It’s that time of year. One of my favourite times of year is happening right now actually. I like to call it Appetizer Season. No, seriously, give me a savoury appetizer and I am one happy woman. I quite often make a whole meal out of appetizers. Like right now, as I type this up, I am making my dinner out of those mini cheese ball appetizers on a stick you see in that pic above. I could have had spaghetti like the rest of the family but an appy almost always wins for me. Were they worth skipping the pasta for? You bet!
I’ve been making a cheese ball for parties for years. I remember when I was a little girl, my mom always made one for her parties. I admit, I was pretty fascinated by the magic she must have used to form cheese into a ball, but it was the delicious taste that really sucked me in. And that was it. It became a regular part of my holiday celebrations ever since. I even make snowman cheese balls from time to time. But what I love about these mini ones is that a) your guests don’t have to huddle around one cheese ball – they can mingle the night away! and b) you can offer a wide variety of flavours easily.
Mini Cheese Ball Appetizers on a Stick Recipe
There are 2 basic recipes to my cheese ball recipe. Cream cheese and shredded cheese. For one 8 oz. brick of cream cheese, I like to use about 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese. Most of the time I use sharp cheddar but I do like some other types as well. From there, you can come up with endless variations. I almost always include a splash (a big splash – like 1-2 T) of Worcestershire sauce in my cheese ball recipe as well. Even if you are going for a sweeter mixture, I still find that it adds some zip and balance to the dish but you can leave it out if you prefer. To make the mini balls, you will also need pretzel sticks to use as your “handles” for picking them up easily.
Variations I like:
~ Add 2 T. of maple syrup, 1/3 cup finely chopped dried cranberries. Roll in 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans.
~ Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped dill pickles, 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions, 1 T. mayonnaise (or you could use Miracle Whip if you want a bit more tang). Roll in 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts.
~ Add 2 oz. goat cheese, 1 T. softened butter, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions, 1 tsp. garlic puree (or 2 cloves roasted garlic), 1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper. Roll in 1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios.
~ Add 1 tsp. powdered Ranch dressing mix, 1/4 cup crumbled bacon, 1 finely chopped green onion, Roll in 1/3 cup of chia seeds or hemp hearts.
~ ***I use Italiano blend shredded cheese in place of the cheddar. Add 1 tsp. of Italian seasoning and 1 tsp. of minced garlic (I prefer to use the pureed kind that comes in a tube instead as I find it blends in better). Roll in 1/3 cup chopped parsley or rosemary.
Oh good grief it couldn’t be much easier than this. Step one is to leave out the cream cheese for a bit to let it soften. When making the mini cheese balls, I start with my basic mixture and blend it together (I’ve tried food processors, blenders, mixers, and my preferred method is still just to mush it all together with a wooden spoon – or my clean hands!). To be honest, I could almost just eat it as is but it’s even more fun to add other ingredients. So then I divide that mixture in half and add my different ingredients to each one, again working it in with my spoon or my hands. For a party I double or triple my basic recipe and then I divide each of those in half so I have 4-6 different types of cheese balls.
Once you have your mixes, simply roll into small balls. Okay now folks, please learn from my mistake. Make them small – smaller than you think you should! First off, remember that these are kind of meant to be one bite cheese balls. Secondly, once you roll them in things like nuts or cranberries, they end up looking much bigger than anticipated.
Don’t worry if they are a bit misshapen at this point. As I made them, I placed them on a tray that was covered with plastic wrap. If they start warming up and becoming too soft, you can always pop the tray into the fridge for a few minutes. Once the cheese balls are formed, roll them in whatever coating you’d like. At this point, the coating tends to firm them up a little and makes it easier to shape them into perfect spheres. Place a pretzel stick in each one. Store in the refrigerator until serving time.