dish as a side.

Butternut Squash Dip with Citrus and Spices
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks*
  • 1 teaspoon orange citrus zest**
  • 1 med. orange citrus OR 2 small orange citruses
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange citrus juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced sage
  • paprika
  • *You can purchase butternut squash already peeled and diced. This will save you so much time!
  • **I didn't specify what type of orange citrus because you should use whatever is readily available! I used clementines, and because they were small, I used two.
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the first nine ingredients together in a baking dish (I used my Le Creuset dutch oven). Add the 1/2 cup of water, and bake, covered, for one hour. The squash should be tender and have brown spots.
  2. Transfer the squash, orange citrus sections, and pan juices to a food processor or blender and let cool. Discard the whole spices. Add the fresh orange citrus juice and olive oil. Pulse until nearly smooth.
  3. Correct seasoning. Stir in the sage just before serving, and sprinkle with olive oil and paprika.

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Image Roasting pumpkin seeds is super easy, super healthy, and super delicious!

So maybe you carved a jack-o-lantern for Halloween or you made pumpkin stew, or maybe you just hollowed out a pumpkin to have a fancy serving dish.  If you did any of these, I know you came across a lot of pumpkin seeds.  Roasting them is super simple.

  1. Just clean them well and get all of the stringy pumpkin pulp off of them, and rinse them (do this immediately--it will be nearly impossible if you allow the pumpkin goo to dry on the seeds).  Preheat oven to 325 F.

  2. Bring the pumpkin seeds to a boil in salt water and let boil for about 1 minute.

  3. Dry them and arrange them in a SINGLE layer on a baking sheet (if you have a really large pumpkin, you may need two separate baking sheets).  Toss them in olive oil to coat.

  4. Bake in oven for about 15-25 minutes. This is the most important part. You have to taste them to determine whether or not they are done. You must watch them carefully because the little seeds inside of the pod will burn while the pod itself looks intact.  Keep checking every couple of minutes until the seeds texture/taste is sufficiently roasted.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool, and store in an airtight container.

You can also toast butternut squash seeds and other gourd seeds.  Happy roasting!

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