Friday, December 14, 2012

Holiday Herbed Cheeze Ball

My sister used to make the greatest herbed cheese when my parents had a restaurant in Stockton, CA. I think we used it as a spread in a sandwich. (The restaurant was "St. George and the Duck" at St. Mark's Plaza for those who might remember it!) I was eating cheese in those days, still not realizing all that my dairy allergy entailed.

Fast forward to today, when I am a vegan with fond memories of herbed cheese and a longing to be able to eat a cheese ball at a party!

I've put them all together here. It might look fancy, but it's quite simple. You do need to plan ahead a little if you want to make it into a ball (it needs to firm up in the fridge), but you can even make and eat it in 10 minutes if you want to use it as a dip or spread. (Although the flavor is enhanced if you let it sit for a few days to really infuse the cheese with the herbs.)

You can use fresh herbs, but I've made mine with what I've got in the spice cabinet. All measurements are estimates since I just throw in what I think will work. You can adjust to your own tastes and contents of your spice cabinet!
Herbed Cheeze Ball
(Vegan, Gluten-free)

1 8 oz container non-dairy cream cheese
3 Tbs white wine (adjust amount for firmness)
1-3 tsp dried parsley
1-3 tsp dried rosemary
1-3 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1-4 Tbs dehydrated onion flakes (these will help to firm it up)

Coating (if you are making a ball)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Serve with crackers. (Serve with gluten-free crackers if you've got GF friends. I like rice crackers.)

Put the first seven ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a fork. You are done now if you want to serve it as a dip or spread right away or you can let it sit in the fridge.

To make the ball:
Place the mixture in the fridge for 1-3 days to firm up. The longer it sits, the more the flavors develop. If you have used the dehydrated onion flakes, they will help soak up the wine and make it firmer.

Just before serving (or the day of the party), take the mixture out of the fridge. With clean hands, roll it into a ball shape (this is the messy part), and then either:

1. Roll the ball in the chopped nuts, covering the ball well. Place on your serving tray.


2. Place the ball on your tray and arrange cranberries in two lines over and across the ball, like a ribbon on a package. You can even place a row along the bottom edge. Carefully apply chopped walnuts in the areas between the cranberries.

A note on serving: when I made this for a party at someone else's house, I put my "naked" cheeseball on a small circle of cardboard covered with tinfoil. That way I didn't have to apply the nuts to it on a big plate that wouldn't fit in my fridge. I could still fit it in a container (wrapped loosely in tinfoil) and I dressed my plate once I was at the party.

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