Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Day Gift for You

My sister and I are splitting the Thanksgiving Day cooking duties.  It's not actually a fair split, as she is providing not only turkey and ham but also the venue, and I'm just coming up with some sides and desserts.  But if this year is like last year, I'll also carve the bird and oversee the critical gravy preparation.  My gravy is a work of art.  So it kind of evens out.

But I also bring to the table an old family recipe that, in my family, no Thanksgiving dinner can be without.  It's not complicated, it's not fancy.  It's simply not Thanksgiving without it.  My grandmother's Sweeheart Balls always graced our holiday tables as far back as I can remember, and in recent years I've happily won converts among the next generation and my sister's significant other.  And to honor Gran, who would have turned 98 this Thanksgiving Day, I'm going to share her recipe with you.  Because it's so yummy, and so easy.

Let me emphasize:  You can make this recipe.  I don't care if you're a complete culinary idiot, if you can't melt butter, if "peel back film to vent" constitutes extensive preparation in your vocabulary.  You can make Sweetheart Balls.  You can serve them as an appetizer, a side dish, or a dessert, and they will make you look good.  This is my gift to you.  Even if you don't make them on Thanksgiving, make them sometime.  You'll love them, and I'll love that people are enjoying my grandma's special treat.

So Happy Thanksgiving.  Count your blessings, appreciate your riches (especially the ones that aren't actually monetary), and if you are so fortunate, eat 'til you burst. 

Sweetheart Balls

8 oz. cream cheese
1 small can crushed pineapple
10-12 maraschino cherries (more or less)
1 sleeve (give or take) of graham crackers

Let the cream cheese sit out for 30 minutes or so to soften but not get too gooey.  Drain the pineapple (maybe make a tasty beverage with the juice).  Cut each cherry into about a dozen small bits - don't worry if they're sitting in a small pool of cherry juice.  Put the graham crackers into a plastic zipper bag and use a rolling pin or tall can to crush them into coarse, not quite powdery, crumbs. 

Combine the cream cheese, pineapple, and cherries with a spoon or your hands to make a lumpy, pasty mess.  The cherry juice should turn the mixture a very pale pink, or add more juice to taste.  Pinch off enough of the mixture to form into a 1-inch ball, then roll in the graham cracker crumbs.  Place on a plate and repeat until you have used up all of the cream cheese (this recipe should make about three dozen balls and of course can be doubled or tripled or whateverpled).  Crush additional graham crackers if you run out of crumbs before you run out of cream cheese.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a couple of hours or overnight.  To serve, set the plate out and encourage indiscriminate indulgence.


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