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Meat-Free Monday

La Petite Maison Verte: Meat-Free Monday

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Meat-Free Monday

So its not that I have anything against meat per se, I just like eating meat-free meals too! When I lived in Maryland, fresh organic, free-range, antibiotic-free and grass-fed meat was easy to find in ANY supermarket. Here in eastern NC, not only is it heinously expensive but its usually frozen too...and you can only find it in ground-up form, not steaks. While I would like to say we only buy grass-fed beef, it isn't true. I know its much better for you but the cost is usually what keeps me from buying it every time. So lately I've been trying to prepare more vegetarian meals, and I don't just mean salads.

I also HATE wasting perfectly good food, which is sometimes difficult considering we're only a family of two. Well, a few weeks ago I bought a container of part-skim ricotta cheese for an appetizer that I never ended up making. It just sat in the back of the fridge, unopened, until I made baked-ziti last week. Since that only used half the container, I still had to figure out what to do with the rest of it.

Fast-forward to Sunday when I found this recipe on In Jennie's Kitchen for Lentil-Ricotta "Meatballs" - perfect! I got to use up my ricotta cheese AND try out a new vegetarian meal! I had all the ingredients, plus a jar of Trader Joe's Organic Marinara Sauce (its my FAVORITE pasta sauce because its much lower sodium than most) and some Dreamfield's Penne pasta. The ingredients for the meatballs have to be combined a day before you plan to cook them, so make sure you plan accordingly. But DO make this recipe, it was such a hit! Even B (a TOTAL skeptic) RAVED about it! They have a very soft texture and some of mine fell apart in the sauce even though Jennie said her's stood up to the simmering. But honestly, who cares if your delicous meatballs fall apart a little bit?!!

A few more notes about the recipe: After I cooked the lentils I went to puree them in my mini food processor. They kinda stuck to the sides of the bowl after a few seconds, so when all was said and done the lentil puree had some whole lentils in it - I liked the texture of the finished product, how you could see some whole lentils mixed in with the puree - that was pretty much the only hint that you weren't eating meat! I also added a little milk (a few tablespoons) to the mixture before putting it away to refrigerate overnight, I just thought it looked a tad dry. And my last modification was to add about a half-teaspoon each of onion powder, garlic powder and dried italian seasonings before forming the mixture into balls for frying.

Lentil Ricotta "Meatballs"
makes about 20

recipe was originally published at

2 cups cooked lentils, pureed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped parsley
1-2 TBSP milk, if needed, to moisten lentil-ricotta mixture
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Onion powder, garlic powder and italian seasoning, to taste

Canola oil for frying

Marinara sauce, optional

Add all ingredients to a deep bowl. Mix very well, using hands or a wooden spoon. Cover and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.

When ready to cook, shape mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add shaped "meatballs" and cook until browned all around, turning only once. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and let excess drain off. Add to simmering marinara sauce if serving immediately, or store in a tightly covered container up to three days.

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