Bringing Back the CheeseBall

There are some things from days of past that I just adore.  Vintage shoes, china, kids clothes and the art of entertaining.  I’ve started selling some of my favorite vintage things on Ebay which is a total digression from this post which is about entertaining.  From parties to food, there are some sweet ideas from days of past that deserve to be brought back.  For example, a Sip & See to introduce a new baby, the teacup bridal shower, and vintage hors doeuvres like the deviled egg.   There is another hors doeuvre warranting attention. Something easy, affordable and flavorful.  The Cheeseball! Even typing it makes me giddy.IMG_4874

The Cheeseball has been a party staple since the 1920s.  According to Better Homes & Gardens “they’re only getting better with age.”  I’d have to agree.

At my last party, a Rio themed birthday party (details here), I wanted to reintroduce this time honored dish to my circle of friends.  With images of the traditional cheeseball from the supermarket, you know the one the nut covered Velveeta cheese concoction, I was dying to flavor it up with quality ingredients.  My Google Search resulted in images that were brown, ugly, and with the word Kraft, which just wasn’t what I was going for.  After a little digging, I found Martha Stewart’s version which was a  nice start.  Her beautifully styled pictures gave me inspiration – a cheeseball didn’t have to be brown.  It could be green or red and served with complimentary colored crackers.  For example, beet chips make the brown cheeseball look more appealing.  Then, a photo of a pumpkin themed cheeseball from the Food Network really blew my mind.  So, I’ll be doing that around Halloween this year.

From Martha Stewart’s post, I learned that the base was cream cheese, salt & lemon.  To that you can add what you like. I wanted to make two, one sweet and another savory.  For savory, I added mushrooms sauteed in butter, Marsala wine, Gruyere cheese and roasted garlic.  When that was too bland, I added a half cup of blue cheese.  For sweet, I went on a berry and orange theme.  So I added a fig & cranberry compote and shredded sharp cheddar.

My basic recipe this is more than enough for a crowd of 60

  • 32 ounces cream cheese
  • juice of one lemon
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 5 dashes hot sauce
  • salt & pepper to taste

Split into as many portions as you want balls. I decided on two.  For the mushroom I added 2 cups of chopped mushrooms sauteed in butter, a tablespoon of bacon fat; 2 tbsp Marsala wine; 1 tbsp roasted garlic, 1/2 cup blue cheese, 1 cup Gruyere.  For the cranberry, I added about 1/4 cup of fig & cranberry compote & 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.  Next time, I think that I’ll add some roasted figs. I might even get really daring and add some prosciutto.  Form the final product into a ball – wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Here’s the trick.  To let the flavors marry let them sit overnight in the fridge.

Then it is all about presentation.  For the mushroom ball, I decided to roll it in scallions and parsley.  The textures of which gave it a really pretty effect, sort of like a moss ball you’d see in an English garden.  To compliment the green color and salty flavor, I served it with salty yet classic Ritz crackers.  I served it on a shiny pewter platter, but next time I’ll use a rustic cutting board.  For the cranberry ball, I took another approach. I rolled it in cranberries.  When I didn’t have enough (oops), I chopped up some dried cherries to finish it off.  The deep dark red of the cherries mixed with the lighter red of the cranberries to provide a beautiful depth.  To add elements of sweet and orange, I served it with Anna’s Orange Swedish Cookies.  I served it on a vintage cake stand made from green glass from the Depression era (which began my love affair with vintage glassware).  The great thing was that the cranberry orange cheeseball also went with the Ritz crackers, so folks could make it more salty of they preferred.

Here’s how the berry one turned out –IMG_4872

My thoughts are that the cheeseball is a fabulously easy dish to offer at your next gathering.  It’s almost too easy!  So, yes – it’s time to bring back the CheeseBall.  And sorry friends, you’ll be seeing this time and time again.  Next time at the MadMen themed cocktail party to raise awareness about the Epilepsy Foundation.

Celebrating Fall

photo(10)Fall is one of the most amazing times of year out here in the wine country.  The vines turn colors that rival the most beautiful sunsets.  It is surely a special season providing much to celebrate.

It also gives the perfect reason to teach two little boys about the season.  Yesterday, my 4 year old was looking up at the trees in the backyard.  He was looking in wonder watching the leaves dance to the ground.  Red, yellow, orange and brown – our backyard is such a gorgeous palate.

So, there’s no better time to bring the colors inside.   At least that’s what we’ve done.  I had my boys collect their favorite leaves and then arrange them on our dining room table.  Watching them do it was the most insightful experience.  My older son decided to sort the leaves into colors prior to placing them on the white cotton tablecloth.  He then arranged them by size and placed them neatly in a straight line all the way around.  My nearly 2 year old son, piled them in a heap.  Developmentally I’m not sure what the relevance is of their two different organizing strategies.  But I think that the end result  is a masterpiece representing both of their visions of how the leaves should be.  In my world, it’s perfection to say the least.

At the end of the day though, the leaves are just a reminder of how gorgeous the world is around us.  By pointing it out to my boys, as they get older, hopefully they’ll take time to smell the roses or watch the leaves dance to the ground.   Have you done it lately?  I urge you to try it.

For more thoughts, kids arts projects and ideas on fall, and recipes check out my other blog at modernmamamary.com.

What’s in your backyard?

teepee

Today was one of those days when after a morning adventure down at the Sonoma County Regional Park, the boys just wanted to explore the backyard.  They found some pretty long sticks.  In an attempt to keep them from sword fighting, I asked the boys if they wanted to build something.  I already knew that the boys would want to do this as both of them love building anything.  Inspired by a friend who just built a teepee for a party they’re throwing, I thought about recreating a mini version for the boys.

The entire process was fun and a reminder of why life out here in the country is so fabulous.  After finding the long sticks, the boys helped hold up the sticks while I tied them together with green rope.  Wrap it up in an old sheet secured with clothespins, and voila – a cozy spot where a child can chill, giggle and make believe.

As soon as it was done, the boys crawled in and spent time laughing. I’ll never know what exactly they were laughing about (nor does it matter).  One thing is for sure though I will always be tickled pink by the memory of creating a space where they were so happy to be themselves.

Sometimes The Best Things Are In Your Own Backyard

The other day, my husband and I did something quite radical in our domestic world;  we went on a date.  Not to an event, not to a fundraiser, not to a party, but just the two of us.  At first, … Continue reading