Hedgehog Meatballs and Chili Dog Pie

This weeks Sunday supper is about kids in the kitchen. That’s a good thing. As parents we should encourage our kids to help out, both in the creative process and in the execution of meals. Both recipes in this post were designed to make my Sonic the Hedgehog loving 5 year-old feel better about trying new foods. In one case, the entire dish was his creation.  In both cases, he flatly refused to eat either of them once they were made.

Everyone else in the house happily enjoyed both however.

Now, I’m not going to say that the master creation of our 5 year-old is in any way healthy. We suggested “Hedgehog Meatballs” to him and he replied that what he really really wanted was a chili dog pie.

Yep… Chili Dog Pie…

Which left it up to the grown-up types to figure out how to make this delicacy happen. Luckily, we’re creative thinkers here at the cbsop test kitchens, and with a little thought and the help of our young apprentice, we got the thing done.


So… It’s not gourmet by any means… Or is it?

No it’s not. But it is remarkably good, considering that it is little more than smashed tater tots, hot dogs, canned chili and cheese. It’s about every food group that we’re taught to avoid as adults, all in one massive, calorie and fat laten treat.

The kids loved it. At least the kids that didn’t invent it. My wife and I liked it a little too much as well. It may not be good for you, but it is good, in a guilty pleasure kind of way. Kind of like a pizza… On crack. Yeah, it’s that good.


Chili Dog Pie
  • 2.5 pounds tater-tots
  • 1 - 14.5 ounce can of your favorite no-bean chili or chili dog sauce
  • 4 bun-length turkey dogs (or 5 normal length), cut in 1/4-inch rounds
  • About one cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees (or whatever temperature your particular brand of tater-tots calls for.)
  2. Cook tots until heated through and just soft. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let cool until they can be handled. (About 15 minutes.)
  3. Meanwhile, heat the chili and slice your hotdogs.
  4. Arrange tots until they just cover the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 - inch baking dish. (You'll have some left over, that's OK!) Press the tater tots flat with the bottom of a smaller baking dish or a sturdy spatula. (you want to really mash them down.) Fill any holes with left over tater tots and press gain until your "crust" doesn't have any holes in it.
  5. Return tots to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until crisp.
  6. Remove from oven, arrange hot dogs on crust, pour chili over and spread until coated evenly. top with cheese and cook at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  7. Allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.
  8. Share and Enjoy!

For our second attempt at new foods, we tried the associative route. we decided we’d make “Hedgehog Meatballs” in honor of Sonic himself, hoping that the little guy would try them. They’re just a slight variation on the classic porcupine meatball from the 50’s, but we thought they might get him to try something new, especially if they looked like a real hedgehog…

Nope. Not a bite.

In any case, the other kids devoured them, which makes e feel a little better about myself since they’re a lot healthier than the first dish was. They were also a runaway hit, as the following picture describes better than I can in words.


Hedgehog Meatballs
1 1/2 pound lean ground beef 2/3 cup long-grain rice, uncooked 1/2 cup water 1/4 cup finely chopped onion 1 Tablespoon Of Emeril's Essence or your favorite Cajun seasoning blend 1 large can (15 ounces) tomato sauce 1 cup water 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon Essence 5-6 grinds black pepper
  1. heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix ground beef, rice, 1/2 cup water, onion and Essence. Shape onto 1 1/2-inch balls. and place in an ungreased shallow baking dish.
  3. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over meatballs. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  4. Serve hot as a main dish, on a sandwich roll, or with the side f your choice.
  5. Share and enjoy!

What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:

I wish that the youngest would have actually tried these meals. But he’s not only a five year-old, he’s also autistic. Some days are better than others. This wasn’t one of the better days. hopefully we’ll have better luck on another day.

And now dear friends, it’s nearly 3 AM as I write this, so please pardon any typos you might have seen in the preceding work. I think I’ve done enough for the day, so it’s off to bed for a few hours. Sweet Dreams!

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  1. says

    We all need a little guilty pleasure food every now and then. I love a good chili dog and the pie sounds like a nice twist to it. Meatballs sound good too!

    • says

      What’s not to like about it? Other than the cholesterol, fat, calories… Ah, what the heck. We don’t eat like this often, so we’ll just enjoy it when we do!

    • says

      Thanks! The 5 year-old gets the credit for the chili dog pie. It was all his idea. We just made it work… So that he wouldn’t eat it, LOL

  2. says

    Your dishes are kid-friendly and look fabulous…even for us kids at heart! Chili dogs not gourmet? Tell that to my husband, who insists that we eat them at least once a month…usually when we’re watching some kind of sports on TV!!

    • says

      Yep, there’s nothing about it that isn’t good. Just not necessarily anything about it that’s good for you. I wouldn’t recommend a steady diet of it, but every once-in-a-while, I say go for it!

    • says

      You’d never heard of it because until this week, it didn’t exist! Straight from the mind of a 5 year-old to you. It’s good stuff.

    • says

      Sonic, Mario, Zelda, Voltron (the new one) Danny Phantom. These are the kiddo’s favorites. Unfortunately, we have Netflix, Which means he watches them all the time

    • says

      For a minute there it looked like I wasn’t going to make it, but we got it done. I’ll have next weeks ready to go by Tuesday, for the sake of a good night’s sleep. Your dish was mighty tasty looking as well!

  3. says

    I love that you created the Hedgehog Meatballs in an attempt to associate it with Sonic the Hedgehog for him. Your post also reminded me of Porcupine Meatballs, which my husband and I ate ALL THE TIME when we were first married because it was so cheap to make (the old classic with canned tomato soup). I’ll need to do a post about that someday. My kids would love your chili dog pie too; my husband would be particularly happy. Great post, Jerry!

    • says

      Thanks! These are based on porcupine meatballs, but we changed it up to add some of Sonic’ favorite flavors, etc.

      Sadly, it didn’t work for our little Sonic-lover, but the ret of us loves them.

    • says

      Sometimes you have to look past the ingredient list and just be happy in the knowledge that it only takes a little to be satisfying… Then go make a big salad!

  4. says

    You are so creative. This is really impressive. I have a cousin who has an autistic son. She says the same thing, good days and bad days. Kudos to trying another day.

    • says

      We have to be creative, or he’d eat nothing but chicken nuggets, chili dogs, PB&J sandwiches and cereal. these didn’t go over well, but we’ll convince him with something else in the future :)

  5. says

    I love having guilty pleasures. One of mine is Tater Tot Casserole, so I see why Chili Dog Pie must be so good. :) And I love the look of the Hedgehog Meatballs. Hope the little one attempts to eat them next time.

    • says

      We got him to try a bite. That’s as far as we made it. (That alone took hours.) At least he tried, even if it didn’t win him over

  6. says

    I used to eat these as a kid but we called them porcupine balls. I freaking loved them but haven’t had them in years. I need to make them again soon!

    • says

      These are a straight adaptation of Porcupine Meatballs or Porcupine balls. We just thought going without the procesed oup would be a nice change after the tater-tot crust on the Chili dog pie. (Heavy. But good!)

  7. says

    Looks like the Chili Dog Pie covers most of my kids’ favorite food groups. Hot Dogs, Tater Tots and Cheese just cannot go wrong. Love the Hedgehog meatball name; sorry your son wouldn’t try them.


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