Recipe: Cheddar and bacon cheese ball

by Julie Snyder

Cheese ballA cheese ball probably won't top the "healthy list," but everyone knows that a holiday buffet table without one is naked. What's a host to do?

Try out our version. This recipe makes one that's as good for you as a cheese ball can get. We've taken a traditional ingredient list and opted for lower fat cheese while choosing flavorful complements that help it keep that appetizer-table appeal.

A handful of simple ingredients go together in minutes, making it a perfect appetizer for a busy holiday hostess. Serve it up with confidence or package it in colorful holiday wrap for quick and easy gifts.

Cheddar and bacon cheese ball

Prep time: 5 minutes | Total time: 5 minutes | Yield: 16 servings

Ingredients

• 5 ounces fat-free cream cheese
• 3 ounces low-fat cream cheese
• 1/2 cup reduced-calorie extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely diced, separated
• 2 tablespoon low sodium Worcestershire sauce
• 1/4 cup onion, minced
• 1/4 cup bacon bits
• 1 jalapeño, finely chopped (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese (reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons), onion and Worcestershire sauce with your mixer's dough hook or knead together by hand. For added kick, stir in the jalapeño.

Shape the mixture into a ball or a log and roll in the bacon bits and reserved cheddar. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, for up to two weeks. Serve with crackers.

Cook's note

They're so easy to make that you'll want to offer a variety as well as the cheddar and bacon cheese ball! Start with the cream cheese blend. Make one of these combinations or create your own.

Date, walnut and blue cheese: to the cream cheeses, add 1 cup crumbled blue cheese, 3 tablespoons pitted dates, 1 tablespoon minced shallots and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Before serving, roll in a mixture of 1/4 minced parsley and 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped walnuts.

Salsa cheese ball: To the cream cheese, add 3 tablespoons tomato paste, 3 tablespoons fresh salsa, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 2 tablespoon chopped onion and 1 1/2 tablespoon minced seeded 1 jalapeño.

Pine nut and pesto cheese ball: To the cream cheese, add 1 cup grated Parmesan, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 3 tablespoons prepared pesto, 3 tablespoons chopped pine nuts. Roll in additional pine nuts.

Cranberry pecan cheese ball: To the cream cheese, add 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries, 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans, 2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate, zest of one orange, 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a teaspoon of sugar, if desired. Roll in additional diced or ground pecans.

Do you have a favorite cheese ball? What make it taste just right?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.