Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cheddar Cheese and Almond Nut Balls

Have you ever bought one of those "cheese" balls from the grocery store to put out as an appetizer?  You know, the kind that has the yellow/orange processed cheese covered with some kind of suspicious waxy nuts.  If you've bought one before, don't worry I'm not judging, I used to buy them too.

It seems there are dozens of recipes for them, most calling for sour cream, butter and cream cheese.  I have wanted to make one of these for years but haven't been able to find a recipe I liked.  You see, I wanted my cheese ball to use "real" cheese.  So you have no idea how thrilled I was to find a recipe for a healthier version in the Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman.  Finally a recipe that calls for real blocks of cheese!! 

So this week I am SO proud to host this recipe for The Food Matters Project.  As you know, this is an incredible project I am involved with where over 30 talented food bloggers create recipes inspired by The Food Matters Cookbook.  I love this cookbook - it is filled with clever ways to amp up the food you cook in a healthy way that still tastes great.  Think simple, unprocessed meals that are full of vibrant fruits, vegetables, whole grains and the occasional fish/chicken/beef dishes. Bittman's simple philosophy is one I am very passionate about: eat more plants and less animals.

In true Bittman style, this recipe is full of healthy good-for-ya nuts on the outside and inside.  It replaces the "terrifying quantities of processed cheese*" for freshly grated parmesan and extra sharp white cheddar {the orginal recipe called for gorgonzola cheese but I am a true white cheddar girl at heart}.  When you are using real cheese, you can actually use less of it and still have more flavor.  Love it.  This recipe also allows you to add in all sorts of different ingredients.  Try a blue cheese, goat cheese or a spicy habanero jack cheese!   Throw in some cranberries, use different nuts, dried fruit, spinach or other vegetables... so many possibilities.  To get inspired, check out what the other bloggers from the Food Matters Project did with this recipe here.  Enjoy!


2 cups of unsalted almonds
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 ounces of freshly grated white cheddar, divided {I used Cabot's reserve aged white cheddar}
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup water
scallions or parsley for garnish, optional


In a food processor, add 2 cups of almonds and pulse until very finely chopped and almost paste-like.  Add the lemon juice, cayenne pepper, parmesan, 2 ounces of cheddar, a pinch of salt and pepper and 1/2 cup water.  Process until the mixture is creamy and spreadable.  {Add a tbsp or 2 more water if the mixture seems too thick}.  Refrigerate for about 1 hour so it firms up.

what almonds look like after processing
Next, shape the mixture into 2 large balls.  In a shallow dish, combine the remaining ounce of cheddar with 1/2 cup slivered almonds.  Roll each ball in the mixture, evenly coating the surface.  Serve with crackers, a whole wheat batard or crudités! Give this a shot next time you are entertaining! 

 *quoted directly from the Food Matters Cookbook, hilarious right?


  1. Beautiful job Jessica! Great pick and thanks for posting it on Sunday.

  2. Lovely! I stuck with his parmesan and gorgonzola combo but added roasted figs. Thanks for picking this.

  3. Thanks guys! This recipe was so fun to make :)

  4. I cannot wait for the other girls to post! It was a cool recipe to try!

  5. Love that you used sliced almonds to coat them. Yum! Thanks for hosting.

  6. this is lovely, thanks so much for hosting!

  7. Great choice this week!

  8. Loved your choice this week, even if I didn't get around to posting it. I'm lactose intolerant so I rarely eat cheese, but I want to try and see if I can make a "cheese" ball with nut cheese. I know, that probably totally doesn't cut it with you as far as 'real cheese' goes, but it's the best I can do! Haha. Thanks for hosting!

  9. Erin, that's a really cool idea! I like experimenting with all sorts of cheese-esque flavors :)

  10. I love {and always have} almonds and can't wait to try this!

  11. This recipe looks nice, We should try this at our home.

  12. Yep sure have bought those cheese balls, lots of them over the years. Never once thought of making my own, what was I thinking.
    Can't wait to try my own homemade cheese ball!
    Thanks so much!

  13. Philippine pili nuts from the Bicol region in the Philippines is a great Filipino or Philippines food or snack. Pili nuts are very healthy and nutritious indeed, being a source of energy, potassium and iron.They also have protein, dietary fiber / fibre, and calcium as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  I know they have no cholesterol, no trans fat, and the unsalted ones have no sodium. What is great about the pili nut snack or treat is that they are so crisp, rich, and delicious.