Baked Scotch Eggs

Happy New Years Greetings my foodie friends! I hope the new year is treating you all well, and if you have made new year’s resolutions that you have had good luck in keeping them so far. Mostly, I don’t make resolutions in the traditional sense. However, I have made a one word resolution this year so I am excited to see how that unfolds. In the food realm, I’m aiming to learn to make black bean burgers and to practice using my slow cooker more. I don’t really feel like those are resolutions but “to do” list items. What about you? What are you hoping to do this year?

I’m excited to bring you my recipe for Baked Scotch Eggs to kick off the New Year! I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a while now, and I have no good reason for not sharing sooner. Please forgive me. This is a simple recipe, requiring few ingredients, that makes a fancy-feeling dinner, or an elegant breakfast. You can make this to impress just about anyone who digs on eggs and sausage. I have a little trick for you if you want to up the ante, it will knock the socks off anyone eating with you, and only you will know it was easy-peasy. That’s the best kind of trick, isn’t it?!

Scotch Egg and Salad

Baked Scotch Eggs

Ingredients
1 lb breakfast sausage*
5 eggs
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup Panko** breadcrumbs
Non-stick spray

Steps
1. Cook your eggs with your preferred hard-boil method. I put eggs in a pan with cold water, then bring to a boil, and take off the heat for 7 minutes. Carefully transfer from the hot water into an ice bath, and let sit for 10 minutes before peeling.
Ice Bath
2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204.4 degrees Celsius). Line a jelly-roll pan with foil and put a cooling rack on it. Spray with non-stick spray.
3. Divide your sausage into 5 equal portions. If you have a scale, you are looking for 5 1/8 ounces (145.3 grams) per portion.
4. Take a peeled egg, roll it in the flour, and then shake off the excess. You want just a thin coating to help the sausage stick to the egg.
5. Very carefully, take the sausage portion and shape it around the egg. When you close it up, be sure to smooth the seam of the sausage over. (It may feel a bit like a middle school clay project!) Repeat for each egg.
6. Roll your sausage balls in the Panko to coat.*** Place on the cooling rack.
7. Put in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes. You want to make sure the sausage is no longer pink.

Sausage Portions

* Tip – If you wish to impress folks, you can make your own breakfast sausage. I promise you, it is not hard at all. Here’s how you do it.
– 1 lb ground pork
– 1 tablespoon Penzey’s breakfast sausage seasoning, or other breakfast sausage seasoning blend
– Mix it up with your hands and then use! See how easy that was!! It takes an extra couple of minutes, but you can tell everyone that you made your own sausage, and they’ll be totally wowed. Do it!

egg formation
** Here is a post that explains Panko breadcrumbs in detail in case this is your first time to be exposed to them. It’s worth the switch from regular breadcrumbs to Panko; I promise.

***My personal recommendation is to only put the Panko breadcrumbs on the eggs you plan on eating that meal. These make lovely leftovers, but the Panko doesn’t reheat well so if you know you’ll save two of them for lunch the following day, then skip the breadcrumbs on those two.

Panko Bath

Depending on your sausage approach, if you were using my dad’s good friend, Jimmy Dean, there are lots of flavor varieties that could spice up your eggs. If you are making your own, I think you can trust your own palate to know when and how to add more heat or flavors as you prefer. Trust your judgment. It is your kitchen, after all.

The aroma as these bake is heavenly. It makes me think of a weekend morning, even on a Thursday night. The layer of sausage around the eggs keeps them from overcooking which means the eggs come out soft and tender, wrapped inside a blanket of spicy sausage goodness. My preferred meal is to pair the Scotch Eggs with a salad or some steamed broccoli and carrot sticks to make sure that I get in my veggies. For leftovers, you could slice up the egg between some hearty bread for a breakfast sandwich that I am sure would be divine.

Whole Scotch Egg

As there are only a few ingredients in this recipe, I do encourage you to use the best ones you can find. My preference is to use eggs from one of my favorite vendors at the nearby farmer’s market, ground pork from Richardson Farms (also from the farmer’s market), and the breakfast sausage spice blend from Penzey’s. I like feeling connected to the people who grow/produce the items I buy, and I believe that the quality of my food is higher. Plus, knowing the sources of my food makes the meal more special for the boyfriend and me because we can go back and share with the vendors what we made with the items we bought. That’s always fun to do.

One final note: sometimes shaping the sausage is tricky. You think you’ve gotten it all smoothed out. You believe the seam is meshed together well, and then your scotch egg comes out of the oven looking like this.

Cracked Egg
Well, my friends, don’t despair. I assure you, it’s still edible, and your egg is still fine. It’s just a great reason to try again next week. After all, practice makes perfect, yes? I just want you to know you aren’t alone when this happens. Dig in, and happy eating!

Nutritional Information: 1 Scotch Egg
Calories: 350
Fat: 24 grams
Carbs: 2.6 grams
Protein: 30 grams
Calcium: 4.5%

Onion Herbed Meatballs

I have been away for far too long, my food loving friends. I apologize. Sometimes, as we know, life happens. But the good and delicious news is that I am back! And I plan to stay back! As we all also know, I am a big fan of food that you can make ahead of time and freeze to have available at your disposal when you need it. Mayhap it is cooked and only needs to be thawed and reheated. Perhaps it is still raw and needs to be cooked upon defrosting. The details of that depend on the particulars of the situation. However, the more work you can do in advance to help you out when you are short on time, need something to take to work for lunch, are short on energy, or otherwise need a boost in the kitchen, the better. One of the dishes that I’ve recently come to be a fan of in this department is the meatball. You can make a whole passel of them without too much trouble, freeze them right up, and then you have them at your beck and call to parcel out as you need. How beautiful is that?? The recipe below is my second pass at these meatballs, and I’ll probably continue to play with the recipe, so keep your eyes and taste buds on the lookout for additional meatball recipes in the near future.

Onion Herbed Meatballs and Pasta

Onion Herbed Meatballs (inspired by recipes in my cookbooks by Alton Brown and Mark Bittman – those are some good cooks, y’all!)

Ingredients
1 lb lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)
1 lb Italian sausage
1 cup minced onion
2 tbsp minced garlic
½ – 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil (your preference)
1/2 cup low fat ricotta cheese
1/2 Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley*
2 teaspoons dried pasta sprinkle (From Penzeys: dried oregano, basil, garlic, thyme)
1 teaspoon dried basil (not pictured – late addition)
Pinch of salt – to taste

Steps
1. Sauté your minced onions in a little bit of either the butter or olive oil (your preference) until they are soft and translucent. I let mine go until they got just the slightest bit of brown around the edges of a few. Take them off the heat, and let them cool while you work with the rest of the ingredients.
           
2. In a regular bowl, combine your ricotta cheese and bread crumbs. They can sit together for a few minutes to combine a bit.

3. In a large, roomy bowl, put in your beef, sausage, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, and herbs.
(When I was chopping my Italian parsley, I started with an overflowing, loosely packed 1/2 cup of leaves. I chopped them into a regular packed 2 tablespoons with a bit left on the cutting board. You can check out the pictures to see what I mean.)
                   
4. Beat your egg and pour into the bowl.
5. Add the ricotta and breadcrumb mixture.
6. Add the onions.
7. Using your kitchen’s best tools – your hands (how often do you hear that on the Food Network??), mix it together. Try to do it quickly and without too many passes through the meat, but also making sure the cheese and herbs get evenly distributed. The less you work the meat, the better. The more you handle the meat, the more likely you are to have a dense, tough meatball. It’s a similar concept to pie or biscuit dough.

8. I use a ½ tablespoon measure to scoop out a couple of measures of meat, loosely form them into a ball, and pan-fry them to taste-test for seasoning and flavor. You may wish to add an additional pinch of salt after tasting, more herbs, or more garlic. This is when I adjusted many of my seasonings that made the final ingredient list for your benefit.
9. Once your taste-testing has been done, and final seasonings added and mixed, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and set a jelly roll pan up with foil underneath a cookie cooling rack. (See picture below for set-up.) Begin to scoop and roll. Scoop and roll. Scoop and roll. Keep at it until all the mixture has been made into your meatballs. Mine didn’t all fit on the sheet at once, but I rolled them anyway to be prepared. Be gentle when rolling your meatballs. Remember – the less handling the better.
         
10. Bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake another 9. Take out of the oven and place on a paper towel lined surface. Repeat if necessary. Let cool just a bit before putting in the fridge. I recommend time in the fridge before freezing. And if you eat some while they are hot, I won’t judge, but mind that they don’t take the top layer of your tongue off.

Baked Meatball Deliciousness

*I used Italian flat leaf parsley because that’s what I had. Really any mixture of Italian herbs would do. I might use basil if I had some available or oregano or perhaps even rosemary. Use what you have at your disposal. I think it might be hard to go wrong with fresh herbs here. Unless you were using mint. That might not be good eats.

An additional note, these are quite onion-y as a cup of minced onions is a fair bit of onions. Sometimes when I make a dish the first time, I’m just winging it as I go along and not really measuring at all. The second time, when making for the blog, I usually tend to over-measure which I think I did with the onions. I like onions so I am okay with it, but if you are less of an onion fan, you might want to consider reducing that amount. I may even reduce it the next time around to let other flavors shine through. However, the boyfriend who is frequently in the anti-onion camp was just fine with them, so it just might be alright.

The rationale for my advice to you for letting your meatballs spend some time in the fridge prior to putting them in the freezer is fairly simple. You don’t want to put warm or hot food in the freezer next to other foods where it could bring the temperature of said food up. Certainly it won’t unfreeze, but if it gets a little melty and refreezes around the edges, that’s not good for your food. I’ve never done this myself, but I would be suspicious that if I put too much hot food in my freezer at once, it would be quite negative for the overall temperature of the freezer. Thus, I put slightly cooled foods in my fridge to cool all the way down. That is bacterially safer than letting it cool all the way down on the counter. I try not to put warm food next to anything dairy in the fridge, or near anything that makes me nervous in my gut for heat transfer. If possible, I’ll put some space around the cooling food to help with air circulation. Food safety first, people.

One of the reasons I choose to go with such a lean ground beef in this recipe is because the Italian sausage has quite a bit of fat in it. It is, after all, sausage. It more than makes up for the lack of fat in the ground beef, and the ricotta also helps keep the meatballs from being dry. Please don’t be afraid of using a lean beef in conjunction with the sausage. I promise, it is okay. I’m even considering exploring turkey with the sausage. I know that’s a little odd, but hey – someone’s got to try it, right? I can take one for the team. My grocery store carries the Italian sausage ground without the casing which is quite handy. If you can’t find that, just get mild Italian sausage with the casing, and then cut the meat out of the casing, dispose of the casing, and proceed onward. It might be tasty to explore a flavored Italian sausage here as well. LOTS of possibilities!

My recipe made 54 meatballs, all told. I think this is fantastic because now I’ve got tons of frozen meatball goodness in my freezer, and they are small enough to defrost quickly after work on a night when I was forgetful to pull something else out, or they can thaw in the time between breakfast and lunch so I can eat them for lunch at work. And friends, let me tell you, my last batch smelled so good that my co-workers were perpetually jealous of my lunch every time I heated up these meatballs. They were that good. Fifty-four meatballs will last the single eater (or even double eaters) quite a while. It’s such a great plan-ahead item. And with lots of room for improvising, I can’t wait to hear how you made these your own meatballs! Happy Eating!

Nutritional Information – Per Meatball                 

Calories: 50.7
Fat: 3.6 g
Protein: 3.7 g
Calcium: 1.3%
Iron: .8%

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)

Ingredients
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)

Steps
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.