Early Riser, Recipes

Cheesy Sausage Bites with Homemade Gravy

These cheesy sausage biscuit bites are easy to make for a quick breakfast or early morning tailgate or potluck. Only a few ingredients and you have a delicious snack or side dish. 

This is a classic Bisquick® recipe with just a few additions, feel free to make it your own by adding different types of cheese or seasonings.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound cooked breakfast sausage, crumbled
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 cups Bisquick
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

Homemade Gravy

  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 450℉

Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium skillet, cook sausage over medium heat. 

Transfer cooked sausage to a mixing bowl. 

Mix all the ingredients together until well blended.

Drop tablespoonfuls onto the parchment paper and cook for 8-12 minutes until they start to brown.

While sausage bites are cooking, make the gravy. 

In the same skillet, melt butter. 

Stir in flour until well combined. Gradually add milk, stirring continuously, until the gravy thickens and comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; sprinkle ibn red pepper flakes, simmer and stir for 2 more minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Small Bites

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers

These bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers are baked instead of fried! Who can resist fresh jalapenos stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon and baked to crispy perfection? Not me, that’s for sure. This is the ultimate party snack!

The jalapenos are sliced in half and the seeds and ribs get removed. Removing the seeds and ribs removes most of the heat from the peppers; if you like it spicier, leave some of the seeds and ribs in. The peppers are stuffed with a combination of cream cheese, cheddar cheese and spices. Then wrapped in bacon before baking in the oven. 

I like to serve my bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers with a side of ranch for dipping, but honestly they’re great as-is too.

Ingredients 

  • ½ cup cream cheese
  • ½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • ½ teaspoon paprika 
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 12 jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed
  • 12 slices bacon

Instructions 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Mix cream cheese, seasonings and cheese together in a bowl until evenly blended. 

Fill each jalapeno half with the cheese mixture. Put halves back together and wrap each stuffed pepper with a slice of bacon. 

Arrange bacon-wrapped peppers on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until bacon is crispy, about 15 minutes.

Cakes & Pies, Recipes

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

This Salted Caramel Cheesecake is the best you’ll ever have! It’s smooth, creamy and delicious!

Sweet, salty, buttery caramel should be the main flavor, inside and the top. 

I love cheesecake cake so much, it is such a great versatile for so many different toppings. This salted caramel cheesecake taste delicious with baked apples especially for Thanksgiving.

I made a simple crust with gingersnaps but feel free to use the traditional graham crackers. After the crust has baked, I poured some of the caramel into the bottom of the crust and spread it into an even layer.

When it comes to the cheesecake filling, we’re going to use the caramel sauce again. Combined with the usual cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla and eggs, you get a wonderful silky-smooth cheesecake filling.

Bake the cheesecake in a water bath and then cool until firm. Once it’s cooled, add more caramel sauce to the top and place in the refrigerator for a few hours to firm.

GINGERSNAP COOKIE CRUST

  • 2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

SALTED CARAMEL CHEESECAKE

  • 32 oz. cream cheese, room temp
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temp
  • 1/2 cup of the salted caramel sauce, cooled to room temp (see recipe)

INSTRUCTIONS 

SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE

Pour the caramel into a heat proof container and place it in the fridge while you make the cheesecake. (see recipe for Salted Caramel sauce)

GINGERSNAP COOKIE CRUST

Preheat your oven to 350F and thoroughly butter or grease your springform pan.

In a bowl, combine the crushed cookies, sugar, and melted butter. Mix until the crumbs are evenly moistened then tightly press it into your springform pan.

Bake for 8-10 minutes then leave it out to cool while you make the filling.

SALTED CARAMEL CHEESECAKE

Reduce the oven temperature to 325F and place a large roast pan on the bottom rack.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the room temperature cream cheese on medium speed JUST until smooth – no more than a minute. 

Take the bowl off the stand and use a rubber spatula to knock out any air that the whisk might have added.

Switch to the paddle attachment and place the bowl back on the stand. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour. Then mix it into your cream cheese on low speed until just combined. Scrape down the bowl, especially on the bottom.

At this point, you’ll want to start a pot of boiling water on the stove top.

In that same small bowl, lightly beat your room temperature eggs and vanilla and slowly mix it into the batter on low speed until just combined. Scrape down the bowl again then mix it for a couple more seconds.

Lastly, mix together the sour cream and 1/2 cup of the caramel in a small bowl then fold it into your batter using a rubber spatula.

Pour ¼ cup of the caramel sauce over the cooler pie crust. 

Pour the batter over the cooled crust and drop the pan against the counter a couple times to let out any air bubbles.

Place the springform pan into the roast pan. 

Once your water is boiling, CAREFULLY pour it into your roast pan. Fill the roast pan with enough warm water to go about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. The water should not go above the top edge of the aluminum foil on the springform pan.

Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. It’s done when the edges have puffed up and the center gives a tight giggle when you shake the pan.

Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Then, pour the caramel sauce over the cheesecake before refrigerating. If the caramel is too thick to pour, place it in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute to thin it out. 

Place the cheesecake in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours to set. I recommend serving it slightly chilled so that the caramel stays in tact.

If you want to serve with the apple topping, just pour the apple topping over the top of the cheesecake before serving.

On the Side, Recipes

Chipotle Sweet Potato Mash

Here’s a great twist for your Thanksgiving sweet potatoes or if you love sweet potatoes as much as I do you can whip these up anytime of the year!

I love sweet and savory flavors, and these chipotle sweet potatoes totally hit the spot. You have the sweetness of the sweet potatoes balanced by the smoky heat of the chipotle chiles. You can make these as spicy as you like, just add more or less of the chipotle. 

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds sweet potatoes (6 potatoes)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoon minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, with seeds, I used Goya
  • 2 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the can of chiles)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic powder
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Parsley, chopped

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Chop sweet potatoes into chunks, nothing too specific because you are just going to end up mashing them later.

Place them onto the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper. 

Roast for 15 minutes, take out of the oven and flip the potatoes over. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt and pepper.

Roast for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until very tender inside when tested with a knife. 

Place the potatoes in the bowl, and half of the butter. Mash the potatoes. 

While the potatoes cook, place the milk, cream, garlic powder, chipotle chile, and adobo sauce in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisk, lower the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes while whisking. 

You can use a hand held mixer or a good ole wooden spoon for this part. If using a mixer place on low speed, add the chipotle-milk mixture to the sweet potatoes. 

Add the maple syrup, rest of butter, and 1 tablespoon salt. Mix until the potatoes are coarsely pureed. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and parsley.

Cookies, Recipes

Creamy Peanut Butter Power Bites

These are super easy and super delicious!!

These no bake peanut butter energy bites are the healthy snack you’ve been searching for! Loaded with old fashioned oats, peanut butter and flax seeds. A healthy protein packed breakfast or snack!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
  • 2 tablespoons honey

INSTRUCTIONS 

In a food processor or blender, process the old fashioned oats and flax seeds. 

Combine all 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. 

Stir to combine. 

Place in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes so they are easier to roll.

Roll into 12 bites and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Blogs, Recipes

Blue Cheese Burgers with Red Wine-Onion Jam and Crispy Beer Battered Onion Rings

Are you looking for a delicious Memorial Day recipe? Look no more!

Burgers are one of summer’s classic dishes and an ever-popular pick at backyard barbecues everywhere! Not only are these burgers a cinch to make but they are the tastiest burgers you will ever eat! 

I love using Italian sausage in my burgers! It is a  smart shortcut, because the meat is already seasoned. Caramelized red onions are tasty in their own right, but simmered in a sweet/spicy mix of red wine, honey and herbs, they turn into the most delicious jam ever. And it is a perfect addition to these Blue Cheese Burgers!

Brian and I love to top these burgers with homemade Beer Battered Onion Rings! I included our recipe below. It’s delicious! Not a beer fan? Sub in any other carbonated beverage, including ginger ale, club soda or your favorite soft drink.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • ½  pound ground Italian sausage
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 hamburger buns, split

Red Wine-Onion Jam Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat your grill to high heat.

Mix the meat and blue cheese in a large bowl until combined. 

Shape the meat into four burgers, each about 1 inch thick.

Brush with oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Place the burgers on the grill and grill until golden brown, three to four minutes. 

Turn the burgers over and continue grilling to medium, about three minutes longer. 

Remove the burgers to a plate and let rest while you grill the buns.

Butter the cut sides of the buns and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill, butter side down, and grill until lightly golden brown, about 30 seconds.

Place the burgers on top of the bun and spoon some onion jam on each burger. Top with the buns and serve immediately.

Red Wine-Onion Jam

– makes 3/4 cup –

Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan on the grates of the grill or on a stovetop over medium-low heat.

Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine, vinegar, honey, and thyme and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated, five to seven minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. 

The jam can be made two days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Crispy Beer Battered Onion Rings Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) pale ale beer 
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of flour with the paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Whisk in the beer until the mixture is well combined. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

While the batter rests, cut the tip off of the stem side of the onions then remove the peel. Slice the onions horizontally into 1/2-inch-thick rings and toss them with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour.

Add the vegetable oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot (Dutch oven) to a depth of 2 inches and heat it over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 375°F.

Working in batches, dip the onion rings into the prepared batter, shaking off any excess, then immediately drop them into the hot oil. Be careful not to overcrowd the pot. Allow the onions to cook in the oil, flipping them once to guarantee even browning, for a total of about 3 minutes. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate.

Immediately season them with salt. Repeat the coating and frying process, returning the oil to 375°F between batches, with the remaining onions.

TIPS: 

When measuring beer, don’t include the foamy head in your measurement. 

Shake off as much of the excess batter as possible when coating the onion rings in order to get the best ratio of onion to batter.

Blogs, Recipes

Grouper Piccata

Living in Florida has many benefits, sunny days, beautiful beaches, and it also comes with the benefits of AMAZING fresh fish. 

I was lucky enough to grab some grouper fillets from my local fish market but you can also score some at your store’s frozen section. If you are unable to find grouper fillets, you can use snapper, cod, catfish or even chicken. 

This sauce highlights the fish without taking over. In this recipe, I use a simple piccata sauce with lemon and capers to create an easy meal that everyone will love! Oh, and this is a one pan dish! Hello easy clean up! 🙂

I’m not usually a Chardonnay fan but since I received a bottle of Scout & Cellar Fiddleneck Chardonnay I thought I’d give it a try. I am now a Chardonnay fan! The Fiddleneck Chardonnay is the perfect pairing to this recipe! It’s not oaky like most Chardonnays I have tried in the past. It’s light and refreshing with notes of yellow apple, candied lemon peel, and ripe pineapple. It truly is delicious with the buttery lemon flavor of the grouper piccata! 

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 6-ounce grouper fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

INSTRUCTIONS

Sprinkle grouper fillets with salt and pepper. 

Dredge fillets on all sides in flour. 

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil in a large skillet. 

Add fillets to skillet; cook until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove fish from skillet.

Add garlic, lemon juice and wine to the skillet, scraping browned bits from the pan. Add the chicken broth and stir to combine. 

Cook for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. 

Tip: if the sauce is too bitter, just add ¼ cup of chicken broth at a time. 

Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, capers and parsley.

Serve sauce over fish.

I served mine with a side of angel hair pasta and baby broccoli.

Recipes

Grandma’s Rum Cake

I’ll never forget the day I stopped by grandmother’s house to ask her to share the family recipes. I pulled up a chair at her kitchen counter, pen in hand and she asked “Where do you want to start?”

I remember being a little girl having family picnics at the lake down the street from her house and for dessert she always would make her famous rum cake. My cousins and I would always feel so grown up because we were eating rum cake. LOL

So I asked for her rum cake recipe. She laughed, opened her recipe box and handed me a recipe card. It was the Bacardi Rum Cake recipe card. “It’s that easy”, she laughed. We spent the rest of the afternoon laughing and writing down her recipes. 

This recipe makes the moistest cake you’ll ever eat. And it’s been popular since the 1970s, it’s soft, fluffy and super moist, bursting with rum and yellow cake flavor. Not to mention it’s easy to prepare, and perfect for any occasion.

You can use any rum. I use my favorite rum, 82°West 1911 Special Dark Rum. 82 West Distilling is a craft rum distillery in Tampa, right in Seminole Heights! 

It all starts with a cup of pecans sprinkled over the bottom of a bundt pan. Then you mix a package of yellow cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, eggs, water, oil and half a cup of rum until smooth. I did make one adjustment and added a tablespoon of Vanilla and mixed until combined. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for one hour.

Once the cake is done, you prepare a simple butter-rum glaze made of butter, sugar, water and rum. Spoon the sauce all over the warm cake. Let it sit to soak in all the delicious butter-rum glaze and serve.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup chopped pecans 
  • 1 box yellow cake mix (You just use the cake mix as is, do not add other ingredients listed on the cake box.)
  • 1 package vanilla instant pudding mix (92 g)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1⁄2 cup cold water
  • 1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1⁄2 cup dark rum 
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla 

GLAZE INGREDIENTS

  • 1⁄2 cup butter
  • 1⁄4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup dark rum or rum

CAKE DIRECTIONS

Sprinkle nuts over the bottom of a greased bundt pan.

Stir together cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, vanilla, water, oil and rum.

Pour batter over nuts.

Bake at 325 in the oven for 1 hour.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan.

Transfer onto a serving plate and poke top with a toothpick.

GLAZE DIRECTIONS

Melt butter in a saucepan.

Stir in water and sugar.

Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat.

Stir in rum.

Drizzle ½ of the glaze evenly over the top and sides of the cake.

Allow cake to absorb glaze.

Drizzle the remaining glaze over the top of each slice right before serving.

Recipes

Zeppole

In 2007, my family and I took a Carnival cruise around the Mediterranean coast. My Papa, grandfather had the biggest sweet tooth and loved to try all the Italian desserts. While we were in Naples, we stopped at a cafe for Limoncello. In the bakery case, they were selling fried dough dusted with powdered sugar, Zeppole. Naturally, my Papa ordered us some to go along with our Limoncello. We were handed a brown paper bag filled with Zeppoles.

We explored Naples, carrying that beautiful greasy bag, pulling Zeppole out one at a time, getting the sugar all over ourselves. We were two very happy people! 

Zeppole are tiny Italian doughnuts – crisp, light and incredibly fluffy, usually served in a brown paper bag or wrapped in parchment paper.

Zeppole make the perfect Hostess gift. Brian and I made them for our Friends Thanksgiving at our friend’s Jason and Paul’s house.

As it turns out, Zeppole are really easy to make at home and take almost no time at all — about 15 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of unsifted flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese 
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Confectioners Sugar for Dusting or maybe Cinnamon Sugar
  • Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Directions

Crack your two eggs into the mixing bowl and beat until foamy.  

Add all of your dry ingredients into the eggs in the mixing bowl while on slow speed and then add  your ricotta and vanilla right away.  

Continue to mix on a slow speed till it is all combined.  The batter will be thick…creamy and sticky.  It is not a cookie dough consistency…it is a rich thick waffle type batter. Do not over mix.

Have your oil ready in your favorite pot.  I use a cast iron  dutch oven.  Your oil should be approximately 375 degrees.

I use a small cookie dough scoop …first I spray it with oil so that batter doesn’t stick …then scoop up the batter (no exact measurement here : ) and carefully drop it into the oil…repeat with consecutive scoops but don’t let them touch…

Zeppoles will turn themselves over. Fry them for about about 3 minutes…if they are a little bigger…a little longer.

Once you get to that nice deep golden brown it is time to scoop them up and place them on brown paper or paper towels to drain. Continue with another batch. 

Sprinkle them with Confectioners sugar or some Cinnamon Sugar. 

Recipes

Blackened Chicken Wings with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

These Blackened Chicken Wings are tender and juicy on the inside. The blackened seasoning spice mixture almost forms a crust on the chicken to seal in the juices. Of course, you have to serve the chicken wings with homemade Blue Cheese dressing! This easy homemade blue cheese dressing is better than anything you can buy at the store. 

My friend, Adam lives in Asheville, NC during one of this hikes he came across some Ramps, wild leeks. He dried and powdered the leaves and mailed Brian and I some to get creative in some of our recipes. I thought I’d sprinkle a 1/2 tablespoon into my Blackened seasoning, it was AMAZING! But don’t worry if you can’t find Ramps, the seasoning is still delicious!

I can not wait for football season so we can make these at our tailgate!

Thanks Adam for the special deviltry!

To make the blackened chicken, I mix all the spices together in a small bowl, and then generously coat the chicken wings with the seasoning on all sides, using my fingers to press the seasoning on to the chicken. 

The bright green seasoning is the Ramps from Adam.

Heat your skillet until it is searing hot skillet (use your cast iron skillet if you have one!). Drop 4 tablespoons of butter into the skillet and allow it to melt and bubble. Then place the chicken wings into the HOT skillet and cook until the chicken is blackened on each side and fully cooked inside. 

I used butter for this recipe to give the chicken a richer flavor, but you can certainly use a healthier oil, such as canola oil or coconut oil. I wouldn’t recommend olive oil because the skillet needs to be searing hot, and olive oil smokes at high temperature.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds of chicken wings 
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons blackened seasoning, divided

BLACKENED SEASONING

  • 4 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 ½  teaspoon Garlic powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon Onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

Combine all the spices and herbs in a small bowl. Mix well. 

Place the chicken wings into the spice mixture on both sides to coat the chicken. 

In a large skillet heat 4 tablespoons of butter. 

Carefully place the spice-coated chicken wings into the butter, and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes on each side, or until the chicken is fully cooked. 

If the chicken is blackened but not fully cooked, just lower the heat and cover with a lid, cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165F.

Serve the blackened chicken wings with blue cheese dressing.

BLUE CHEESE DRESSING

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 to 4 ounces Blue Cheese crumbles, chunky
  • Milk, buttermilk or water to thin out the dressing, optional

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except the blue cheese. Whisk until combined. 

Crumble in the blue cheese and fold together. 

Store in the refrigerator.