Vegan Flat Meatballs or Meatloaf

Sometimes I discover a great dish completely by accident.  Sometimes I even discover two ~ with the same ingredients!  A few weeks ago, I had some packaged vegan “meatballs” from Trader Joe’s that I wanted to use up in spaghetti sauce over pasta.  Hubby and I are avoiding wheat, so I had to find something else for us while the teenage vacuums ate the meatballs and pasta.  I had 6 or 8 small leftover Unburgers in the freezer.  I figured those would work for us as a kind of, well, flat meatball.  I layered them with spaghetti sauce and popped them into the microwave.  We scooped them onto cooked rice ~ and it was unbelievably good!  (Hubby did say he’d prefer not having the sunflower seeds in the Unburgers this way.  I didn’t mind them.)

Segue to last Friday.  I needed food prepared ahead of time that could be reheated in the oven for after church the next day.  I remembered just how good those Unburgers were as flat meatballs.  I didn’t have enough leftover Unburgers in the freezer (I was down to 1), and I wanted to omit the sunflower seeds this time for hubby’s and an allergic family member’s sake anyway.  So, I whipped up a fresh batch of very large patties (4 1/2-5 inches.)  I thought about trying to form them into balls and baking them, but I didn’t have the energy or time to experiment.  I layered the patties in a 4-qt. dish with spaghetti sauce, filling all the nooks and crannies with sauce, too.  (I had a loaded casserole and only 2 patties leftover.)  I covered the dish with foil and popped them in the frig until the next morning.  I put them in my automatic oven the next day set to bake for an hour along with some smashed potatoes.  Unfortunately, we had car trouble after church and didn’t get home and eat until much later than planned.  The oven had stayed warm for the most part, so I just turned it back on for 15 minutes or so when we got home to make sure everything was hot enough.

Surprise!!  My flat meatballs and sauce destined for topping the smashed potatoes had turned into something completely different!  The Unburgers soaked up all the excess moisture from the spaghetti sauce and became a marvelous super thick meatloaf!  I quickly pulled out some vegan-style “butter” and soy sour cream for the potatoes that were now without their saucy topping.  Everybody ~ all 7 of us ~ loved it!  And that 4-qt. dish?  Well, there was only half of it gone, even after J ate his fill.  Next time I will make a smaller pan and save the other Unburgers in the freezer for an “oh-no!-there’s-nothing-in-the-house-to-eat-fast-and-we-have-to-leave-soon” night.  (Come on…you don’t have those nights?  Then how about an “oh-no!-I’m-too-blasted-tired-to-cook” night?  Uh-huh…I thought so.)

So, now I have 2 recipes ~ sort of.  Wait…actually there are 3 things that can be done with the Unburger ingredients list.  How handy!  This is multi-tasking in triplicate.  😀

If any of you like to experiment, try forming the Unburger batter into meatballs and bake or fry them.  Then let me know how it comes out.

Vegan Flat Meatballs or Meatloaf

  • Leftover Unburgers (or a fresh batch)
  • spaghetti sauce (I used a fairly plain one with mushrooms)
  • rice, pasta, or mashed potatoes

Layer Unburgers with spaghetti sauce (plenty if you want saucy flat meatballs) and either immediately heat up and serve over hot rice, pasta, or mashed potatoes, or cover and refrigerate; heat at 375° for 45-60 minutes the next day and serve as a meatloaf-style dish.

Unburgers

When I was 18 I worked in a health food store in western New York called Ye Olde Nut Tree.  They served something called Unburgers that Jean Young created when she worked there.  They were made daily for the snack bar.  (The “batter” kept in the frig. for a day or two.)  Hard-working, non-vegetarian, construction workers would come in just because they loved them.  They were served on buns with alfalfa sprouts, tomato, etc., or on split open pita bread with cream cheese, avocado, cucumbers, and alfalfa sprouts, topped with an oil and vinegar dressing.

I made Unburgers so many times that I had inadvertently memorized the recipe.  When I quit working there, I wrote my memorized recipe down and made it for my growing family.  Unfortunately, the original recipe contained 9 eggs!!  Needless to say, I had to turn them into a vegan version when we gave up eggs. 

The recipe makes 12-16 patties, but they freeze marvelously.

The Nut Tree (the shortened name) exchanged owners and names, moved, and eventually went out of business.  For any of you who used to go there to eat lunch, now you can make your own at home.

Unburgers

  • 1 pkg. extra firm Morniu silken tofu
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 T. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sage
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. Savorex, Vegex, or Marmite paste (from original recipe)
  •                OR (my preferred method)
  •                2 T. Brewer’s yeast flakes
  •                1 1/2 tsp. Spike seasoning
  •                1/2 capful Liquid Hickory Smoke
  • 1 1/2 c. walnuts
  • 3 c. quick oats (you may use half rolled oats for a chewier texture ~ for gluten-free, use certified gluten-free oats)
  • 1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds

Whiz in blender everything except walnuts, oats, and seeds until fairly smooth.  Add walnuts – allow blender to run until no large pieces remain.  Pour into large bowl and stir in oats and sunflower seeds.  Let stand for 5 or more minutes.

Preheat electric griddle to 250-275 degrees F.  (I suppose you could use a square stove-top griddle, but you couldn’t cook as many at a time on it.  Use medium-low heat.)  Drop large scoops of mix onto griddle and flatten into patties.  (Sometimes this isn’t a quick process – be patient.)  When browned (about 8-10 minutes), turn them over and continue cooking another 3-5 minutes.  If you flip them too soon, they will be gooey inside.

Serve with gravy, on sandwiches, or alone with guacamole and slices of tomato on top.  Try one crumbled onto a salad.

Makes 12 large patties, or 16 medium patties.  Freezes well with waxed paper between layers.