published Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Side Orders: Broccoli, cheese turn into pumpkin

Living on the campus at McCallie School during my youth had its advantages. One of my favorites was being able to trick-or-treat at the home of headmaster Spencer McCallie Jr. and his wife, Beckie.

There were several teachers' homes on campus. Ours was one, and a handful of faculty kids would go from home to home and dorm to dorm for handouts from faculty members and boarding students, who treated my sister and me like their little sisters.

I'm not saying we didn't appreciate all the little candy bars and SweeTarts dropped in our bags, but they couldn't hold a candle to our favorite stop at Spencer and Beckie's house.

Beckie was the epitome of Southern grace. Her gentle manner served her well as hostess to the thousands of students and their families who attended or visited the school during her many years as headmaster's wife.

On Halloween, though, it was all about the kids on campus. Instead of offering candy out the door, she would open it wide and usher us into her dining room, where there was always a tremendous spread of food and drink, set amid fall flowers and pumpkins.

Halloween was a celebration at the McCallie house, not just an evening to get over with quickly. She wanted children to indulge. I loved all the food and wish I had some of Beckie's recipes.

As an adult, I've always loved Halloween, too, though I've never made it the celebration that Beckie did. Now that I live high on a hill on a dead-end road in Soddy-Daisy, I don't get the first trick-or-treater, and that saddens me. I don't even bother to put out a pumpkin anymore.

But if you are planning to open your home to tricksters for treats this Halloween, here's a recipe from a very old issue of Southern Living that I've made in the past, at one time hoping to re-create the glorious Halloweens that Beckie McCallie generously deposited in my bank of memories.

Pumpkin Cheese Ball

2 (8-ounce) blocks extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 (8-ounce) container chive-and-onion cream cheese

2 teaspoons paprika

1/2-3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 broccoli stalk

Red and green apple slices and/or crackers

Combine cheeses and seasonings in bowl until well blended. Cover and chill for 4 hours or until mixture is firm enough to be shaped, then shape into a ball that resembles a pumpkin. Smooth entire outer surface with a frosting spatula or table knife. Make vertical grooves in ball, if desired, using fingertips, to resemble ribs on a pumpkin.

Cut florets from broccoli stalk (reserve for another use). Cut stalk to resemble a pumpkin stem and press into top of cheeseball. Serve with apple slices or crackers.

To make ahead: Wrap cheeseball in plastic wrap without stalk and store in refrigerator up to 2 days. Attach stalk before serving.

Here's a must-have item for your holiday cooking ... How many times have you had to juggle baking times simply because you don't have an extra oven? Ronco has now come out with a rotisserie oven that will really help boost you oven space. This new countertop oven will hold two chickens or up to a 15-pound turkey and roast it till it comes out tender and juicy. In the meantime, you can cook the side dishes in your traditional oven.

I couldn't resist getting one myself, and I'll have to tell you that it made the juiciest rotisserie chicken I've ever had. No need to get one at the grocery store ever again. And the leg of lamb I roasted on the rotisserie was incomparable in flavor and texture.

The Stainless 5500 is $199 and available at www.Ronco.com or for $179 at amazon.com.

Email Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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