Wednesday, October 9, 2013


If you've been following Grandma Susan's Almanac for a while, you know that I’m a convinced vegetarian and, more recently, a vegan wannabee who falls off the vegan wagon, now and again. Yes, it’s been hard to be strictly vegan since my husband isn't. But he is vegetarian and we often compromise, ending up with slightly less than vegan meals. 

Also, as I've mentioned, I keep struggling to adapt some of my earlier recipes to fit our new eating style. What has happened, unfortunately, is that we've tended to eat two kinds of meals: rice – white or whole grain - with veggies or whole wheat spaghetti with veggies along with a lot of hummus along with homemade bread, multigrain crackers or tortilla chips. That makes for monotonous meals and we want to do better.

What’s more, when I do the grocery shopping, most of what I buy is organic. When my husband shops, he comes home with what he likes after looking at the prices. That means a lot fewer organic foods. Anyway, it’s been quite an evolution – “teaching two old dogs new tricks” – kitchen tricks, that is. And, in the process, we've put many of our former comfort foods on hold.

You know what I’m talking about. Some of the food that we liked a lot and ate in our childhood - and later on for years - and that we remember with sentimental fondness. And this is particularly true when situations get out of control and stresses rise. That's when we want to reconnect with comfort foods – along with all those accompanying kitchen smells, tastes, and textures. One important comfort food - from our upbringing - were/are meatballs. But, my husband and I stopped eating them because I hadn't found a vegan way to make them the way we like –juicy, tomato-y, and well molded together. (If you've made vegan meatballs, you may have seen them squishy in the middle and tasting more like cardboard than anything else.) I've been experimenting.  This time I think I've got a good recipe, and I’ll share it with you.

I used a mix of tempeh, bread crumbs, chopped onions, minced garlic, spices, organic marinara sauce and lots of olive oil – even more olive oil on top after formed into balls and a zip of ketchup on top of each one.  I made the mixture in just one skillet, then formed the balls and placed them in a glass dish to bake. They turned out crispy on the outside and dry - not at all mushy - inside. They were husband-approved.

Here’s the recipe I made today. It makes about 10 meatballs. You can see the photo of my yet uncooked meatballs (modified slightly in my usual cartooned style).

Half pound of frozen tempeh, thawed and crumpled
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices of whole wheat bread, pulled apart to make crumbs
(Use instant oatmeal instead of bread for gluten-free meatballs)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Soy or Worcester sauce, 2 tablespoons
½ cup marinara sauce
Dash of black pepper
About 2 tablespoons of ketchup
¼ cup olive oil

Brown the crumpled tempeh along with the onions and garlic in the olive oil, holding back just a bit for later drizzling.

When the tempeh has browned, let it cool slightly and add marinara sauce, bread crumbs, spices, soy sauce. Form the moist – but not wet – mixture into 1 1/2″ balls.

Place the balls in a greased glass baking pan. Drizzle a bit more olive oil and ketchup on the top to make them crusty. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Serve the meatballs over rice or pasta with or without more marinara sauce. You can also indulge in a meatball sub - with lots of green salad, Italian salad dressing, and slices of cheese or non-dairy cheese.mozzarella. The meatballs can be frozen and reheated in the oven or on the stove top.

The same recipe can be used for meatloaf, just place the mixture in a greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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