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Let the holiday cooking begin

Cheese balls and cheese dip … the holidays would not be complete without them, and there are as many recipes for each as there are people who make them. It seems that all local cookbooks will have several, each with its own special ingredient to make it unique, with instructions ranging from very simple to complex.

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This is from the Lonoke County 4-H Cookbook (still available at the Lonoke Agricultural Center) and is special for its originator, Myrtle Finch, a past County Clerk, shared by her daughter Laura Rooney. If there was ever a Courthouse grandmother, it was Miss Myrtle.

Miss Myrtle worked at the courthouse, for the state revenue office, before taking her first job with the county in 1963. In 1980, she ran for and was elected probate clerk after the sitting clerk retired, taking office in 1981. She held the office until her retirement in 1998. In 2002, she lost her battle with cancer; hundreds of people filled Concord Methodist Church for her memorial.

DRIED BEEF LOG

2 8-oz. packages cream cheese

2 packages dried beef

2 T. Worcestershire Sauce

2 tsp. Accent

1 bunch green onions

Soften cream cheese at room temperature. Add chopped beef, onions and other ingredients. Make into a log and refrigerate until ready to use.

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CHILI DIP

1 small onion

1 can chili without beans

1 lb. Velveeta cheese, cut in chunks

2 cans tamales, unwrapped and mashed (do not use liquid)

Saute chopped onions in butter; combine onion, chili, tamales and chunks of cheese in top of double boiler. Stir until the cheese melts and ingredients combine. Serve with chips. (Sarah Park, 1996, Bank of Cabot B-Team)

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CHEESE DIP (Like Mexico Chiquito’s)

1/2 stick margarine

4 tbsp. Flour

1 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. dry mustard

1 scant tsp. ground cumin

1 scant tbsp. Catsup

1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. jalapeno pepper juice

2 c. milk

1/2 pod jalapeno pepper, minced or mashed

dash of garlic powder

6 oz. American cheese, grated

Melt margarine; stir in the flour and cook over low heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add remainder of ingredients in order listed, mixing well. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly. - Yvonne Rogers, 1996, Bank of Cabot B-Team

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HOLIDAY CHEESE BALL

2 (8-oz.) pkgs. cream cheese

2 tsp. seasoned salt

2 Tbs. minced green onion

2 Tbs. chopped green pepper

1 (7 1/2-oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained

2 c. toasted, crushed pecans.

Mix all ingredients. Reserve 1/2 cup pecans to roll cheese ball in before wrapping in plastic wrap. Shape into any desired size ball or shape. Chill at least overnight. Makes a nice gift. - (Sarah Park, 1996)

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In the Nov. 25, 1992, Sharing the Best by Shelly Magie Moran wrote: “I was amazed at the method used. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine rolling out a block of Velveeta cheese like a pie crust, but it can be done!”

FESTIVE CHEESE LOG

2 lbs. Velveeta cheese

8 ozs. cream cheese (softened)

1/2 cup chopped green onions

2 ozs. chopped pimento (drained)

4 ozs. green chilies (drained)

1/2 cup pecans (finely chopped)

Garlic powder to taste

Let Velveeta cheese sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Roll out between foil or waxed paper to approximately lO-x12-inch shape. (Don’t roll too thin.)

Mix together softened cream cheese, green onion, pimento, green chilies, pecans and garlic powder. Spread mixture on rolled out cheese. Roll up like a jellyroll chill, then garnish and serve with chips or crackers.

For a more festive color, leave the pimento and green chilies out of the cream cheese mixture, then spread them on top before rolling up.

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RANCH CHEESE BALL

2 (8-oz) pkg. cream cheese

1 pkg. buttermilk Ranch dressing mix

finely crushed bacon bits

Mix the cream cheese and the dressing mix together in small bowl. Shape into a ball and roll in the bacon bits. This is one of the easiest and best cheese balls I have ever had. - Tracy Ragen (1978, Bank of Cabot B-Team)

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Another from the Lonoke County 4-H Cookbook, this from Caroline Kestner:

CHEESE BALL

1 lb. Velveeta cheese

13 oz. cream cheese

1 tsp. garlic powder

3/4 c. of finely chopped pecans

1/2 tsp. sugar

chili powder to roll finished ball

Grate cheese and work into cream cheese, garlic powder, sugar, and pecans. Mold ball with hands and chill. Roll in chili powder and refrigerate. Serve with Ritz Crackers. Freezes well.

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Another from Shelly, in the Nov. 25 1992, Sharing the Best: “A delicious cheese ball prepared by Linda Adams had the addition of one of Arkansas’ favorite and most bountiful crops - rice. Try it – you’ll like it!”

RANCH RICE CHEESEBALL

8 ozs. cream cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cups cooked rice

1 oz. pkg. ranch-style salad dressing mix

1 cup grated cheese

2 Tbsp. chopped green onions

1 tsp. chopped pimento

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Allow cream cheese to soften.

Mix cream cheese and sour cream together, add rice. Stir in dressing mix. Add cheese, green onions and pimento. Shape mixture into a ball and roll in chopped pecans. Refrigerate several hours. Serve with crackers.

As a non-fat substitute for cream cheese, you can use non-fat yogurt instead. First, you must drain all the liquid off overnight by placing a coffee filter in a sieve and putting the yogurt on the filter. Cover and let it stand in the refrigerator.

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From the 1978 Mail Order Recipes, by the Austin Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary:

CHEESE BALL

1/2 lb. American cheese, cubed

1/4 lb. sharp Cheddar, grated

2 to 4 oz. Bleu cheese

3 oz. cream cheese

1/2 c. Miracle Whip

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce

1 Tbsp. chopped onion

1 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish

1/2 c. chopped parsley

1/2 c. chopped pecans or nuts

Let the prepared cheeses stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Cream with a mixer. Blend in the remaining ingredients except parsley and pecans or nuts. Cover bowl and refrigerate for a few hours. Shape into 1 large ball or 2 or 3 smaller ones. Roll in 1/2 cup chopped parsley and 1/2 cup chopped pecans or nuts. Garnish with a cherry. - Vernie Shannon

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In Tasteful Traditions, by the Carlisle High School Alumni Association:

BAKED CHEESE DIP

1 c. mozzarella cheese, grated

1 c. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

1 can sliced black olives, drained

1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise

3 – 6 green onion tops, chopped

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix all ingredients in shallow baking dish. Bake until bubbly – approximately 15 minutes. Serve on your favorite chip or cracker. – Bonnie Heiss Herring, [Carlisle] class of 1984.

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And, lastly, my own cheese dip:

1 stick of butter

4 tbs. flour

1 qt. milk

1 block American cheese, cut up

1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese

1 8-oz. tub sour cream

4 tsp. onion powder

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Heat the butter in a saucepan until the bubbling stops, add the flour, and then mix until smooth. Blend in the milk (I like to preheat the milk in the microwave) and heat until it thickens.

At this point I switch to a double boiler to avoid scorching.

Add the American cheese, stir until melted; add the cream cheese and stir until melted. Add the salt, onion powder and garlic powder, mix well. Heat for at least 20 minutes before serving - if using a double boiler, have the water just below boiling. Thin as necessary. It thickens as it cools and should be the consistency of pea soup when hot.

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