For a quick meal, it's hard to beat pasta with sauce. Boil the noodles, heat the sauce, and POOF... dinner! I'm always trying to sneak protein, vitamins and other nutrients in, so I opt for whole grain pastas, and add lots of chunky vegetables and beans to my sauces. I've even trained the older kids to dump a can of whole kernel corn and a can of kidney beans to prepared red sauce when they're helping with dinner.
Lately, I've heard grumbling. It's hard to imagine, I know, but it seems the kids and husband tire of the same-old, same-old. Okay... me, too. One brave child even vocalized a desire for *GASP* meatballs to accompany her spaghetti.
"MEATBALLS?" I asked, trying hard not to be offended, and refusing to allow the dream of little fried beef or pork spheres to lure my children away from my vegan dinner table. Oh, no... I wasn't about to throw in the meatball towel without a fight.
"I'll make you something BETTER than meatballs!" I declared, giving a whooping war cry to the sound of deafening applause.
Well, okay - maybe it wasn't exactly all that, but there was a turning point, and I did need a viable meatball substitute to tame the masses. So, I threw together this recipe, which immediately silenced further meatball requests and has become a new family favorite. The best part is the recipe can be made ahead of time, formed into balls, and tightly covered in the refrigerator, then quickly fried while the noodles boil. Check it out:
3 slices vegan whole wheat bread, toasted
1 c. shelled pecans
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. crushed oregano
1 t. dried sweet basil
1/2 t. black pepper
1 c. kidney beans
1/4 c. water
1 - 8oz. package Daiya or other vegan cheese shreds (your choice of yellow or white)
You will also need:
Several cups canola oil for frying
Candy thermometer to check oil temperature
Blender or food processor
Fryer or deep wok for frying
Break toast into pieces and pulse in blender or food processor to create fine bread crumbs.
Chop pecans using a nut grinder or by pulsing in blender or food processor.
In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, chopped pecans, garlic, oregano, basil and pepper. Mix well.
In blender or food processor, blend kidney beans with water to create a thick puree. Add puree to nut mixture and stir well.
Add Daiya shreds and mix well, using a pastry blender or back of fork to chop shreds into small crumbles.
Form into balls, using about one tablespoon of mix per ball.
Note: You may need a little more water to make the mixture sticky enough to roll into balls. Just add a tablespoon at a time, if needed.
Fry for two to three minutes at 375 degrees and drain on paper towels. Outsides of balls should be crispy, and inside should be cooked through, with bits of melted cheese.
Serve over pasta and sauce, or make a "wheatball" sandwich on a hoagie with vegan marinara. Enjoy!