Appetizers are an essential part of holiday entertaining. They kick off the communal feel with guests grazing about while sipping on cocktails and chatting. Plus, they buy you some extra time for finishing touches on dinner prep.
But the last thing they should be is stressful, as we all know along with the joy this season brings, there’s also an endless to-do list.
Apps that can be made in advance are sure to keep you jolly, and when they double as a festive centerpiece, like this cheese ball, they’ll have you literally rockin’ around the Christmas tree like Brenda Lee.
From its bell pepper star topper down to the almond garland and tomato ornaments, it’s a stunning seasonal addition to your holiday spread.
It starts with a mixture of cream cheese, shredded cheddar, green onions, pimentos, mayonnaise and seasonings that are combined and chilled before being shaped into a Christmas tree.
Fresh chopped parsley covers the cheese mixture, followed by the edible decorations. Served surrounded in a “skirt” of crackers, it’s as delicious as it is festive.
You can even build a charcuterie board around it adorned with meats, fruits, cheeses and nuts. And the ingredients of the cheesy interior and embellished exterior can be altered to suit your taste.
For added sweetness, fold in some apricot jam. Want a little more spice? Throw in chopped jalapeños or a squeeze of Sriracha. Garnishes such as olives, pine nuts, pecans, pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries also can be used to decorate your tree.
Or switch it up entirely and turn it into a snowman. Roll the mixture into two balls, coat them in shredded white cheese, stack and decorate with peppercorn or black olive eyes and buttons, a little carrot nose and arms made of sprigs of thyme or rosemary.
Christmas Tree Cheese Ball
Adapted from inspiredbycharm.com.
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese
4 green onions, chopped
1 4-ounce jar diced pimentos, drained
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 yellow bell pepper cut into a star and small squares
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Assorted crackers and pretzels
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients, from the cheddar cheese to the black pepper, and beat until combined.
Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Using plastic wrap, roll and press the cheese ball mixture into the shape of a Christmas tree about 6 inches wide and 10 inches tall.
To decorate, garnish first with the cherry tomato halves, then cover the tree with parsley. Add the almonds like garland around the tree, and alternate the small yellow peppers to add variety in depth and color with the tomatoes.
Carefully transfer the Christmas tree to a serving platter, top it with a bell pepper star and sprinkle with parmesan “snow,” being sure to have some of it rest atop the almond garland.
Serve with an assortment of crackers.
Audrey Alfaro can be reached at email@example.com.
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