Spinach balls are one of those quintessential holiday favorites that seem healthy – after all, they’re made with spinach – but are typically loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat.
When Jen M., a mom of three from Overland Park, Kansas sent us her recipe for Spinach Balls and asked us to give it a healthy makeover, we couldn’t resist the challenge. “Spinach Balls are a special treat for the kids and a great party food,” said Jen, “but they’re so greasy.” After looking at Jen’s recipe, made with a stick and a half of butter (that’s 12 tablespoons!), we had to agree.
Athena, age 7, loves her mom's new recipe
3-year old Orion eats with gusto
Hmmm. What to do with those 12 tablespoons of butter? While we’re not opposed to butter all together, the 7 grams of saturated fat in just three of the spinach balls pushed us over the edge. For our rescue, we used four tablespoons of butter plus four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat). We also cut the Parmesan cheese from one cup down to a half.
When made with less fat and Parm, the spinach balls turned out a bit dry. Jen had the same problem when she initially tweaked this recipe at home. “I experimented with less butter and I even used some olive oil but it didn’t work – they were too dry.”
Our final fix was the addition of half a cup of shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese. This did the trick and we were happy with the results of our recipe rescue. More importantly, Jen and her family were happy too. “They stayed moist without that greasy quality of the original, and we liked the new flavor,” Jen told us when we spoke on the phone recently. At first, 7-year-old Athena said, “Never make this again,” but then proceeded to devour them! Jen made a batch and froze half. She plans to serve them to friends over New Year’s. We hope she’ll report back and tell us what her friends think of the Recipe Rescue.
Cheesy Spinach Bites
Makes 16 servings (about 48 “bites”)
- Two 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 2 cups crushed herb-seasoned stuffing mix (we like Pepperidge Farm made with white & whole wheat bread)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
- 5 large eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two large, rimmed baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- Drain the spinach well by pressing in a colander and using paper towels to remove excess moisture.
- In a large bowl, combine the spinach, stuffing mix, Parmesan cheese, Cheddar cheese, eggs, flaxseed, oil, butter, onion powder, thyme, and pepper and mix very well.
- Roll the mixture into 48 balls (about 1 to 1 ¼-inches in diameter) and place on the prepared sheets. Bake until golden brown on the bottom, about 10 minutes.
Nutrition Information per Serving (3 “bites”): 150 calories, 10g fat (3.5g saturated, 0.5g omega-3), 210mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 6g protein, 90% vitamin A, 10% calcium
For comparison sake, the original recipe had 160 calories, 12g fat (7g saturated), and 300mg sodium in three “bites.”
If you want us to give your favorite family recipe a healthy “rescue,” send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.