Cheese and crackers make great snacks, but they also make great dishes to pass, great additions to buffets, and even great additions to holiday meals. Creating a great cheese and cracker tray can be easy to do and doesn't have to take a lot of time or resources. Plus it can be something that older kids can easily help with. There are also a number of different ways to do things and you can sometimes get away with making a great tray without going to the store (depending on what's available in your cupboards).

The Crackers.
There are few things required to make a great cracker tray. One is of course the crackers. Choosing a few different kinds of crackers is best. There are some types that work best for achieving a certain look and you may want to choose crackers according to your tray type. If you are using a flat tray or platter it is often easier to use crackers that come packaged in tubes such as Ritz and Club crackers. This way you can stack the crackers into rows that look neat and are easy to make. To do this on a round platter is a little harder and requires some creativity, but is also easy to do. If you have a tray or dish that is divided then using crackers that come in bags such as Wheat Thins and Big Cheese Its make great options. If the dishes are shallow you can also do a mixture offering a large variety of cracker options. When choosing crackers you can consider shape, color, and flavors to offer more from your tray.

The Cheese.
What would a cheese and cracker tray be without cheese? There are a ton of options in the cheese department as well as the cracker department. You can get pre-sliced cheese or cubes for easy and quick preparation. You can also slice your own or cut your own cubes which is often less expensive. You can choose a variety of cheeses based on color and even texture (Swiss cheese looks a lot different). Having two or more kinds of cheese is often best and makes for a great looking tray. You can then line the cheese up in rows if you have a platter or group them in bunches if you have a dish.

Cheese Balls.
Often cheese balls make a great addition to a cracker tray. They can be creative, beautiful, and make for the perfect center piece to a tray or dish. Plus they are fairly easy to make and you can play with a variety of ingredients for a wide range of flavors. Here are a few of my favorites.

Onion and Ham. You will want to take a softened 8 ounce package of cream cheese and place it in a bowl. To that you will want to add chopped ham (get thin deli slices to make it easy) and chopped green onion. Your goal is to get a good balance of color and flavor so add a little at a time until you like what you see. You can also add pepper and garlic to taste if you like these flavors.

Cheddar Ranch. Soften 8 ounces of cream cheese. To that mix in 2-3 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Add a package of Ranch style dressing mix (it will be powdered and is available from companies such as Kraft and Hidden Valley). Mix well and enjoy. If you want to add a little extra you can roll it in fine chopped nuts (both walnuts and almonds work well).

Blue Cheese. You will take 8 ounces of softened cream cheese and add 3 ounces of blue cheese. You then mix in about 2 tablespoons of chopped onion, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and hot sauce to your taste. It will be spicy, can be adjusted to the heat of your guests, and makes for a completely different cheese treat.

Cheese Spread Options. You can also get a cheddar cheese spread. This is softened cheese and can be used to make all sorts of cheese balls as well. Let it soften (just like you would cream cheese) and mix it with finely chopped onions and dried beef. Then roll it in your favorite nut and enjoy it as a different option. It can also add good color if you are having more then one cheese ball.

The great thing about making cheese balls is that you can get creative. You don't have to do it the same every time, you can mix and match ingredients that you like and avoid those you don't like, and you can come up with your own new and innovative recipes. Some great additions to cheese balls include other types of cheese, onions, ham, peppers of all sorts, dressing mixes, onion soup mix, spices and herbs, lunch meats of all sorts, many of your favorite vegetables, and nuts. Have fun and try new things.

Additional Options.
Because we like other types of food with our cheese and crackers you can add other types of foods to your cracker tray. Meat is the most common option. You can add slivered deli meats, chopped ham, and even salami and summer sausage. These can add color and texture to your tray and make it complete and ready for a wide range of consumption options. Fruit can also be a great way to add a little color. Apple slices can be added because they are great to eat with cheese and crackers. Simply preserve them in a fruit preservative or in lemon juice (so they don't get brown) and add them to your tray. Consider strawberries and grapes as well for a wide range of colors and textures.

Sweet Cracker Trays.
You can also bring a sweet cheese and cracker tray. To do that choose sweeter crackers, graham crackers is the most obvious choice. In the center add a sweet cheese ball and you can add additional options for toppings such as jam, chocolate sauce, and fruit.

Making sweet cheese balls. To make a sweet cheese ball you will need 8 ounces of cream cheese. To the cream cheese you can add a variety of your favorite things. Mix in some whipped cream (make sure you keep it solid enough to make a ball unless you wouldprefer a dip), marshmallow creme, your favorite pudding flavor, or jam for a sweet cheese mix that is wonderful to add to crackers. You can top it with candies for added texture and flavor or mix in chocolate chips.

Cheese and cracker trays can be full of great looks, colors, textures, and flavors. They are also great additions for meals and can be easy and even fun to make. Have some fun putting one together and trying new combinations. You might be surprised as to what becomes your favorite option.