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Divas on a Dime: Easy cheesy upgrade for your Thanksgiving appetizers

When I was a kid, my favorite part of Thanksgiving was the appetizers my mom put on the table before dinner. I remember all of us kiddies on cloud nine, eating all the tempting little bites with olives stuck on every fingertip. But the centerpiece of the appetizer tray was always Mom’s amazing cheese balls. It’s a simple base recipe that you can dress up or leave plain for creative yet traditional appetizers on this most food-centric of all holidays.

This recipe is a great way to stretch expensive ingredients so lots of people can enjoy it. Here’s a perfect time to use smoked salmon or expensive cheese. You only need a small amount, making it an affordable splurge.

The base of this cheese ball is very plain. You add shredded cheese and an additional very flavorful ingredient to be the star of the show. Let’s call that the flavor booster. Then you choose something to roll the finished cheese ball in. Call that a topper. Go for texture, flavor and color with the topper. This recipe easily doubles or triples.

DIVA’S EASY CHEESE BALL

What You’ll Need:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

¼ cup butter

1 tablespoons milk

1 cup shredded cheese – see ideas below

¼ to ½ cup Flavor Booster – see ideas below

½ cup topper – see ideas below

Here’s How:

Allow the cream cheese, shredded cheese, and butter come to room temperature. In the bowl of your stand mixer or a medium mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, milk, butter, shredded cheese and flavor booster until fluffy. The easiest way to form the cheeseball is to line a bowl with plastic wrap and fill it with the cheese mixture. Then wrap the plastic together forming a ball shape.

Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours. This is important to let the flavors combine.

When you’re ready to serve, roll the cheese ball in your choice of topper. Let stand for 20 minutes at room temperature, warming to a spreadable consistency. Serve with crackers.

You can make these ahead and freeze until ready to serve. Just wrap cheese balls tightly in several layers of plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 1 month. To serve, thaw in refrigerator overnight.

Some ideas:

Cheeses – swiss, bleu cheese, cheddar, cotija, pepper jack, parmesan, Havarti.

Flavor Boosters – Olives, ham, taco seasoning, cooked sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, jalapenos, pepperoni, shrimp.

Toppers – walnuts, pecans, tortilla chips, crushed cereal, potato chips, pine nuts, dried fruit, coconut.

Variations Pictured:

Smoked Salmon – Use Havarti cheese with dill and ¼ cup chopped smoked salmon with a teaspoon of dried dill. Top with green onion and more dill.

Cranberry Orange – Use Monterey Jack cheese, ½ cup chopped dried cranberries and the zest of one orange. Add a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt. Top with more cranberry and ¼ cup chopped pistachios.

Smoky Bacon – Use smoked gouda cheese and add ½ cup crumbled bacon. Top with sliced almond and more bacon.

The variations are endless. I hope you enjoy having this blank canvas to create your culinary masterpiece. Happy Thanksgiving, Divas!

Fabulous Food by Patti Diamond from “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” – www.divasonadime.com Join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom.

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