Saturday, September 24, 2011

Family Classics: Spinach Balls

Fuzzy green ball found here
I remember when I was a kid, sometimes my mom would host parties.  They would be office parties for my dad, or Super Bowl parties, or whatever.

My favorite part of mom's party prep was the appetizers she made.  My two all time favorites were spinach balls and sausage balls.

Spinach balls has become my go-to holiday dish to bring to family gatherings, and is now a favorite of my husband's family too!

So, I thought, what the heck!  I'll try it out on my kids.

Here's the recipe:

Clarke Family Spinach Balls

2 boxes chopped spinach (10oz frozen package)
     Cook spinach then drain and squeeze out moisture (Very important!  Squeeze all the moisture out!)
In a large bowl, combine spinach with following ingredients: (you will need to get your handy dirty, the best way to mix is my hand.)

1 package,16oz, Pepperidge Farm Stuffing mix (crumbly, not cubed!)
1 large, finely diced onion...(I should mention, I hate chopping onions.  It is my least favorite cooking prep activity.  If you are ever at my house for dinner, and you ask, "Is there anything I can do?", don't be surprised if I hand you an onion and a knife!)
6 eggs, well beaten
3/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup parmesean
1 tbsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp thyme

Shape into balls (size of golf ball) and place on greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 325 for 16-20 mins.
Spinach balls should be warm an firm to the touch.

Recipe makes approx. 5-6 dozen spinach balls.

By the way, as much as I love spinach balls, the ball rolling step is time consuming.  All together from frozen spinach to warm balls, it took just over an hour.

And the verdict:

Three very enthusiastic thumbs up from husband and the bigs, and two "no way, yech" thumbs down from the littles.

Another lesson learned...I served the spinach balls as a side with this pasta I picked up at Cost Plus World Market:

I thought it looked fun and interesting.  Silly me.  I should know that my children (especially my persnickety four year old!) do not see "fun" and "interesting", they see "new", "different", and "gross!"

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Family Classics: Golden Oats

Crochet cereal (and pattern!)found here
Oatmeal, it's for breakfast, right?  Most days, yes. If you are like me, you have a secret love affair with the Maple and Brown Sugar flavor instant oatmeal...but maybe that's just me.

Also in my standard pantry stock:  a great big canister of whole oats.  I usually get them out for cookie recipes, but tonight they were the star in one of my all time favorite recipes from my childhood:

Golden Oats and Herbs

I liked them so much, for years they were my requested birthday meal.  I forget how easy they are to make, until I pull out the recipe again.  (By the way, quick shout out to my Mom, without whom none of these recipes would be here to share...especially since I had to ask her for them about 20 times each before I finally found a recipe filing system that I could find things in.  Thanks Mom!)

Here is the recipe:

1 1/2 cups Quaker Oats
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp margarine or butter, melted
3/4 cup vegetable broth (or, if you are not a vegetarian who always has a bunch of veg broth on hand, chicken broth will do just fine)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
2 tbsp parsley flakes

Combine oats and egg in medium bowl, mix until coated.  Add oat mixture to butter in large skillet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes, or until oats are dry, separated and lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients, continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, or until liquid evaporates.

When I was a kid, Mom always served the oats with a bratwurst-type sausage, cooked in a sweet/mustardy sauce (that I should get the recipe for!), but, having no sausage (and no clue how to cook it even if I did) I served the oats with chicken nuggets. 

The verdict:

Four thumbs, way, way up!  And,#3, being contrary, refused to try them.  Oh well, maybe next time!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Family Classics Week: Frito Casserole

Crochet corn toy found here``
When you were a kid, did you have certain meals that when Mom said, "We're having ____ for dinner!" you came running?

We certainly did! 

I've decided to try some of those classics on my kids, we'll see if they become new favorites too!

One of our family's all time favorite meals is a unique combination called "Frito Casserole"...actually I have no idea how unique it is!  My grandparents made it, my mom and her sisters all made it, and I know that several of my cousins still make it for their kids, but I have no idea where it got started. 

There are several versions of the Frito Casserole recipe, even within our family.  Here's the one I use:

Frito Casserole (Clarke style!)

1 onion, chopped (I like Walla Walla sweets)
1 green pepper, chopped

Saute onion and green pepper in a small amount of canola or olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed, or garlic powder
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tbsp chili powder (note: do not accidentally use super-extra-hot habenero chili my husband did the last time...yeouch!)
3 or 4 cans of pinto beans
2 cups water (or more if needed)
1 cup shredded cheese
1 can drained whole olives

Simmer for 30 mins.  Serve in a bowl over Fritos.
(Optional: To make with meat, brown 1/2 pound ground beef with onions and green pepper, drain well.)

That's it!  It makes a big pot of soupy casserole, and it is soooo good.  I can personally put away at least two big bowls...and eat leftovers for days.  Maybe it's nostalgia, but I love Frito Casserole.  The kids...well, they'll get used to it!  The older two already love it, and we're working on the littles.

The official tally:

Three thumbs up, two thumbs down.

(I lost my thumb graphic in the Great Laptop Crash of 2011, I should be able to replace it soon!)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pizza, Pizza: Easy Easy!

Pizza (and pattern!) found here
In all fairness, I feel I should warn you: this recipe was born of exhaustion and caffeine abuse!  I was at the end of a very busy and long day, and I made the mistake of drinking a "Rockstar" canned coffee drink.  It contains caffeine, ginsing, taurine, caffeine, guarana, caffeine, b-vitamins and sugar.

Lessons learned:  1.  No one should ever, ever drink anything containing guarana.  It's very, very bad for you. 
2.  No one past the late-night-cramming sessions age should drink anything containing caffeine at 5pm.
3.  Weird recipes happen when Mom consumes caffeinated, sugary beverages before cooking dinner!

My inspiration for dinner was a bag of baby spinach that was fast coming up on it's expiration date.  I threw in in the double-boiler, and steamed it briefly until the leaves were wilted.  Then I pureed the spinach in my fancy-schmancy new food processor (woo-hoo!).

Next, I layered tortillas into a super simple pizza, in this order:

Tortilla, cover with about 2 tbsp of spinach puree, sprinkle with parmesean, and a little bit of shredded cheese.

2nd tortilla, cover with marinara sauce, and cover with plenty of shredded cheese.
Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10 mins.

I made two, but I really only need one for all four girls.

Not surprising, #1 and #2 were extremely suspicious, and not happy about the green layer.  #1 said the combination of spinach and marinara tasted "weird", but #2 actually like it.  #3 and #4 picked theirs apart, just like they do with their sandwiches.  The biggest surprise?  My husband loved it!  He has already requested that I make it for our annual Halloween party!

Official tally:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Show the love, vote!

Knit apple found here
Readers, I would like to take a moment to thank you for being here...thank you.

Now, while you're here, would you mind terribly popping over to, and voting for My Kids Hate My Cooking as the BEST food blog in Western Washington?

You, may I say, rock.  Thank you for reading, and another recipe disaster and/or success is coming soon!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Macaroni Pie-tooie!

Happy tomato found here
It was about 3 o'clock yesterday when I started thinking about dinner.  This is unusual for me.  Most days I start thinking about dinner around 5.  Which probably explains why we've been eating a lot of simple, fast to make meals.  Yesterday though, I realized early on that we had done all of our quick go-to meals in the last week!  The last week of summer infected the whole family with a bad case of the lazies. We had pizza (twice), hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese, cheese and I figured it was about time to actually make something a little more complicated.

As with many things in my house, complicated is risky.  Chances are good that the more work I put into a recipe, the more likely the kids are to reject it.

Tonight's recipe experiment: Macaroni Pie  (adapted from the Deceptively Delicious "Spaghetti Pie" recipe)

6 oz uncooked macaroni (or any other shape pasta)
8 oz (about 1/2 package) Yves Meatless Ground
1/2 cup broccoli puree
1 large egg white
2 tbsp parmesean
2 cups bottled marinara sauce
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup carrot puree
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup shredded cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 9 inch pie plate with cooking spray.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook until al dente.  Drain in a colander.
3. In a small bowl, mix the Meatless Ground with the broccoli puree, egg white, and parm.
Form the mixture into 1/2 inch balls.
4. In a large bowl, stir the cooked pasta, marinara sauce, cottage cheese, carrot puree, and salt and pepper.  Spoon the mixture into the pie plate and smooth the top.  Place meatballs on top (the recipe says "scatter", but how do you scatter meatballs?), and sprinkle cheese on top.
5. Bake, uncovered, until the center is firm and the cheese is bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes.

Not surprisingly, this didn't go over well with the littles!  #4 only ate the macaroni, #3 refused to touch anything but the garlic bread I served it with, and #2, although she ate it, she protested loudly about the "icky" tomato sauce.  Husband and #1 actually really liked fact, my husband ate the leftovers the next day for lunch!

Official tally:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Healthy doughnuts?

Silly doughnut found here
So, healthy doughnuts:  cruel myth, or delicious reality?  According to Jessica Seinfeld, author of Deceptively Delicious (still one of my current favorite cookbooks), you can make a doughnut healthy and tasty.  And, since my wonderful husband just bought a doughnut mold pan for me, I get to test it out!

A note on doughnuts in general:  I hate doughnuts.  That is to say, I looooove doughnuts and can eat my weight in them if no one is looking.  Which is why I hate doughnuts.  They are one of the truly, awfully, no redeeming value bad for you foods that I simply can not resist.  Especially if I have one.  Then, I am toast.  Or, if you are what you eat, I am doughnut.  So, the possibility of a doughnut that a)doesn't taste like fried and glazed heaven, and b) isn't all that bad for me the kids, is very exciting.

The other thing I was excited about with this recipe is that it calls for pumpkin, which I had leftovers of in the fridge!  I love using leftovers.  (That might make me weird.  I don't know, I think that may be the first time I've said/typed it out loud.)

Without further ado (or rambling...) here is the recipe:

Pumpkin Doughnuts

1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
(note: I was fresh out of sweet potato never had I used 1 cup of pumpkin)
1/2 cup skim milk
1 large egg white
1 Tablespoon trans-fat-free soft tub margarine spread (or butter)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (or, you guessed it!  TJ's White Whole Wheat Flour...that reminds me...I need more!)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
Coat mini-doughnut mold or mini-muffin tins with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, pumpkin and sweet potato purees, milk, egg white, margarine and vanilla. 
Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon and mix until completely incorporated.

Pour the batter into a gallon-sized plastic bag and cut the bottom tip off of one side of the bag.   Then, squeeze the batter into the doughnut or mini-muffin mold.
(Note: make sure to only fill the doughnut molds halfway!  This was my first time trying out the doughnut pan, and I filled the first couple waaaay too full.)
Bake until the tops are lightly browned and toothpick comes out clean when inserted, about 10 minutes.  Turn the doughnuts out onto a rack to cool. Coat with confectioner's sugar when cool.

You might wonder, with a recipe that makes a dozen, why is there only one little lonely doughnut on the plate?

There probably would have been 5 thumbs up, but my kids ate the doughnuts so fast, my husband never got one!
That said, I actually was not perfectly happy with how these turned out.  I would definitely make them again, but with some tweaks. Tweak #1: more pumpkin pie spice!  I thought these were a little bland.  Tweak #2: Well, ok, not technically a tweak, rather a correction...I would use the sweet potato, or maybe banana instead of another 1/2 cup of pumpkin.  Again, bland.  Tweak #3: Double the recipe...after I buy another doughnut pan!