July 14, 2014 at 5:41 PM ET
Cheese balls can be so much more than just a chunk of cheddar rolled in nuts, and Michelle Buffardi, author of "Great Balls of Cheese," is dedicated to proving it. Check out how to cheese balls more creative with her clever recipes.
Wise & cheesy owl
For the owl:
For decorating the owl:
Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together the cream cheese, cheddar, shallots, mustard, salt, and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Set aside 1 teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture; you’ll need this for the eyes. Form the remaining mixture into an owl shape — it should look like a large egg. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
When ready to serve, layer the almonds around the back and sides of the owl for the feathers, leaving the breast area plain. To make the eyes, spread each small butter cracker with half of the reserved cream cheese mixture, and stick an olive slice in the middle. Affix the eyes to where the owl’s face will be. To make the beak, slice two 1⁄4-inch pieces of the carrot into triangles, and make a mouth below the owl’s eyes. To make the feet, slice 6 slivers from the remaining carrot and arrange at the bottom of the owl. Finish the owl by pressing the 2 corn chips into the head for ears.
Serve with crackers.
Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together the cream cheese, cheddar, onion, jalapeño, salsa, cumin,and salt until combined. Form the mixture into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
While the mixture is chilling, peel strips from the carrot to use as “stripes” on the cat and set aside. Peel the carrot until you reach the middle. Remove any bits of carrot sticking tothe core of the carrot and reserve for the cat’s tail.
Before serving, unwrap the cheese ball and break off a 3-ounce portion (about the size of a golf ball), roll into a ball,and set aside; this will be the cat’s head. Form the remaining cheese mixture into an egg shape, and place on a plate.Arrange the reserved carrot strips on the egg shape to make the stripes. Attach the reserved carrot to the back of the cat for the tail. Place the reserved golf ball–sized cheese ball on top of the cat to make the head. Stick the chips in for the cat’s ears. Cut the olive into eyes and a mouth and arrange on the cat’s face. Finish with pieces of chives for the cat's whiskers.
Serve with crackers.
In a double boiler or a glass bowl set over a pot of simmeringwater, melt the chocolate. When smooth, remove from thewater and add the sugar. Stir until combined and let cool,about 15 minutes.
Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together the chocolate mixture, cream cheese, and vanilla extract until combined and even colored. Blend in the marshmallows.Form the mixture into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Before serving, roll the cheese ball in the crushed graham crackers to coat.
Serve with graham crackers.
Line the 3 ramekins with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang.
Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Pack the mixture into the prepared ramekins, leveling the top with a butter knife. Put the remaining cream cheese mixture in a plastic zip-top bag; refrigerate the ramekins and bag for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Before serving, overturn the largest ramekin onto a platter;remove the ramekin and the plastic wrap. The cheese will have wrinkles in it from the plastic wrap—to smooth the wrinkles, run a butter knife under hot water for 30 seconds and dry it with a towel. Use the warm knife to smooth out each layer of the cheese, repeating the water step when the knife cools. Gently overturn the 3-ounce ramekin onto the 6-ounce ramekin and the 1-ounce ramekin on top of that. To decorate the cake, snip the tip off a corner of the zip-top bag.Gently squeeze out beads of the cheese mixture along the bottom and top of each cake layer. (Or use a cake decorating bag and tips to decorate the cake.)
Serve with graham crackers and strawberries.