HL Carpenter joins me in the virtual kitchen today with a beautiful cheese treat for your holiday table. Take it away HL!
October was National Pumpkin month, but we think such a beautiful fruit should get more than just one month of notoriety. So smile, say cheese, and make your own yummy appetizer for any holiday get-together.
Cheese Ball Pumpkin
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
4 ounces crumbled feta or blue cheese
4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. prepared mustard
½ tsp. onion powder
The stem of a green bell pepper
Place all of the cheese in a large bowl and let soften to room temperature.
When cheese is soft, add Worcestershire and mustard. Blend with electric mixer or food processor on low speed. Scrape bowl and beat blended mixture on medium speed 1 or 2 minutes more until well mixed (do not over-beat).
Turn the mix onto plastic wrap. Pull the wrap up and secure with a twist tie. Shape the wrapped mixture into a ball. Score the pumpkin “ribs” onto the cheese ball with your fingertip or a flat knife.
With the plastic in place, set the cheese ball in a bowl and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Before serving, sprinkle with paprika and add a bell pepper stem to top.
Keep refrigerated until the crowd arrives, then serve with assorted crackers.
To add even more fun to the party, discuss a good book. We suggest our latest speculative fiction novella.
Seventeen year old Vandy Spencer lives like a princess. Sheltered by her wealthy family, she happily makes plans to spend a before-college gap summer with her gorgeous boyfriend.
Then her dad is accused of financial fraud. The victims of her dad’s swindle vow revenge, and her dad flees.
As accusations and innuendos pile up, Vandy retreats to a hermit-like existence in her childhood tree house and struggles to separate reality from lies. Was her perfect life truly so perfect? Did she ever really know her father?
When family secrets come to light, revealing an unimaginable betrayal, Vandy learns to appreciate the simple richness of sincerity and truth.
A branch cracked behind me and leaves rustled. I scrambled to my feet.
Stenny had come after me! He really did love me, enough to follow me, and…
Pete Hawthorn stepped out of the woods, holding a flashlight. The backglow lit his face, which was drawn into the frown he wore lately whenever he saw me, and his mouth turned down into a scowl. “Don’t you have any sense at all, Dandy-Vandy?”
I should have known Stenny wouldn’t traipse through the woods searching for me. Running through the dark wasn’t his style. He’d use his phone.
My own phone, tucked in the pocket of my shorts, burst into the first bars of Boyfriend. I ignored the noise and poked a finger at Pete’s chest. “Quit calling me that. Don’t you have better things to do than skulk around the woods in the dark? Like maybe going to work?”
“I took the night off.” He peered at me. “Why are you crying?”
“None of your business!” Then, as his words sank in, I asked, “Why’d you take the night off? Is Gus okay?”
“Gramps is the same as he always is.” Pete slid the button on the flashlight and the bulb dimmed. “I stayed home because we heard the news about your dad. We’re going to help, in whatever way we can.” His voice barely carried across the small space between us, the words and tone sincere.
“That means a lot. Thanks. Tell Gus thanks too.”
“Yeah.” Pete turned the flashlight on bright again and waved it in a searching arc. “Where’s the jerk-off? He leave you alone out here?”
My gratitude evaporated like dew off grass. I planted my hands on my hips as my phone played Boyfriend again. “Stenny’s not a jerk-off, and he’s probably at the tree house, where I left him.”
“How nice to know he’ll stay where you tell him to. At least you won’t need to put a leash on him when the two of you are wandering around France.” Pete narrowed his eyes. “The woods are really dark, Dandy-Vandy, in case you haven’t noticed. Do you have a flashlight? Or am I gonna have to walk you home?”
I didn’t need him to babysit me. I opened my mouth to say so, and then reconsidered as the sounds of the night surged around me. He was right. The darkness crackled with noises I hadn’t paid much attention to during my rush to get away from the hurt of Stenny’s doubt. The air seemed ominous too, full of a sickly-sweet odor, a combination of gasoline, motor oil, and damp dirt. The mix stunk the way I imagined zombies – or worse, vampires – would.
“Thanks, Pete. That’s a good idea.”
“I have them occasionally.” He gestured with the flashlight. “The path’s this way.”
We strode along single file without speaking. The dry leaves crackled beneath our feet and the occasional haunting cry of a bird shredded the air.
“Nightingale,” Pete said.
We reached the end of the path, coming out of the woods behind a row of bushes fencing Kingsway’s open lawn. A line of solar lights illuminated the back yard, glowing against the pool cabana and the house’s white walls beyond – big, ornate…and home.
I smiled despite my worries. “I love how pretty our house is at night.”
Pete shut the flashlight off. “I’ll send you pictures while you’re enjoying your European adventure with the jerk-off.”
I was turning to him when a man carrying a portable video camera dashed across the lawn. I gasped. “He’s headed for the house! I have to warn Dad.”
Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit their website to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.