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.

Macaroni Salad

Some dishes become staples in the family and are prepared for years without a true “recipe” being written.  Then something throws a monkey wrench into the situation, and your standard fare has to be rearranged ~ or something substituted.

That happened with this recipe last year.  A friend came to visit and we went to the very large local health food store together.  She was nearly vegan, but my family is totally vegan.  I reached for a roll of Worthington’s Chickette Roll that I had used for years in this salad and other things.  She informed me that the recipe had been changed a year or two before and it was no longer vegan!!  *GASP!*  Say it isn’t so!!  *groan*  Back to the drawing board to find a “chicken” replacement.  (When will I remember to frequently re-read nutritional labels?  And why do companies “fix” something that wasn’t broken?)

The newest challenge for my family is to find a pasta that is gluten-free that we like.  I used a corn-quinoa type the time before last and it was good.  I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so we had a brown rice one the last time…not so good.  It was a little slimey feeling.  I didn’t mind it, but the family gave it a thumbs-down.  So, I went back to the corn-quinoa, this time in elbows.  I read the package again and noticed it said not to overcook the pasta ~ in big bold letters.  So I was scrupulously careful.  I didn’t want mush.  Oh…we didn’t get mush.  No, no.  We got just short of crispy!!  Somehow, between testing it while it was cooking in the pot and rinsing it in cold water, the pasta went from al dente to ewwwww.

My husband, who loves this dish and would eat it several times a week, decided it was worth it to eat it.  Some of the others decided to forego the “pleasure.”  I ate some, but I had a terrible stomach ache several hours later.  Moral of the story?  Don’t believe everything you read…even on food packages.  Cook your pasta well enough.

Macaroni Salad

  • 1 lb. pasta (elbows, shells, or rotini twists work well), may be gluten-free
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes, diced*
  • 1 large cucumber, quartered and sliced*
  • 1 can black olives, sliced or quartered
  • 1/4-1/2 c. minced onion
  • “chicken” style veggie meat substitute (I use this.)
  • Veganaise, to taste
  • salt to taste

Please note – pasta doesn’t seem to come in 1 lb. boxes any more.  If you buy 2 boxes and fill the 13+ oz. one to near the top, it approximates 1 lb.

Cook pasta according to package directions, or until softer than al dente.  Rinse under cold water and drain.

Place the vegetables in a very large bowl.  Salt them and toss together.  Add the drained pasta and veggie meat.  Mix in Veganaise to taste.

Chill and serve.

*Feel free to use more ~ I often do.

Vegetable Tofu Penne

I should probably rename this recipe for the blog, because when I went to reach for my pasta in the cupboard, I discovered it wasn’t penne at all.  It was shells.  It’s not that penne and shells taste differently.  But the texture isn’t quite the same.  And ~ honestly ~ it doesn’t look as interesting with shells.  Oh, well.  Shells it is!

One dish meals are marvelous inventions.  However, if you end up with a crowd to eat this, just put a fresh veggie tray out with colorful produce and it will really make your table pop!

This recipe happened the first time because of what was pouring out of the garden!  Since then nobody wants me to wait until the peak of summer to serve it.  It’s best ~ and amazing ~ when you have fresh tomatoes instead of canned, and fresh basil (!), and raw spinach, and….oh, you get the idea.  Other veggies can show up in this, too.  I’ve used eggplant, broccoli, and asparagus, too.  Any way you fix it, though, it will make your taste buds happy.  Leftovers reheat in the microwave well, or you can eat it as a cold pasta salad if you are like me and my daughter (the guys head for the microwave.)

One note ~ not everyone loves sun-dried tomatoes.  I tried leaving them out, but the flavor wasn’t the same.  Even those who pawn their sun-dried tomatoes off on me after picking them out of their own serving complained that it didn’t taste as good without them.  So…even if you have to pick them out later, don’t leave them out.

Vegetable Tofu Penne

  • 1 lb. penne pasta (or other style)**
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 very large onion or several smaller ones
  • 2-3 lg. garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3-4 small zucchini, diced or quartered
  • 16 oz. firm or ex-firm tofu
  • Braggs liquid aminos
  • 2 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • 8 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves, frozen chopped spinach, or leftover cooked spinach
  • 1 can portabella mushroom pieces
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (not petite diced)
  •  ½ c. sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
  • 2 T. basil (more if fresh)
  • 1 ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Veggie (soy) Parmesan cheese or mozzarella style
  • salt to taste

In a large non-stick skillet, sauté onion in olive oil until a few pieces of onion are just beginning to brown.  Add zucchini and garlic; stir.  Heat water for the pasta to cook while you continue the next steps (toss in the pasta when you notice it boiling and cook according to directions on box – it should be ready when the vegetables are.)  Drain and then break up or dice the tofu and stir to the zucchini.  Squirt in some Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, zig-zagging quickly back and forth across the skillet a few times.  Sprinkle the chicken-style seasoning across the tofu and stir until well distributed. If you are using fresh or frozen spinach and/or fresh basil, add at this time.  Wait a minute or two before adding the tomatoes and mushrooms, unless you are using leftover spinach. Toss in the rest of seasonings, stir in veggie Parmesan cheese to taste, and turn down the heat.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and combine with the veggies. Serve with extra veggie Parmesan.

**Since I wrote this recipe, manufacturers have ceased to fill their pasta boxes with 16 oz.  They now put in 13.25 oz.  The funny thing is that the boxes are still the same size.  So, buy 2 boxes and fill one of them to the top.  That will give you approximately the 1 pound box that the recipe calls for.  Or just use less pasta.  It’s your call.  🙂