The holidays are all about spending time with friends and family, and that means that means one thing — tons of dinner parties with guests galore. And, of course, feasting.
My parents always throw two parties this time of year; one on Christmas Eve, another on Christmas itself. Each day, they get up at 7am to start cooking, the guests start trickling in around 4ish, and in no time at all the dining table is loaded down with 20+ delicious dishes, and our house is packed to the gills with people (adults karaoke-ing on the first floor, screaming kids in the basement, and teenagers holed away upstairs). It’s an exhausting but amazingly fun time.
But you know, the problem with dinner parties is that I always get hungry before dinner and fill up on appetizers. I know from the start that I’m going to wish I’d saved room in my stomach for other stuff, but it’s really hard to resist the siren call of chips/dip, baby sandwiches, crackers & cheese, and mini quiches. As far as I’m concerned, appetizers are pretty much the best part of any meal.
So, in honor of my favorite course, on the fourth day of Christmas my kitchen gives to you…Festive Cheese Rounds. They’re fun, they’re tasty, and they’re sure to be a hit at your next holiday party!
Festive Cheese Rounds (Slight adapted from Amy Sedaris’s Heavyset Cheese Ball recipe)
** The jalapenos and pepper jack cheese add a bit of kick, which Dan and I love. If you’re not into that though, just leave them out and substitute with chopped green onion + cheese of choice.
- 1-1/4 cups whole, plain almonds
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/3 cup pepperoni, chopped (Bacon would be good too…I just didn’t have any.)
- 1 jalapeno, diced
- 1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
- Salt and pepper
- Sprigs of rosemary, for garnish
(1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread almonds out on a baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes.
** I actually forgot this step, but my cheese rounds turned out fine. I imagine toasted almonds would taste better, but I honestly didn’t miss them.
(2) In a large bowl, soften the cream cheese with a spoon/spatula. Add the pepperoni, diced jalapeno, and grated cheese. Season with salt/pepper to taste. Chill overnight.
(3) On a serving platter, divide cheese mixture into 2 portions and shape each like a pine cone.
** I used my hands to roll each portion into balls, then gently squeezed and pressed one end to a create a more narrow point.
(4) Press the almonds at a slight angle into the cheese, starting at the narrow end of the pine cone shape.
(5) Do this in rows, continuing to overlap rows until all the cheese is covered.
(6) Garnish with fake sprigs, or real ones, or with rosemary.
(7) Serve at room temperature with crackers or toasted crostini.