(By Suzanne Corbett, StLSportsPage.com Food/Travel Editor)– The holidays have arrived and the rush is on. And while I love to cook, my holiday schedule is crunched. To help myself out during the holidays I turn to my favorite ingredient, cheese. The great thing about cheese is it’s great for sports fans who don’t usually cook.

Cheese makes entertaining simple. For example, collect an assortment of cheeses, arrange on a decorative platter, add a few seasonable fruits such as figs, pomegranates and pears and suddenly the party menu is done. Plan on 4-ounces of cheese per person and remember to pull that cheese tray from the refrigerator an hour before serving. Cheese’s natural flavors are enhanced when served at room temperature.

For something warm and elegant think about bringing out the fondue pot. Fondues are easy – just mix, stir and melt and your fondue is ready. The hardest thing about making fondue is perhaps finding the fondue pot that’s been stashed in the back of the closet for the past decade.

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and the American Dairy Council offers lots of easy last minutes recipes to make. All guaranteed to make the cheese lovers at your party jolly. For more ideas click on to www.Ilovecheese.com or www.eatwisconsincheese.com

 

WISCONSIN GOUDA AND BEER SPREAD

Cheese spreads, cubes, balls and fondues are all fun for gatherings with family and friends. (Photo by The Wisconsin MIlk Marketing Board)

Cheese spreads, cubes, balls and fondues are all fun for gatherings with family and friends. (Photo by The Wisconsin MIlk Marketing Board)

1 waxed 2-pound ball Wisconsin Gouda Cheese

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cubed and softened

2 tablespoons fresh chives, snipped

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup amber or dark beer, at room temperature

Cocktail rye or pumpernickel bread slices, for serving

Cut a thick slice off top of the cheese to create flat surface. With butter curler or melon baller, scoop cheese from center of ball, leaving 1/2-inch thick shell. Shred or finely chop enough removed cheese to measure 4 cups. Reserve remaining cheese for another use.

In large bowl, blend shredded cheese, butter, chives, and mustard. Stir in beer until blended. Spoon spread into hollowed cheese ball; reserving remaining spread for refill. Chill until serving time. Serve spread with cocktail bread.

*Edam can be substituted for Gouda.

Apple Cider-Cheddar Fondue

4  cups (about 1 pound) sharp Cheddar cheese, freshly shredded

1 teaspoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1-1/4  cup sparkling apple cider

1/4  cup lemon juice

1/2  teaspoon salt

1/8  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8  teaspoon ground nutmeg

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

For dipping:

Bite-size pieces of cooked chicken, pork sausages, waffle pieces, pizzelles (thin Italian cookies), strudel, apple wedges, cubes of Cheddar cheese.

In a medium-size bowl, toss the cheese with the cornstarch.

In a medium-size, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the cider and lemon juice over medium heat until barely simmering. Add the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring until the cheese is melted before adding more. When all the cheese has been added, stir in the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper, to taste. Cook over low heat until thickened about 3 to 5 minutes.

Transfer fondue to an enamel or ceramic fondue pot and keep warm over a fondue burner. Serve immediately.