Over the weekend we had friends over for dinner. I love planning a menu, but I felt like I was stuck in an appetizer rut. My go-to party food is a cheese plate, but how could I make it a bit more interesting?
I decided to replace my usual wedge of Brie with an all-American classic -- cheese balls. Yes, cheese balls - those softball sized masses of creamy, cheesy who-knows-what that grandma serves at Christmas.
And, guess what? They were delicious. So yummy in fact that I may have to kick that boring old block of cheddar to the curb.
Thanks to the queen of entertaining herself Martha Stewart, I have a recipe for a great cheese ball base that's very easily adaptable. I made a few tweaks of my own, used some really fresh ingredients, and I'm officially a cheese ball fan.
The best part of this recipe is that it's so easy for kids to help prepare. Forming the cheese into a ball and rolling it in the toppings is a perfect activity for preschool chefs. Plus, kids are more likely to taste the foods that they help make - so grab the kids and get rolling.
For the Cheese Ball base I used Martha Stewart's recipe found here.
Martha's recipe calls for cream cheese, but I substituted Neufchatel which is found right next to the cream cheese at the grocery store, has a more mild flavor, and 1/3 less fat then regular cream cheese.
I followed Martha's recipe for the Cheddar Chutney cheese ball to the word. This makes a sweet cheese ball with classic fall flavors that kids will love.
For my second cheese ball I made a goat cheese ball with my own tweaks. Here's what I used:
Cheese ball base, from Martha's recipe
8oz plain goat cheese
3 Tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest
black pepper and salt to taste
1. Mix the chopped herbs, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a bowl and then pour them onto a plate, for rolling.
* A small food processor makes chopping the herbs quick and easy.
2. In a medium bowl add the goat cheese to the cheese ball base, mix until well combined.
3. Use clean hands to roll balls the size of golf balls.
* Small cheese balls look more appealing on a plate, plus you will get more of the herbs and spices in every bite. Kids will be less intimidated by the smaller portion size.
4. Place the balls in the herb mixture and roll to coat. Press loose herbs into the cheese.
Serve with crackers or slices of bread.
* Only roll as many balls as you want to serve at one time, place balls that have not been coated in an airtight container in the fridge and roll in seasonings right before serving. This will keep the herbs from getting soggy.