Kickin’ Sausage Cheese Balls

Many of you may have seen these little gems before, as they are a popular party food item. I certainly know better than to try to claim originality with the base of this recipe. Yet, I also wanted to make it worth your time to give my post a read, so I really thought about the reviews I’ve read on Ms. Crocker’s website as well as my own opinions on improvements and amendments. You’ll see the changes reflected in the recipe below. My goal was to give them a bit more kick and maybe make them a wee bit healthier. I served these at an appetizer party I had recently, and they got lots of compliments; I was quite pleased!

Kickin’ Sausage Cheese Balls (adapted from here)

3 cups Bisquick HeartSmart®
4 cups cheese: I used 2 cups sharp cheddar and 2 cups Jalapeño Jack, pre-grated for convenience.
1 lb light pork sausage
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup milk
2 medium Anaheim peppers
up to 1 tsp garlic powder
up to 2 tsp fresh minced rosemary or 1 tsp dried rosemary (optional)

1. Pull the sausage out of the fridge to come to room temperature. Your hands will thank you for this later. Measure your milk, and let it also come to room temperature while you are working on the other steps.
2. Finely mince the peppers and rosemary (if using).

3. Combine your Bisquick®, cheeses, garlic, pepper, and rosemary (if using) in a large, roomy bowl.

4. While not mandatory, I recommend donning the gloves I suggested you invest in, previously. It will make life easier in just a few moments. I’ve done this without gloves, and I don’t really recommend it.
5. Slice open the package of sausage and scrape it into the bowl.
6. Add the milk.
7. Using your best kitchen tools, aka your hands, get in there and begin mixing it all up. You will work it all together, kneading it, squishing it, and making sure it’s all mixed together. Remember how I said your hands will thank you later? Well, now it’s later. Hopefully your sausage has warmed up a bit because working with ridiculously cold sausage makes your hands hurt!
8. Once it’s all come together in one large lump, use a tablespoon to scoop out each piece. Repeat until all the mixture has been shaped into balls.

9. For freezing, place close together on a cookie sheet (I can fit 48) lined with parchment paper. Place cookie sheet in freezer until they are frozen. They’ll keep for quite a while in a zip-top bag. Happily they defrost fairly quickly.

10. To bake, pre-heat to the ubiquitous 350 degrees. Use either a parchment paper-lined pan or a greased, foil-lined pan. If you have a pizza stone, you can cook them directly on the stone. Defrosted, they’ll take 15 – 17 minutes. When I’ve cooked mine frozen, they’ve taken 25 – 30 minutes.

If you have the time, I recommend making and baking a few balls (I like 4) before you commit to freezing or baking all the rest. This lets you have an idea of the flavor and if you want to make any adjustments. Honestly, sometimes I do this and sometimes I don’t. When I used the peppers, I did because pepper heat varies so much from one to the next. However, if I’m using just the rosemary and not the peppers, I don’t taste test as often because I’m more certain of the flavors. Time for true life confession: Below in the ingredients picture, you’ll see the rosemary, and it’s listed above in the ingredients list. However, I didn’t actually put it in these because this is the first time I’ve added the peppers and I was uncertain about pepper plus rosemary flavor. As these were for a party the next day and not just me, I didn’t want to make a fatal error. I promise before too long, I will make some with both rosemary and peppers and report back.

When I was assessing the heat level, I was not knocked on my heels by the heat, which I actually enjoyed. It was noticeable, but still subtle. By the time I’d eaten my four taste testers, the heat had accumulated just a bit so my nose had a bit of sniffle, but not a full-on run. Again, as I was preparing for a group of people with varying heat tolerances, I felt that was a good balance. Now, if I was making these for some of my family members, I probably would have added another Anaheim and maybe even a jalapeño. I am certain that a few more peppers would have turned out just fine for those who tolerate spice well.  If I used 4 cups cheddar instead of the two cheeses, I would have definitely tossed in a few jalapeños. Now that I’ve broken the heat barrier, I feel like it’s a whole new world. I will probably experiment with fresh garlic, onion, and various kinds of peppers. If you beat me to the experimentation, please do tell.

These are good for a party as they are still tasty even when they are not right-out-of-the-oven warm, and they are good for the single gal (or guy!) because they do keep so well in the freezer. Plus the batch makes a ton! This last go-round, I made 58 of them. I reserved some for breakfast the next few weeks and STILL had plenty for the appetizer party. How great is that?!?! If I forget to take them out of the freezer the night before, I’ll pull them out while the oven is pre-heating and I’m in the shower. By the time I’m ready to put them in, they are partially defrosted and are usually done in about 20 minutes because I like mine fairly browned.

I hope you enjoy the addition of some heat and a bit of a nod to your health with the light sausage and the Bisquick HeartSmart®. I am firmly convinced that neither one adversely affects the flavor or texture of the final product. Happy eating!

Nutritional Information – 1 ball
Calories: 74
Fat: 4 g
Carbs: 4.5 g
Protein: 4.6 g
Calcium: 7.2%

If you are a diligent reader who clicked through to Ms. Crocker’s website and examined her nutritional information against mine, you may also be startled to see her sausage cheese balls check in at 40 calories each. A closer examination reveals she suggests making 1 inch balls. I surely did go measure mine, and they are 1.5 inches. If you make yours with a smaller measuring spoon, you might be able to get 102 out of the recipe, as she says it makes. If this is the case, then the nutritional information will change. While the nutritional information technically isn’t “healthier” than that of Ms. Crocker’s, I still believe using the healthier mix and sausage is a good thing for my body.


Fast Flax Tilapia

When I am in a time crunch for food and searching for something to make, tilapia is often the answer. Even if it’s still frozen, it can be quickly defrosted in a pitcher of water while I’m prepping the rest of dinner. It cooks pretty quickly too, which is always a bonus in my world. I keep a bag of fillets in the freezer so there is always a quick and healthy meal on the horizon. The inspiration for this dish came from a friend of mine who is a self professed “HEB pre-prepared food cook.” so you know it’s easy. She also makes it with salmon which is quite tasty. It’s nice to have a versatile recipe, yes? Well, let’s use the word “recipe” loosely and go with “formula,” perhaps. Remember my encouragement to experiment in making dishes your own. Here’s how I make Fast Flax Tilapia.

Deliciously crispy tilapia!

Fast Flax Tilapia

1 4-oz tilapia fillet
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (the powdery kind)
1 tsp light olive oil

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Rinse and pat dry your tilapia.
3. In a small bowl, mix the flax seed, cheese, and oil until it resembles a paste.
4. After laying your fish on your cooking surface (I generally prefer to line mine with foil.), spread your flax paste on top of the fish, using all the paste.
5. When the oven is ready, pop in for 8 – 10 minutes. Check it after 8  minutes to see if it looks like a crust is forming. It will crisp up some more after you pull it from the oven, but it should be on it’s way to crispy when you pull it out.
6. Let it rest for a minute or two and then dig in!

You could leave out or reduce the oil if you like, but I find it helps to get the topping crusty. It’s a bit more dry and crumbly without – but still tasty. Alternatively, you could leave the cheese out or substitute a different kind of ground seed, if that is your preference. I haven’t tried it on shrimp or scallops, but I am certain it would be delicious. This is a great template to build on.

A note about defrosting: Please, please, please for the love of all that is culinary – do not leave your meats on the counter to defrost. That’s just an invitation for all kinds of badness and none of us need that in our lives, now do we? Instead, place your frozen meat (or other food) in a bowl or on a plate and set it in the fridge to thaw. I cannot recommend the receptacle to hold the item highly enough. This can save you from all sorts of unfortunate leakage all over your fridge. The thickness of the product you are defrosting usually dictates the amount of time needed for defrosting. I have found, however, that most (but certainly not all) meats will be defrosted by the time I get home from work if I’ve remembered to take it out of the freezer the previous night before I go to bed. Items like shrimp, scallops, tilapia, rice, etc., really only need the time while I’m at work to thaw out. Sometimes I forget to pull my chicken or beef from the freezer the night before. If this is your story too, do not despair. Keep the item in a zip-top bag, press all the air out, and put it in a tall glass, bowl, or juice pitcher with cold water. Put it in the fridge and head to work secure in the knowledge that it will be thawed by the time you get home. I’ve never come home to a meat in this situation that was still so frozen I could not make dinner. It works every time. Shrimp and tilapia can be defrosted in this manner when you get home from work if you have 15 minutes to let them rest in the cold water. I do not understand the chemistry by which cold water helps to defrost a frozen food, but I do know that it works. So my friends – please use this knowledge to your advantage in keeping dinner close at hand and food-borne illnesses far far away. Happy (& safe!) eating!

Nutritional Information – 1 4-oz fillet

Calories: 200
Fat: 10 g
Carbs: 2 g
Protein: 26 g
Fiber: 2 g
Calcium: 9%