Top 3 words to describe these: Creamy, cheesy, tasty. Oh yum!
This month’s Improv challenge, hosted by Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker , was to create something with sausage and mushrooms.
I did a lot of brainstorming for this one. I thought about sausage and mushroom mac and cheese, sausage and mushrooms risotto, sausage and mushroom pizza…
But I really wanted to make something different; something unique; something that no one else would think of.
At the last minute, I decided on these!
Baked creamy cheesy sausage and mushroom bites.
So glad I experimented, these were faaaaaaaantastic!! (If I do say so myself..)
I made them as healthy as possible without compromising the creamy cheesiness. I used Trader Joe’s whole wheat couscous, 1/3 less fat cream cheese, chicken & turkey sausage, multigrain breadcrumbs, and lots o’ veggies!
Start with the breadcrumbs. If you’re using store-bought, you’re all set. If you’d like to make your own like I did, start by doing that. You’ll pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F, and then bake the slices of bread in an even layer for about 30 minutes– 15 minutes per side. Remove them from the oven when the bread is no longer soft and allow the pieces to cool completely.
Pulverize in a food processor, and you’ll be good to go.
While your bread is toasting in the oven, make the couscous. Bring 2 cups chicken broth to a boil. Then add 10 oz of whole wheat couscous. Immediately remove the pan from the stove, cover it, and allow the couscous to cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid. The liquid should be absorbed. Fluff with a fork, then dump the couscous into a different bowl so that it cools faster.
While all of that is happening, you can be chopping veggies. You want your mushrooms, peppers, and onion finely diced.
First dice up the mushrooms and start sauteing them in a medium-sized pan.
Then dice up 1/2 an onion and 1/2 of one large red bell pepper. Add the onion to the mushrooms first. Once almost all of the mushroom juices are evaporated, add in the red pepper.
Once all of the liquid is evaporated, remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the veggies into a different bowl so that they cool faster.
Dice up your sausage. I used chicken & turkey pesto sausage.
It’s fully cooked, so no need to pre-cook it at all.
Once your couscous and bread crumbs are cooled, you’re ready to start making the bites!
In a large bowl, combine 1/2 brick softened cream cheese and 4 eggs. Use a rubber spatula to mix it all together / smoosh the cream cheese so that it’ll be able to be incorporated into everything else. Add in the couscous, shredded cheddar cheese, veggies, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, sausage, Italian seasoning, 4 cloves of garlic, a few shakes of crushed red pepper, and salt & pepper, to taste.
Yummmm. The mixture should easily stick together.
Now, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Crack 2 eggs into a shallow bowl and whisk them together. In a separate shallow bowl. place the remaining breadcrumbs. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.
Now, set up your assembly station, like so:
Using a small cookie scoop (or your hands), scoops out about 1-2 tablespoons of the “dough.” Roll it into a ball between your hands. Dip into the beaten eggs. Dip into the breadcrumbs. Then place on the lined baking sheet.
They wont spread at all, so you can place them pretty close to one another.
Once you fill the sheet, bake it in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned.
Remove them from the hot pan and allow them to cool on a wire baking rack.
And the inside looked like this:
They’re really, really yummy.
They’d be perfect served fresh from the oven!! I’ll actually be serving mine tomorrow, so I’ll give them a quick re-heating just before.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty of the recipe so that you can go and make ‘em!
Baked Creamy Cheesy Sausage & Mushroom Couscous Bites!
Makes 60-70 balls.
10 oz whole wheat couscous, uncooked
2 cups chicken broth (or water)
1/2 loaf whole wheat bread, for homemade breadcrumbs, or 2 cups breadcrumbs
8 oz white button mushrooms, finely diced
1/2 large red bell pepper (or 1 small), finely diced
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/2 package chicken & turkey pesto sausages (6.4 oz, or 2 sausages), cut into small pieces
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 brick 1/3 less fat cream cheese (8 oz)
6 large eggs: 4 for batter, 2 for rolling the balls
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
4 roasted garlic cloves
1/2 tsp crushed red, more or less to taste
salt & pepper
1) First, make your breadcrumbs. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Lay out the pieces of bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, flipped the slices over 15 minutes through. Allow the slices to cool completely before using. Once they are cool, break them into pieces and place in a food processor. Pulverize until you have fine crumbs. Set aside.
2) Pour 2 cups chicken broth into a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Pour the 10 oz of couscous into the broth, cover, and remove from heat immediately. Allow the couscous to cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid. The liquid should be absorbed. Fluffy with a fork and transfer the couscous to a different bowl to that it cools faster.
3) Now, dice all your veggies. Do the mushrooms first, and get those in a saute pan to start cooking down. They’ll release their liquid– you want to evaporate that. Once the onion is diced, you can add that right in with the mushrooms (you’ll still have mushrooms liquid in the pan). Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid of evaporated. Add in the diced red pepper, and cook the mixture until the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat. Transfer the veggies to a bowl so that they cool faster.
4) Once everything is cooled, it’s time to start making the balls. Up the temperature of your oven to 350 degrees F.
5) In a large bowl, combine the 4 eggs and the 1/2 brick of cream cheese. Use a rubber spatula to mix up the eggs and smoosh the cream cheese around.
6) Add in the couscous, shredded cheddar cheese, veggies, sausage, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, and seasoning. Mix with the rubber spatula until everything is uniformly combined.
7) In a shallow bowl, crack 2 eggs. Beat them together. In a different shallow bowl, put the remaining breadcrumbs Set yourself up so that you have quinoa “dough,” beaten eggs, breadcrumbs, and baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat mat.
8) Using a small cookie scoop, or your hands, roll 1-2 Tablespoons dough into a ball. Dip in the egg mixture. Dip in the breadcrumbs. Place on the lined baking sheet. Repeat this until you’ve filled the sheet.
9) Bake the balls in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the outside it lightly browned. Cool for a minute or 2 on the baking sheet, then serve! (Or, if they’re for a different time, cool them on a wire cooling rack and store them in an airtight container.)
And there you have it. Delicious, satisfying, healthifed, and not too hard! These are perfect to serve as an appetizer or as finger food at a party.
I am so pleased with this month’s Improv cooking challenge! Be sure to check out the other sausage & mushrooms recipes from other bloggers too!
Can’t wait to see what the challenge will be next month!