Pumpkin Seed Cheese Ball

October is ALMOST over, so we have just one more pumpkin recipe for you. Then we’ll move on. Maybe.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of working with a guest chef at work. He came in during the morning. We prepped for a few hour. Then, we put up 13 unique dishes in an hour. That’s a lot, by the way, like a new dish every five minutes.

Anyway, at the end of the day, we shook hands, thanked each other for our time teaching and assisting in the kitchen, and went our separate ways. Here’s the thing, though. All of the dishes we made were vegan and about half of them were also gluten free. But here’s the REAL thing. All of the dishes were delicious. Like, seriously delicious. I was blown away that food containing absolutely no animal products could be so tasty and satisfying.

Before you get worried, no, I’m not going to turn all veggie on you. I still am a very meat-centric cook. However, one of the fun new ingredients I was introduced to yesterday is called nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that’s used as a seasoning. It’s a little salty, a little earthy, a little funky, but, overall, pretty good. Most importantly, though, it packs a pretty heavy umami punch, which your taste buds translate as meat and sort of tricks your brain into enjoying more than it typically would. (I could go on a whole umami rant, and, one day, I probably will, but not today.) Apparently, nutritional yeast was big in the 70’s and got dubbed “hippie dust,” due to the number of vegetarian and vegan hippies sprinkling it on everything.

All of that to say, I’m now a believer that vegan food can be delicious, and that’s where I got the idea to use nutritional yeast in this week’s recipe.

This cheese ball is perfect for a dinner party, to take to thanksgiving, or to eat all by yourself while you sit at your desk during the day. You can guess which option we went with. It’s sweet, tangy, bitter, salty, and spicy, all at once. It’s just plain good, y’know? It’s also super easy. So get on it, and love someone with your food this week.

Ingredients:
8 oz. honey goat cheese
¼ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. nutritional yeast, finely ground
½ tsp. cayenne
Honey (optional)
Crackers

Directions:

1.   Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Unwrap the goat cheese and leave it out in a small bowl to soften. Sprinkle with coarse black pepper.

2.     Drizzle the pumpkin seeds with olive oil and toss to coat. Combine the spices and sprinkle the seeds with half of the mixture. Spread the seeds on a sheet tray, then sprinkle the remaining seasoning over the seeds.

3.     Bake the seeds for 6 minutes. Remove the tray, shuffle the seeds, and place back in the oven for an additional 6 minutes. Allow to cool.

4.     Now that your cheese has softened, mix in the black pepper and form the cheese into a ball. Refrigerate until ready to use.

5.     To serve, roll the cheese ball in the roasted pumpkin seeds and press the seeds into the cheese. Drizzle with honey, if desired, and serve with crackers.

 

(If you can’t find honey or sweetened goat cheese, that’s okay. You can either add a tablespoon of honey to the mixture with the pepper, drizzle honey over the finished cheese ball, or skip it altogether. You can also substitute half of your goat cheese for cream cheese if you’re feeling thrifty.)