Holiday Cheese Recipes

To simplify your holiday entertaining this season, serve cheese as your signature dish at parties and potlucks. Isabel Maples from the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association shares a few ideas. 

Festive Cheddar Tree

Makes 1 cheese tree – 40 servings


– 5 (8-ounce) packages of Cabot Cheddar, assorted flavors

– Fresh thyme sprigs

– Grape or cherry tomatoes and/or olives

– 1 mushroom


– Cut cheese into 1-inch cubes

– On large platter or cutting board, arrange cubes in rows to form tree shape, using a different cheese flavor or color for each row. Separate flavors with thyme sprigs and rows of tomatoes or olives.

– For star on top, peel skin from mushroom; press star pattern into mushroom with point of knife.


Cheese Board

Makes 10 servings

Serving a sampling of cheeses is sure to please your guests, as people can compare and contrast flavors or just pick what they like. A cheese board is a step above the 'cheese and crackers' mentality but can be practically as easy to prepare with this step-by-step guide.

1. Serve 3 to 5 cheeses. That offers variety without being overwhelming.

2. Vary the cheeses, either by appearance (light to dark), texture (soft to hard) or flavor (mild to bold). Relax; you can hardly go wrong with whatever you select.

3. Using a colorful serving platter, cutting board, or marble slab can offer visual contrast and make your cheese selection look more inviting.


– Pick one cheese from 3-5 of the following categories:

  • 3 ounces fresh (not aged) cheeses: fresh mozzarella, Queso, Quark, feta
  • 3 ounces semi-soft cheeses: brick, Muenster, Teleme, colby, edam, Fontina
  • 3 ounces soft ripened (bloomy rind) cheeses: Brie, Camembert, Talbot Reserve
  • 3 ounces washed rind cheeses:  Red Hawk, Pleasant Ridge Reserve
  • 3 ounces semi hard cheese: Cheddar, gruyere, Swiss, Asiago, Gouda
  • 3 ounces blue cheese: blue, Gorgonzola
  • 3 ounces hard cheese: Vella Dry Jack, Parmesan, Romano, San Joaquin Gold

Offer one or more other foods for guests to enjoy with the cheese:

  • Seasonal fruit: berries, cherries, figs, apples, pears, melon, grapes
  • Preserved fruit: dried cranberries, orange marmalade, dried cherries, chutney
  • Bread: thinly sliced: crusty baguette, dense dark bread, raisin walnut bread
  • Nuts: one or more types of nuts, plain or flavored like the almonds below


Cheese Course Almonds


– 1 teaspoon curry powder

– 1 teaspoon sugar

– 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

– 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

– 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

– 1 tablespoon butter

– 2 cups blanched whole almonds

– 2 teaspoons fresh orange juice

– 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

Directions for nuts

– Combine curry, sugar, garlic powder, ground ginger and ground red pepper in a bowl.

– Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add almonds and stir, coating with butter. Sauté 4 to 5 minutes, until fragrant.

– Add spice mixture and stir. Cook until spices are fragrant and nuts are golden brown, about 4 minutes.

– Add orange juice and cook until almonds are dry, about 3 minutes.

– Toss with salt and spread on a lined baking sheet to cool completely.

Directions for cheese board

– Arrange cheeses on one or more platters, leaving enough room around each one to cut. (Consider a separate dish for strongly flavored cheeses, like washed rind or blue cheeses.)

– Arrange Cheese Course Almonds, fresh fruit, preserved fruit and bread on the same or separate platter.

– Cover platter loosely and refrigerate until ready to serve.

– Thirty minutes to 1 hour before serving, remove cheese platter(s) from refrigerator to bring them to room temperature.

– Serve each cheese with its own knife to avoid mixing flavors.


Savory Italian Cheese Ball

Makes 25-30 servings


– 3/4 cup pine nuts

– 8 ounces (2 cups) shredded Asiago cheese

– 2 ounces (1/2 cup) shredded Fontina cheese

– 1 tablespoon shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

– 4 ounces cream cheese, cut in chunks and at room temperature

– 2 tablespoons prepared, refrigerated basil pesto

– 2 tablespoons half-and-half, if needed

– 1/4 cup marinated, sun-dried tomatoes, diced and dried well

– Fresh basil, for garnish, if desired

– Sun-dried tomatoes, slivered, for garnish, if desired

– Crusty bread, Italian breadsticks, or crostini crackers


– Preheat oven to 375ºF.

– Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 3-5 minutes or until golden. (Stir and check on them after 3 minutes.) Pour onto waxed paper and cool.

– Place the four cheeses into the bowl of a food processor, and process until well-blended.

– Add the pesto (drain first if the pesto is runny).

– Pulse to incorporate. If the mixture is too stiff, add half-and-half to reach the desired consistency.

– Remove the mixture to a bowl and stir or work in the tomatoes with your hands.

– Refrigerate for at least an hour.

– When ready to serve, shape the cheese mixture into a ball (or star or tree). Roll the ball in the toasted pine nuts, pushing the nuts into the ball, if necessary. Garnish with fresh basil and slivers of sun-dried tomatoes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s