How I Make a Killer Cheese Plate. (Plus 3 Mini Cheeseballs.)

I get tell you about my most favorite thing ever!

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ALL THE CHEESE.

Wait. Let’s hope that “all the” phrases are phased out in 2015, right? Actually, they probably were in 2014 and I’m always annoyingly way behind.

Is it embarrassing that I’m showing you how I make my favorite cheese plate? It might be. This is actually a part of the snacks chapter in Seriously Delish (hi, please buy it for everyone for Christmas!) and just maaaaay be the best “recipe” in that chapter?

It’s obviously not an exact recipe, but it’s my method for a cheese plate to please.

I also like to make smaller versions and then force Eddie to eat them for dinner. He is slowly coming around to cheese plates for dinner. Maybe like… once every six months?

So.

This cheese plate is extra special because I’m sharing three little cheeseball recipes that are oh-so excellent. You can make one big cheeseball or these adorable mini ones and then go to town.

Eat them for lunch.

Lots of crackers.

Wine! OMG WINE. I CAN NOW HAVE WINE!

Here’s what we’ve got:

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Bacon, blue cheese and pistachio cheeseballs!

I know.

Yes yes.

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Caramelized onion, gruyere and roasted cashew cheeseballs. This is so a thing.

An amazing thing.

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AND… pineapple, toasted almond and goat cheese cheeseballs. Cannot get enough.

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These adorable little cheese puff spreads can be made waaaay ahead of time and thrown on your cheese plate at the last second. Get a pretty knife and lots of flatbread and baguettes.

Cheeseballs are famous in my family – my grandma used to make one for every occasion, and now my mom makes it just as often if not more.

She’s probably slightly horrified at my trashed up versions, but they are worth it.

WORTH.IT.

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As for the actual cheese plate?

Let’s be real: one thing I don’t really ever put on my cheese plates? Vegetables. I just can’t. Unless we’re talking about pickled green beans or something, veggies are few and far between.

Everyone wants cheese anyway!

I always use a firm aged cheddar and/or gouda –  these are usually safe for people who aren’t crazy cheese lovers. A super hard cheese works too – like an asiago that flakes apart with a pretty cheese knife or my favorite – a merlot soaked parmesan. Soft goat cheese makes one or two appearances, depending on the crowd, and you know I can’t ever leave out my beloved humboldt fog. A blue cheese – I prefer smoked, is the best addition and if I have the time and space, I’ll warm up something soft like brie or camembert and toss it in the middle.

Can this be my breakfast?

Mandatory for me: a boatload of jams, spreads and chutneys. I love to add three or four different mustards because I’m mustard obsessed. A few fruit based jams or butters, along with a savory (hot pepper! Merlot!) jam and almost always a fig spread.

Oh and honey! Good old honey. You could use a honeycomb or some raw honey or just a big fat drizzle of the sweet stuff.

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Always present: a good baguette or two, plus sesame crackers, little toasts, hard breadsticks, water crackers and jazz like that. Anything bready. Spread lots of cheese and jam on top.

Fresh or dried fruits always rock a good cheese plate – but I prefer to keep it simple and use things that people can easily grab. Fresh or dried figs, dried pears and pineapple, grapes that can be yanked off the stem, bing cherries if they are in season.

It wouldn’t be a cheese plate in our house without meats, so I always grab a hard salami or two, some thinly sliced prosciutto and maybe even pepperoni. This is one scenario where I love the meat on the tray too – it’s not just dictated by Eddie.

Finally, I scatter on lots of nuts and seeds – you can use bowls or just throw them on the tray – and my favorite are the super seasoned marcona almonds, often tossed in olive oil. SO GOOD.

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Yep. So that’s that. This is a serious appetizer, easily a dinner, or perfect for a cocktail party with another snack or two and a dessert. I can’t get enough – and it’s simple to make it look pretty too – just toss everything together.

Now I don’t want to eat anything else for the rest of the day.

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How To Make a Killer Cheese Plate (and 3 Mini Cheeseball Recipes)

Ingredients:

blue cheese, bacon + pistachio cheeseball
8 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces smoked blue cheese
6 slices bacon, crumbled
2/3 cup pistachios, chopped
pinch of salt and pepper

pineapple, goat cheese + toasted almond cheeseball
8 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces goat cheese
1/3 cup diced fresh pineapple
2/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
pinch of salt and pepper

caramelized onion, gruyere + cashew cheeseball
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 sweet onion, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
8 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces gruyere, freshly grated
2/3 cups cashews, chopped

Directions:

blue cheese, bacon + pistachio cheeseball
In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, blue cheese, bacon, 3 tablespoons of the pistachios, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine and mash it all together, then form it into 4 or 6 small cheeseballs. Roll each in the chopped pistachios to cover. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

pineapple, goat cheese + toasted almond cheeseball
In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, goat cheese, pineapple, 3 tablespoons of the almonds, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine and mash it all together, then form it into 4 or 6 small cheeseballs. Roll each in the chopped almonds to cover. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

caramelized onion, gruyere + cashew cheeseball
In a small skillet, heat the butter over low heat. Add the onion and salt, stirring to coat, then cook until the onion softens, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and cook until the onions are caramely, about 8 to 10 minutes. In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, gruyere, caramelized onions, 3 tablespoons of the cashews, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine and mash it all together, then form it into 6 or 8 small cheeseballs. Roll each in the chopped cashews to cover. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

CHEESE PLATE
aged cheese: aged cheddar, aged gouda
hard cheese: merlot soaked parmesan, asiago, parmigiano-reggiano
goat/chevre cheese: truffled goat, humboldt fog
soft/semi-soft cheese: brie, camembert
blue cheese: smoked blue, gorgonzola, buttermilk blue

breads: baguettes, hard sesame breadsticks, whole wheat crackers, water crackers, crostini, flatbreads, bagel or pita chips

charcuterie: paper thin prosciutto, hard salami sticks, pepperoni

jams + chutneys: fig preserves, quince paste, hot pepper jelly, sour cherry preserves, bacon marmalade, apple and berry chutneys, honey

fruits + nuts: grapes, dried and fresh figs, dried apricots and pears, shelled pistachios, marcona almonds, smoked almonds, pepitas

tart + briney snacks: cornichons, olive medleys, marinated artichoke hearts, pickled green beans, roasted red peppers, balsamic glaze, pickled jalapeño peppers, whole grain mustard, hot and sweet mustard

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this is probably what my heaven looks like.