After last week’s cake debacle, my eating habits have been curtailed dramatically. I guess that sort of holds true if you don’t count my birthday breakfast (including Mom’s amazing apple cake), my over-indulgent birthday dinner (birthday calories never count), and then my subsequent birthday road trip during which I pretty much ate with abandon and expended about 6 calories over 3 days, which was probably just from brushing my teeth. But other than that, I’ve really cut back.
So this is as good a time as any to tell you about one of my favorite discoveries this year… Trader Joe’s Kale and Spinach bites. Lordy, are these ever good. They’re basically just little balls of kale and spinach spiked with some onion and parmesan cheese and coated with panko bread crumbs and baked so that the exterior has a little crispiness and the interior is soft and yummy.
They’re simply awesome with a glass of wine instead of the fried cheese balls you would have liked, but decided against because of all the cake you’ve been eating. And then there’s the issue of buying 2 or 3 boxes of these a week and even though they’ve gone down from $4.50 to $4 a box (10 per box), our love for them requires that we keep the freezer stocked and maybe it’s time I just figure out how to make them myself.
So that’s just what I did, people, and they weren’t really that hard to figure out… just a cursory reading of the ingredients list and then some basic math (no algebra) and a couple (OK, 3) trials before I got them just right and now I have Ziploc bags full of them in my freezer.
And you know what? They might actually be just marginally better than T.J’s. I’m not really sure how much money I might be saving (I think it's significant), but it makes me happy to know I can make these in great quantities and eat a few more than I might otherwise, and perhaps this is all leading to another episode of overindulgence, but much better that the object of my gluttony be kale and spinach, no?
So these make great appetizers, and a big platter of them would be so awesome as a counter-balance to the other platters of cheese-y, fried foods and stuff at your next football party. Or think hors d’oeuvres for the holidays. Like I said, we think they’re pretty great with a glass of wine, and I especially love that eating 5 or 6 of them might even be good for me.
Here’s the recipe…
Kale & Spinach Bites
These little flavor bombs are super convenient because they bake up perfectly straight from the freezer, which means you can make them well in advance and quickly cook them up when you're ready to serve them. You can certainly cook them up before freezing them, but I think they actually come out better when cooked from their frozen state.
10-oz each frozen kale and spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 ½ cups grated parmesan cheese, divided
½ cup regular breadcrumbs
1 cup chopped onion or shallots
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
Line a medium-sized cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium skillet and add the chopped onion. Sauté until cooked through and very soft, about 5-7 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Combine the kale, spinach, onion, eggs, the ½ cup regular breadcrumbs, 1 cup of the grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until you have a smooth consistency.
Spoon the spinach mixture into a medium bowl and form into little balls (each a little less than a tablespoon) and place on the parchment- lined cookie sheet.
Combine the ½ cup of panko and remaining ½ cup of parmesan cheese in a bowl. Roll each little spinach ball into the parmesan mixture, pressing the crumbs into the spinach ball so that the larger pieces will adhere. You can easily re-form the ball if it gets a little out of shape in this process.
Place the crumb-coated balls back on the parchment and when they’re all coated, place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 2-3 hours or until they’re solidly frozen. You can now place them in an airtight container and return them to the freezer for future use.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the desired number of frozen spinach balls on the paper. Place an oven rack in the top third of the oven and place the baking sheet on the rack. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they’re just starting to turn golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.
Note: If you would like to bake these as soon as they're made (not frozen), just bake them for about 15 minutes, following the instructions above.