Sausage Balls

It’s that time of year, folks!

The holidays are here and that basically means all of the food temptations you could ever imagine. Then followed by a round of Whole30 in January. I’ve been trying to maintain some semblance of health conscientiousness while preparing for the parties and gatherings to come. The past few weeks, I have been trying to eat more greens and fruits than usual. My roommate, Beth, can vouch for me (probably).

As I’m prepping for my travels back north to Pennsylvania to visit family and friends, I have been prototyping some new ideas and recipes for the festivities awaiting me. Today, as with many fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you see it) days in North Carolina, the institution I work for called a snow day. Hallelujah! Just before the students’ finals and before my trek home; today has given me a day to rest, relax, and enjoy the wintry weather. We actually did get a pretty decent snowstorm, if you’re wondering.

Yesterday, I decided to try my hand at a recipe I’ve been dying to make. A few months ago, I had tried my first sausage ball. It was nothing short of amazing. It was also from Biscuitville, a local Southern fast food chain, so what do you expect? Now, those of you not from the South, or those not familiar in general, might be wondering what in the world a sausage ball might be. Well, let me explain.

Sausage balls are essentially a breakfast version of meatballs with cheese. They are typically softer than a meatball and have a spongier texture. I was racking my brain trying to figure out what the binding agent was; it tasted somewhat dough-y but without the flavor. After researching a couple ways to make these delicious appetizers or breakfast snacks, I uncovered that the secret ingredient is Bisquick! Who knew, right? The Bisquick (or regular pancake mix as I used since all of the stores were wiped of bread and dry goods due to the storm) acts as the dough-y binder and makes them fluffier and taste so delicious.

I originally had the idea to make these guys for a holiday party I’m attending when I go home, so I wanted to test them out. I also made a yummy hot pepper jalapeño- cranberry jelly/spread to dip them in. I’ve linked the recipe I used, so give it a try as well!

Enjoy!

Ingredients (Yields ~ 2 dozen sausage balls) 

  • 1 lb. ground pork sausage (I used a sage blend Carolina sausage)
  • 2 cups dry pancake mix or Bisquick
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt & pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While oven is heating, prepare 4 medium-large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. You can use a stand mixture to complete this step if you don’t want to get your hands dirty. 🙂
  3. Form into cookie-dough shaped balls (my helper and best friend, Maria, and I, used ice cream scoopers for this step) and place on parchment lined baking sheets.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until bottoms have browned and sausage is cooked completely.

 

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Blackberry, Fig & Prosciutto Flatbread

The cool weather is here to stay in North Carolina! My past few weekends have been full of both indoor and outdoor activities. At a recent trip to the Carolina Renaissance Festival, I won some free tickets, meaning my friend Maria and I have been on the road enjoying the crisp, Carolina air and exploring some great areas. When I’m not traveling back in time, I’ve also been exploring my home base of Greensboro and making the most of the sunny days and fall weather.

With all of the exploring I’ve been doing, I haven’t had as much time to dedicate to experimenting with new recipes. When I restarted this blog a few months ago, my intent was to post 1-2 times per month, and I think I’m just making that cusp. I love trying new flavor combinations and entertaining, but between the late nights at work and exploring my surroundings, I have found that I have a smaller window for my food adventures.

That said, I want to try to get into a better groove, and though I’ve just barely missed fig season in North Carolina, I’m not letting that get the better of me (or my cravings lately). Going back to my roots, and one of the primary reasons I started this food blog in the first place, is that I love the combination of sweet and savory dishes. In my mind, I was envisioning juicy figs marrying perfectly with creamy goat cheese and salty prosciutto.

After a phone chat with Kylie, one of my closest friends and an amazing home cook as well, she suggested trying some blackberries in lieu of the fresh figs. Well, I took her advice with this one, but I also did use some dried figs and let me tell you, these flatbreads are addicting. I’m happy Kylie suggested the blackberries because I can now use the remainder in overnight oats or yogurt for quick work mornings.

Instead of making pizza dough from scratch (which should be on my list of things to try my hand at – eventually), I opted to go for store-bought naan. One of the things I love about using naan to make flatbread pizzas is that it saves you time. I signed up to volunteer today at a local regional theater and I was working on a time crunch. Luckily, all you need to do is whip the toppings on these bad boys, pop them in the oven, and in less than 10 minutes you have a delicious lunch or dinner. I’ve also made some delicious pesto flatbreads with naan. The possibilities are endless, and I’d be happy to even do a separate post on all of the ways you can use naan in day-to-day cooking. For now, read on to see how I crafted these flatbreads!

Ingredients (Yields 3 personal naan flatbreads)

  • 3 pieces naan (any brand is fine; to yield 3, I used the regular and not the mini)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 8 oz. packets of plain goat cheese (I used one spreadable and one log)
  • 6-7 chopped dried figs
  • 3 slices prosciutto, sliced into chunks
  • 1/4-1/2 cup white cheese blend (I used Fontina and Mozzarella)
  • 5-6 blackberries, sliced
  • 1-2 handfuls arugula, to garnish
  • 2 tbsp honey (optional)
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While oven heats, slice the prosciutto, chop the figs, slice the blackberries, and in small saucepan, mix the balsamic vinegar and honey over medium heat, until mixture starts to bubble. Reduce to simmer and let the glaze reduce to 1/2 the amount. Test with a spoon to see if the glaze is thick enough.
  2. Whisk together the garlic and olive oil and spread over each naan. Next, spread the goat cheese evenly over each naan.
  3. Add the desired chopped figs, prosciutto, and white cheese blend. Crumble remainder of goat cheese and add blackberries. Bake on parchment paper (on baking sheet) or pizza stone for 6-8 minutes, until naan is golden brown and cheese is melting.
  4. Serve with arugula and drizzle desired balsamic glaze.

Zesty Butternut Squash Pasta

I haven’t always loved pasta, especially as a child. I know what you’re thinking; that’s crazy! How does a child not love pasta? I think I was terrified by the idea of red sauce. It was too acidic for me and I even disliked pizza. I mean, come on, baby Rachael. It’s PIZZA! I’m truly thankful my tastebuds have changed and have been growing over the years – no pun intended.

One of the things I’m growing to love about pasta, however, is the ability to produce so many different flavors. You have your tomato sauce, vodka sauce (one of my personal favorites), pesto, alfredo, and many, many more. My friend Denise has been telling me about a butternut squash and farfalle pasta dish she’s been making for quite some time – a dish made for her by her grandmother – and I have been very curious. Denise is one of my favorite people to share a meal with, whether home-cooked or dining out. She’s got such a diverse and adventurous palate, so this pasta that she’s mentioned had piqued my interest.

One day while on the phone, we decided to do an email recipe-swap! I sent her a delicious tomato soup recipe (compliments of another friend, Kylie!) that I’m obsesses with and she sent me the butternut squash farfalle pasta recipe in return. I made a few minor changes to Denise’s recipe. Read: One change, to specify. I used regular farfalle pasta instead of whole wheat for no other reason than the grocery store was out of whole wheat. Feel free to use whichever you prefer for this dish.

I’ve realized that I’ve developed a definite taste for the freshness of making a pasta dish without any formalized sauce. And let me tell you, you will be licking the olive oil and lemon juice dressing that goes along with this recipe. It’s super fresh and the acidity pairs well with the sweetness from the squash and the nutty Parmesan cheese. I’ve also realized that I’ve got a lot of foodie friends. But hey, I’m not complaining! 🙂

Ingredients: (Yields ~ 6 servings)

  • 1 lb regular or whole wheat farfalle pasta
  • 1 large package pre-diced butternut squash (about 1 whole squash)
  • 6 garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled
  • 3-4 lemons, juiced
  • 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh arugula (per bowl)
  • 1-2 tbsp pepitas (pumpkin seeds) per bowl
  • 1-2 tsp salt & pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, for garnish, larger grate or freshly grated

Directions: 

  1. Bring large pot to boil and add farfalle pasta. Cook according to package or to desired level, while starting on the remaining steps below. Wait to drain pasta until butternut squash is fully cooked.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine diced butternut squash, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper and toss well. Spread squash on large baking sheet and add 6 unpeeled cloves of garlic. Roast until soft, about 25-30 minutes.
  3. Remove the squash and add to a large mixing bowl. Remove garlic cloves and place in jar or salad dressing container. Next, juice the 3-4 lemons and add to your dressing bowl or container. Whisk in 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil, to your desired preference. Set aside.
  4. Drain pasta and combine with roasted squash. Pour 1/4-1/2 of the dressing onto the pasta mixture. Serve bowls beginning with handful (1/2 cup) arugula, dress lightly, squash-pasta mixture, Parmesan cheese, and pepitas.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Greek Lamb Burgers

Fall is quite possibly the busiest season in my new job. I’ve been striving to balance my workload as I recently transitioned into a new role over the summer – one that was recently impacted by the start of a new semester – now that I am working with students.

That said, fall is also a time of change. Major change. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve written, drafted, or even experimented much with creating my own recipes. I guess you could say I’ve been focusing on my career and personal life (or maybe just writer’s block?), which is never a bad thing. I’ve recently felt a strong pull to focus on my hobbies as a means of shifting my energy at the end of my long, but often stimulating day at work.

Obviously, that’s how I ended up back here – pursuing my food blog! On deck today, and in line with major changes, I was inspired to create a Greek/Lebanese inspired dish, and the reason is twofold: First and foremost, I remember always attending my mom’s church festival each fall. She belonged to a Greek Orthodox parish and they sold the most amazing street food at the fall festival. One of my favorite dishes was a green bean dish with tomatoes and garlic, often referred to as lubee by its Lebanese name. (A similar side dish exists in Greek cuisine called fasolakia). I always craved those green beans, especially when paired with either kibbee or lamb. And if you know anything about me, you’ll know that’s why I opted to go for the meat and skip the greens. At least for now. 😉

My second inspiration comes from a summer family reunion that I attended in Washington DC with my mom’s side of the family. It was so amazing to reconnect with and even meet some family members that I had only ever heard stories about! And, even better, we all went to a Lebanese restaurant and hookah bar for a portion of the activities.

 

Needless to say, the Green and Lebanese flavors have been on my mind! I’ve been dreaming about pine nuts and lamb, so I had to go with a ground lamb patty, but this recipe would also taste great with ground beef. I also took some flavor inspiration from Chef Anne Burrell of Worst Cooks In America (a guilty pleasure of mine FOR SURE) and consulted her Greek Lamb Burger recipe while creating these juicy and delicious burgers–and oh, yes, my roommate, Beth, who is an avid foodie herself, can vouch for them!

 

What I love about this recipe is that you don’t even need to add much to garnish; the burgers (and the cucumber-dill spread, inspired by my friend Danielle’s own creation) really speak for themselves. I also really appreciate that I can use the spread as a dip for fresh veggies or crackers. It’s actually kind of addicting!

 

Ingredients: (Yields about 5-6 patties)

For the burgers:

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 red onion – 1/4 diced and 1/4 for garnish/topping
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup or 1/2 package mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 package dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt & pepper
  • 1 beefsteak tomato, for garnish
  • Crumbled feta cheese, for garnish
  • Spinach or bib lettuce, for garnish

For the cucumber-dill spread:

  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill
  • 3-4 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 cucumber, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt & pepper, (or less – optional)

 

Directions:

For the burgers:

  1. Start by dicing the red onion and chopping up the dill and mint, to begin your mise en place. Set the dill and mint aside.
  2. In a small saute pan, begin to toast the pine nuts for 2-3 minutes over medium heat before adding the olive oil and red onion. This is to toast the pine nuts before covering in oil. Simmer for an additional 2 minutes before adding the garlic, and then continue to simmer until onions have softened and pine nuts are golden, about 6-7 minutes total. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Combine the lamb meat, the cooled sauteed onion mixture, oregano, cumin, paprika, mint, dill, salt, and pepper. Form into round burger patties, about 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
  4. Grill until desired temperature, about 4-5 minutes per side. Do not push down on the burger while cooking- leave it alone! It squeezes out all the delicious juices. Serve with the cucumber-dill spread and your desired garnishes. I also grilled my buns for added flavor and texture.

For the cucumber-dill spread:

  1. Chop the cucumber, dill, and mint. Set aside.
  2. Measure and combine the Greek yogurt and mayonnaise. Combine with a whisk or spoon (a spoon worked just fine with me) and I needed a spatula to ensure I got all of the mayo and yogurt in a bowl.
  3. Add spices and stir in the mint, cucumber, and dill. Serve in a medium – sized serving bowl with veggies and pita or spread directly atop your burger.

 

 

What are your favorite seasonal-or-heritage-inspired burgers? Leave a comment below and enjoy!

 

-Rachael

 

Thai Peanut Satay Shrimp Pasta

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Hello all!

I realized just what a long title I gave this post, as I do have a tendency to do that. But let’s just roll with it!

I originally was inspired a few weeks ago to create a new recipe utilizing thai sweet chili sauce. Now, I’ve been struggling to attain that delicious sweet and spicy taste at home and I’ve been testing out a few other bloggers’ recipes but I still can’t seem to master the taste I’m looking for without it turning out too vinegar-y or lacking in that vibrant red color. (Help a sista out if you have any favorite recipes, I’m always looking to try them!)

Anyways, I ended up deciding to do a peanut satay sauce for a spaghetti with shrimp and veggies, which definitely turned out as expected! In undergrad, I became slightly obsessed with pad thai and stir fry day at my campus’s cafeteria. They usually always had a certain day in which they offered a spicy peanut sauce to go with the stir fry, which obviously I always devoured. So I figured it was time to get back to business with figuring out a new recipe to try that involved peanut satay.

This recipe is easy, but does involve a bit of multi-tasking. I tweaked a new peanut satay that I wanted to try and I really enjoyed it. Compliments of She Simmers–here. I did omit the vinegar and I only used a little bit of sugar and salt, but other than that, I would highly recommend giving this recipe a try!

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Ingredients: (Yields about 4-6 servings) 

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked whole wheat linguine
  • 3 cups cooked, peeled frozen shrimp, thawed
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 12-ounce can water chestnuts
  • 1 medium zucchini, spiraled
  • 3/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp thai garlic chili paste
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 13.5-ounce condensed unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp chopped peanuts
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Directions: 

  1. In a medium saucepan, cook linguine according to packaging and then drain.
  2. In a large wok, or saucepan with lid over medium heat, combine carrots, water chestnuts, shrimp and carrots and sauté for 5-7 minutes with garlic powder.
  3. While the ingredients in the wok are cooking, in another medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk, peanut butter, chili paste, sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, and continue to simmer until mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the peanut satay mixture over ingredients in the wok. Top with chopped peanuts and serve warm.

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Buffalo Chicken Pizza Rolls

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Happy New Year all and I hope your holidays were full of tons of fun, good eats, and quality time with family! Mine sure were. Dare I say, full of too much food. Yep, I said it. I’m on food overload and ready to start back with some simple and healthier recipes.

Now, that said, these buffalo chicken rolls aren’t exactly the healthiest, but they are simple. We’ll save the healthy for later this week.

But, trying to save myself with the healthy thing, the first time I made these rolls, I did use whole wheat pizza dough. Fair’s fair.

Back to business…these are super yummy, are great for a snack, meal, or party appetizer. I made these for a New Year’s Eve party. The right amount of heat and then the dough together are a great savory combination.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can crescent roll dough (about 8 rolls)
  • 3/4 package cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped or ground through a food processer
  • 1/3-1/2 cup Frank’s red hot sauce (more or less depending on how spicy you want it.
  • 1/3 cup ranch dressing
  • 1/3 cup shredded mixed cheddar cheeses.
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • flour, as needed

Directions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl with a hand-held mixer, combine the cream cheese, ground cooked chicken, hot sauce, and ranch dressing until well mixed, about 5-7 minutes on a medium speed.
  3. Unroll out crescent roll dough onto a floured surface and being to scoop buffalo chicken mixture onto the middle of each of the crescent triangles. About a tablespoon works best.
  4. Top each roll with a sprinkle of shredded cheese and fold over and pinch shut to ensure no filling spills out while baking and place in a baking dish.
  5. With a brush, brush the melted butter and garlic over the rolls. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

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Cinnamon Chocolate Pie

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Hello all! It’s been a bit of time since I’ve been posting consistently and I fear that’s only going to get a bit worse. Oh well. I’ll figure this thing out eventually.

Anyways, happy holidays to all and to all a good night! Something like that, too, I suppose.

So in between baking, shopping, work, and preparing for travel, I’ve been going a bit crazy. Who’da thunk, huh? But I figured for this post, I wanted to work on something that reminds me of the holidays with a bit of a twist.

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I always love pies, I mean, come on, who doesn’t? But I recently had the most amazing chocolate pie; it was this rich, Hershey chocolate no-bake pie. And the recipe (I do believe!) can be found here.

I made a few changes. First, I used a regular milk chocolate Hershey’s bar and added about 10 extra Hershey kisses for more of the chocolate richness. I used mini marshmallows instead of large, and then I added cinnamon and vanilla for the flavor. Here’s my adaption!

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Ingredients: 

  • 1 8-ounce milk-chocolate Hershey’s bar & 10 hershey kisses
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp plus 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 9-inch pie crust

 

Directions:

  1. Over a double-boiler, heat the milk and marshmallows until they start to form a paste and the marshmallows get smaller.
  2. Add in the chocolate and 1 1/2 tbsp of ground cinnamon and mix together thoroughly until fully melted in with no clumps.
  3. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream with the 2 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp vanilla extract until soft peaks form and it is thick.
  4. Wait for the chocolate mixture to cool to at least room temperature  and then fold in the cream mixture.
  5. Pour into a pre-baked or ready-made pie crust and refrigerate for 4 hours or until it begins to solidify and voila! You’re done!

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