Holiday entertaining? Just roll with it!

Though the pandemic has been a real stick in my spokes, I do love to entertain. Cocktail parties were my favorite, because creating a beautiful spread felt like an art project. I used all the familiar tricks: layering heights, fresh-cut flowers, tea lights. The table is free from plastic packaging, and has little chalkboard signs next to dishes that are uncommon. That’s the other trick every good spread needs: Something uncommon.

When people are out at parties, they tend to be more adventurous. Maybe it’s the wine or the festive setting, but guests don’t treat it like they’re grocery shopping. And while the idea of mini beef Wellingtons sounds incredible, (because it is), not everyone has the time to craft them while simultaneously doing the other 50 things that haven’t been done yet. I would know. I made one big beef Wellington and that alone was an ordeal.

You want something that makes guests feel special, but it needs to be easy. Cream cheese logs, though thay sound like a campy 1960s appetizer, are a crowd-pleaser. Also they might have been campy 1960s appetizers. And they could not be any easier to make.

gourmet cream cheese logs

The prep is beyond easy – the only thing that changes between recipes are the mix-ins.

Here's the basic prep:

Cream Cheese Roll 

  • Beat 8 oz of softened cream cheese until smooth
  • Fold in the mix-ins (see recipe ideas)
  • Cover
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours
  • Roll the cheese mixture into 2x logs, about 5 inches long
  • Rol the logs into 1 cup of toppings (see recipe ideas)
  • Serve with crackers or crudite

cream cheese rolls for entertaining

Cream Cheese Roll Recipe Ideas

Pesto Cream Cheese Roll

  • Mix cream cheese with fresh chopped basil (or 1/4 cup pesto sauce), one cup of shredded parmesan, and two minced garlic cloves
  • Cover, chill, and roll per the prep directions
  • Cover with a coat of toasted pine nuts

Nacho Cream Cheese Roll

  • Mix cream cheese with one cup of shredded cheddar cheese, 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro, minced jalapeno (to taste), and 1 packet of taco seasoning. If you are a purist like I am, mix in cumin, oregano, garlic, paprika, chili powder and onion powder (instead of the packet)
  • Cover, chill, and roll per the prep directions
  • Cover with a coat of crushed tortilla chips

Buffalo Cream Cheese Roll

  • Mix cream cheese with once cup of shredded cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese, 1/4 cup minced celery, 1/2 cup minced carrot, and 3 Tbsp. of Texas Pete hot sauce
  • Cover, chill, and roll per prep directions
  • Cover with a coat of crushed pretzels (1 cup)

But have fun with it! Check your fridge to see what will go well together. I love the challenge of using what I have - it forces me to be creative. There are so many variations, like:

  • A tropical version with fresh chopped mango, papaya, and rolled in shredded coconut - served on Ritz
  • A roll with chopped lox, scallions, and capers, and rolled in "everything bagel" seasoning - served with bagel chips

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