Recipe: Salsa Sausage Sandwich Braid (Adapted)

Another adapted recipe today, this time from my favorite paper cookbook "Family Feasts for $75 a Week" by Mary Ostyn. The original recipe may - and should be! - seen here.
I cannot say enough good things about this practical, frugal cookbook. Seriously, go buy it!

In the meantime, I've made the sausage braid about 3 times now, and while the concept is good, we weren't thrilled with the flavor of the filling, which tends towards the bland. Part of this, I freely confess, is undoubtedly because I rarely have on hand (or remember to buy) things like green onions, fresh parsley, and bell pepper, which are therefore left out of the recipe. The modifications I've made speak both to our flavor preferences and compensate for what is most likely to be in the fridge or freezer.

Ingredients
1 pound bulk sausage (the stuff that just looks like ground beef), pork, chicken, or whatever you like.
1/2 cup chopped onion (I use frozen pre-chopped. No tears!)
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper (optional)
2 green onions, chopped. (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced (I buy pre-minced in a big jar and just put in a large spoonful.)
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1/2 - 2/3 C salsa, your favorite brand
2 loaves frozen bread or pizza dough, thawed, or make your own pizza dough in the machine (recipe below.)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Smoked paprika or your favorite seasoning blend (I use one called "South African Smoke" from Trader Joe's)

Directions
1. Pre-heat oven to 350. Brown sausage in a frying pan along with vegetables (except green onions if using) until meat is cooked and veggies are tender.
2. Drain fat if necessary. Add green onions, cubed cream cheese, and salsa to skillet and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted.
3. If using commercial frozen dough, knead both lumps into one. Roll out to at least 10x12 inches (I usually end up more like 12x16) and place on a baking sheet.
4. Spread sausage mixture down the middle, leaving 3 inches to each side and 1 inch at the end bare.
On each long side, cut 3/4-inch-wide strips 3 inches into center of dough, right up to where the filling starts.
5. Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle, forming a braid over the filling. Crimp the ends of the dough to close the ends of the braid.
6. Brush loaf with beaten egg, then sprinkle generously with smoked paprika or your favorite seasoning blend.
7. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.
Allow to cool slightly, then cut into 1 to 1.5 inch slices.

Feeds about 4 adults.

Tips and Justifications:
I like to consider myself reasonably frugal and above-average in the kitchen (if not anything like a gourmet.) So I'm not immune to the argument that a premium is being paid for the convenience of frozen, sliced onions and refrigerated, diced garlic. However, I have lost track of the half-onions I've thrown away, not to mention the dishes not made because I haven't got one in the house. I think it evens out. Ditto with the garlic, which is even cheaper. (Also, I really hate processing both!)
I also buy a lot of frozen bell pepper and onion mix for recipes like this one. Yes, there's a fair bit of cheap onion in with the expensive peppers. But look at the price of bell pepper most times of year - contrasted with about $1.65 for 12 oz frozen!

Bread Machine Pizza Dough Recipe
(origin forgotten - online somewhere!)
1 1/3 C warm water
2 T oil
1-2 T honey or sweetener of choice
1 t salt
2 C white bread flour
2 C whole wheat bread flour
2 t (or one packet) yeast

Add to machine in order listed and choose the "dough" cycle.

Makes about 15-20% more than you need for one sausage braid
(I rolled out the left-over bits, brushed them with egg, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, and baked right along with the sandwich.)
Alternately, makes enough for two, 14 inch pizzas - or one and an order of cinnamon rolls!
Also freezes well, but allow 3-5 hours for thawing in the fridge, and another to rise at room temp.

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