We are not sure about you, but this time of the year is exhausting. Between working, baking, wrapping and general ho-ho time it is hard to think even of entertaining. Except for us. We are constantly thinking about who we can have over for impromptu cocktails or even dinner. For instance, last week in the middle of everything that was going on, Lenny suggested a little soiree with a friend of ours, and me being one who is eager to try recipes out, said Yes! This recipe for a Za’atar Pomegranate Cheese Ball was indeed not only festive but a huge hit.
During this time of the year, I like to have some standard, up my sleeve recipes as well as entertaining ideas to break out when last-minute occasions arise. I have a few go-to recipes that I know I can count on, as well as a new one to try out on “unexpected” guest on my list at all times. During the holidays, I love nothing more than bringing out a cheese ball. It sounds cheesy, but it is an appetizer that always makes people smile.
I trusted my cheesemonger at the Oakland Whole Foods, when I asked for suggestions for this new recipe. I expressed that I wanted to use pomegranates as well as za’atar but wasn’t sure where to go from there. He informed me that I should go with a tangy cheese such as a goat cheese, which would be a great pairing with the slightly tart but sweet pomegranate seeds. He also mentioned that I should save my money by using an everyday goat cheese mixed with some cream cheese for stability and to let the rest of the seasonings enhance my cheese ball. I was happy that I went with his suggestions as he was right in this decision-making process. The tangy goat cheese, not only went well with the pomegranates but also alongside the za’atar and the lemon zest I decided to add at the last moment.
A few things that help me keep my sanity during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season are to have some favorite recipes on hand. Recipes that I know I can count on as being easy to make, and crowd pleasers. As well I always make sure I have the following items in my pantry to add alongside a cheesy cheese ball.
- Raincoast Crisps – their unique flavors blend really well with cheese balls, and I have found it is the one cracker that everyone loves. I served Rosemary Raisin Pecan with this recipe.
- Simple Crisp – beautifully dried fruit that pairs really well with all cheese. Apple paired very well with this recipe.
- Nuts – a handful or two of toasted nuts. I usually pick up a small amount from the bulk section and toast them just before serving.
- Champagne – it is the holidays break open a lovely French Champagne to celebrate.
- Lillette – I like to have a bottle of rose or blanc on hand to add to a glass of champagne to make a festive cocktail.
Here are a few other cheese ball recipes I like to serve during the holidays, as well as some fun champagne cocktails that are festive and pair nicely.
- Blue Cheese Ball
- Christmas Tree Cheese Ball
- Sage, Rye Blue Cheese Ball
- Classic Champagne Cocktail
- Aperol Champagne Cocktail
- Cranberry Champagne Cocktail
- Sugared Cranberries – so pretty in a champagne glass
I think the most important thing to keep in mind is to relax, smile and have fun during the holidays. It always works out, and the people around you, really just want to spend time together!
Thank you for joining us at the Chez Us table; we love having you here.
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Za’atar Pomegranate Cheese Ball
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces plain goat cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon Za’atar
zest from 1 organic Meyer lemon (washed, and always use organic when using the zest)
2 tablespoons finely minced Italian parsley
seeds from 1 very ripe medium-sized pomegranate
crackers to serve with
Whip the cream cheese and goat cheese with a hand mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add the Za’atar, lemon zest and the parsley. Mix well for 1 minute. Place the mixture into a small bowl, and then chill for 30 minutes
Shape into two balls, wrap in waxed paper and cheese at least 2 hours.
Just before serving press the pomegranate seeds lightly into the cheese ball until covered.
disclaimer: This post is a collaboration between Whole Foods and Chez Us. All content and photos are my own and were not influenced by other parties. We appreciate our readers supporting sponsors that allow us to create exciting content for Chez Us.