Food writer Michelle Buffardi didn’t set out to be the queen of cheese. But her creative instincts along with her love of good food prove to be the perfect match in her new cookbook, Great Balls of Cheese (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). In the book, Buffardi reinvents the classic “cheese ball” with new shapes and interesting flavors while still maintaining its comforting, homespun appeal. So pass the crackers and try-out Buffardi’s adorably cheesy creations.
Buffardi came up with this the recipe while on a ski vacation with her family, so naturally the penguin ended up on skis!
16 oz. cream cheese (softened)
4 oz. blue cheese
2 teaspoons chopped shallots
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Dash of hot sauce (such as Frank’s RedHot)
1⁄2 cup poppy seeds (for coating)
2 dark raisins, 1 almond, 1 carrot, 1 red bell pepper and 1 scallion (for decorating)
Crackers (for serving)
Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together cream cheese, blue cheese, shallots, salt, and hot sauce. Form the mixture into a ball and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Before serving, remove a 2-inch piece of the cheese mixture, roll into a ball, and set aside; this will be the penguin’s head. Re-form the remaining cheese mixture into an egg shape.
Cut out a triangle shape roughly the length of your cheese ball from a sheet of wax paper. Press the wax paper into the cheese ball, with the widest part of the paper on the widest part of the cheese ball. Roll the cheese ball in the poppy seeds and set the ball on a plate. Slowly remove the wax paper; the ball should be covered in poppy seeds except for the penguin’s breast.
Set the head on top of the penguin’s body. Add the raisins for the eyes and the almond for the beak. Slice off 2 equal-sized rounds of the carrot and arrange them on either side of the head as earmuffs. Connect the earmuffs with the green part of the scallion.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel 1 long strip off the carrot; wind strip around the penguin’s neck as a scarf. Slice the remaining carrot into toes and arrange at the bottom of the penguin’s body to make its feet, or use two red bell pepper slices for skis
Serve with crackers.
Cranberry & Rosemary Christmas Ornament
This fun recipe is as easy to make, but also lends itself to a world of decorative fun with bell peppers, radishes and chives.
8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
8 oz. goat cheese (softened)
1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries
1⁄4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 small garlic clove (minced)
Small pieces of multicolored bell peppers and/or radishes and 1 fresh chive (for decorating)
Crackers or baguette slices (for serving)
Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together the cream cheese, goat cheese, cranberries, rosemary, and garlic until combined. Form the mixture into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Before serving, decorate the cheese ball with small pieces of bell pepper and/or radishes. Fold the chive into a loop and stick it into the top of the ornament, forming a “hook.”
Serve with crackers or baguette slices. Serves 12-15.
Chocolate–Peanut Butter Reindeer
Turn cream cheese, peanut butter and chocolate into a decadent dessert that will have your little reindeer asking for more.
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 pretzels; 2 chocolate candies (such as M&M’s or Reese’s Pieces) and 1 red gumdrop (for decorating)
Chocolate cookies, pretzels, or vanilla wafer cookies (for serving)
In a double boiler or a glass bowl set over simmering water, melt the chocolate. Let cool for 15 minutes.
Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, blend the cream cheese, melted chocolate, peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla extract. Form the mixture into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Before serving, set the ball on a platter. Break the pretzels into antler shapes and add to each side of the cheese ball. Use the chocolate candies for the eyes and the gumdrop for the nose.
Serve with chocolate cookies, pretzels, or vanilla wafers. Serves 12-15.
All recipes reprinted with permission from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt from “Great Balls of Cheese” by Michelle Buffardi. Photography by Jason Wyche. Copyright 2013.