Sausage Cheese Balls

I discovered this recipe when I was babysitting for a couple who were planning a party and hired me to make appetizers while they were out at a concert. They brought their friends back after the concert, and I had the appetizers ready for everyone to eat. Since then, I’ve made them many times for friends and family. They’re a simple stand-by that is widely loved (Even Paula Deen has a version of this recipe). Sausage Cheese Balls are the twenty-fifth of my 25 Appetizers of Christmas.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Bisquick
  • 1 lb bulk pork sausage
  • 4 cups (16 oz) shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Spray cookie sheet lightly with nonstick spray.
  3. Combine ingredients thoroughly in a mixing bowl.
  4. Shape into 1-inch balls.
  5. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until brown.
  6. Serve warm.

Variations

  • I have made and frozen the unbaked balls at least a month in advance. Either thaw before baking, or increase baking time to about 30 minutes if cooked from frozen.
  • I have substituted ground beef for the sausage in this recipe for tasty results. I’ve also made pizza variation with Italian sausage, mozzarella or Italian blend cheese, and, if desired, a bit of Italian seasoning.

Mini Broccoli & Ham Cups

This recipe from Kraft (original here) replaces the typical crust of a biscuit or roll with a ham cup (see the photo). Mini Broccoli & Ham Cups is the twenty-fourth of my 25 Appetizers of Christmas.

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed, well drained
  • ¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • ½ cup (½ of 8 oz tub) PHILADELPHIA ⅓ Less Fat than Cream Cheese
  • 1 Tbsp KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 24 slices OSCAR MAYER Deli Fresh Smoked Ham
  • ⅓ cup chopped PLANTERS Smoked Almonds

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine broccoli, tomatoes, cream cheese, Parmesan and garlic powder.
  3. Flatten ham slices.
  4. Press 1 ham slice onto bottom and up side of each of 24 miniature muffin pan cups.
  5. Fill with broccoli mixture; sprinkle with nuts.
  6. Bake 15 min or until heated through.

Variations

  • To make ahead, assemble appetizers several hours in advance; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Then, uncover and bake as directed.
  • Some recipe reviewers commented that they left out the tomatoes and still found the appetizer a hit with family or party-attendees.

Layered Pizza Dip

My colleague Lisa makes the best pizza dip ever. On days she brought her pizza dip to work, I was more than happy to forego leaving for my lunch break. This recipe from Betty Crocker (original here) looks similar to hers. Layered Pizza Dip is the twenty-third of my 25 Appetizers of Christmas.

Ingredients

  • 1 (8-oz.) container soft cream cheese with chives and onions (Or plain, if desired)
  • ½ cup pizza sauce
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper (optional)
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped pepperoni
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Chunks of French bread

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spread the cream chesse to cover the bottom of an ungreased 9-inch pie pan or 1 to 1½-quart baking dish.
  3. Layer remaining ingredients (except bread) in order listed.
  4. Bake at 350°F. for 10 to 15 minutes or until dip is hot and cheese is melted.
  5. Serve with bread.

Variations

  • Layer the ingredients, cover with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. Let sit at room temp just a few minutes before baking.
  • You can add other pizza toppings as desired, like mushrooms or sliced black olives. Just be sure to increase the cooking time if necessary to ensure that the dip is hot and melty.

Grape Jelly Meatballs

No office party is complete without these meatballs. People are usually skeptical when they hear the ingredients (really? jelly?), but they quickly convert when they try them. Grape Jelly Meatballs are the twenty-second of my 25 Appetizers of Christmas.

Ingredients

  • 2 12-oz jars Heinz chili sauce
  • 1 32-oz jar grape jelly
  • 1 bag frozen cooked meatballs (about 80 in a bag)

Directions

  1. Combine chili sauce and jelly in a large crockpot, whisking together smooth.
  2. Add frozen meatballs and cook on high until meatballs are thawed.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 hours.

Bacon Quesadillas

Bacon, cheese, and tortillas, that’s all you need for this tasty appetizer from the Kraft website (original here). Bacon Quesadillas are the twentieth of my 25 Appetizers of Christmas.

Ingredients

  • 4 flour tortillas, 6 inches in diameter
  • 1 cup KRAFT Shredded Colby & Monterey Jack Cheeses
  • ¼ cup OSCAR MAYER Real Bacon Bits
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place tortillas in single layer on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.
  3. Top half of each tortilla with ¼ each of the remaining ingredients; fold in half.
  4. Press lightly to secure.
  5. Bake 8 to 10 min. or until edges are lightly browned.
  6. Cut into wedges with a pizza wheel or knife.

Variations

  • Substitute 1 drained can (4 oz.) chopped green chiles for the green onions.
  • Customize the fillings to fit the tastes of your family. For instance, you can add cooked chicken, black olives, green or red pepper, black beans, or salsa.

Bacon Cheddar Dip

This Taste of Home recipe (original here) is a simple dip with a homemade taste. The note with the recipe explains, “Give this recipe a try if you’re looking for a deliciously different dip to serve with crackers, potato chips or vegetables. Ranch salad dressing adds a little zest.” Bacon Cheddar Dip is the twentieth of my 25 Appetizers of Christmas.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (16 oz) sour cream
  • 1 cup (4 oz) finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
  • 2 to 4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • Crackers and/or assorted fresh vegetables

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, cheddar cheese, salad dressing mix and bacon.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Serve with crackers and/or vegetables.

Mom’s Cheese Ball

Every Christmas, for as long as I can remember, Mama has made these cheese balls. I’m not sure when the tradition started, but I know it cannot be Christmas until these are made and chilling in the refrigerator. So today, in honor of my Mom’s birthday, here is her recipe for Cheese Ball, the nineteenth of my 25 Appetizers of Christmas.

Ingredients

  • 2 jars Kraft Old English Cheese or 16 oz Kakauna sharp cheese
  • 4 oz. Cream Cheese (one block)
  • Small container of Bleu Cheese
  • Granulated Garlic
  • Pecans, chopped
  • Cherry

Directions

  1. Wet a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with granulated garlic.
  2. Place cheeses in the bowl, and allow to sit and warm for about one hour.
  3. Once cheeses have softened, mix well.
  4. Form balls and roll in chopped pecans.
  5. Add a cherry to the center, top.
  6. Cover and refrigerate until firm.
  7. Serve on crackers (we usually use Wheat Thins) or cocktail rye bread.

Variations

  • We have frozen these cheese balls as well. Simply allow the cheese ball to thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

Festive Ham and Cheese Wreath

Take a look at the picture of this fun appetizer from Pillsbury (original here), and you’ll immediately see why it is the perfect holiday treat. Festive Ham and Cheese Wreath is the eighteenth of my 25 Appetizers of Christmas.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (2 cups) finely shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1½ cups (about 8 oz) chopped cooked ham
  • ¼ cup sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons honey mustard
  • 2 (12-oz) cans Pillsbury® Grands!® Jr. Golden Layers® refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed or poppy seed
  • 2 tablespoons diced red and green bell pepper, if desired 1 green onion fan, if desired

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375°F.
  2. Spray large cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In large bowl, combine cheese, ham, onions and mustard; mix well.
  4. Separate 1 can of dough into 10 biscuits; leave second can in refrigerator.
  5. Separate each biscuit into 2 layers.
  6. Press each biscuit layer to form 3 1/2-inch round.
  7. Place 1 rounded tablespoon cheese mixture on each dough round.
  8. Wrap dough around cheese mixture, pinching edges to seal.
  9. Repeat with remaining can of dough and cheese mixture.
  10. Arrange 8 balls, seam side down and sides almost touching, to form ring on sprayed cookie sheet, leaving 3-inch hole in center.
  11. Arrange 14 balls, sides almost touching, around outside of first ring.
  12. Arrange remaining 18 balls around outside of second ring.
  13. Brush wreath with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seed.
  14. Bake at 375°F. for 18 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  15. Carefully slide wreath from cookie sheet onto 14-inch serving platter.
  16. Sprinkle with bell pepper. Place onion fan in center of wreath. Serve warm.

Variations

  • To make a green-onion brush, place the tip of a knife at the onion’s middle and slit through the green ends. Place the onion in ice water, which will cause the "leaves" to curl; keep the green-onion brush in water until ready to use.
  • To make ahead, assemble the wreath on a cookie sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two hours. Bake as directed in the recipe.

Spinach-Cheese Balls

Here’s a tasty appetizer from Betty Crocker (original here) that you can make ahead and freeze. Just pop them out of the freezer and bake them as needed. They’re great to have on hand for last-minute snacks. Spinach-Cheese Balls are the seventeenth of my 25 Appetizers of Christmas.

Ingredients

  • 1 box (9 oz) frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed to drain
  • 1 cup Original Bisquick® mix
  • 2 cups (8 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 cup tomato pasta sauce, if desired

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  3. In large bowl, mix all ingredients, except pasta sauce.
  4. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls; place on cookie sheet.
  5. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Immediately remove from pan. Serve with pasta sauce.

Variations

  • Cover and freeze unbaked balls up to 1 month. Heat oven to 350ºF. Place frozen balls on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until brown.

Brown Sugar Smokies

Here’s another of our family recipes, though I think every family has probably tried some version of this delightful indulgence. Brown Sugar Smokies is the sixteenth of my 25 Appetizers of Christmas.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1 (16 ounce) package Little Smokies
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut each slice of bacon into thirds.
  3. Wrap ⅓ of a strip of bacon around a Little Smokies, securing with a wooden toothpick.
  4. Arrange the bacon-wrapped Smokies on a baking sheet.
  5. Sprinkle the sausages with brown sugar.
  6. Bake until bacon is crisp and the brown sugar melted.

Variations

  • Be sure to secure your bacon with wooden toothpicks, as plastic toothpicks may melt in the oven. Metal skewers will work as well.