Cranberry Italian Sausage Meatballs with Spicy Cranberry Dipping Sauce

I am not a huge fan of canned cranberry sauce but I always seem to have a can in my pantry during the holidays. Maybe I unconsciously pick it up in memory of my mother, she loved the stuff and it was always served at holiday meals in my house growing up. So, 
sometime in December I am always staring that can down and trying to decide what to do with it!

On the other hand, I love the meatball appetizers which always seem to be on every holiday buffet and potluck table, usually smothered in some ketchup-y sauce and served in a crock pot. Those are fine until they've been sitting around for hours and the sauce has reduced to concrete and the balls are dry as cardboard. That's why I prefer to serve mine as dippers, warmed up just before serving and replenished fresh as they disappear! 

I've added a little holiday to these with some dried cranberries, that ubiquitous can of jellied cranberry sauce and a better way to serve up:


1 Pound Sweet Italian Sausage
1 Package of Pork Stuffing Mix
1/3 C. Dried Cranberries
1 C. Water
1 Small Onion, Diced
1 Stalk Celery, Diced
1 Tsp. Fennel Spice Mix
1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Egg
1 Tsp. Salt

Pour the dry stuffing mix and seasonings into a large mixing bowl.
Cook the sausage until nicely browned. Remove sausage and set aside.
Sweat the onions and celery in the sausage fat until translucent. Remove and set aside.
Deglaze the pan with the water, getting all the nice brown bits (the fond) into the liquid. Pour this liquid into the stuffing and bread crumb mixture.
Add the sausage, onions, celery and the egg into the stuffing mixture and mix well, then form into 1" diameter balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. 
Bake at 350F for 20 - 25 minutes.
Plate up warm on a nice holiday dish with some toothpicks and serve with the sauce below. 

Sweet & Spicy Cranberry Dipping Sauce

1 Can Jellied Cranberry Sauce
3/4 C. Heinz Chili Sauce
3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
Juice of 1 Orange
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tsp. Garlic Salt

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and warm on medium until the cranberry sauce is completely dissolved. Serve warm in a ramekin next to your Cranberry Sausage Meatballs.

This is great served up with one of my Cranberry Cocktails!

TIP: The leftover meatballs make a fantastic meatball sandwich the next day and the leftover cranberry sauce is a great glaze for a pork roast!

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Super Rich, Chocolate Cocoa Recipe

I make a freakin' GREAT super rich, chocolate-y cocoa and when I had insomnia the other night I made myself a cup and posted the photo and recipe up on my Facebook.  So many people commented and tried it I decided I'd share here too!
It's kind of inspired by the way the Aztecs used to drink their cocoa, spiced up, however I like mine sweet so I added sugar which the Aztecs never used.
The whole key to this recipe is the DARK cocoa powder ... and the spices and booze. . .

Super Rich, Chocolate Cocoa
1 Tbsp. Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder
1 Tbsp. Scharffen Berger Cocoa Powder
2 Tbsp. Sugar (or to taste)
Pinch of Sea Salt
Pinch of Cinnamon
Pinch of Chili Powder
2 Tbsp. Water
1 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Half & Half
Optional: 1/2 Oz. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
Warm water over medium heat with cocoa powders, spices and sugar until a thick syrup is formed. Add the milk and half & half and heat until just scalding, don't boil!
Pour into your favorite cup, add the optional booze, and top with marshmallows or whipped cream. Garnish with some shaved dark chocolate curls and a dash of cinnamon.
Yes, that IS my Cool Beans Coffee Art at top!  I just photoshopped out the coffee beans and repurposed my original colored pencil drawing. Which you can also get on Prints for $15 (shipping included!)



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August 31st is National Trail Mix Day! 

Trail Mix, that ubiquitous, portable energy snack beloved of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts worldwide, is typically a mixture of dried berries, fruits, nuts and/or seeds. Some forms include dried meats and, in modern times, even chocolate and granola. The most common mixture is the simple combination of {Good Old} Raisins and Peanuts, possibly the root of the name GORP.

Despite there being multiple references to Trail Mix being invented by two California surfers back in 1968, there is an earlier reference to this hiking snack back in Jack Kerouac's 1958 novel "The Dharma Bums". Going back even further, native Americans made Pemmican, a mixture of jerky (dried meat), animal fat and berries, which lasted for months. 

Prior to that, forms of this highly nutritious and compact food was around in ancient cultures worldwide. Whether it's called Studenterhavre, Agil, Bwyd Dewey, Scroggin, Schmogle, Pemmican, Gorp or Trail Mix, some version has been sustaining humanity on the go for a very long time.     

Requiring no cooking, trail mix is a compact, high energy snack utilizing high protein nuts, seeds and/or meats and high carbohydrate dried fruits, which can be stored for long periods of time. This made it an ideal road trip nosh for everyone through history from the ancient Nomads, to Native Americans and explorers of the Old West, to today's surfers, students and even busy soccer moms and computer nerds.

No matter what you call it or what you put in it, Trail Mix is a delicious and nutrient packed finger food.


2 Cups of Walnuts, Pecans, Cashews
1 Cup Dried Cherries, Apricots
1 Cup M&Ms
1/2 Cup Pine Nuts, Sunflower Seeds

For camping and outside activities I leave out the M&Ms.

Happy National Trail Mix Day!

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Coconut Curry Chicken Soup

I was making chicken stock to replenish my supply and wanted to make something different with the chicken itself. I've been craving Asian and Middle Eastern flavors lately and thought a coconut curry soup would be nice. I don't care if it's summer or not when I'm craving comfort foods, all I care about is how it fills my tummy and makes my palate smile!

I didn't have all the typical ingredients but I found a couple of cans of yams and had some frozen bell peppers so decided to go with those for my main vegetable elements.

This turned out to be a really great tasting soup, so much so that I did something I rarely do, I made another pot immediately after finishing the first one!

Coconut Curry Chicken Soup Recipe:

4 Cooked Chicken Breasts, shredded
2 Cans Coconut milk
2 Cups Chicken broth
1 Cup Heavy cream or Half & Half
4 Tbsp. Curry powder
2 Tbsp. Turmeric
1 Tsp. Fresh ginger
2 -14 Oz. Can yams, with syrup
1 Onion, Chopped
6 Cloves Garlic, Crushed
1 Red Bell Pepper, Chopped
1 Green Bell Pepper, Chopped
2 Tsp. Lemon Zest

Bring all the ingredients except the cooked chicken to a boil in a stock pot then reduce the heat and simmer for around half an hour, or until the onions and bell peppers are tender.
Add in your chicken and continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche and a few rings of mini peppers or some chives and serve with a loaf of crusty bread or some naan. Feel free to add some cooked rice or quinoa to add heartiness!

By the way, this is one of those soups that tastes better the second day!

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I made this ridiculously easy and quick dessert using Kraft's recipe for Philadelphia cheesecake and then adding a few extra elements. I decided some dark chocolate decorations (gotta have chocolate) and a nice fresh strawberry would be a perfect pairing for my creamy cheesecake minis.

The Kraft Philadelphia cheesecake recipe is a decent and quick recipe for cheesecake, but it lacked that little touch of lemon I like in my cheesecake. I dislike graham cracker crust so I left that out when baking which meant I needed to add some texture to the dish as well. So my final addition to the dessert was some of Trader Joe's Meyer Lemon Cookies, crushed up and sprinkled as a base for the cookie cutter formed cheesecake minis. I could have made the lemon cookies as the crust but that would have added butter and more unnecessary calories plus taking away a fun plating element. Besides, I only thought of using them after the cheesecake was baked and i missed that lemon flavor!

I cut the cheesecake recipe in half and baked it in an 8x8 pan in less than half the full sized cheescake time so it would be a thin layer. After it was cool I simply cut out pieces with cookie cutters, lifting them out with a spatula while still in the cutter and gently pushed them out of the cookie cutters onto the lemon cookie dusted plates.

For the chocolate decorations I simply melted dark chocolate IN a small freezer bag, cut off one bottom tip of the bag, piped some designs on parchment paper and popped them in the fridge. The strawberries were sliced and fanned out.

All in all it took about an hour and a half to make and most of that was baking/cooling time! While the cheesecake and chocolate cooled I prepped the rest of my dinner!

P.S. I have cheesecake leftover and some beautiful chocolate tulip cups and I'm going to do something fun with those too!

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Today is National Fondue Day and I just happened to have the greatest idea ready to post! You see, a few days ago I was craving something chocolate and something a little fancy to treat myself after a long day of dealing with redecorating chaos.  Since my kitchen was pretty much in shambles from my current make-over plans I couldn't really do much in the way of baking. Heck, I couldn't even dig my oven out from under!

What I did have was access to my microwave, some really great dark chocolate from Trader Joe's and some strawberries, mini marshmallows, mandarin oranges and these great little lemon shortbread cookies.  It then occurred to me that a fondue didn't have to be this huge, complicated endeavor! Here's what I did:


Chopped the dark chocolate into manageable pieces.
Melted the chocolate by 30 second intervals in a microwavable container.
(enough chocolate for one serving took about 2-1/2 minutes)
Poured the smooth, creamy dark chocolate into a cute espresso cup.
Arranged my dippers around my warm, sexy chocolate.
Dug out a little cocktail pick.
Dug in.

That's it! Simple, fast, delicious and fun!


And try out my Chocolate Fondue Martini to accompany your little fondue party!

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