A Super-Easy Appetizer (easy as… 1-2-3!)

So, the Super Bowl is this weekend, and whether you are a fan of the Falcons, the Patriots, football in general, Lady Gaga, commercials, or none of the above, it is an EXCELLENT day for snacks.  I’d like to share with you an old family favorite that is one of the easiest and tastiest things around.

These little delicacies, known as 1-2-3 Hors D’Oeuvres, were a New Year’s Eve staple in my family.  Growing up, I’d spend every New Year’s at my Grandma’s house as a guest at one of the most glamorous parties around.  My sisters, Cabbage Patch Kids and I would all have new outfits to wear for the occasion.  We’d sample food from an elegant, well-stocked buffet all night, and be treated to any kind of pop we wanted to drink, often encouraged by adults to mix them together in a multi-color concoction called a “suicide.”  We’d wear sparkly headbands or hats, choose our noisemakers from an overflowing box, stay up dancing until well beyond midnight and eventually pass out in our sleeping bags among piles of colorful confetti on Grandma’s living room floor.  It was the height of sophistication for elementary school kids.

Of course, as an adult and in the clear light of day, I know that what we were actually doing was eating a bunch of sausage, sour cream and Cool Whip-filled appetizers piled on the kitchen table, drinking off-brand soda, bobbing around with our Cabbage Patch kids in a sea of mildly-to-moderately (perhaps sometimes “heavily”?) intoxicated adults crammed into my Grandma’s wood-paneled basement, all of us throwing around piles of round paper scraps emptied from someone’s office hole punch, the mess of which probably caused my grandma a minor cardiac event every January 1 and may have sent one or two vacuum cleaners to early graves.

However, when I recently made a batch of these hors d’oeuvres, I was instantly transported the enchanted New Year’s Eve parties of my youth.  I think these would make an excellent addition to anyone’s Super Bowl spread – whether or not you are aching to add some 1980s Basement Party Magic to the occasion.

1-2-3 Hors D’Oeuvres

(originally published in the George Worthington Co. cookbook)

This recipe is pretty flexible.  I’m including the original below, along with some footnotes that you can use as variations.  These are best enjoyed shortly after they are made and I can’t really tell you if they’d freeze or keep well, because I’m not sure we’ve ever had leftovers!

  • 1 lb. Bob Evans sausage
  • 2 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • 3 c. Bisquick

Combine ingredients in a large bowl with your hands.  Roll into little balls, about 3/4-inch in diameter, adding water if the mixture is too dry.  Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  Serve hot.  Makes approximately 80 balls.

NOTES:

  • I have made this with chicken sausage and vegetarian sausage in place of the Bob Evans pork sausage, and while both versions are tasty, I’d recommend you add some form of fat (a few tablespoons of olive oil, butter, etc.) to the mixture to get the texture right.  The perfect 1-2-3 Hors D’Oeuvres have a crispy exterior with a soft filling.
  • If you, like me, don’t have a box of Bisquick at the ready, there is an easy substitution that I found online.  For every 1 cup of Bisquick (so for this recipe, multiply by 3), use a pastry cutter to combine:
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Careful if you substitute both the sausage and the Bisquick!  The reduced amount of fat could give you dry, less-than-perfect treats that really only taste good the first 10 minutes they are out of the oven (trust me, I speak from experience!).  I recommend subbing only one ingredient at a time.

Bled Cream Slices (Blejska kremma rezina): a delicious disaster

I aimed high for my contribution to this year’s Christmas Eve dinner.  Inspired (and, perhaps, carried away) by the complex dessert recipes in Recipes from a Slovenian Kitchen, I decided to attempt a dessert so legendary in Slovenia that is has been granted special “protected designation of origin status”… meaning, you can only get the official version of this pastry in the Lake Bled region of the country, and there is one particular location known for being the home of the original recipe.  When an entire region of a country is known for one single food, I assume it must be something pretty special!

Legend is that the recipe for Bled Cream Slices (Blejska kremna rezina) was discovered by the son of a Slovenian baker while traveling in Germany and Austria.  More than 8 million slices of this dessert have been served at the Park Hotel in Bled over the past 50 years!   Wouldn’t it be great to bring it to our dinner table in Ohio?

Bled Cream Slices have essentially three components: puff pastry, a custard layer, and a cream layer.  The finished product is supposed to look like a very pretty sandwich, dusted with powdered sugar.  On the face of it, this recipe is not complicated, but somewhere in the setup of the custard layer, things went very wrong for me.  And unfortunately, despite diligent taste-testing, I did not realize this until I’d already started to spread it on the pastry.

What can I say?  My Bled Cream Cake bled all over the plate.

No pretty sandwiches here.

However, despite being a total mess, this dessert was absolutely delicious.  The puff pastry doesn’t contribute much in the way of flavor (and, full disclosure, I did not make it from scratch but used the Pepperidge Farm brand in a box), but the cream and custard layers were wonderful — very light and airy with a slight hint of lemon.  Honestly, to me this dish was a welcone departure from Slovenian food which is often on the heavier side, especially desserts which, though tasty, tend towards being dense and full of nuts.   If the disastrous version above was still tasty, I can only imagine how good it is when done correctly!  I am including the recipe below, and hope to someday have more luck with it.   And if you beat me to it (or if you’ve already had success with this dish!), please tell me what worked for you!

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Some of my favorite cookbooks…

Happy New Year!   The fresh start of a new year is always a great time to get your home in order — and if you think I’m the only one with that idea, just check out the sale prices on home organization products in your local stores — everyone is doing it!  It’s a nice time to go through old holiday decorations, your closets, and cupboards.  And while I can regularly produce big garbage bags full of old clothes and housewares from my home to donate, I have a very, very hard time parting with books… but I don’t have any problem with that!  Books don’t take up a lot of space (well, one at a time they don’t take up a lot of space) and they are amazing time capsules.  Since I have been going through my cookbooks this week, I thought I’d share with you some of the favorites that I’ve used for inspiration on this website, and included links to the two that you can actually buy online (#2 and #6).

  1. The George Worthington Company is no more, but this book from 1990 is a personal favorite.  Thus far I’ve only posted “How to Boil Water” on this site, but all of the other recipes in the book are for real food and I look forward to sharing more of them.  My mom had several contributions published (yes, she was a good cook but… full disclosure: she also had a slight advantage since my father was president of the company).
  2. The Better Homes and Gardens Complete Step-by-Step Cookbook was THE cookbook when I was growing up.  Published in 1978, my mom’s copy was already pretty old and worn when I started to be interested in cooking, and today it’s a stained, dog-eared mess.  It still has little pieces of paper stuck between pages, marking things I wanted to make when I was old enough to read a recipe but young enough to do little more than make a total mess of a kitchen.  However, the techniques still hold up!  It’s a great resource for basics, like how to make pancakes or how to brew coffee.  It’s also full of delightful late-70s photography (seen in my post about Minted Lime Soda).  I was super excited to find a second copy of this very book at a Goodwill store recently, thinking it was a really rare find… only to learn that you can buy it on Amazon starting at $1 (click on the title above).  I highly recommend this addition to your library.
  3. This book has seen better days, but it’s where I found the recipe for Pistachio Delight, so I’m glad I kept it around.  It’s from my aunt’s office in 1992 at Progressive Insurance. Her department used the exact same publisher as The George Worthington Company.  The early 1990s must have been really profitable for Cookbook Publishers, Inc.  (who are still in business today!) and Cool Whip, which features very prominently in this compilation.
  4. This cookbook was gifted to my cousin when she was very young and that label, in her childhood handwriting, is so no one stole it from her!  Woman’s Glory was the very first cookbook published by the Slovenian Women’s Union (SWU), and this is a later edition, printed in 1977.  It’s the source for the post on JFK and Potica, the Mother’s Day Marshmallow Roll, and Graduation Party Special!, among others.
  5. I don’t own Pots and Pans, but that was the predecessor to this one, More Pots and Pans.  This was a 1998 publication of SWU and I have a copy autographed by my grandma!  It’s where I found the recipe for Farina Dumplings.
  6. Sadly for you, most of the books I’ve listed here are hard to get your hands on.  However, you can actually buy this one!  In 2015, the Slovenian Women’s Union became the more inclusive Slovenian Union of America and they published a new cookbook in a new, photo-filled format that is arranged by seasons and holidays.  It’s available for purchase on the SUA website (linked above).  So far I’ve used it for Slovenian Coleslaw and Medenjaki. I look forward to sharing more seasonal recipes.

Please use the comments section below to share any of your favorites that I should know about! (especially if they are still in print and I can add them to my collection!)