CONRATULATIONS. You must be so excited. If you are reading this right now, there is reason to celebrate. Guess what it means? YOU’RE ALIVE. You’re heart is beating, your brain is thinking, and with each moment that passes of your existence – you are experiencing a miracle. Life. You get to put on clothes today, feel the warmth of a sweater, maybe the cool breeze of the outdoors. There might even be an opportunity for you to eat some chocolate! Think about that. You are a living, breathing, feeling, miracle who just may get to eat some chocolate today. Can I get an AMEN? The rest is all fuzzy details, the important thing to remember is there is reason to celebrate. Even in the mundane, there is something glorious to behold. Don’t let the news, pessimists, TV shows, or even your own thoughts tell you different.
I’m not sure where this is coming from inside of me today. Scott and I are on day 5 of working 7 days straight since Thanksgiving. We didn’t get a holiday weekend, and we have been separated from one another, friends, and family during this work-your-brains-out-party-later “stint”. Yet, here I am, SO EXCITED. I get to work today! What a gift it is to have work. I haven’t spent more than a few minutes in the same room as my husband in a few days – but I have a husband! Who loves me. Shut the front door. I’m so excited. And this Friday? This Friday will be our first day off together, and it just so happens to be our 4 year wedding anniversary (!!!) and we are going snow shoeing (!!!) and it will be my first time (!!!) I AM SO EXCITED. But today I recipe test, I write, I edit, and I smile – because we have something to celebrate folks. We are alive.
As if we needed another reason other than our brain firing crazy signals throughout our body performing miracles right and left to celebrate, I have a recipe worth taking a moment to throw a special party for – I finally perfected my vegan “meat” balls (!!!). Made with lentils and packed with so much flavor I could pop them in my mouth all on their own. Baking gives the “meat” balls the perfect texture on the inside. Followed by a simmer in a smack-me-its-so-simple marinara sauce, making the outside juicy and rich with flavor. I’m not a big noodle fan (I have my moments) so I went with a creamed cauliflower for the base. Almond milk and good quality olive oil make the cauliflower rich and “buttery”, perfectly seasoned with salt, and give me a spoon – I could devour the entire batch alone. Its that good. This meal is everything cozy about December, and the ever approaching winter season. Make a big batch and keep the extra baked “meat” balls in the freezer for a quick, hearty dinner. And make sure to eat some chocolate today.
LENTIL “MEAT” BALLS W/ EASY MARINARA + MASHED CAULIFLOWER
Makes 32 meatballs (8 servings) and enough marinara and cauliflower for each serving needed.
1 cup French green lentils, dry
3 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons flax meal
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup onion, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup oat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basi
1 teaspoon dried oregano
a dash of cayenne pepper
2 cups raw cauliflower florets (per serving)
2 tablespoons plain, unsweetened almond milk (per serving)
1 tablespoon cold pressed olive oil (per serving)
salt to taste
1 cup organic tomato sauce (per serving)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (per serving)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (per serving)
salt and pepper to taste
Begin by making the meatballs. Combine the lentils and vegetable broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil on the stove. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook until all of the broth is absorbed by the lentils (about 40 minutes). Set aside to steam (still covered) once finished.
Combine the flax and hot water in a small dish. Set aside to thicken. Meanwhile combine the remaining ingredients for the meatballs in a medium size mixing bowl. Add the flax mixture and one fourth of the cooked lentils to the mixing bowl and mash the remaining lentils in the pot with a potato masher, or puree with a stick blender. Add the mashed/pureed lentils to the mixing bowl and stir well to combine all of the ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Using a tablespoon sized cookie scoop (or a spoon) form the meatballs and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. There should be 32 in all. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
While the meatballs are baking, prep the mashed cauliflower and marinara sauce. Add the ingredients for the marinara (measuring out each for the amount of servings you are wishing to make, as noted in the ingredients list) to a saucepan on the stove. Wait until 10 minutes are left for the meatballs in the oven to begin simmering the sauce. Add the desired amount of baked meatballs to the simmering sauce, turning to coat, and cover to let simmer on low for 5 minutes before serving.
Add the cauliflower to a pot on the stove and cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook until tender (about 10 minutes). Drain the water and add the remaining ingredients. Puree with a stick blender until smooth, divide between plates, and top with the simmered meatballs – spooning more sauce onto the plates as desired.
Enjoy right away while hot, and let any remaining meatballs cool completely on the counter. Then place them in a freezer-safe container (or bag) and store in the freezer. To re-heat, simply wrap the meatballs in foil (creating a little foil bag) and place in the oven at 350F for 10 to 15 minutes (or until you hear them sizzling).
HAPPY DECEMBER! – XO