December 30, 2015

Homemade Chicken, Spinach and Feta Sausages

If you are a regular reader of An American Housewife, you know I don't really follow recipes, and I often just make things up.  This is a good example of yet another wild hair idea I had.

I wanted to make my own chicken and spinach sausages.  And I love feta cheese with spinach and chicken so, there was my plan.  I would make my own chicken, spinach and feta cheese sausages!

First off - I do have a meat grinder.  I do NOT have any expensive, awesome, great brand name, top of the line appliances though.  We are a single income family and I can pinch a penny until it turns to liquid!   My husband got me a great basic, simple Weston brand meat grinder when he was shopping at Lowes (yep, the hardware store) and they had them on sale last summer.  (I just checked - they still carry them - )

I made this up as I went along and 'taste tested' it at 2 different points which I recommend you do too.  To taste test - take some of the mixture when you think are pretty happy with it - and form a small patty.  Cook it in a pan on your stove top and then taste.  Do you think it needs a little more salt?  Garlic?  Add.  Taste test again.  

These are now a favorite of my family.  Not only that, but I served them the week of Christmas to guests staying with us and they not only loved them, but planned to take our last package from the freezer home with them!  (Alas, they left at 5:30 am to travel home and we all forgot to grab them - so they didn't get them but I am going to bring some in a cooler the next time we visit them).  

My Homemade Chicken Spinch and Feta Sausages

4 - 4 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts - cubed
1 - 1 1/2 lb. fatback, cubed (I found this at Walmart - it adds the moisture you need in this recipe)
1 T ground coriander
2-4 t salt (start with 2 and adjust after you taste test.  I like to use 3)
1 T garlic, minced
3/4 c feta cheese, crumbled
3/4 c spinach (I used frozen, chopped style)
1/4 c olive oil
Optional:  dash or two of a lemon, garlic mixture of your choice brand or lemon pepper)
Meat Grinder
Casings of your choice

Follow the directions on your meat grinder.  Grind the chicken, fatback and spinach into a large bowl.  Add the rest of your ingredients to the ground mixture in the bowl.  Mix well.  Taste test by cooking a small patty of your mixture on the stove in a bit of oil.  Adjust the flavorings to your liking and test again.  When you are happy with the cooked taste of your sausage, continue.

Attach the stuffing tool per your grinder's instructions.  Attach the casing onto the stuffing tube per your grinder's instructions and your casing instructions regarding whether your casings need to be rinsed first, etc.  Re-feed the chicken now ground and seasoned, into the machine and form long tubes per your casing instructions being sure to secure the end first so your sausage doesn't come out!  Be sure not to overstuff, you want to leave room to twist and form sausages.

I don't have the little wires to form sausages, so I used the 'twist it' style.  Holding the rope in small sections in my hands like a tiny jump rope, I spin the sausages a couple times away from me to twist the ends. This forms a sausage.  Now I moved my hands down a little more and holding the first twist in my left hand, and squishing the sausage up about an inch on the right, I placed my fingers there and I spun another chunk of the sausage, but this time spinning towards me (the opposite way).

Continue moving your hands down small sections of the sausage rope, alternating spinning the 'jump rope' away from you and towards you, which forms the twists between the sausages. Make sure you are squishing enough room between the sausage links (about an inch) to form the twists.

I let the ropes set while I finished stuffing another casing.  You could store them as is, but I wanted to cut mine apart and seal them in groups of 3 or 4 in individual food saver style bags in the deep freeze.  I snipped them apart, and only had 2 open up on me that I had stuffed a little tight and had to redo.  You could probably par-boil them at this point, let them cool complete and freeze them, or use them right away.  I sealed mine, and put them in the deep freeze.  When I make them, I put them in the refrigerator to thaw and then put them into 2 inches of water in a pan on the stove to pre-cook them - then finish them on the grill or under the broiler.  We don't have to serve anything 'with' these as a condiment - they are so good all by themselves.  We have them plain with a side dish or serve in a bun like a brat or a hotdog.

My very simple, one speed Weston meat grinder.  Nothing fancy!

Grinding the chicken breasts

 I packaged some ground chicken as is - unseasoned - to use in taco's later

The fatback adds moisture to the sausage.  Don't skip this or they will be dry and crumbly!
I found mine at Walmart in the packaged meat department.

 Adding the spinach

The casings I bought online come like this - and you have to rinse them before use

Yeah, they kind of look gross. Ha ha.

Put the stuffing attachment on your machine and have a couple casings ready.
I only used 2 long strips (but I didn't know so I had more ready just in case)

Threading the casing on the attachment.

Ready to tie off the end and begin stuffing

Don't push or pull.  Just let the machine fill gently and guide it.  Don't overstuff.

If there are any air bubbles you can poke through the casing with a clean pin to make them disappear.

Resting while I finish a second casing.

I snipped them apart and packaged them into 3 and 4 sausages per bag to freeze

We ate 4 right away and sealed the rest to store in the freezer

Marked and ready to store

As I mentioned above, I got my Weston grinder (and the food saver) at Lowe's.  But you can get them or a hundred other options at Amazon if you don't have a Lowe's near you.  I ordered my sausage casings online from Amazon - I'll link to the exact ones I purchased here, below. 

Weston 575 Watt Electric Heavy Duty Grinder, Silver
Weston 36-2201-W Manual Meat Grinder, No: 22
Natural Hog Casings for Sausage


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December 19, 2015

Peanut Blossoms

I think this year so far (December 19th) I'm up to about 16 different recipes made so far.  I save some of the items for the last minute as they don't freeze well.  The problem with my large amount of baking is that by the time Christmas comes and I'm ready to make up goodie trays for my husbands employees, gifts for friends, neighbors and our own celebrations...  sometimes a 'favorite' cookie has been raided by my family and I'm scrambling to make up another batch or two!

Peanut Blossoms are one of those items I know I'll be making at least 3 batches of.  They are a huge favorite of most people.  I normally do a triple batch and hope at least 20 of them make it to Christmas.  Ha.

Peanut Blossoms

1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter, softened
1/2 c peanut butter
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/4 t salt
1 3/4 c flour
1 t baking soda
1/4 c sugar to roll
1 pkg. Hershey's Kisses or Chocolate Stars if you can find them

Beat sugar, brown sugar, butter and peanut butter in bowl til light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and salt; continue beating until well mixed. Add flour and baking soda. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in the 1/4 cup sugar. Place on ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes at 375 until lightly golden brown. Immediately press 1 chocolate kiss or star in center of each cookie. Remove to cooling racks.

*Traditionally these were made with chocolate stars.  Personally, I haven't been able to find Chocolate Stars locally since we relocated to the deep South about 4 years ago.  Perhaps they are easier to find in some regions or states than others?  You can order them online - or just use Hershey's Kisses - which are pretty much available anywhere.

Brach's Solid Milk Chocolate Stars 12oz

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December 16, 2015

Stenciled Sugar Cookies - stenciling Christmas cookies both with spray food color and frosting

This year seems to be the year everyone is taking notice and trying their hands at 'stencil' cookies - whether it's with food color air pumps and sprays or with frosting.  And, I am no different - I thought about it last year but 'eh' life was too busy.  This year, life is just as busy, but I thought "Why not?" "I've got to ice the cookies anyway and this won't take any longer... just do it."

Since I didn't know if I would like doing cookies this way I did not want to invest in an 'air pump' sprayer but figured I'd give the Wilton Spray Mist Colors a try, as well as frosting.   You can find intricate directions and instructions alllll over the internet but basically you just put a layer of royal icing on a cookie, let it dry complete and then place a stencil over the cookie and either spray or mist a food color "ink" over or use a flat spatula and scrape a thin layer of a thick icing over.

In the end, I found I absolutely was NOT happy with the spray cans of color.  The color was not bright - and took numerous light coats to get a nice 'bright' red but by then the moisture content of a few layers was too much for the icing and I noticed small bubbles appear.

The spray mist also tended to mist "under" the stencil no matter taunt against the top of the cookie I felt I had it.  Only about 1 in 5 was good enough that I was 'happy' with it.  Not good odds.  Plus, the spray cans made a lot of "over" spray and wasted so much color!  I just wasn't impressed.

The frosting cookies however... not bad.  Some stencils worked better than others.  If it had too much open space, or tiny little intricate cuts, it could be persnickety, but the average image or word stencil worked fairly well.

If I choose to do these against next year, I will be doing the frosting/icing stencil - but not the Wilton spray mists.

FIRST:  flood fill your cookies with icing that hardens (like a basic royal icing) and let dry 24 hours to completely harden.

Any size shape or cookie will do.

The food color mist sprays... not impressed.
The silver wasn't too bad but the red was a light pink unless I did 4-5 light layers.  By that time the moisture of the spray sometimes caused tiny bubbles in the icing or more often than not, the fine mist drifted under the stencils.  I broke 2 cookies trying to press the stencil firmly in place to avoid the drifting color mist.

Fed up with the sprays, I grabbed some excess frosting from another cookie and tried my hand at using a small spatula to spread across a stencil and lift up.  MUCH BETTER.

I had some leftover red icing from other cookies so I added some powdered sugar to make it stiff and used it to finish the cookies.

Stenciled the word "hope" onto this one.

Believe was my favorite word - but the "B" on the stencil was too hard to work with as it was skinnier than the other letters.

Wish worked pretty well.

One of my stencils had a random snowflake design.  It worked out fairly well!

I found cheap stencils at Walmart and found a couple more (not cheap) at Michaels.  

You might also be interested in items related to this post, available to purchase through Amazon;

Christmas Snowflakes Stencils - 7 Sizes
Martha Stewart Large Stencils 3 Sheets/Pkg-Arabesque 8.75"X16.75" 11 Designs
   SugarVeil® AirPen Piping Dispenser
Super Deluxe Master Airbrush Twin(2) Airbrush Cake Decorating Airbrush Kit with a 12 Americolor .7 Fl Oz Airbrush Food Colos
Ateco Natural Wood Small Sized Spatula, 4.5 Inch Blade
Wilton Master Color Mist Food Color Spray Kit (Includes all 8 Colors in 1.5 oz. Cans)


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