A cheese ball is a real crowd pleaser and the perfect appetizer/snack to have on hand for the holiday season.

Place it on your open house holiday table; bring one along to a potluck dinner; serve it as an appetizer on New Year’s Eve.  This festive, tasty cheese ball will even tide you over to Super Bowl Sunday.

Feel free to tweak this cheese ball recipe to suit your family’s and guests’ tastes and preferences.  You can provide more zip by adding some blue cheese and Tabasco sauce. Or, you can substitute mozzarella, fontina, Colby, Jarlsberg, Swiss cheeses, etc. for the grated cheeses in the recipe.  For extra crunch and vitamins, add some finely chopped carrots and celery.

Although I like my cheese ball studded with pecans, other nuts work just as well. Replace the pecans with walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, pistachios, cashews, etc

For a low fat and figure friendly version, use reduced fat cheeses and roll the cheese ball in your favorite herb or a combination of herbs such as parsley, dill, chives, tarragon, thyme.

Serve the cheese ball with an assortment of crackers, pita chips, bread sticks, as well as slices of apples and pears and crudités.  A mug of hot spiced apple cider is the perfect beverage to accompany your customized cheese ball.

Happy Holidays!

Ingredients

  • 2  8-ounce packages of Neufchatel cheese*
  • ¼ cup scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic reduction, optional**
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chives or parsley

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Neufchatel cheese, scallions, mustard, pickle relish, balsamic reduction, garlic powder, onion powder and salt.  Beat all together until light and fluffy.

Fold in the Parmesan, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses.

Place the cheese mixture on a large piece of plastic warp.  Pull up the sides to form mixture into a round shape. You can also use your hands to help shape the ball.

Place the cheese ball in the refrigerator for at least several hours or overnight.  Or, you can place the cheese ball in the freezer for up to one week.  Then thaw overnight in the refrigerator the night before you are planning to serve it.

Remove the cheese ball from the refrigerator on the day you are planning to serve it.  Combine the chopped pecans and chives in a plate and roll the cheese ball in the mixture.  Make sure the entire cheese ball is covered with the nut/herb mixture.

Wrap the cheese ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it.

Serve with slices of apples and pears, and a variety of crackers, pita chips or bread sticks.

Serves 8 to 10.

Notes

* I like to use Neufchatel cheese, which is lower in fat and calories than regular cream cheese. It is okay to use regular cream cheese in this recipe.

** I use Alessi balsamic reduction, which can be found at Kings.  If preferred, you can substitute Worcestershire sauce for the balsamic reduction.