Ya’ll know I love a good cheeseboard.
Especially a themed one.
As I mentioned in my holiday bucket list post, one of the activities I had planned for us around the holidays was to view a virtual streaming of the Nutcracker. And what better way to watch something of the sort than to have a coordinating cheeseboard to go along with it.
I think people tend to be intimidated by the idea of cheeseboards – let alone themed ones. But I have a simple process that makes throwing them together a breeze! I’ve got cheeseboards for just about everything. When you want something special for when Valentine’s Day rolls around. Or want to celebrate with one of my favorites: St. Patrick’s Day! I’ve also got one for Easter, one for the Fourth of July, one to celebrate the fruits of summer, and one that is perfect to enjoy around the holidays.
And they are insanely easy to create when I follow these steps:
Choose your board: I bought this slate board a few years ago and have used it for almost every cheeseboard since. It’s such a nice size and personally I think it makes all my boards look great. However, I used to use just a wooden cutting board as a cheeseboard – which worked perfectly well until it was ruined during Hurricane Florence. And I also really like the idea of using a marble board. See – you have plenty of options!
Add your cheese: When I’m serving a larger group, I typically enjoy picking one cheese from each of the four categories: firm, aged, blue, and soft, and I’ll double up on the ones people enjoy the most. However, when it’s just my family – I’ll double up on what I know are our favorites. For this particular board, I had a soft cheese: the Christmas tree cheeseball front and center (because if you’re familiar with the ballet, the family’s Christmas tree grows and grows larger than Clara had ever seen it), an aged cheese: some extra sharp white cheddar, and a medium, crumble cheese: a wensleydale with cranberries – one of my absolute favorites!
Christmas Tree Cheeseball:
- 2 (8 ounce) blocks of cream cheese, softened
- 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
- 16 oz. white cheddar cheese
- 2.5 tbsp. dried parsley
- fresh parsley, oyster crackers, sliced almonds, pretzel sticks, and pomegranate seeds, and parmesan cheese for decorating
Put the cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, lemon zest, cheddar cheese, and dried parsley into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix together until thoroughly combined. Mound the cheese into a cone shape on a small plate and then press the chopped fresh parsley into the surface of the tree to make it green. Chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or until firm. When you’re ready to serve, insert the pretzel sticks, oyster crackers, and almonds all over the tree, angled downward to create “branches”. Top the tree with an almond slice for the star, and tuck some pomegranate seeds in between the branches for festive decorations. Dust the entire tree with a sprinkle of parmesan for some snow. Serve with some fun-shaped snowflake Ritz crackers (because, you know – the waltz of the snowflakes) on the side.
Add some salty things: This was always a little more difficult for me when we were living down south, because we were limited. Our choices were typically summer sausage and salami. Fortunately, now that we are back up north we can choose either of those two, plus kielbasa and a variety of bologna. I chose a plain bologna for this particular board because it pairs well with all the cheese and wouldn’t have a strong seasoning that would overpower the rest of the board.
Add sweet things: This is where I typically go overboard, but it’s also where I could have the most fun. For this board, I decided to really bring on the Nutcracker connection with some chocolate mice (for the Army of the Mouse King!) which were made by dipping the bottom of a Hershey kiss into melted chocolate and attaching it to a chocolate covered cordial cherry. Then sticking two almond slices in between the kiss and cherry for the ears. I finished it off by cutting a strand of Twizzler’s Peel and Pull into three sections, dipping one end into the melted chocolate and attaching it to the opposite side of the cherry for the mouse’s tail.
For the ballet cookies (because this is a ballet, of course), I picked up some chocolate marshmallow Oreo cookies, although you can use whatever variety you’d prefer. I then dipped it in melted white chocolate. Once the chocolate coating was completely hardened, I dipped some pink Pez – from my daughter’s enormous collection – and placed it on the cookie for ballet slippers. I added a white confetti sprinkle to each one to act as a little pom-pom. I made a tiny batch of royal icing, dyed pink, for the bow to finish off a simple ballet-inspired cookie.
Last on my list were some sugar plums (for the Sugar Plum Fairy). Generally for sweet things I keep it a bit more simple – some dried fruit, some fresh fruit, some chocolate. So this last one was an ode to both dried fruits and nuts (and tasted very similar to a Larabar, but coated in sugar).
- 1/2 c. pitted dates
- 1/2 c. toasted walnuts
- 1/4 c. dried cranberries
- 1/4 c. dried prunes
- 1/4 c. macadamia nuts
- 2 tbsp. strawberry preserves
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/4 c. sugar (for coating)
Place the dates, walnuts, prunes, cranberries, and macadamia nuts into a food processor. Pulse the mixture a few times. Add the strawberry preserves, cinnamon, and cloves and pulse a few mores times until the mixture begins to come together. Do not over-process, or it will turn into a paste. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls and roll them in the sugar until they are fully covered. You can store these in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Add some bread and crackers: I wanted to keep this simple. I didn’t have an insane variety when it came to meats and cheeses, so I didn’t think I needed to go overboard with the vehicles in which to transfer all that goodness to my mouth. A butter cracker is completely sufficient in spreading a cheeseball onto and layering a slice of cheese, bologna, and a schmear of mustard. So, when I found the snowflake variety at my local grocer, I knew that was all I needed.
Add condiments: The sad part about moving up north is that I don’t have a Lidl within a 5 minute drive anymore. It’s actually 40 minutes away from me, so we’ve only stopped there twice since moving back to Pennsylvania, which is a complete bummer. However, during our last stop I found a variety mustard set that I knew would be perfect for any of the cheeseboards I may have in mind (and smothering on some hot ham and cheese sandwiches), so I bought it without a second thought. I picked the Dijon mustard flavored with tarragon out of the pack for this set up, and it paired absolutely wonderfully with the bologna and cheddar!
Fill in the spaces: I’ve been a firm believer from the beginning that the fuller a cheeseboard is, the more appetizing it appears. So, once I placed all the key components to this cheeseboard in place, I filled in the nooks and crannies. My go-to is typically to cut small little clusters of grapes that are the perfect size and ease for guests to grab a few to put on their plates, and that’s exactly what I did on this one: purple grapes. Though looking at the photos now, I’m sure a pop of green in there would have been wonderful, too!
And that’s it! It’s always a lot of explaining, but the process is so easy. If you follow these steps, you can be creating your own themed cheeseboards in no time!