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Today is Tax Day. Yes, those federal and state returns have to be postmarked today or you have missed the deadline.

Today is also National Cheese Ball Day. I have been trying to figure out if there is a connection between these two designations and I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t. That’s because I found out that National Cheese Ball Day is always on the 17th of April and Tax Day is usually April 15th so their falling on the same day in 2018 is merely a coincidence.

I have many great memories of the cheese balls that our family consumed during my growing up years. My Aunt Helen was our family’s cheese ball expert. Any time we gathered to celebrate a holiday, birthday or family dinner, Aunt Helen was willing to contribute a cheesy round wonder to our appetizer selections. We were always glad when she offered to bring her treats because over the years she had accumulated quite a few amazing recipes. She didn’t just make delicious cheese balls, they were always works of art and presented beautifully.

Shortly after Gregg and I were married, I was asked to bring an appetizer to a gathering of friends. I asked Aunt Helen for her favorite cheese ball recipe. She couldn’t pick just one so she took the time to type an entire page of her favorites. I still have that page in one of my recipe/scrap books and I found it in the first volume of the six books I assembled over the years. I recalled her generosity in sharing the cheese balls that I remember so well and the recipes so I could make them myself. Sometime soon I will make a cheesy treat in her memory.

I offer you these recipes from that page so you can bring a wonderful appetizer any time you have a gathering of family or friends.

Aunt Helen’s Cheese Ball (My favorite)

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1 can (8-ounce) crushed pineapple, well drained

1/2 cup green pepper, very finely diced

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1 cup pecans, chopped

Bring all ingredients to room temperature and combine with half of the pecans. Chill overnight and then shape into a ball. Roll in remaining nuts. Recipe Note: The secret to this cheese ball is to make sure the onion and pepper are very finely chopped. The first time I made this I didn’t chop them as finely as Aunt Helen did and learned that little detail makes a big difference.

Another of Aunt Helen’s Cheese Balls

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 cup bleu cheese

3/4 walnuts or pecans

Bring chilled ingredients to room temperature. Mix cheeses together and form into a ball. Chill and then roll in walnuts or pecans.

Pastrami Cheese Ball

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 bunch green onions, chopped

Dash of pepper

3 to 5 drops liquid smoke

3 ounces pastrami, chopped finely

Mix the first 5 ingredients and chill. Roll into a ball and roll in chopped pastrami. Chill again.

Salmon Cheese Ball

1 can (16-ounce) salmon, drained

1 package (8-ounce) cream cheese, softened

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1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste

2 teaspoons finely minced onion

1 teaspoon horseradish

1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke

Slivered almonds

Put first 6 ingredients in a food processor to mix. Place in freezer or refrigerator to firm. Roll into a ball and chill again. Roll in slivered almonds. Serve with crackers. Recipe Note: When Aunt Helen made this salmon/cheese ball, salmon came in a 16-ounce can. The last can I bought to do this was 14.75 ounces and worked without having to adjust any of the other ingredients.

Cheese Canapés

1 package (6 count) English muffins

1 bunch of green onions, chopped

1 package (8-ounce) cream cheese, softened

1 can chopped black olives

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup real mayonnaise (no substitute)

Combine cheeses, onions, black olives and mayonnaise. Spread generously on muffin halves. Cut each half in half. Broil until bubbly. Serve piping hot.

Quote of the Week: Most of us have fond memories of food from our childhood. Whether it was our mom’s homemade lasagna or a memorable chocolate birthday cake, food has a way of transporting us back to the past. -- Homaro Cantu

Ellen Lund of Fremont is a freelance food columnist.


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