Versatile Meatless Meatballs


The other day, my friend dropped me a line asking if I had any meatball recipes.
You see, she was off to a Holiday potluck and being vegetarian, her and her husband wanted to offer something familiar on the carnivorous table, as well as have something to satisfy themselves.

I suddenly realized that the site was a bit lacking on the soy and meat replacement type options. I’d decided I was long overdue. Since the whole point of this site is to satisfy (everybody) I figured I’d better get cracking.

One option, other than just removing meat, is to just use breadcrumbs but since most meatballs are held together with eggs, I had a little more of a challenge ahead to make them stick. However, my biggest concern was, of course flavour and texture. With a combination of finely chopped mushrooms, crumbs and a glutenous flour to hold them together, they turned out pretty great, if I may say so myself:)

Hence the name, this recipe is pretty versatile, good for either marinara sauces or gravies.

MEATLESS MEATBALLS

1 Cup Breadcrumbs, coarse
1 Cup  Minced Mushrooms, I used crimini
1 Clove Garlic, finely minced (or 1/2 t garlic powder will do in a pinch)
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast Flakes
3/4 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten Flour
3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, vegan
1 Tablespoon Tamari or soy sauce
3 Tablespoons finely chopped baby spinach leaves*
1 Vegetable bouillon cube
1/2 Cup Hot Water

Dissolve the bouillon cube in the hot water. Add the worcestershire and tamari and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, mushrooms, garlic, nutritional yeast flakes, and flour.
Pour over the liquid and spinach.
Knead the mixture together to form a firm dough.
Pinch off 1 inch sized pieces to roll into balls.

Either heat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC) or heat a layer of vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat.
If baking, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and evenly distribute the meatballs so they aren’t touching.
Bake for 15 minutes then roll each of the meatballs over to brown the other sides, baking for an additional 15 minutes.

If frying, (I liked this version better) add the meatballs to the heated oil to fill the pan, without overcrowding.
Fry the meatballs, moving occasionally to evenly brown them on all sides.
Remove from the pan and allow to drain on a paper towel while you finish up any remaining meatballs.

*Depending on the end dish, you could choose to add additional seasoning such as parsley, thyme, oregano or basil for tomato sauces and rosemary or thyme for brown (mushroom) gravies.

Countdown To Christmas: Dinner


Dinner, oh dinner.
Yeah, this is the big one. It’s also the one that by experience has proven that planning ahead, pop it in the oven kind of dinners are waaaay more enjoyable than missing out on events while slaving away in the kitchen. Plus, there really are so many relatively quick and impressive recipe options to choose from, so I can watch the yule log burn on the Apple tv and sip wine while I build some new lego…  (or play with cooking show Barbie – Shhhhhh.)

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without mashed potatoes. And although I’m sure you know how to make those, I’ve added a little roasted garlic to these. Not only does it make them extra good, it’s going to match up the rest of the dishes served.

Next are steamed green beans, because you can’t go wrong with those. I really don’t know anyone who doesn’t like them… even the picky seats at the kiddie table!

To balance things out, I just wouldn’t be a mother if I didn’t serve brussels sprouts. Actually, these are the one vegetables I was made to sit and stare at as a child but thankfully, I’ve learned to cook them properly. The trick is to under cook them, there the secret’s out – now stand back and watch and the hoards make way in the produce aisle! Briefly roasted with oil, then tossed with rosemary and a little of the dinner’s themed garlic seemed utterly delicious!

One of my most favourite sides I’ve made almost too many times to count. Popular around Thanksgiving, yet I haven’t made it for Christmas. Combine two of my favourites, it’s a creamy spinach and squash gratin.

The main attraction? Another relatively easy but impressive dish. Adapted from Gourmet’s November issue. This mushroom spinach pie has a little something for everyone with earthy mushrooms, spinach, walnuts and, of course, roasted garlic.

My favourite part? The pie seriously took me about six minutes to make it but it can be made hours in advance.

This dinner will serve 4- 6.

SIMPLE ROASTED GARLIC

3 Bulbs Garlic
2 Tablespoons Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Cut the tops from each bulb and peel the outermost layers of papery skin from the garlic.
Coat each bulb well with the olive oil and roast for 30 – 35 minutes, until each bulb is soft, sticky and golden brown. Adding more oil or cover with foil, if necessary to avoid drying and over-browning.

ROASTED GARLIC MASHED POTATOES

4 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 Bulb Roasted Garlic
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt, or to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Using a pressure cooker or traditional stove top method, boil the potatoes until soft.
Drain then mash by hand, those little lumps and bits are good.
Squeeze the cooled garlic from the skin into a bowl and mash with a fork.
Add the garlic, oil, continuing to mash until fluffy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH + SPINACH GRATIN

This recipe can be made days ahead, up to the point of adding the crumb topping, which can be done while reheating.

1 Small Butternut Squash
1/2  Bulb Roasted Garlic, about 2 Tablespoons mashed
6 Cups Baby Spinach Leaves, packed
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk, or unsweetened soy milk will do
1/2 Tablespoon Arrowroot Powder
1/8 teaspoon Freshly Ground Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Salt, scant
1/4 teaspoon Pepper, to your liking
2 Slices Whole Wheat bread
1/4 Cup Earth Balance Butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon Dried Rosemary, crumbled – optional

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Lightly spray a casserole dish with oil.
Sauté the spinach in the olive oil. Once wilted, remove with a squeeze and discard any extra liquid.
Slice the neck of the squash in to 1/4″ rounds. Remove the skin from the edge and evenly layer the bottom the casserole dish.
Sprinkle over a pinch of salt and pepper.
Top with sautéed spinach, nutmeg, another sprinkling of salt and pepper, then evenly dot with the roasted garlic.
Add another layer of squash to cover in an even layer, sprinkling over another pinch of the salt and pepper.
Combine the almond milk with the arrowroot powder and pour over the squash.
Tightly cover with foil and bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile toast the bread slices to dry out completely. Either add to a food processor or chop finely by hand.
Add the butter and rosemary to the crumbs, mixing evenly.
Top the baked squash with the crumb mixture. Return it to the oven and continue to bake uncovered for about 10 minutes or until brown and crusty.

MUSHROOM SPINACH + WALNUT PIE

2 (397g) Packages Frozen Puff Pastry, thawed
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Cups Sliced Mushrooms, I used crimini, but I’m doing shiitake for the next one.
8 Cups Baby Spinach, packed
1/4 Cup Walnuts, chopped
1 Bulb Roasted Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dried Rosemary, crumbled
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft and browned.
Remove the mushrooms to cool.
Add the remaining oil and sauté the spinach leaves. Squeeze over the bulb of roasted garlic and stir.
While the spinach wilts and the mushrooms cool, roll out the first package of dough into about a 12″x8″ rectangle.
Place the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Top the dough with the mushrooms, then the wilted spinach.
Sprinkle over salt, pepper, rosemary and chopped walnuts.
Roll out the remaining dough to top the pie, crimping and tucking the edges under.
Lightly score the top with a sharp blade, occasionally piercing for steam vents.
Bake in the center of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden and crisp.