Now that we're parents, my husband and I prefer to stay home and celebrate New Year's Eve as a family rather than go to a party. Some years we order pizza; other years we have appetizers. This year, we'll be ringing in the new year with an assortment of appetizers.
One of my favorite appetizers to make is my mother's cheese ball. My mother made it every year at Christmas. In fact, she made several and gave them away as gifts. The recipe makes a lot so unless you like cheese balls or are giving them away, you might want to halve the recipe. When I halve the recipe, I wind up with two nice size cheese balls.
It's important to let the cream cheese and Cheddar cheese come to room temperature. This makes it easier to combine the ingredients. My mother always mixed the ingredients by hand, but I prefer to use a hand mixer. I always mix the cream cheese thoroughly before I add the Cheddar cheese.
The recipe calls for 1 cup chopped pecans. I put pecans in half the mixture and leave the other half plain. That way, if someone doesn't like or can't eat nuts, they can still partake of the cheese ball. If you want, you could omit the nuts. The cheese ball is good either way.
My mother always packed the cheese ball mixture into clean six ounce frozen juice cans. When the cheese balls were firm, she pushed them out of the cans. The cheese balls retained the shape of the cans and when sliced fit perfectly on a Ritz cracker. I don't buy frozen juice so I came up with an alternative way to achieve this look.
The easiest way I've found is to cut an empty paper towel tube in half like this:
Line each tube with a piece of waxed paper and add the desired amount of the cheese ball mixture. Fold the waxed paper over the mixture and shape it into a log, letting the paper towel tube be your guide. When it's the shape you want, fold the waxed paper over the top and secure everything with a couple of rubber bands. I put the tubes in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate them overnight or for a couple of days.
If you don't want to go to the trouble of making the cheese ball into a log shape, you can make it into a ball. Be sure to chill it thoroughly before you add the chili powder.