Merry Xmas Cardiologists! First Bacon Cookies, Now Sausage Balls

Sausage balls are charming. I find something delightfully underdog-ish about a pan loaded with tasty snacks that bake up to smell so good but look like clumps of dirt.

There's nothing particularly Christmas-y about these little nuggets, but I associate their savory, peppery, sausage-stuffed and cheese-loaded flavor with the season. My mom is a teacher, so winter break is the only opportunity she has to sit down and roll out 300 sausage balls. We freeze most of them and bake them up when company comes over.

There also isn't anything especially original about a sausage ball. Some snobbier chefs might vary the routine and opt for farm-fresh organic cheese, but the Nottingham Sausage Ball is a humble sausage ball. We use Cheez Whiz. It's not like we're Stephan Pyles over here.

The Humble Sausage Ball Recipe follows:

6 oz. pork sausage 1 cup Bisquick 1 5 oz. jar Cheez Whiz ½ tsp garlic salt ¼ tsp onion powder Handful of shredded cheese Dash of seasoning salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Throw all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly combined.

My mother warned me that, "Measuring out the Cheez Whiz is a very delicate process." No, I'm serious. No one here is looking to win Top Chef or get their own cooking show or anything. In fact, Mom said this recipe was inspired by one she nabbed from an Owens Sausage stand at the 1979 Texas State Fair. Such is our family traditions.

Even though Mom's recipe only calls for 5 oz. of Cheez Whiz, she threw in a generous handful of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. This step is optional. But it's not like sausage balls are health food, so go ahead and add the extra cheese.

After the ingredients are thoroughly combined, shape the mixture into 1-inch balls and arrange on a greased pan. This recipe will yield about three dozen sausage balls. They should be like rows of pungent little brains. But just wait. Good things come to those who wait.

Pop the balls into the oven for 12 minutes. Their bottoms tend to burn, so watch them closely. Done right, they'll bake up golden brown, fluffy, aromatic and loaded with gooey cheese.

Let them cool for a few minutes. Remove them from the pan and arrange them as artistically as a pile of sausage-lumps can be arranged. It's that easy. Christmas tradition: Done and done.

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Brooke Nottingham