Holiday Appetizer & Edible Gift: The Cheese Ball!

Every year growing up (and still to this day!) my parents make cheeseballs to serve and pass out as gifts at their annual holiday party. They pull out their largest stainless steel mixing bowl to make a huge batch, and it is often my job to mix it with my hands. Their recipe includes cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and black olives, and is rolled in parsley, walnuts and dried cranberries. One ball is served at the party, and the rest are wrapped in tissue with a bow and placed in a small gift bag with crackers. All the bags are lined up at the door for guests to take home. 

I've partnered with Clover Organic Farms to make my own twist on my mom's classic cheeseball recipe. Clover is a dairy farm from Sonoma County, where I grew up, and my family has been using their products for years. They are a family-run business that I trust operates in an ethical and sustainable manner, including the treatment of their animals, their employees, our planet, and their product. I can't always afford to buy everything organic, but I always prioritize dairy, and Clover is my go-to, local brand.

For the base I simply mix one block of cream cheese and one grated block of white cheddar. You can leave as-is, or get creative with add-ins. I made 3 variations on this recipes in the video, and here is one:

Pomegranate-Pistachio Cheese Ball

makes 1 cheese ball (recipe easily multiplies to make multiple balls)

8 oz Clover Organic Sharp White Cheddar, grated

8 oz Clover Organic Cream Cheese

1/4 c fresh pomegranate seeds

1/2 c chopped, shelled pistachios

Bring the cream cheese to room temperature to ease mixing. In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese and pomegranate seeds and mix well using your hands. Roll the mixture into a ball, and then roll the ball in the chopped pistachios. Serve alongside crackers, sliced baguette, crudité or sliced apple. Or wrap in plastic to refrigerate or gift. The ball can be made a day or 2 before, but it's best to roll in the topping(s) right before serving to keep the nuts crunchy.

Other Add-In Ideas: Instead of pomegranate seeds, you could mix in capers, scallions, red onion, walnuts, olives, dried cranberries, currants, etc.

Other Roll-In Ideas: Instead of pistachios, you could roll in chopped pecans, macadamia nuts, dried cherries, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chives, parsley, pine nuts, etc.

To make the cheese balls a gift, wrap them in plastic, then wrap them in a fabric napkin, tea towel or piece of tissue (something square works especially well), and tie with a bow. I like to use pastry twine and brown twine, and tie in a fresh flower and a sprig of rosemary or fresh greenery. I also turn shipping tags (purchased at an office supply store) into gift tags by painting a couple watercolor stripes on the bottom and adding a name or message.

This is an easy appetizer to make ahead and serve at your own holiday party, bring to someone else's or give as an edible gift. Let me know what fun flavor combinations you come up with!

Have fun and Happy Holidays!

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This post was done in partnership with Clover Organic Farms, a dairy brand I have used and trusted for years. Thank you for supporting the brands that make The Forest Feast possible. Click here for more holiday recipe ideas from Clover. @cloverpetaluma @CloverStornetta #CloverCooks

Thanksgiving Appetizers: Butternut Hummus & Deviled Eggs

I spend most of Thanksgiving day cooking, and love to have some tasty appetizers on hand to keep everyone going (but not too full) before the big feast. Here are a couple fun ideas that are easy to prep ahead.

My local paper, The Palo Alto Weekly, did a really lovely article and video all about Thanksgiving Appetizers adapted from my new cookbook. We shot a 15-minute recipe video on the deck where I made some fun recipes like this Butternut Hummus (below) and an adaptation on my deviled eggs, turning them into Butternut Hummus Deviled Eggs with Pomegranate Seeds. Read the article by Anna Medina and get the recipes HERE.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The video above is by The Palo Alto Weekly, shot by Veronica Weber. Host: Anna Medina. The video accompanies the article published 11/17/16.

Nutty Cauliflower Pilaf

Last night we went to our friends' house for their annual Friendsgiving party. The celebration has grown to about 40 people and features the most amazing potluck feast you can imagine! We all sign up for dishes in advance and this year I brought a Nutty Cauliflower Pilaf using a bag of Taylor Farms Cauliflower Pearls. I thought this would be a good one to bring since it's gluten-free and we have several friends that are gluten intolerant. (Also, one of the only vegetables I can currently get Ezra to eat is cauliflower in this riced/pearl form!) I mixed the cauliflower with quinoa to give it a bit more substance, and for crunch and chew, you can mix in any nuts, seeds or dried berries you have on hand. This will be making a repeat appearance at our Thanksgiving table this Thursday.

I also made a couple quick, seasonal sides to go with it: A simple Kale Salad with baby kale, persimmons and pomegranate seeds, plus some Crispy Old Bay Brussels (see recipes below.)


Nutty Cauliflower Pilaf

16 oz (1 bag) Taylor Farms Cauliflower Pearls

1 c cooked red or white quinoa

2T butter

2T olive oil

1/4 c golden raisins

1/4 c dried cherries

1/4 c shelled whole pistachios (or chop, if you prefer)

1/4 c sunflower seeds

salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, sauté the cauliflower pearls with the butter and olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are softer, translucent and just starting to brown. Mix in all other ingredients and serve warm in a bowl or on a platter. Serves 6 as a side (easily doubled or tripled for a larger group).

Kale Salad with Persimmon & Pomegranate

11 oz (1 box) Taylor Farms Organic Baby Kale

1 Fuyu persimmon (I leave the peel on)

1/3 c fresh pomegranate seeds (about a 1/2  pomegranate)

Place baby kale on a large platter and top with slices of persimmon and pomegranate seeds. Use your favorite balsamic dressing. Serves about 6. 

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Crispy Old Bay Brussels

9 oz (1 bag) Taylor Farms Shaved Brussels Sprouts

Olive oil

Old Bay seasoning

Spread the brussels out on a baking sheet in a thin, even layer and drizzle the entire surface generously with olive oil and sprinkle with plenty of Old Bay seasoning (which adds saltiness and spiciness). Roast in the oven at 400ºF for about 20 minutes, tossing once or twice, until some bits are brown and crispy. Check it occasionally to make sure it's not burning. Serve hot. This dish is best served relatively soon after roasting, as the crispiness will reduce with time. Serves about 4 as a side.

We are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time this year– 18 people for dinner in our little cabin will be quite cozy...we are excited! Check my Instagram stories for more (@theforestfeast). 

Happy Thanksgiving,



This post was done in partnership with Taylor Farms. Thank you for supporting the brands that make The Forest Feast possible.

Pomegranate Punch & Oprah!

I'm super excited to have 4 Forest Feast recipes in the current holiday issue of O, the Oprah Magazine (Dec. 2016)! I LOVE Oprah and was so excited to be included in her annual "favorite things" issue. They chose a couple from my new book and a couple from my blog that are great for holiday entertaining. 

There's a Pomegranate punch adapted from The Forest Feast Gatherings (see below), plus a Sparkling Old-Fashioned Punch, a Cran-Rosemary Punch and a Hot Chai Nog that is spiked with rum. 


Persimmon Inspired Thanksgiving Sides

Those who know me well know I am a *little* obsessed with persimmons. There's a short window of time in California each Fall when Fuyu persimmons (pictured above; the only type I care about) are abundant and that window is NOW! I love working them into the Thanksgiving meal.  If you have access to them as well, here are some of my favorite ways to use them. Click each picture below for more recipe info.

Persimmon Salad

I make this every Thanksgiving and often add avocado, too!

I make this every Thanksgiving and often add avocado, too!


Persimmon Brie Appetizer + A Simple Green Salad with Persimmon

We are hosting Thanksgiving this year for the first time ever! I'll be back soon with my menu ideas...Cheers!