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So the economy hasn't quite rebounded yet, and you just found out that the catered holiday work party everyone was hoping for is going to be a potluck in a crepe-paper-decorated conference room this year instead. Don't despair. It could actually turn out to be an OK shindig! Especially if you bring these.

Cheese and crackers is always on the party potluck signup sheet; a boring ol' standby. Try the retro ball-shaped snack instead, and fancy it up with combos like cheddar and pecans, Stilton and walnuts, and chevre and almonds. They're fun to serve as bite-sized canapes or as a single large ball surrounded by crackers and crudite. Plus, they always make the vegetarians happy.

Cheese ball recipes are de rigueur on certain holiday party circuits and allow for great variation in nuts, cheese, and whatever else you feel like adding. Use these recipes as a jumping-off point.

For best results: Prepare them the day before your party and refrigerate overnight. If you do make your cheese ball on the same day as your event, make sure you allow it enough time to cool and firm in the fridge (at least two hours).

Do you have a favorite cheese ball recipe to share?

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.

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