Monday, September 22, 2008

Sausage Cheese Balls

An autumn morning in the Delta is beautiful and melancholy. It’s more than the chill of the temperatures, although that’s a part of it. In early spring, the actual temperatures of a typical morning are probably the exact same degree, but the feel is something altogether different from the fall. It feels like childhood days, mornings rich with anticipation of the day’s pep rally before the home football game. The smell of the central heat clicking on in my home, one of the first times since February or March, probably adds to it…as does the smell of coffee perking, and the cotton defoliant that ag pilots spray on fields before harvesting.

I remember with great clarity one particular fall morning. It was mid-October, one of those perfect autumn days that is so gorgeous it makes you hurt. The sky was incredibly blue, the temperature nice and crisp – my idea of the perfect day, in other words. I was in the kitchen preparing sausage balls for a catering client. She and her family were traveling to Ole Miss for the ballgame and tailgating in the Grove. It was morning, the windows open in the kitchen and the little gas heater on. I do see the irony in that but I’m the type who, if I had a fireplace, would crank up the air conditioner in September in order to use it. That morning’s activities sum up all that is good and fine about the season – cool air, blue skies, football, and food.

Scrumptious little sausage balls are one of my favorite foods of fall. I always associate them with autumn and rarely, if ever, make them any other time of year.

There are surely as many versions for it as there are for Chicken and Rice Casserole. My favorite version is garlic-laden and spicy:

Sausage Cheese Balls

3 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces grated sharp or extra sharp Cheddar cheese
1 pound sausage (hot or mild)- can use turkey sausage
2 ½ cups baking mix
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 good dash Worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients until thoroughly mixed. You may as well go ahead and use your hands – they’re really easier to mix up that way. Shape the dough into small balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

At this point, sausage balls can be baked immediately or frozen.

To freeze, place baking sheet with sausage balls in the freezer for at least an hour. Write baking instructions and date in permanent marker on a zip-top bag and place the frozen sausage balls in the bag. Don’t forget this step! I cannot tell you how incredibly efficient it makes you feel when you pull that bag from the freezer and see neatly penned instructions, written in your very own handwriting.

When ready for a few, simply remove however many you’d like from the bag and bake on an ungreased baking sheet; no need to thaw first.

To bake, preheat oven to 350° F. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

NOTE: I usually double this recipe, using one pound hot sausage and one pound mild sausage. However, I learned the hard way that my KitchenAid bowl can’t handle that much dough, so I mix up two batches. Cleaning sausage and cheese bits from all corners of the kitchen was fun only once.

Recipe excerpted from More Culinary Kudzu.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Keetha's Classic Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

You may remember from your readings here that we promised the recipe of the sugar cookies we made and decorated to take to our friends who welcomed us into their tailgates with open arms. Some of you dear readers may remember seeing the recipe here, with a slight variation.

When your ready to bake your cookies, begin working with a small ball of dough at a time. Keep the rest of it in the fridge as it will be easier to work with when it's cold. Lightly flour your workspace and rolling pin. Roll out the dough slowly until it's about 1/4" thick. Keetha tells me that anything thicker and your cookies run the risk of not cooking all the way through. Dip your cookie cutter into flour, and cut away! Try to put the same size cookies together on the same baking sheet for the best results. Finally, bake the cookies at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

To decorate the cookies, we mixed up a batch of royal icing.

1 pound of confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons of meringue powder*
4-6 tablespoons of warm water
2 teaspoons of flavoring, if desired (we use vanilla, but you could use almond, lemon, butter, etc...)

*meringue powder can be found at cake decorating supply shops or heaven forbid, large discount stores!.

(Sorry about the photo, Blogger is being difficult!!! Just cock your head to the right and MAYBE you can get the picture!)

Start by sifting the confectioners' sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the meringue powder and mix thoroughly. Set your mixer on medium speed, and add the warm water 1 tablespoon at a time. Then add any flavorings that you may wish to use, and any more warm water to get the consistancy that you need. The icing should be fairly thick for outlining, but have somewhat of a thinner consistancy for large fill areas.

Start off with the outlining. This will create sort of a damn for the fill area, if you chose to do so. Keetha suggests using squeeze bottles (like those neat, old soda fountain ketchup & mustard bottles) to ice as they are a little easier to handle for those of us (and by that I mean ME!) that have trouble using a piping bag. The icing can be stored at room temperature for a pretty good while as long as the container is sealed very well.

Let your decorated cookies dry completely, and then you can wrap them in small celophane bags and tie with a nice colored ribbon. Something to this effect...

(This photo used courtesy of Write Kudzu...Thanks Kiddo!)

We had a great time in Starkville this past weekend, and already have plans set for this weeks game! Stay tuned in to the Kudzu Kitchen and Write Kudzu for updates about GAMEDAY! GO DAWGS!!

PS... These recipes and MUCH, MUCH more can be found in Keetha's books, Culinary Kudzu and More Culinary Kudzu. Go on over to Pecan Street Press and take a look!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

GAMEDAY - Week 2 MS State vs. Southeastern Louisiana - UPDATED!!

Hey kids! I'm just about as giddy as a 6 year old on Christmas morning right now! It's GAMEDAY! Keetha and I will be making the short journey over to the "Promised Land" later today for State's first home game of the season. FINALLY, an excuse to make a trip back to one of my favorite places on earth! Anyway, no reason to put you all through this but to share in my excitement! HA! ;-)

Well, we wanted to share something nice with friends who graciously welcome us into their tailgates in The Junction. So, here is what we decided...

We'll post up the receipe for the sugar cookies and the royal icing for decorating very soon, BUT after all the whole point of this endeavor was for GAMEDAY! So, we're already thinking about when we'll leave and what's for lunch....(let's just say it's a GREAT hamburger joint in beautiful downtown Starkville.). GO DAWGS!!

UPDATE-- Well this is what we ended up having for lunch...

And, if you're interested in finding out how our beloved Bulldogs fared, click here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

We were quite excited about Game Day on Saturday. We had a festive table and everything.

We had food, too, not just maroon mums and such.

Jeffrey grilled some boudin, which we served with sharp cheddar cheese that he sliced and sprinkled with creole seasoning and pickle spears.

He also sliced a baquette, brushed it with garlic olive oil, sprinkled it with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and grilled those. THAT was good; we'll be doing that again.

Friday morning I went to the Heart of Darkness and, be still my heart, they had the fall! and! halloween! decorations out! I love fall. They had miniature cupcake papers printed with little pumpkins and HOW COULD I RESIST THAT? I couldn't, that's how.

I melted about two-thirds of a bag of semi sweet chocolate chips. It was in the pantry; I don't know why I had opened it and used a few of the chocolate chips but whatever. It was there so I used it.

Once the chocolate was melted and smooth, I stirred in some Nutella.

As well as some chow mein noodles. I had a bag in the pantry for topping salads. I poured in a cup or two. Actually, I have no idea how much I poured in. I stirred in some peanuts, too, because if there is anything better than chocolate and halzelnut, it's chocolate and peanuts.

I lined three miniature muffin tins with the seasonal! autumn! cupcake papers and filled them with the mixture. I put them in the fridge to harden a bit and we enjoyed them with the tailgate fare.

These are incredibly easy and quite tasty. You can make them with milk chocolate or white chocolate. I've done similar chocolate clusters with pretzel pieces, rice crispie cereal, and peanuts.

If you don't have any cute seasonal theme cupcake papers, you can dip out spoonfuls of the mixture onto wax paper.