Running of the Lighted Christmas (Cheese) Balls

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This weekend marked the 3rd anniversary of Greensboro’s Running of the Balls. The tradition of lighted Christmas balls hung throughout the trees of Sunset Hills is something that is so undeniably Greensboro. No one would ever guess the marvelous display that bundled up chicken wire and lights can make when flung high into trees!

The Running of the Balls 5k(ish) race is one of the most endearing events that I’ve ever participated in. Nearly 3,000 runners and walkers are decked out in all kinds of Christmas gear. The race route is a marvelous display of a traditional historic Greensboro neighborhood sprinkled with holiday light — plus the addition of bands and choirs. In addition to all the fun, the race raises much needed dollars and pantry donations for local shelters. How warm is your heart feeling right now?

You can learn the background of the Lighted Christmas Balls from Justin Smith, who started the tradition with his family.  

My friend’s Jamey and Phil (who hung about 200 plus balls themselves) hosted a large gathering of neighbors and friends after the race. In trend with the evening, I made three large Christmas Cheese Balls for the party. They were so good that I received a phone call today at the office requesting the recipe! So, here it is! Martha’s recipe makes enough for all 3,000 runners – so feel free to adjust the proportions to fit your crowd.

If you’re in Greensboro – or near – it’s worth a visit for dinner and a drive/stroll through Sunset Hills to see the display. If you’re not here, its a reason to visit next December.

Martha Stewart’s Cheese Balls, Three Ways

BASE RECIPE:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 packages cream cheese (8 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 dashes hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

CHEDDAR AND CRANBERRY:

  • 8 ounces sharp orange cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 2 tablespoons store-bought chutney
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • Water crackers, for serving

ROQUEFORT AND WALNUT:

  • 6 ounces Roquefort cheese
  • 1 shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 teaspoons brandy (optional)
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Vegetable chips (such as Terra Chips Sweets & Beets), for serving

GOAT CHEESE AND SCALLIONS:

  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
  • 1/3 cup fresh curly-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 English cucumber, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices, for serving 
  1. Put butter, cream cheese, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, and pepper into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until combined. Divide equally among 3 medium bowls.
  2. Stir cheddar cheese and chutney with base mixture in the first bowl. Form into a ball. If not using immediately, refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Roll cheese ball in cranberries to coat before serving. Serve with crackers.
  3. Stir blue cheese and shallot with base mixture in second bowl; add brandy, if desired. Form into a ball. If not using immediately, refrigerate up to 3 days; freeze up to 1 month. Roll in walnuts to coat before serving. Serve with chips.
  4. Stir goat cheese and scallions with base mixture in remaining bowl. Form into a ball. If not using immediately, refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Roll in parsley to coat before serving. Serve with cucumber slices.

 

 

 

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