I hope everyone has the Thanksgiving they'd like to celebrate ... and not, of course, just the one you get! Everyone has their own family traditions that change or even evaporate over the years ... I have to say that ours have been pretty malleable for quite some time. Usually we spend it with Fernymoss' parents (and relatives) and this year is no exception. Aside from me not getting to cook the turkey in the way I like (which I usually compensate for by doing a Turkey breast for Christmas just for us), we've fallen into a pretty comfortable and enjoyable way of celebrating the holiday. Eat early in the afternoon, then retire to converse, have coffee and often watch a DVD. (I'm still trying to pick one out to offer, but my inclination would be The Fall. We'll see if that one flies....) Thankfully, football is always out of the picture (or I'd really have to beg off for a nap!) so options are usually open ... whew! Anyway, this year I've been asked to provide a salad, and Fernymoss was going to make a pumpkin pie (until he got lucky and his mom said she'd already baked one), and we also had the idea of making the cheeseball that was popular at our Halloween Bash ... So, here we have the subject of today's post!
I thought it might be fun to chronicle how easy this is to make, so as I set about putting it all together in the kitchen tonight, I decided to go all Food Network and show how this tasty snack/appetizer is made. Obviously, this first shot shows what you'll need ... As you can see, it's pretty mundane stuff easily found at your favorite supermarket .. 2 cans of Underwood Deviled Ham, a package each of cream cheese, a small (.4 oz) packet of dry Ranch salad dressing, 4 multicolor peppers (to use half of each), 2 Cups of shredded cheese (this is Colby Jack, but the original recipe calls for cheddar) and unsalted Sunflower Seeds (I refuse to call them 'nuts').
As for preparation, let the cream cheese come to room temperature for a couple of hours, then stir in the Ranch salad dressing mix and combine thoroughly. Add the 2 cans of deviled ham, and stir thoroughly to combine.
At this point, add the diced multicolor peppers, fold them in well, and add the 2 Cups of shredded cheese, again folding them in well. Now comes the relaxing time ... cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Fortunately, tonight that allowed me to watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show, before I had to complete the final steps to this über complicated recipe. Once I had my current events/politics fix, I went back into the kitchen.
After its time chilling out, we're ready to shape this mass into some sort of ball or log. You have to use your hands here ... so either sheathe the whole ball into plastic wrap and roll it into a log or just free form it (the path I always take) into a rough ball. The way I figure it, once someone digs into it, all artistry then leaves the room, so I quit bothering about trying to be fancy. A cheeseball is what it is.
Now, here's the fun part ... you get to try to make unsalted sunflower seeds stick to the whole thing, once you've got it shaped to your satisfaction. It's not as easy as it might sound (and is perhaps the most complicated part of this recipe), but never fear. Just dump a fair amount of the seeds over the lump and spread them around, pressing them lightly to the lump. Work your way around until you have it covered to your satisfaction (or level of frustration). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you need to serve. With crackers, of course. Need I say more? You know already what you do with a cheeseball!
The other dish I made tonight was even a bit more "complicated" as the cheeseball. I guess you could call this IVG's Impromptu Pasta Salad, since we sort of made this one up as we brainstormed what items would be acceptable to a culinary audience other than ourselves. So here's what we came up with (for all audiences):
1 pkg (12 oz.) of Farfalle 'Bow Tie' pasta, cooked
1 Cup of diced multicolor sweet peppers, diced
1 Good size stalk of broccoli, trimmed to just the florets
1/2 bag of frozen peas (microwaved)
1 1/2 Cups of cubed cheese (Colby Jack, Cheddar, etc.)
1 Cup of Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
1 Small package (.4 oz.) Dry Ranch Dressing
A few grinds of fresh cracked pepper (optional)
Cook the pasta, and about 2 minutes before it's done (about 10 min.), add the broccoli florets to give them a quick cook. Drain and let cool a little bit before adding the rest of the ingredients. Add the cooked peas and diced peppers. If the pasta is still a little warm, let it cool some more and then add the cubed cheese. Once all those are combined, start working in the mayonnaise/Ranch mixture and fold until most parts appear coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until shortly before serving.
Now, I just gave you the generic bland version of how I'd like to do this ...to the dressing, I'd add at least 1/4 Cup of Dijon Mustard, if not more. It all depends on taste, but we tend to the tangy and spicy. We'd also include various olives (green and black), sliced mushrooms and some diced red onion. But this was an improvised recipe we hope will please, and I think possible variations are an easy thing to adapt to one's own tastes.... What do you think?
Again, wishing you the best, most relaxing Thanksgiving Day as you conceive of it!
Oh yeah, one thing I was particularly thankful for was learning that Anne Coulter's Mouth Has Been Wired Shut! I know it's only for a month or so, but that made my day!
Not bad for Thanksgiving 2008, I'd say....