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Festive Cheese Ball
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Beat cream cheese, shredded cheese, and sour cream with mixer until smooth. Roll into ball, then roll in chopped pistachios and dried cranberries. Chill one hour. Serve with crackers and celery sticks.
Note: This recipe also works well with Neufchatel light cream cheese.
For an alternate coating, eliminate the pistachios and cranberries, and instead roll the cheese ball in chopped fresh parsley and chopped pecans.
A love for trying something new
The judges say they just couldn't get enough of Jeanette Pasek's delicious Festive Cheese Ball, the grand-prize winner of Lillie Suburban Newspapers' 2015 recipe contest.
Pasek says collecting recipes is one of her favorite activities, and although she's had Festive Cheese Ball in her files for a while, she can't recall exactly how she acquired it.
"I like being in the kitchen trying out new things and sharing the 'keepers' with others, especially my neighbors," says Pasek, who lives in Oakdale with her husband, George.
Her kitchen is an inviting place for baking and meal preparation with plenty of cupboards and counters, which she credits her husband for helping create.
"My kitchen is my 'happy place' where I can be surrounded by music, my red appliances and my gnome collection," she says.
She entered the cheese ball recipe because it's quick and easy, but also looks elegant when serving it to guests. She also liked the fact that she could substitute Neufchatel light cream cheese to reduce the fat grams for people who are watching what they eat during the holidays.
Even though the appetizer looks time-consuming, Pasek says it's a simple recipe to follow and allows her to vary ingredients to personal taste and the season.
The cheese ball prepared for the contest taste-testing was covered with cranberries and pistachios.
"The red color of cranberries, plus the green color of pistachios, are natural attention-getters for the holidays. The cheese ball can also be accented on a tray with holiday decor," Pasek says.
She sometimes uses chopped fresh parsley and chopped pecans for the outer coating, or experiments with what she has on hand. She serves it with crackers and celery sticks.
Pasek encourages everyone not to be afraid of recipes that are outside their comfort zone and to just have fun. "I love baking and trying new recipes as well as my go-to standby recipes all year round," she says.