Introduction: How to Make a Cheese Ball + My Favorite Recipes- Bacon Pecan and Cranberry Almond

Picture of How to Make a Cheese Ball + My Favorite Recipes- Bacon Pecan and Cranberry Almond

I didn't grow up with a tradition of having a cheese ball during the holidays but I bought one several years ago and was immediately sold. They're so good! I don't know what it is about them, but they're easily one of my favorite appetizers. I no longer buy them though! They're so easy to make and you can change the ingredients to suit your family's tastes. Here's a basic, 3 ingredient recipe, plus my two favorite add-ons down below.

Stop by my food blog, www.ButterwithaSideofBread.com to see more great recipes!  We have a giveaway up for a $100 amazon gift card right now...wouldn't that be super right before the holidays? 


On to the Cheese Ball...

BASIC CHEESE BALL RECIPE:
Original recipe from Allrecipes.com

2 (8-oz) bricks of cream cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 packet dry Ranch dressing mix

{Makes 2 cheese balls}

Step 1: Mix It Up

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Mix all ingredients together using a hand mixer or stand mixer. It's easier to shape the cheese if the cream cheese is still cold, so using a mixer saves your arms since it's not an easy talk to mix cold cheese

Step 2: Add In... Well, Your Add-ins

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Divide the mixture into 2 separate bowls. At this point you can add any mix-ins you'd like. Here are my favorite two:

BACON-PECAN Cheese Ball
  • Add in 1/4 bacon bits {I prefer real bacon bits, as opposed to the maroon colored unidentifiable crunchy things}
  • Coat the outside with 1/2 cup chopped pecans {Do not mix these in! Read on for instructions how to coat the cheese ball with nuts.}

CRANBERRY-ALMOND Cheese Ball
  • Add in 1/4 chopped dried cranberries
  • Coat the outside with 1/2 cup sliced almonds {Do not mix these in! Read on for instructions how to coat the cheese ball with nuts.}

VARIATIONS:
  • Add in 1/4 cup chopped, green chiles and Monterey Jack cheese instead of Cheddar, rolled in pecans
  • Add in 1/4 cup finely chopped ham and 2 TBSP sliced chives, rolled in walnuts
  • Add in 1/4 cup pomegranate "seeds" and roll in almonds
  • Omit cheddar and replace with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Add in 1/4 cup diced sun dried tomatoes, roll in walnuts or Pine Nuts.

Step 3: From Blob to Ball

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To shape the cheese ball, first scrape the mixture into a ball-like shape while it's still inside the bowl.

Unwrap a piece of saran wrap and lay it on the counter. Sprinkle about half the nuts onto the saran wrap, in a small pile.

Using a rubber scraper, scrape out the semi-shaped ball of cheese onto the top of the nuts.

Now, working with one side at a time, cover the mound of cheese with a section of saran wrap and start to shape it into a ball. Just use your hands- sometimes I cover the whole thing and use both my hands to shape it. Unwrap it and start pressing nuts into the sides. For the sliced almonds, just start placing them on one by one to cover the outside. They won't stick more than one layer deep, so you can roll it around in them a bit, then just individually place them where there are sections missing.

For the chopped pecans, I find it's easier to cover and shape one side, then pick up the cheese ball, sprinkle more nuts on the saran wrap and turn the cheese ball over, covering the other side. Pick it up and roll it through the nuts again to coat around the middle section.

All the while you can continue to cover the cheese ball with sections of the plastic wrap and shape it into a ball. I say ball, but you really don't want it to be perfectly round since it needs to sit on a plate! So do the best to make it circular, then set it down with a little more force, flattening one side.

Step 4: Voila- It's a Cheese Ball!

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When you're satisfied with your cheese ball, wrap the entire thing in plastic wrap. Here's the funny thing- I personally like cheese balls more when the flavors have had a chance to meld. So plan on making these at least a day in advance. {You can make them even up to a week in advance- just store them sealed in a freezer bag in the fridge! }

When you're ready to serve, put the cheese ball on a plate surrounded with crackers and a small knife for serving.

I like different kinds of crackers, but I find smaller, square crackers look the best on serving trays. {Think Triscuits or Wheat Thins!}

ENJOY! 

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