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