Ree Drummond's Christmas Tree Cheese Ball Is the Perfect Holiday Appetizer
'Tis the season to be snacking!
From work celebrations to friends-mases to family feasts, there are many occasions that call for festive appetizers (to fight off any holiday hangries and balance out all of the sugar from the cookies, right?!). But one can not live on crostini and crudités alone—even if they're as cute and craveable as Giada's crostini Christmas tree or this green vegetable ranch wreath.
So Ree Drummond has come to the rescue with a savory, filling and fun treat that can play double duty as both a snack and a centerpiece. And the best news? It calls for just 15 minutes of hands-on prep time.
We discovered this Christmas Tree Cheese Ball on the "Retro Christmas" episode of The Pioneer Woman that aired on Food Network during their holiday marathon last weekend. While we were tempted by the other dishes featured, including Classic Fondue, Hot Buttered Rum and Mexican Wedding Cookies, we knew this playful cheese ball definitely deserved a spot on our Christmas Eve menu after reading fan reviews like, "It was loved by all. I'm making it every Christmas season—very festive!"
"Do you remember the cheese balls that were at every Christmas party when you were growing up? Well truth be told, I don't think cheese balls have even gone out of style—they're still all the rage," Drummond says, as she uses a box grater (buy it: $16, Target) to shred sharp Cheddar to incorporate into her dip. BTW, we totally agree, and here are 10 not-your grandma's cheese ball recipes that prove it!
"I'm going to put a little spin on it and make a cheese ball in the shape of a Christmas tree. It is so cute. Definitely a centerpiece for any Christmas party spread," she adds as the how-to segment kicks off.
To make it, Drummond adds a block of cream cheese to the bowl of a food processor (buy it: $99, Williams Sonoma), along with lemon juice, sliced scallions, salt, pepper, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Pulse to begin to combine these ingredients, then add the Cheddar.
"Any kind of cheese ball has a cream cheese base, then you can have some fun with the other cheeses you want to add," Drummond says. "Cheddar is always a good choice around the holidays, but you can do pepper jack, you could go the Swiss direction—there's no cheese that doesn't work in a cheese ball." (As long as you can find that cream cheese! If you're in one of the regions of the country facing a cream cheese shortage, here's how to make your own at home.)
Pulse again to bring the mixture together, but remember that "you still want to see some bits of the Cheddar," Drummond advises.
Use a rubber spatula to transfer the cheese mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap, squeeze it into a rough ball shape, then pop this in the freezer for 30 minutes.
As that chills, chop fresh flat-leaf parsley and fresh dill, Drummond suggests. "Parsley just for coverage and flavor, and dill because it looks like little Christmas tree branches. It's so pretty and delicate."
Lay out the chopped herb mixture on a sheet pan or cutting board, and after 30 minutes of chill time, grab your cheese ball from the freezer. "It's like perfect modeling clay. That's basically the consistency you want it to be," Drummond says.
While she admits "I'm no sculptor," laughing as she explains the fact that she didn't inherit her sculptor grandpa's shaping chops, Drummond begins to roughly press the cream cheese mixture (still inside the plastic wrap) into an inverted cone shape.
Once you're happy with your happy little tree shape, "carefully peel back the plastic, then roll the cheese ball in this green herby mixture," Drummond says. "See, it kind of looks like a tree!"
Lastly, press in pomegranate seeds to to act as "ornaments" to fill in any cream cheese holes peeking out and to add a welcome sweet-tart burst of flavor.
Transfer to a serving platter and serve with your favorite scoopers—Drummond prefers Ritz crackers ($2.69 for 13.7 ounces, Target) to round out the retro Christmas vibe.
"It's so cute! It looks like, honestly, something my grandma would have made," Drummond comments as she peers over the finished product. "The only problem is, it's almost too cute to cut into."
Almost, but not quite, fans confirm. With a nearly unanimous five-star rating, fans who have whipped this up at home rave, "Oh my goodness! I couldn't believe what a hit this [was] at Christmas. I made it again for our New Year's Eve party…and I'm now expected to make it for every get-together with friends."
And some took Ree's "make this your own" advice to heart and created delicious-sounding variations on the theme: "Great base recipe! I mixed in some fresh crab meat and chopped artichoke hearts and some Parmesan. Ooh decadent!"
Get the Christmas Tree Cheese Ball recipe here, and if you're looking for more low-fuss noshes for your next seasonal soiree, check out the best 3-ingredient recipes that are perfect for your last-minute holiday menu.