Monday, December 17, 2007

Important Holiday Tradition: Finger Foods

Totally stole this photo from Kraft, but you know what? I use their cheese to make this recipe. ALWAYS. So I think we're even.

Why is it festive to eat food with your fingers? Because people do it at cocktail parties? Because nothing says wild and crazy fun like eschewing silverware? I don't know. But it's TRUE. Finger food = holiday fun

In my family, the particular favorite that just says Oodles of Holiday Joy to us are Sausage Cheese Balls. People have been making these since the invention of Bisquick (a.k.a. "all-purpose baking mix"). Perhaps even before then when housewives everywhere had to use - gasp! - ORDINARY FLOUR (and other stuff). Seriously. The Sausage Cheese ball recipe has been around a LONG time. These "easy party favorites" have been touted in Betty Crocker cookbooks and on the backs of baking mix boxes. Don't make them if you're trying to set up an impressive looking spread because they just aren't pretty. They are ugly, unsophisticated balls of cheesy, spicy joy. My family loves them.

Google Sausage Cheese Balls and you will see 100 variations on the same basic theme insofar as the recipe goes, the main argument being over ratio of cheese to sausage to baking mix.

My Family's Sausage Cheese Balls
are as follows:

1lb. sausage (one of those plastic wrapped logs o' meat)
16 oz. Kraft sharp cheddar cheese (if the recipe is too oily, try switching some of the cheese to the 2% lowfat variety)
2 cups Bisquick or your fave baking mix

(you rocket scientists out there will notice that this is essentially a 1-1-1 ratio. 1lb. = 16 oz. = 2 cups. Yay, MATH!)

Optional additions: chopped onions, French's crispy fried onion thingies or - what I use - a dash of cayenne pepper
If you do not eat pork, you can use Turkey sausage. This recipe is very forgiving in regards to subsitutions, just make sure you have enough whole fat cheese and meat for the recipe to work!

Traditionally recipes tell you to just mix it all together. Don't do that. Mix all the cheese and baking mix (along with any other additions) together as evenly as possible - you're going to need to use your hands, ladies - and THEN work in the sausage. Don't overwork it once the sausage is in, just knead it enough for the sausage fat to spread around a bit and help hold the mixture together. This way, some chunks of sausage stay intact, making the end result much tastier and the cheese and sausage flavors more distinguishable. Personally, I usually cut out a little of the baking mix. I put in 1.5 cups and then add a little of that last half cup later if it seems necessary.

Roll the dough into roughly 1" balls, place on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350ยบ for about 20 minutes or until they are turning golden brown but not actually burning. You may want to let them sit on paper towels for a bit before serving, which is what I do.

For the uninitiated, this is going to sound WIERD. No liquids to make the baking mix stick together? NO. NO additional liquids. Trust me. Once the sausage and cheese begin to cook, they release a lot of oil which bonds the mixture together and provides the "liquid" component of this dough. Sounds awful, but tastes like ooey-gooey heaven.

They are good cold. They are good the next day. My family has always had them for breakast on Christmas day (and Thanksgiving day). My mother makes enough for an army (the recipe as listed above makes A LOT) and then we all snack on them non-stop for days.

Speaking of classic old-time holiday finger foods (drumroll please) this recipe for Holiday Bacon Appetizers appeared on The Pioneer Woman Cooks - source of brilliant artery cloggin' goodness - and I am making these bacon bites along with the sausage cheese balls for some guests this holiday season. They're all going to look at the spread and ask if I'm trying to kill them with premature heart attacks. Then they will eat every sausage and bacon laden bite... And swear undying fealty to me. Just you watch and see.


  1. Our tradition was/is orange sweet rolls from pillsbury. Very simple, but oh so yummy! They always taste like Xmas to me ;)

  2. I JUST picked up a package of the regular cinnamon ones! They make a perfect easy holiday breakfast! I think this year I am going to pre-make breakfast items so on Christmas morning I can just pop a pan in the oven and not think about it too much!

  3. Marisa -- Oh, no. Oh. NO. My Beloved would LOVE these.

    Okay. Shhhhh. I never saw this recipe. Nope. Didn't see it. ;-)

  4. Yeah... meat eatin' men LOVE the sausage cheese balls. They are quick and low effort to make, so my mom whips them up on all major holidays in part because it keeps the mens outta her kitchen. On their way to root around in the fridge or steal a roll, they smell the sausage cheese balls and go for them instead!