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Well… it has been awhile! I hope you are all well, happy and healthy and enjoying the holiday season. I am dusting off the blog and remembering how to format just in time to share two recipes for cheese balls for your holiday entertaining needs. True, I missed Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and the first two weekends of December, so your holiday celebration may have come and gone… in which case you can make these for yourself as a snack. Because who doesn’t love a good cheese ball? and I have you covered with both sweet-ish and savory options. The sweet-savory cheese ball combines the flavors of mild bleu cheese and sweet dates with just a hint of garlic and Dijon mustard; the savory-savory has fresh chives and za’atar seasoning, similar to my favorite Cheese Spread with Za’atar and Scallions. If you’re not familiar with za’atar, it’s a seasoning mix with thyme, oregano, marjoram and sesame seeds, so adding chives brings you right into the realm of a classic herb dip/herbed cream cheese. Make one, make both: they’re easy, crowd-pleasing, fun in a kind of crafty way (you get to sculpt cheese with your hands!), and delicious. Happy holidays!

Bleu Cheese and Date Cheese Ball (pictured on the right)

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 oz. mild bleu cheese (Maytag, Rogue Oregon blue, Gorgonzola dolce, or similar)
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed fresh garlic*
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 T. finely minced dates
  • 1/4 c. chopped toasted almonds to coat

Use a stand or hand mixer to whip the cream cheese. Add the crumbled bleu cheese, honey, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and black pepper and mix until combined. It’s okay to have some texture; the bleu cheese does not have to be whipped smooth. Stir in the dates by hand.

Tear off a large piece of plastic wrap (or parchment or wax paper), about 12″ wide by 18″ long. Dollop the cheese mixture in the middle and use the plastic wrap to form the cheese into a ball. Twist the loose ends shut and refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to serve, carefully untwist the ends and unwrap the cheese. Sprinkle the almonds onto a plate or cutting board and roll the cheese ball until coated in almonds. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour for the best flavor. Serve with crackers, bread or cut vegetables.

*To crush garlic without a special tool, drag the side of a large knife over minced garlic on a cutting board. Repeat until you have a paste.

Za’atar and Chives Cheese Ball (pictured on the left)

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 c. finely shredded Monterey Jack, or mild white cheddar
  • 2 tsp. za’atar seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 c. minced fresh chives
  • 3 T. white or black (or a combination) sesame seeds to coat

Use a stand or hand mixer to whip the cream cheese. Add the Monterey Jack, za’atar and salt and mix until combined. The za’atar flavor will be mild, but will intensify overnight as it melds with the cheese. Stir in the chives.

Tear off a large piece of plastic wrap (or parchment or wax paper), about 12″ wide by 18″ long. Dollop the cheese mixture in the middle and use the plastic wrap to form the cheese into a ball. Twist the loose ends shut and refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to serve, carefully untwist the ends and unwrap the cheese. Sprinkle the sesame seeds onto a plate or cutting board and roll the cheese ball until coated. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hr for best results. Serve with crackers, bread or cut vegetables.

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Your cheese balls can be stored in the refrigerator up to 48 hours before rolling in the toppings, and leftovers will keep for 5-7 days in a tightly sealed container.